GNOME OS is switching from OSTree to systemd-sysupdate

I’m pretty sure most of you are familiar with KDE Neon, the distribution KDE maintains to provide easy access to the latest KDE technologies. However, did you know GNOME has something similar, called GNOME OS? It’s been around for a while, but has a far lower profile than KDE Neon does, and it seems they want to change that and put more of a spotlight on GNOME OS.

GNOME OS is an immutable distribution using OSTree, the same technology used by the various popular immutable versions from the Fedora family. It seems GNOME OS is working to leave OSTree behind, and move to systemd-sysupdate instead, which has been available since systemd 251, released in May 2022. The developers claim this will bring the following benefits:

  • Provide a trust chain from the bootloader, all the way up, both online and offline;
  • Achieve a closer integration with systemd;
  • Advance our support for image-based design and its benefits, e.g., immutability, auto-updating, adaptability, factory reset, uniformity and other modernised security properties around image-based OSes.
↫ Martín Abente Lahaye, Sam Thursfield

To complete the move from OSTree to systemd-sysupdate, a few things need to be completed. First, the boot process and root filesystem had to be migrated, which was done last year. Second, sysupdate needs to integrated into GNOME, as for now, you can only use it via the command line. This work is ongoing, and requires a new D-Bus service and polkit integration to allow GNOME Software to manage the update process. Of course, there’s more work that needs to be done to complete this migration, but these are the main tasks.

All of this work is part of the project’s goal to make GNOME OS nightlies viable for daily-driving for quality assurance purposes, and I’m sure all this work will also make GNOME OS more attractive to people outside of the developer community. It’s basically GNOME/systemd taken to the extreme, and while that will surely make quite a few people groan, I personally find it great that this will make GNOME OS a more capable choice for everyone.

That’s what open source is all about, in the end.


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