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Forget Ubuntu 24.04 LTS, what you really want to download this month is Fedora Silverblue 40

The Fedora Silverblue homepage

This month we are half a year from the 20th anniversary of Ubuntu, it also coincides with the release of Ubuntu 24.04 LTS, but I have to say, it’s not the new shiny distro I would choose to install. Instead I would opt for a specific version of Fedora 40, namely, Fedora Silverblue 40, also out this month.

A bit of history

If you’ve only used Linux from around 2012 onward, there’s a good chance you’ve had an easy time installing and setting things up; this is because lots of effort has gone into making installers easy to use and in many cases, third-party software and drivers now get installed out-of-box.

Things haven’t always been this way, however, getting Linux up and running used to be a real chore. This is one of the things Canonical wanted to resolve with Ubuntu, it wanted to make Linux easier for users.

When I started using Linux, I started on Ubuntu 8.04 LTS about a month after it came out and it was OK depending on the hardware I chose to install it on. It wasn’t anywhere as near as straightforward as it is nowadays, but it was a big improvement on the state of things prior to Ubuntu’s existence.

The Ubuntu 804 LTS wallpaper
The wallpaper in Ubuntu 8.04 LTS 'Hardy Heron'.

Another notable event from the past

As a full-time Linux user, Spring 2008, when I discovered Linux, is something I can quite vividly remember. Another event I remember about 18 months after this was when Google held a keynote introducing ChromeOS and several follow-up videos it released showing off the architecture and the big advancements in security and stability that ChromeOS offered over traditional operating systems like Windows, macOS, and Linux.

As we all know, one of the major issues with ChromeOS is that it’s a web-first system. While this becomes less of an issue as time marches forward, it is still an issue. It seemed like if you needed a fully-fledged desktop, you’d need to stick to a less securely architectured operating system.

A better architecture for full desktops

Although I only discovered it much later, the Fedora Project released an “atomic” version of its desktop operating system alongside Fedora 28 in May 2018. Called Fedora Silverblue, this edition of Fedora Workstation is a full, but immutable, operating system.

Immutable doesn’t mean you can’t do anything, of course you can install your programs and transfer your documents, what it refers to is the underlying system; the things you ideally don’t want mucking up.

With this read-only architecture for the base of the system, it means that you get a more stable system that is less prone to bugs. Atop this rock-solid base, you are strongly encouraged and more or less railroaded into using Flatpak versions of programs meaning they’re all containerized into their own little box separate from the base system boosting your system’s security.

On top of this, Fedora Silverblue grabs the latest software updates for you almost immediately after you’ve logged into your session; GNOME Software is set up by default to download updates automatically and they’re installed the next time your shut down your computer; this makes sure your software is fresh and less likely to be exploited.

Screenshot of GNOME Software in Fedora Silverblue
Just some of the programs in GNOME Software.

As it uses something called OSTree, Fedora Silverblue has a nifty little feature that saves a previous version of your system (before the latest updates), which you can always roll back to if you notice that anything has broken. This snapshotting feature is also useful if you decide to jump between different atomic versions of Fedora, that’s a bit more advanced, but you can read about it in the Fedora Docs (check out the last three paragraphs of the upgrading section).

To me, the improvements brought about by Fedora Silverblue and the other atomic versions (one for most of the other desktop environments) deliver much of what Google was promising with ChromeOS to the traditional desktop scene. I would also say that the introduction of atomic desktops does for security just what Ubuntu did for ease-of-use 20 years ago.

Your choice this month

The Fedora Project is lining up the Fedora 40 series for release on April 23 while Canonical is set to release Ubuntu 24.04 LTS on April 25. While there is an argument to choose Ubuntu if you want to stay on one release for many years as opposed to upgrading every 13 months, I think most people would benefit by opting for Fedora Silverblue.

Not only do you get a better security setup, but Fedora also ships with newer software in some cases, such as the GNOME desktop environment. For end users, this option is probably the most ideal, while there is a case for Ubuntu’s fewer changes in business and possibly education settings.

My experience with Fedora Silverblue

I have only come across Fedora Silverblue relatively recently, but I have to say, when stacked up against other systems like Ubuntu and Linux Mint, it is my favourite. Not only do I appreciate the added security and more punctual update settings, but it has also been pretty pleasant to run on this resource-strangled laptop.

Another thing I like about Fedora in general is the Fedora Writer tool to get the Silverblue installation media set up. Fedora Writer is available on Windows, macOS, and Linux - it lets you select the version of Fedora you want and which USB stick you want to write it to, it then downloads the OS, verifies it, writes it to the media, and then verifies the installation media to ensure it’s not corrupted.

The security of obtaining Fedora Silverblue via Fedora Writer plus the implicit security of Fedora Silverblue make it an extremely resilient choice, especially when the number of cyber attacks are ever-increasing. For those who don’t remember, the Linux Mint website was compromised eight years ago and a malicious ISO was replaced by the legitimate one; this incident helped push the need for verifying ISO images, which Fedora Writer does automatically.

