356: Ubuntu Snaps: Universally Helping Linux or Snapocalypse?


Hey Everyone ! great show so far ( I’m listening currently ) !

I want to chime in on the conversation on Snaps. I personally do not care for them or AppImages for various reasons, but I have to add that there are many applications being served via Docker/Podman images as well. If anything, because of Immutable distro’s becoming more popular of late, They also need to be mentioned in this debate.

OCI images will become more prevalent whether in server or on the desktop. Their use in tools like toolbox , distrobox and the aforementioned podman & docker will offer a more streamlined and secure experience as opposed to AppImages and Snaps.

For me the whole snap debate is polluted from the start, and really without subject.

  • “Canonical forces snaps on me”.

Well, RedHat forces rpms on me then, and Debian debs. Fedora comes with flatpak preinstalled and flathub configured, are they now “forcing flatpaks on me”? Or why is all that any different, yet nobody complains about it? If at a certain moment the upgrade switches you to another package format the distribution wants to support in the future, it is an implementation detail for me.

He who delivers the software, chooses the format. Simple as that. You don’t agree? Fiiiine, really. Don’t worry about it, this is why we have choice. Use something else, compile from source or do whatever you want. Ubuntu does not prevent any of that. Don’t expect support of course. Respect the choices of those who offer you their stuff for free.

  • “Snaps are closed source”.

This simply is not true. The packages are described in a yaml file. You take the tool (open source) to build them and you get a package. You take the tooling (open source) to install and run the package and now it is on your system. You collect the packages and organize them centrally, and now you have your own store.

How is this essentially different from running say docker-compose an pulling images from a registry? Is the docker container registry fully open source? Did we all check to make sure it is? Did anybody ever even care about it?

Let’s take it further. Is the system76 webshop open source? Or Valve’s store (HW and SW)? Should we still buy their machines if not, or any game? Again, has anybody ever cared about that? Why is the latter not an issue and do we all love Valve?

I understand Canonical does not open source everything and we’d rather they did. But who are we to make that call? Did I not hear on your show to not fight dissident opinions, but try to see the other point of view?

Another angle. Suppose Canonical uses a commercial database for their store or various commercial plugins for whatever reason which makes things very complex to disclose easily as open source. Why would Canonical using for example Oracle RAC be any different from Michael using Photoshop to get a particular job done? What about running AI workload on close source GPU binaries? Do we stop engaging with those who do? Is the Steam Deck GPU firmware open source?

IMO this all is utterly inconsistent. DistroTube had a great video on it, he expressed exactly how I feel.

  • “Snaps are slow”.

This makes me smile.

The past 3-5 years we went 20 years back in time (in my opinion, of course), doing updates during boot like windows does them. Not predictable at all, machine not usable for an undetermined amount of time, staring at an 32x32 pixel animation hoping the system will boot further. This hardly gets mentioned, but oh my god the mozilla snap after a cold boot, thát was the thing. You see, we do accept a LOT, provided the right party does it. This, again imho, makes the Linux community “ugly” sometimes, the obvious and clear lack of same standards for everyone.

I have 4-5 novice users in my family on Linux. All very modest hardware, very old as well, but using SSDs. It took about 15 seconds to boot firefox after a cold boot with the first release. To get to 45 seconds we are in extremely low performance hardware and/or mechanical drives territory. This has been fixed for way over a year now, but hardly anybody reporting on this has corrected their articles. And because snaps are supported universally, the fixes are automatically backported as well. How is this a thing that keeps re-appering if not out of bad faith (talking in general, not DLN)?

I am not an Ubuntu fanboy. I don’t even use it on my desktop at the moment. But I don’t like this constant application of different standards for those in the “bad” camp compared to those in the “good” camp.

Use Fedora, OpenSuse, Arch, Gentoo, Slackware, Debian. We get sooooo much for free, to use. Why can’t people just be happy about what they love, and move to something else if a distribution is not aligned to what their personal preferences, needs or beliefs are?

To close, I have tried the all-snap Ubuntu Core Desktop image that Canonical is working on, and I was honestly surprised how well it already works and how much you can actually do with it (juggle around kernels etc). For anybody interested in the debate about snaps, it seems like a must-look-at thing to understand what the technology is capable of.

Until then, I’ll use Arch, by the way.