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Tag: Qubes

One Year Later, Still Minty!

A little over a year ago I made the switch to Mint Linux for my main desktop system. How have things worked out?

Very well. I am continually impressed with how easily things work, how stable they system has been and how much more I enjoy working on my computer.

In the past year, my main desktop system died a horrible death with a failed network interface along with a power supply that was starting to not power on. May my old Dell XPS 8930 rest in peace after 4 years of loyal service.

My new system came with Windows 10 Home installed, Mint replaced it within minutes powering it on. In a homage to the old adage, Internet Explore is the number one web browser used to download another better web browser; Windows 10 Home on this machine served only to allow me to download the most current Mint ISO and build the boot USB drive to replace it.

I will admit that I do have a Windows 11 virtual machine setup and working on my Mint machine. I have had to spin up it up a few times to assist with support issues for a few clients. That’s all I use it for and it can go weeks without being touched.

Gaming? Gaming on Linux does still have some issues but those are getting to be fewer and fewer all the time.

I do use Steam with their implementation of Proton. Most titles work very well. There are of course some titles that simply don’t work. Most of those are infamous for having excessive amounts of DRM control. Fortunately these same titles also have issues on the new Steam Deck. Valve and Steam are working to get that sorted out. At some point those issues will be resolved and I’ll be able to play those titles again. To me, this is not a deal breaker to stay with Linux as my main system.

Pentesting work. It’s Linux. They go hand in hand. Of course, I don’t have Mint setup with pentesting tools. I run Kali in a virtual machine for that work.

So where do I go from here? Well, I’m converted to Linux permanently now for my main system.

Will I continue to use Mint, move to another distribution or dive into installing Arch? For now, it’s Mint.. I have however, been looking at other options.

One of those options I have been considering is Qubes OS (https://www.qubes-os.org). Why? It’s built from the ground up to be a very secure operating system for your computer. How does it work?

Qubes OS is an operating system built out of securely-isolated compartments called qubes. For example, you might have a work qube, a personal qube, a banking qube, a web browsing qube, and so on. You can have as many qubes as you want! Most of the time, you’ll be using an app qube, which is a qube intended for running software programs like web browsers, email clients, and word processors. Each app qube is based on another type of qube called a template. More than one qube can be based on the same template. Importantly, a qube cannot modify its template in any way. This means that, if a qube is ever compromised, its template and any other qubes based on that template will remain safe. This is what makes Qubes OS so secure. Even if an attack is successful, the damage is limited to a single qube.

https://www.qubes-os.org/doc/getting-started

This sounds really appealing however, there can be some issues for some people.

  • Firstly, gaming that requires a graphics card is out. Qubes doesn’t support virtualization of a GPU for security reasons and when you look into how Qubes actually works, it makes perfect sense.
  • Second, hardware compatibility can be an issue, especially with Nvidia and AMD graphics cards (https://github.com/Qubes-Community/Contents/blob/master/docs/configuration/install-nvidia-driver.md).
  • Third, hardware requirements might be difficult for some. Lots of virtual machines means you need decent CPU and memory resources. Most gaming computer 5 years old can handle this just fine but some older laptops could have performance issues.

So if I want to run Qubes OS I would have to consider giving up gaming or have a second computer just for gaming. In the way that Qubes works however, I already do.

As I mentioned before, I run Kali and Windows 11 in virtual machines. I also have another virtual machine that I use for general Internet usage.

This Internet virtual machine is also running Mint with a VPN and it’s where I do all my email, online banking, web browser, etc… The only direct Internet access I do from my main machine outside of the Internet use virtual machine is the gaming with Steam.

It’s not the same thing as Qubes but it’s does allow for some compartmentalization and thus reducing exposure to various threats.

Until next time, have a good one!