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How I use MicroOS Desktop

#linux #container #workflow #desktop

Soc Virnyl Estela | 2023-05-28 | reading time: ~4min

Update on my current usage§

I stopped using it. MicroOS has some of it's perks but the current state of the operating system is still in it's beta/alpha state so some moving parts are inherently broken. It's probably because of the lack of contributors and interest from SUSE and openSUSE for the desktop variant of MicroOS. As much as I want to become a contributor, I realize I lack the time to do so because of work and personal problems and issues I still have to fix a lot in real life. If you still want to know how I use it, continue reading.


MicroOS Desktop is a desktop variant of the openSUSE's MicroOS for servers and containerized workflows. Please do note, although they are similar, they are separate products and have different goals.

Issues in MicroOS for server should be issued over there and issues in MicroOS Desktop should be on MicroOS Desktop.

The goal of the desktop is as follows:

  • immutability
  • isolation of system and user software
  • containerized workflows

Immutability§

Immutable desktops are nothing new. Windows and MacOS are immutable desktops since you cannot change the core part of the system unless you have some permissions and workarounds to do it e.g. modifying the system registry. For years, this was the standard of modern OSses including Android.

Traditional desktop linux and nix systems are mutable which means that the user can modify each part of the core system. Although this advantage is also a disadvantage, nothing is perfect.

Advantages of an immutable system§

Being immutable is inherently an advantage of an immutable desktop system. It is hard to modify the core part of the system and updates are "atomic" which means the whole system will update as an immutable system.

Users are encouraged to use workflows through sandboxing or containers. In this case, flatpaks, nix, distrobox, toolbx, docker and podman.

For desktop software, it is advisable to use flatpaks. Some users do use toolbx and distrobox for this.

For development environment, they are encouraged to use distrobox and toolbx. Others may prefer nix.

Disadvantages§

Being immutable may also be a disadvantage. It's very self-explanatory. You cannot modify your system as much as you like to.

Security§

Immutable desktops increases security of the core system since it's not welcoming any modifications. Since the root file system is read-only, it's not easy to tamper the system and thus, users can avoid any vulnerabilities unless the vulnerability is from the package and software installed from the root file system.

My Workflow§

For software that I want to use e.g. Firefox, flatpaks are the way to go. Flatpaks are the best when it comes to these kind of distributions as they are self-contained and do not pollute the host system with ridiculously brittle and large dependencies when installing through the system's package manager.

For developing and packaging software and also for learning, and note taking, I use distrobox.

How I use distrobox§

I created mainbox executable.

#!/usr/bin/bash

distrobox enter -n tumbleweed $@

This is for my development environment such as notetaking, learning a new language, or programming tasks.

I also created rootbox executable.

#!/usr/bin/bash

distrobox-enter --root --name opensuse-build-service $@

This is for openSUSE Build Service related stuff since I am a volunteer packager there. I also set the --home flag when creating this podman container. The --home flag helps you have a custom $HOME inside your container. It avoids clutter on your actual home directory.

Conclusion§

For now, I am still new to MicroOS Desktop and I still experience some bugs here and there because I use the KDE Plasma variant of MicroOS which is known to be still in it's alpha stage. This means, it's not yet considered for daily use even though some users are now using it. To help improve the experience, it's best to file bug reports and propose suggestions to the MicroOS Plasma Desktop maintainers and contributors. If you are privileged to have the free time to contribute, consider offering your skills and services as well.

Troubleshooting§

Blurry fonts on KDE Plasma§

Install all the xdg-desktop-portal implementations especially gnome and gtk. Blurry fonts are usually affecting gtk apps and not qt apps.

Issues§

NVIDIA drivers don't load as fast causing some issues with the login manager. Workarounds is a force systemctl restart display-manager.service. I am not sure what's causing it as there are no logs. This does not happen on vanilla openSUSE TumbleWeed.

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