Debian 'start' application doesn't do anything?

I have a “debian-10” Qube with the ‘start’ application enabled. When I select it from the qubes menu though, nothing seems to happen. What am I missing? If I use a Windows Qube the ‘start’ application seems to start a Windows OS GUI. I was expecting the same with Debian?

Hi @user00!

First, let’s go with the sanity check: see if debian-10 was not already open and you just forgot to shut it down. If it was then it won’t magically restart.

If that’s not the problem, then I need to know if you’re comfortable using the dom0 terminal. Are you? (this shouldn’t be hard)

When you open debian-10: Start it essentially running the command qvm-start --quiet debian-10 in a dom0 terminal. So could you type qvm-start debian-10 on the dom0 terminal (XFCE Terminal) to see if it does anything.

To me it sounds like he’s expecting a desktop or something like Windows but I suppose he isn’t talking about a StandaloneVM but the preinstalled template. I am guessing that this is just a misconception.

Good thought @Raphael_Balthazar

Yes that’s right - I thought it might launch a “desktop” but understood if its just starting “silently”. Is there a way to launch a desktop environemnt? I have an application that has poor documentation but has a UI when installed. I will probably check with support of that software publisher…

You usually install your app in the template (or the clone of a template) and then you start an AppVM (specifically your application) based on that app. If the app is supposed to work in Debian then you install it in your debian template.

Of course, you could install a HVM with a full OS (any Linux distribution, BSD, Windows…) but I guess you don’t want that for your application in this case.

Qubes integrates all the stuff seamlessly so you don’t need to be aware that you’re running one desktop per virtual machine.

I’d suggest you start by looking at the “Getting Started” document or the video tours if you haven’t already.

Qubes does take a bit to wrap you mind around. Especially if you already have some past experience on how things work with virtual machines and linux.

Exactly! You can also have full desktops (meaning where you see all the windows inside) but that’s loosing the benefits of Qubes.

1 Like

So an application I was trying to install on a Debian Qube is a Ubuntu .deb. I assumed it might be able to easily install to Debian but I guess just because it is a .deb doesn’t mean it will work easily within Debian, if it was built for Ubuntu?

Absolutely not.
Don’t mix like that - there’s almost always going to be some sort of
But sometimes you can repackage the ubuntu package and install that
in to Debian. What is the package you want?

When you go to add/remove app shortcuts for a VM, there’s an entry that’s just called “Start.”

I investigated, and it turns out that all it does is qvm-start --quiet <vm_name>. Doesn’t seem very useful. It’s also misleading, because it’s in the app list even though it’s not an app.

Perhaps this is what @user00 is referring to.

Yes that’s what I meant

I might agree that it’s misleading, misworded, and/or inconsistent with the mindset that the “Q” menu is a list of apps, but I disagree about usefulness.

There are times when it is useful to Start a qube without at that time specifying an app to be run.

1 Like

I use the Start “app” quite often!

The Start menu option simply starts the qube. Normally when you click on an app menu entry, you expect something to happen; what is happening is the qube being booted.

There are certain cases where the ‘Start’ option is useful for me:

  1. Booting an HVM (though booting an HVM pops up the GUI window)
  2. Booting a service qube which is not set to autostart-at-boot, so that I can run it at-will.
  • I don’t have sys-usb booting at start. Having the ‘Start’ menu option saves me from having to open Qubes Manager or exec qvm-start.
  1. I have a qube that stores ISOs. When I want to boot an HVM with an ISO from this qube, the only thing I need to do is boot my ISO qube and not necessarily run any commands.

I seem to remember having to manually add the ‘Start’ option in the list of apps for the template so that I get it by default.

Perhaps the resolution here is to simply rename ‘Start’ to ‘Boot Qube’?

“Start” is used in Qube Manager, qvm-start (obviously :slight_smile:), and all over the docs. If there’s something to be done here besides education / doc clarification, probably better to head in the direction of “Start Qube (without running an App)”…

The claim is not that the ability to start a qube (without running any app inside of that qube) is not useful. Of course it is.

