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Canonical planning an immutable desktop version of Ubuntu

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This could be very interesting and exciting. Canonical has confirmed they're working towards an immutable version of Ubuntu for desktop users based on all the work they've done with Ubuntu Core.

Mentioned initially in a comment on OMGUbuntu with a target for the next LTS (long term support) release, later a full blog post was put up on the official Ubuntu website going into more detail on their thoughts and plans. Don't worry though, the normal Ubuntu releases aren't going anywhere.

For those who don't follow what an immutable OS even is: in simple terms it keeps the main operating system as read-only, which is supposed to make it more stable, secure and easier to update with all your applications isolated from it with some sort of container system. So think like SteamOS on Steam Deck, Fedora Silverblue or Ubuntu Core and even Google's Chrome OS.

From the blog post:

Behind the scenes, the Canonical team has been actively exploring the benefits of Ubuntu Core beyond the realm of IoT, most notably in the context of developers and daily users.

The properties inherent to Ubuntu Core such as secure boot, recovery states and hardware backed encryption would bring significant improvements to the security posture of a user’s PC.

It also introduces the concept of modularity to the user experience, where users may experiment with alternative desktop environment snaps while remaining on a highly stable, signed and secure LTS base.

The use of snap channels also brings into the play the concept of ‘rolling’ certain elements of the distribution. Gamers, for example, might opt-in to a kernel channel that ships the latest NVIDIA drivers as soon as they are available, in the same way the Ubuntu Desktop team did for Mesa as part of our work on the Steam snap.

However, this level of stability and security comes with trade-offs for developers and tinkerers, restricting modification of the base OS in favour of a ‘just works’ experience. For developers who see their device as a platform for open source development, the solution is container-based environments similar to the LXD based Crostini. For tinkerers, the classic Ubuntu images would remain their preferred route to enable full control of (and responsibility for) their system.

While Ubuntu Core is meant for IoT OS for embedded devices, this is something different to give desktop users a potential taste of things to come. With the rise of more applications coming to the likes of Snap and Flatpak, this does make some sense and I think Jorge Castro's blog on how Linux distributions are changing is also a good read for what's to come.

Canonical has been expanding Snaps now for a while with the likes of the stable Steam snap for Ubuntu 23.04, the upcoming CUPS Snap and naturally plenty more to come.

How do you feel about an immutable version of Ubuntu with lots of Snap packages?

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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Great news, will install it immediately on my laptop!
The true trouble currently with linux is all the packaging types.

I raged yesterday by using a fresh install of a debian/ubuntu on my scientific computing unit to discover that they blocked pip for python out of virtual env...
I only use this computer to do massive parallel computing, copying pasting from usb key script and running them directly

Snap is a plague, I have to install flat with apt ... it's getting mad, and this created the necessity and advertising for an immutable GNU/unix OS
eldaking Jun 5
For me the idea of immutable distros is quite simple, and quite sensible: just like we have things that any unprivileged user can change, and system settings that need root (with sudo as a convenient mid-way compromise, which means I almost never needed to actually log in as root), it separates things users can change and system settings. You can still install programs for yourself, or change the appearance, or other changes... but that is just overlaid on top of the base system: you can install an additional version of a library, but you can't erase the original - so your system is guaranteed to not be borked, as it retains a "recovery image" without your changes. Right now there is still some attrition to doing things that way because of all the programs that were made based on different assumptions, but with time I expect less things will need workarounds and the workarounds will get better and easier.

And Linux can easily prevent the biggest issue with Android and Windows and such, which is "unremovable bloatware" - when your OEM or carrier puts a bunch of garbage on your device that they want you to have but you don't want to. With Linux, there is little point in pushing garbage to users as anyone can just make a distro without the garbage. For example, when Canonical pushes snaps which are complete garbage, I can just download Fedora that does not have snaps. It is unfortunate that it happens but at least I have some choice.
Quoting: dpanterCanoniclowns.

Hmm would You say that to their face in person? Meeting Canonical devs and for example Shuttleworth? It is Ubuntu to thank for fair bit for so much in the world of Linux
dpanter Jun 5
Quoting: dziadulewicz
Quoting: dpanterCanoniclowns.

Hmm would You say that to their face in person? Meeting Canonical devs and for example Shuttleworth? It is Ubuntu to thank for fair bit for so much in the world of Linux
100%. What greatness Canonical and *buntu used to represent is no longer true, and I do not care one spit for the current iteration. My opinion of course. Feel free to have a different one.
Cyril Jun 5
I don't like Ubuntu and I don't like their Snap at all.
So I couldn't care less...
spayder26 Jun 5
Friendly reminder that Snap is not free software due vendor lock-in (its sole package repository is proprietary).

So whatever Canonical decides to do with their base Snap OS is pretty irrelevant for the general linux ecosystem.
Quoting: spayder26Friendly reminder that Snap is not free software due vendor lock-in (its sole package repository is proprietary).

So whatever Canonical decides to do with their base Snap OS is pretty irrelevant for the general linux ecosystem.

Total BS! If that was the truth, you would not be able to download and install Snaps outside of Snap Store, and Rudra (a teenage boy) would not be able to create an alternative store.
I guess I don't understand how an immutable distro is significantly different in terms of security and stability from the current way of doing it with a locked root account. Aren't they basically different paths to the same end?
Quoting: Mountain ManI guess I don't understand how an immutable distro is significantly different in terms of security and stability from the current way of doing it with a locked root account. Aren't they basically different paths to the same end?
Others can comment on security, but I don't think it offers many security benefits.

Stability-wise, the base packages are offered as an "image", which are core components like GNOME, Linux, GNU utilities, GRUB, GDM, and a horde of libraries. Everything else is offered in a container format like Flatpak or Snap. Whenever you update the base system, you replace the image, and you don't get the new packages until you reboot. If you reboot and something is funky, you can just rollback to the previous image and get on with your day. This makes a lot of sense for both workstations and servers because it removes the fear of upgrading because rollbacks are so easy.

Security-wise, Flatpak and Snap packages offer you the latest versions of user software, which is definitely an improvement to running years-old poorly-backported software on Debian and most other stable distributions. "Stable distributions" today are a fundamentally flawed concept because holding back security updates and porting back only some of the fixes is a pretty bad idea. With immutable distributions, you can have a stable base but up-to-date userland, and you can probably get base updates more often without fear.

I don't run a stable distribution currently, but if I did (for work), I would run an immutable distribution.
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