First Thoughts on Qubes

by | Feb 26, 2023 | Random Thoughts, Tech Geekery | 0 comments

Holy shit… this is gonna require a mindset shift.

I received the laptop I purchased for Qubes… a day early, I wanna say. That was rather nice. It’s a Lenovo Thinkpad P50. I don’t remember how much RAM it came with, but it had a 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD and Windows 10.

Not so much anymore…

Like I wrote in my last post, the upgrades I ordered to bring it to a level I would call serviceable arrived well ahead of the laptop, and within… oh, 45 minutes, I’d say… of its arrival, the laptop sported 64GB of RAM and a 2TB NVMe M.2 SSD. The motherboard supports a slot for another M.2 SSD, but it did not come with a caddy for it. I’ve ordered the caddy, and I will eventually add the second SSD. It’ll be either 4TB or 8TB. I haven’t decided yet.

And honestly, I may wait until I reach a final verdict on Qubes. As the opening quote should indicate, Qubes is fundamentally different from every other operating system I’ve ever dealt with.

See… it’s not truly a straight-up operating system like your favorite flavor of Linux or Windows or macOS. Qubes is a highly customized Xen hypervisor. It achieves its “Security Through Compartmentalization” by using Virtual Machines (VMs) with varying degrees of trust and functionality.

I’ve worked with both VMWare and Hyper-V (Microsoft’s Type 1 Hypervisor) before. Matter of fact, I have Hyper-V running on my Windows gaming box right now, even though I don’t currently have any VMs provisioned.

But Qubes is an altogether different animal.

Part of me wants to say, “Heck with it,” and just go on my merry way. This is enough of a learning curve that I’m figuratively standing at the bottom of El Capitan with my goal all the way up there. No climbing gear. No experience beyond walking up and down the hills around where I grew up. And definitely no half-human best friend with an anti-grav belt in case I fall.


There’s another part of me that wants to tackle this, and my reason for tackling this might surprise you. Not too long ago, I read an article with a reference to a study that indicated we lose 5% of our brain mass every decade, starting in our forties. And one of the best ways to combat this is to keeping learning new stuff. Learning–apparently–is exercise for the brain.

I actually had the thought, “This is beyond me. I should just stick to what I know.” It was hidden in the guise of “This will take too much time from my writing,” but the underlying meaning was there.

I don’t like feeling that there’s something I can’t learn. It will come as no surprise to people who have known me for most of my life that I pride myself on my intellect. When I was in school (K-12 & Undergraduate), I erroniously approached life from the standpoint of not caring about the state of my body as long as my brain was healthy and capable.

I have since realized… er, that is, admitted… that the brain needs the body just as much as the body needs the brain and that an unhealthy body can lead to an unhealthy brain.

But I digress…

So, I’m going to tackle this the way I tackle every challenge in my life. I’m going to start by reading about it. The “Getting Started” documentation at the Qubes OS website will soon be my new digital best friend… or at the very least one of my most frequently visited sites.

It’s running the Xfce desktop environment right now, and I don’t even know how to change the wallpaper. It’s sitting on the stock “gray image with a stylized Q logo” right now. Matter of fact, I don’t even know what the default screen resolution is… or how to find that.

I’ve read forum posts that KDE is also a possibility, and other forum posts suggest the Qubes development team is even working on implementing Gnome. I can understand the choice of Xfce. It’s a very lightweight desktop environment, compared to others, which leaves more system resources for the VMs and other functions. It would improve Qubes’s performance on systems that didn’t have 64GB of RAM.

Regardless, I have a lot of learning to do, and I’ll make posts here every so often.


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