My Fedora Silverblue Experience

You might have heard about this distribution and wondered what it is all about.

It is a new type of distro. They call it an ‘immutable’ distro.

In Fedora’s own words:

Fedora Silverblue is an immutable desktop operating system. Aiming at good support for container-focused workflows, this variant of Fedora Workstation targets developer communities.

Immutable? Huh?

Again the word immutable. What does that mean? This means that the core system is not editable by the user. You can’t jump into /etc and edit files. You can’t throw a file in /bin and run it.

This is done for stability. You don’t want to have a non-bootable OS because of a change you made. Right?

When you upgrade the operating system, you are actually getting a new ‘clean’ image of Fedora. If it reboots and can’t boot up into the new ‘upgrade’, it will revert to the previous snapshot.

If you’re running Fedora Silverblue there is no dnf. You upgrade like this: rpm-ostree upgrade

rpm-ostree status Shows you the snapshots you have on your system.

What about installing my apps?

You are meant to download all your apps in the Flatpak format. Flatpaks are good because they don’t touch the core of your system and would never get you in a situation like dependency hell, or make your system unbootable. Some people hate them (so did I) but these are much better than AppImages and snaps in my opinion.

What about the apps that don’t have a Flatpak? Or you just want to mess around with some programs.

Toolbox. Your playground.

Toolbox is a container system that works with podman. You can make a Fedora 36 container like this: toolbox enter (makes a Fedora 36 container by default)

Then you’re in a toolbox. It is like regular Fedora here. If you see a purple hexagon before your username in terminal, you are in the toolbox.

In the toolbox, you have dnf. You can mess around with any files you want here. The great part though, is it is all in a container. Nothing you install here will mess up your main system.

A great thing about these containers is that you can interact with your files in /home directory. You could install a program for a few minutes, try it out, then delete the whole container.

You can also run other types of containers like say Ubuntu 16. This is why Fedora says it is for ‘developers’.

Here’s an example of how you might use Toolbox. To publish this website, I use hugo. To use hugo on Silverblue these are the steps you would take:

toolbox enter
sudo dnf install hugo

When I’m done, I can ‘shutdown’ the container if I wish (I am on a laptop from 2015 with only 4 GB RAM , so I always shutdown the toolbox when I’m done.)

podman stop fedora-toolbox-36 #or whatever your container was called

Should you use Fedora 36?

It is still a new distribution but I think it has great promise. Fedora is kinda like Android and iOS. It’s very hard to get those operating systems in an unbootable state. This could be a great distribution to setup for your family member who has never used Linux before. This might be the distro for you to have a boring ol’ web browsing, and fooling around computer. You give up some ‘power’ and ‘customizability’ to gain more stability.

Yes - developers, less technical users, users who get all apps from flatpaks No - developers, tinkerers, people who don’t like new things

My Experience with Silverblue

I installed Silverblue on two machines:

  • 2015 HP convertable, 4 GB RAM
  • 2011 Acer all-in-one , 6 GB RAM

The experience has been flawless. I layered only two packages, nextcloud-client, and nextcloud-client-nautilus. Everything just works. I had a few issues with Nextcloud on my Acer computer. I fixed it by installing AppIndicator and KStatusNotifierItem Support. I install all my apps with Flatpak: LibreOffice, GIMP, Kdenlive, etc.

Will I continue using Fedora Silverblue? Yes, I think so. I will keep on regular Fedora 36 system around but these basic systems I only use for light tasks will stay with Silverblue. I have a lot more confidence when I install new programs. I can test things out in toolbox. If I really must layer an app in there, I will.

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