last edited Sat, 10 Feb 2024 15:04:05 GMT
backlinks: qubesOS Hipster Distributions

Hardware Requirements direct link to this section

You need a 64 bit Intel or AMD CPU, 6GB of RAM and 32GB of storage space at the very minimum.[1] Input Output Memory Enforced Isolation (IOMMU) must be enabled at the BIOs level so that Qubes can enforce isolation. AMD-Vi in my case, it would be Intel VT-d for Intel users. By design Qubes uses Xen[2] as a bare metal hypervisor, so installing Qubes in a virtual machine isn't recommened or supported (nested virtualization).

Performance Comparisons direct link to this section

I installed Qubes on my main desktop and on my Dell XPS 13, you can see additional details about my hardware at machinery. While I did experience some lag when updating Qubes on my desktop, performance was smooth and multiple virtual machines were able to coexist without setbacks. I was not able to even update Whonix or Fedora through the Qubes upgrade utility on my Dell XPS because it only has 8GB of RAM. While it's widely accepted that Qubes is resource intensive I would advise against installing it on notebooks. This would be connvenient from an outside perspective, but the slow download speeds aren't worth the trouble if being on the go is time sensitive. Qubes documentation recommends up to 32GB of RAM, I had decent performance at 16GB. My desktop was built to handle modern videogames and I still think more RAM would benefit the Xen virtualization technology working underneath.

Verifying the ISO direct link to this section

Qubes uses the Open PGP standard to verify digital signatures, follow the instructions if you're unfamiliar with PGP keys. Qubes developers operate under a threat model where they distrust the infrastructure, so it's encouraged to verify signatures through multiple sources. I posted my terminal output below, the key I am verifying is for Qubes release 4.1.2[3].

gpg --fingerprint DDFA1A3E36879494
pub   rsa4096 2010-04-01 [SC]
      427F 11FD 0FAA 4B08 0123  F01C DDFA 1A3E 3687 9494
uid           [ unknown] Qubes Master Signing Key

Preparing the Installation Medium direct link to this section

I usually opt for a USB when installing new operating systems, it's convenient to format and widely supported by peripherals. The documentation states that the iso should be written in disk image mode (DD image), this is a option under rufus. I will use etcher out of preference, and it's essentially an electron UI for the dd utility.

After preparing the installation media all that's left is to set the computer to boot from your chosen media in the BIOs. I find that Qubes has a user friendly installer. There was a bit of slowness with installation in comparison to void linux but that's expected since Qubes is a meta distribution where every qube is its own separate virtualized machine.

Customization direct link to this section

DOM0 designates domain 0, the root hypervisor. There are various templates powerusers can download for their preferred environments. I'm already familiar with Debian so I opted for Fedora qubes alongside Whonix. There are other templates available for download, including templates geared towards penetration testing distributions such as ParrotOS or Kali Linux.

Qubes is very much an independent distribution that will take BSD and Linux enthusiasts off guard. I personally felt that customization is an after thought in a distro where virtual machines are instantiated with pre-defined templates, and you need to get used to the isolation Dom0 has from networking despite all media files being stored in its directory. I highly recommend experiencing a demo on bare metal before committing to this distribution.

  1. Qubes OS Documentation ↩︎

  2. Xen Project ↩︎

  3. Qubes Stable 4.1.2 Signing Key ↩︎