A potential drawback of Fedora Silverblue for some users is its reliance on Flatpaks. If you use a lot of desktop applications, you may possibly find a piece of software unavailable. I would recommend checking Flathub to see whether a Flatpak package exists for all the software you need but there is a lot available so most people should be covered.

If you do find all of your apps in Flathub, the best way to install them after setup is to search for them in the Software utility that comes with Fedora and do a search; everything that’s on Flathub is in Software too.

Based on my usage of Fedora Silverblue 39 over the last few months, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I think my biggest gripe (it’s really not that much of an issue) is just after I log in and the system decides to grab available updates. Also, for anyone that uses Firefox, you'll want to install the Flatpak version of Firefox from Mozilla in GNOME Software so that you don't have any issues with video playback on the web, it will also be free of Fedora's customisations to that browser.

This particular laptop struggles a bit due to the nature of the CPU (1.1Ghz dual core), so when the updates start to download and I’m attempting to open the browser things can get a bit sticky but generally this resolves quickly and the device is fast(ish) again. Most people shouldn’t run into this issue if they’ve bought a decent computer in the last decade.

One unknown to me is how well a big upgrade of Silverblue will go, I’ll first get to try this when Fedora Silverblue 40 is released later this month. If it’s anything like the updates though, I don’t expect any issues at all.

Here are my laptops specs, in case you were wondering

Seeing as I've mentioned my laptop's hardware, I thought it would be fitting to share more details about the particular laptop I'm using to experience Fedora Silverblue. I have previously run Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and to a limited degree, Windows 10 on it so have seen how each runs on here.

Some of the key specs are as follows:

  • CPU: Intel® Celeron® N4000 (1.1 GHz) × 2
  • Memory: 4.0 GB
  • Graphics: Intel® UHD Graphics 600 (GLK 2)
  • DIsk Space: 500 GB

As you can see, the RAM should be sufficient for running an operating system and a couple of apps and in fact know that it is sufficient because I've watched the memory manager not even get full while the machine is struggling; it's all down to that underpowered, dual-core, dual thread CPU.

Of all the operating systems, Windows 10 and Ubuntu were definitely the heaviest feeling. If I recall correctly, there was a super irritating bug I ran into with Ubuntu where the whole system would lock up when trying to transfer my data to a back up.

The Cinnamon edition of Linux Mint was good, better than one of the supposedly lighter spins in fact, but still not as smooth as Fedora Silverblue has been for me.

I'm not too sure if it's GNOME's way of handing things or what, but Fedora Silverblue seems to throttle background apps to enable the maximum performance of the program that is in view. This feels slightly different compared to other operating systems that I've used and it really does benefit this laptop greatly.

The fact that Fedora Silverblue runs great on my under-powered laptop, highlights that it should be a great choice for most hardware people try to install it on. This fact leads well into the next point I want to discuss.

A solution for computers that don’t support Windows 11

This editorial has included a good chunk of reminiscing. In the time since I discovered Linux in 2008, many of our computing activities are done online, heck, I’m even writing this article up in Google Docs, a web browser-based office suite. With this trend away from desktop applications, the fact that Linux doesn’t support some Windows programs is not as much of an issue, and, by the way, Linux offers some great alternatives in a lot of cases.

The analyst firm Canalys reported in December that a massive 240 million PCs could end up in landfills after Windows 10 expires in October 2025 as people upgrade their machines to get Windows 11. Put frankly, this is an environmental disaster seeing as many of these PCs have no issues whatsoever except the fact that they don’t meet some arbitrary requirements.

With this in mind, I would recommend Fedora Silverblue to anyone who is facing the Windows 10 End of Life dilemma. Even if you do decide to get another machine for Windows 11, at least you’d have a backup computer or you could give it away to friends or family as a hand-me-down in the full knowledge that it’s running a secure operating system.

Windows 11 desktop

What about Ubuntu?

Look, I like Ubuntu but its core is still much what it was 20 years ago when it came out, overly reliant on deb packages. Canonical has also failed to convince the community of the benefits of snap packages, just as it failed with the Unity desktop. So, I think with Fedora’s more developed atomic desktop and without the politics around snap, Fedora Silverblue 40 stands as the better distribution to choose this April over Ubuntu 24.04 LTS.

Hopefully, the Fedora Project pushes on with its atomic desktops and moves to make them the default option and I hope Canonical sits up and pays attention and makes a similar move too. As things stand, Canonical doesn’t offer anything equivalent to Fedora Silverblue for desktop users, which is a shame, I’d like them to move in that direction, or at least have it as an alternative to the main version of Ubuntu.

Concluding remarks

Unless something very nasty happens during the upgrade to Fedora Silverblue 40, I have to say that I’m fully sold on Fedora Silverblue. I have used Ubuntu and Linux Mint extensively over the past decade, and for me, neither of them match Silverblue. It finally feels like we have most of the security advantages of ChromeOS with a full desktop experience.

If you’ve got experience with Fedora Silverblue, I am keen to hear your views about it and whether you’ve had any significant issues, let me know in the comments section. If you’re looking to upgrade or change your computer’s operating system this month, which way are you going to go? Ubuntu, Fedora Silverblue, or a third option?

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