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Fedora Silverblue: Dev or End User?

I just became aware of something called Silverblue from Fedora. I was reading their page, but could not understand exactly how the “standard” branch would differ from Silverblue. So far, it looks like there is a migration to a Flatpak-centric update scheme, but would this have an impact on end users and affect their choice? Is it more geared toward development environments? Is anyone familiar with the initiative?

They mention an immutable OS image. Does that mean the system would only be kept on one kernel forever?

Their goal seems to be targeted on the Fedora 30 release, so it’s right around the corner.

Team Silverblue

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I believe that it’s more suited towards basic end users and perhaps servers due to the reliability of updates and all that. With the immutable OS image, you can update the kernel and other system software it’s just that the binaries and other files are kept read-only and on virtual filesystems like Flatpack.

As I understand it, Silverblue – a rebrand of Fedora’s existing Atomic workstation project – uses an image of the entire installed OS. Any update sees that entire image rebuilt and the system rebooted. Previous images are retained, allowing easy rollback if an update goes wrong. You reboot, select the an older image, and boot into it.

Desktop applications via Flatpaks leverage their isolation and sandboxing. Individual Flatpaks can be updated without rebooting.

Traditional RPM packages from Fedora’s repos work fine, too, and are incorporated into the overall image.

I’ve played with the Fedora 29 version of Silverblue. Worked as advertised, more or less. It’s a prerelease, after all. In use, apart from the package install and update mechanisms, it’s the same as the standard Gnome release.

The rollback feature has obvious advantages, especially for server operations. Currently, the “catch” seems to me that while an increasing number of apps are available as Flatpaks, that number remains small in comparison to traditional repos. Flatpaks are also quite large, and getting Silverblue correctly configured to use them was not obvious. I.e., I had to jumb through some hoops before I was able to download and install Flatpaks from the Flathub site. The installing and management of RPM’s uses a different syntax. A GUI app that hides these differences would be useful.

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So silverblue is supposed to replace fedora eventually, not right away. They want to sorta ‘windows’ it with apps auto updating.

More info can be had fram linux unplugged.

@stenstorp I’m interested to see how much less cluttered this could make the filesystem.

@LostMoon I just installed it and my goodness, it’s fast. I couldn’t make a cup of coffee before it was finished installing. I see what you mean about the sparse population of apps and I hope that gets built out in the future, because this is a really neat system and I could see using this. It was surprising that Flathub’s repo wasn’t preloaded and had to be installed manually; that should be streamlined for new users.

This could be a seamless transition if more Flatpaks are produced. I’m excited to learn more about it.

@Aremis Yeah, I really hope they don’t end up making updates last an afternoon while a project is in the middle of render… I just got this shirt from the store to wear to work.

Fedora is a place for new things to be explored and evaluated. Whether or not Silverblue is a long-term replacement for RPM-based systems is a very long way from being determined.

I imagine the rollback feature would be popular, with some folks grumping because it’s new and different. The caveat: How easy to fix a broken update after rolling back to the last previous good image?

I may be wrong, but aren’t all Flatpaks hosted on Flathub, not in distro repositories? Doesn’t that have implications for developers, packagers and users? That is, the more popular Flatpaks become, and as more and apps are available only as Flatpaks, Flatpak policies and infrastructure will become very consequential.