Fedora Linux is one of the most popular versions of the Linux operating system. This Red Hat-sponsored, community-run Linux distribution takes pride in developing and introducing the software that will eventually find its way into other Linux distributions.

Fedora Silverblue packages and uses this software in a different way than the traditional Linux desktop model that could be the way forward for Fedora and possibly other Linux distributions. You can start using it today, and here is why you might want to.

What is Fedora Silverblue?

Fedora Silverblue is a version of Fedora Linux that focuses on rpm-ostree and Flatpak. In short, this gives Linux the kind of security and app distribution seen on cell phones and Chromebooks. To understand Fedora Silverblue, it helps to understand these two technologies first:

What is rpm-ostree?

Instead of distributing an operating system made up of hundreds of packages, Silverblue deploys your system as a single image. When updates arrive, Silverblue provides a single newer image that contains those updates instead of downloading newer versions of certain packages, such as: B. the system components and libraries that run in the background.

There are some great advantages to this. One of them is stability. Your system won't start or function because a single package is missing or damaged. Instead, your system is one big all-or-nothing picture. However, if you run into a problem, you can easily reverse the error by booting with a previous image that is known to work.

What is Flatpak?

Flatpak is a universal app format that allows you to install an app on virtually any Linux distribution. This is a replacement for traditional packages like DEB and RPM, which are not universal. A distribution that uses DEB packages, such as Debian or Ubuntu, cannot install RPM packages and vice versa.

Flatpaks also offer additional security benefits. Each app is a sandbox, isolated from the rest of your system. In order for an app to be able to access other components such as your files or your webcam, you have to give it permission.

Getting started with Fedora Silverblue

Installing Fedora Silverblue works the same as installing Fedora Workstation. You can go to the same website getfedora.org and scroll down until you see Silverblue, or you can go directly to the Silverblue website to download the required ISO.

If you're familiar with the installer in Fedora Linux or Red Hat Enterprise Linux, you already know what to expect in Silverblue. For newbies, the process is comparable to installing applications under Microsoft Windows, where clicking on "Next”Button often enough leads to the installation of the desired software.

As soon as you restart your new system, you will see a pristine GNOME desktop and the GNOME Tour app, which introduces you to how GNOME works. At this point you haven't noticed the difference between Fedora Silverblue and Fedora Workstation, but you are in.

How to install updates

Fedora Silverblue GNOME software updates

One of the first things to do on your new system is installing updates. You can open the GNOME software and try to see available updates, but this may or may not work. For better or worse, this isn't a specific Fedora Silverblue issue. I also find the GNOME software to be an unreliable tool for viewing and installing updates on the Fedora workstation.

If the GNOME software works, you will be prompted to "Restart & update. ”Unlike Fedora Workstation, you don't have to wait for Fedora to install your packages after restarting. Instead, Silverblue simply starts the backup with the newer system image that you have just downloaded.

If you've been using Linux long enough, GNOME software not working doesn't seem like a big problem. You may already be used to installing updates from the command line. This is not because this is the only or easiest way to install updates on Linux, but because the command line often gets the job done faster, with maximum information, and shows exactly what updates you are getting.

On the Fedora workstation, you can install updates with:

sudo dnf upgrade

However, this does not work in Fedora Silverblue. Instead, you need to use the command:

rpm-ostree upgrade

Note that the command is not required in Silverblue sudo or administrator access. On Silverblue you do not need any elevated authorizations to update your system or install software.

When the upgrade is complete, the terminal will display a full list of the updated packages in the new system image and a command you can run to reboot your system, which you need to do before the downloaded updates take effect.

How to install apps on Silverblue

When you first start the GNOME software, it appears less populated than usual. This is because Fedora Silverblue does not provide all available apps as RPMs in the usual Fedora repository. Silverblue instead uses a separate Fedora repository of Flatpak apps known as the Fedora Container Registry. Various GNOME apps, games, and some key productivity apps like LibreOffice are available, but there is nothing to be desired.

For more software, head over to Flathub and follow the very simple setup instructions. This greatly expands the apps available in the GNOME software.

To install apps from the terminal, just use the Flatpak installation Command. Unlike DNF, you don't need to know the exact name of a package. Flatpak will generally guess what you're looking for or offer you options if the answer isn't clear.

If a program you want isn't available as a flatpak, you still have the option to install RPMs, but this is where things get tricky.

For apps that you plan to use frequently, you will likely want to attach them to your system image with the Install rpm-ostree Command. Follow this command with the exact name of the DNF package you want to install. After that, you need to restart your computer. From then on, your system image will contain these apps during upgrades. To remove software, including preinstalled apps like Firefox, use the Remove RPM ostree override Command.

The alternative approach is to start apps from the command line. These apps will not appear in your app drawer, nor will their icons appear on your Dock. To go this route, you need to become familiar with Toolbox.

Working in the terminal

Fedora Silverblue comes with a terminal, and most of the commands you come across will still work. However, if you want to add or remove packages, you have to turn to a tool called Toolbox.

Toolbox creates containers or isolated workspaces where you can install whatever packages you want without cluttering your system.

To create a toolbox use:

Create toolbox

Then enter:

Enter toolbox

Now you can use DNF and install any Fedora package you want. When you're done, enter exit to exit the toolbox.

Note that Toolbox Containers are not isolated for security reasons. Everyone has access to your home directory and other aspects of your computer. Don't treat them as safe ways to mess around with sketchy software.

Manage app permissions

Flatseal app GNOME flatpak

The Flatpak format offers some safeguards against sketchy or compromised software. While you can see some of this when you open System Preferences and navigate to applications, to really take control of it, you'll need to install a program called Flatseal.

With Flatseal, for example, you can block or restrict apps access to the network to only view files in a specific folder on your hard drive. This program is available for every Linux distribution, but since Fedora Silverblue goes all-in on Flatpak, it means you have that control over most of the apps on your system.

Is Fedora Silverblue ready for prime time?

Yes, there is already a community of people using Fedora Silverblue as their primary distribution. Apps are stable and mostly look like normal Fedora Linux. Once you know the quirks of Silverblue, you may even find it easier to use than a traditional Linux distro.

Fedora Silverblue is not alone. If you find this concept exciting, you should know that there are several other Linux distributions that use Flatpak for all of their apps as well. More could be on the way.

What's it like to use a flatpak-only desktop?

Can you get by with a Linux desktop just for Flatpak?

Linux distributions offer their users several ways to download software. But how does it feel to use a Linux desktop just for Flatpak?

Continue reading

About the author

Bertel King
(325 articles published)

Bertel is a digital minimalist who writes from a laptop with physical privacy switches and an operating system recommended by the Free Software Foundation. He values ​​ethics over functions and helps others take control of their digital lives.

From Bertel King

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter for tech tips, reviews, free e-books, and exclusive offers!

Click here to subscribe