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Try out Ubuntu’s new snap based desktop

Recently, Canonical announced an “all snap” version of Ubuntu. This version will be immutable, much like Steam OS, or Fedora Silverblue/Kinoite. However, Canonical will not be releasing this version of Ubuntu until next year.

If you’re interested in trying out this distribution before it comes out to see if an “all snap” desktop makes sense for your use case, you can. In this guide, we’ll go over how you can try out the new Ubuntu “all snap” desktop.

Downloading the Ubuntu Core Desktop image to your computer

You can test out Ubuntu Core Desktop on a virtual machine or a physical machine. This is good for testing, though it may be unstable. In this guide, we’ll be making a virtual machine as this is a new project, and it is safer this way. However, you’ll still need to download the image to your computer.

To download the latest Ubuntu Core Desktop image to your system, sign into GitHub (this is a must), head to this page, and select the latest entry. Then find “Artifacts,” and select the “image” link. When you select “image,” your browser will prompt you to download “image.zip”.

Once the “image.zip” file is done downloading to your computer, you’ll need to extract it from the archive. You can do this by opening up a terminal window. Then, using the unzip and tar commands below.

cd ~/Downloads/

unzip image.zip

tar xvf pc.tar.gz

Configuring the permissions

You must have the correct permissions to run the image file on your computer. If these permissions are not correct, it will not launch and you will receive errors.

Installing Gnome Boxes on your computer

There are a lot of virtualization tools that you can run the Ubuntu Core Desktop on in Linux. However, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll go over Gnome Boxes. It’s an easy-to-use front end for Qemu/KVM.

Not many distributions come with Gnome Boxes pre-installed, so you must install it on your system beforehand. To do this, open up a terminal window. Then, enter the installation commands below that correspond with the Linux OS you use.

Ubuntu

sudo apt install gnome-boxes

Debian

sudo apt install gnome-boxes

Arch Linux

sudo pacman -S gnome-boxes

Fedora

sudo dnf install gnome-boxes

OpenSUSE

sudo zypper in gnome-boxes

Installing other required tools

Aside from Gnome Boxes, you need the qemu-system package the libvirt-daemon-system package, and the virtinst package. These packages will help you install the Ubuntu Core Desktop into Gnome Boxes, as setting it up with the Gnome Boxes UI currently doesn’t work right. To install these packages on your system, do the following in a terminal:

Ubuntu
sudo apt install qemu-system libvirt-daemon-system virtinst

Debian
sudo apt install qemu-system libvirt-daemon-system virtinst

Arch Linux
sudo pacman -S qemu-full libvirt virt-install

Fedora

sudo dnf install qemu libvirt virt-install

OpenSUSE

sudo zypper in virt-install qemu libvirt-daemon

With these packages installed, add your user account to the group libvirt using the groupadd command below.

sudo groupadd YOUR_USER_NAME libvirt

Setting up the Ubuntu Core Desktop VM

Once all of the tools are set up, you need to install the Ubuntu Core VM using the Virt-install tool. To start, launch a terminal window on your Linux desktop. When the terminal app is open, use the mkdir command to create the directory ~/vms.

mkdir -p ~/vms

After creating the directory, copy the pc.img file from your ~/Downloads directory and place it in the new ~/vms folder.

mv ~/Downloads/pc.img ~/vms/

With the file in the ~/vms folder, you’ll need to update it’s permissions so that it can be accessed via Gnome Boxes and QEMU. You can do this with the chmod command.

chmod 777 ~/vms/pc.img

After updating the permissions, use the following command to create and add the VM to Gnome Boxes.

virt-install --connect qemu:///session --name core-desktop \
--memory 2048 --vcpus 2 --boot uefi --os-variant ubuntu22.04 \
--video virtio,accel3d=no --graphics spice \
--import --disk path=~/vms/pc.img,format=raw

The initial configuration will take a bit. You’ll know it’s complete with the GUI window closes on its own, and you see Domain creation completed in the terminal.

How to check out the All Snap Ubuntu Desktop

To check out the Ubuntu Core Desktop, launch the “Boxes” application from your app menu, and start up the Ubuntu Core Desktop VM. It’ll be the only VM that appears in Boxes if you’ve never used it before.

Once it loads up, you can install it like a traditional Ubuntu Linux system. After installation, you’ll be able to immediately begin using it. However, keep in mind that this operating system is highly experimental, and you may run into issues.

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