Fedora Atomic Workstation: What about apps ?

I recently switched my main system to Fedora Atomic Workstation, and described my initial experience here. But I am going to travel soon, so I won’t have much time to fiddle with my laptop, and need to get things into working order.

Image result for project atomic logoConnections

One thing I needed to investigate is getting my VPN connections over from the old system. After a bit of consideration, I decided that it was easiest to just copy the relevant files from the old installation – /etc is not part of the immutable OS image, so this works just fine. I booted back into the old system and:

cp /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections/* /ostree/boot-1/.../etc/NetworkManager/system-connections

Note that you may also have to copy certificates over in a similar way.

Applications

But the bigger task for getting this system into working order is, of course, getting the applications back.

I could of course just use rpm-ostree’s layering and install fedora rpms for many apps. But, that would mean sliding back into the old world where applications are part of the OS, and dependencies force the OS and the apps to be updated together, etc. Since I want to explore the proper workflows and advantages of the Atomic model, I’ll instead try to install the apps separately from the OS, as flatpaks.

Currently, the best way to get flatpaks is to use flathub, so i went back there to see if I can find all I need. flathub has a bit more than 200 applications currently. That may not seem much, compared to the Android playstore, but lets see whats actually there:

With  Telegram, Spotify, Gimp, LibreOffice and some others, I find most of what I need frequently. And Skype, Slack, Inkscape, Blender and others are there too. Not bad.

Browsers

But what about web browsers? firefox is included in the atomic workstation image. To make it play media, you have to do the same things as on the traditional workstation – find an ffmpeg package and use rpm layering to make it part of the image.

chrome is unfortunately hard to package as a flatpak, since its own sandboxing technology conflicts with the sandboxing that is applied by flatpak. There is of course a chrome rpm, but it installs into /opt, which is not currently supported by rpm-ostree. See this issue for more details and possible solutions.

Beyond the major browsers, there’s some other choices available in flathub, such as GNOME Web or Eolie. These browsers use gstreamer for multimedia support, so they will pick up codecs that are available on the host system via the gstreamer runtime extension.

Next steps

The trip I’m going on is for a hackfest that will focus on an application (GNOME Recipes, in fact), so I will need a well-working setup for building flatpaks locally.

I’ll try out how well GNOME Builder handles this task on an Atomic System.

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