Rather the claim is that there is already an established way to do this, namely the “Start/resume selected qube” button in the Qube Manager, or, equivalently, qvm-start.

The problem is that we have a list of applications from which the user can select to create shortcuts. In this list, there is something that is not an application at all. Hence, it is out of place in this list. Unlike all the other entries in the list, it isn’t a qvm-run command, but rather a qvm-start command.

Based on the responses above, it sounds like this “fake Start app” entry is masking a real UX problem where users find it hard to start qubes without running any apps in them, so we resort to this “fake Start app” hack as a crutch. Maybe that’s somehow the optimal solution and therefore should stay, but I highly doubt it.

Thanks @adw for the clarifications, and focus on UX. Briefly, a few other thoughts:

  • @icequbes1 and I (& others?) Start qubes often enough that having this easily available on the Q menu is an enhancement of the UX, as opposed to the extra steps of going to the Qube Manager and/or CLI.
  • As you can probably tell, I’m focused on the UX of the Q menu rather than “app consistency” of what’s in the Available Applications list in Qube Manager. I use the former more than the latter.
  • If the “app consistency” in QM is important, a UX change would be to remove “Start” from the list and instead have a “Show Start” checkbox below?
  • Maybe leave as is and just better clarify by changing the wording to “Start the Qube (only - no Application is run)”?
  • Note that the Q menu also includes “Qube Settings”, which is also not an application run in the qube. The user has no choice - this isn’t shown in Available Applications and it’s always on the Q menu. Which way should consistency go? Nuke both “Qube Settings” and “Start” from the Q Menu and Available Applications? Or have both on the Q Menu and neither in Available Applications? Or ???
  • “Start” has been on the Q Menu a long time, and it’s not uncommon for UX to provide access to a given function in multiple ways to accommodate different workflows, sometimes seemingly inconsistently.
  • It seems to me the “real UX problem” is something else. Not the “users find it hard to start qubes without running any apps in them”, but “the users expected something to appear but nothing did”. This is understandable since if one booted (Started) a physical machine something would appear - either a GUI or CLI. And this applies whether the Start happens via Q Menu->Start, Qube Manager->Start, qvm-start, or however else. There are only 2 ways to address this:
    – Education and/or clarification that “Start” only boots the qube - what the qube does after Starting is whatever you’ve configured it to do - which can be nothing!
    – Make something appear. Since in Qubes the UI is outside the qube, the only choice is a Console or Terminal window? I’d argue this is undesirable and a bad choice, and unnecessarily gums up how Start is currently used…


In this case, it’s not the same inconsistency I mentioned before, because it’s not a non-app in the list of apps in QM. “Qube Settings” is actually an app (but it runs in dom0 rather than the domU), so it’s not out of place in the Applications Menu.

FWIW, I’ve been using Qubes for years, and I had no clue what that “Start” entry did until this thread prompted me to investigate. Whenever I saw it, my thought was, “Wtf is ‘Start’? Is that some kind of basic Linux tool I’ve never heard of?! Oh well, no time to figure it out right now.”

The only reason users expect something to appear is because that’s what literally every other app entry does. Hence why this one is out of place.

I’ve never heard of anyone being surprised that the “Start qube” button doesn’t cause anything to appear. (Well, it causes that VM to get a green dot in QM, so it actually does provide visual feedback within the same window.)

Yeah, definitely don’t do this.

But “not uncommon” doesn’t entail good. There are a lot of dark UX patterns that have become established by mainstream OSes. That doesn’t necessarily mean we should follow in their footsteps.

Something along these lines might work. Maybe this will get picked up in one of Nina’s user studies.

Honestly the start button never bothered me like that, I am using it pretty often and it would be a waste of time to have to open qubes-manager to start a vm in the background. It is true that it’s not the most obvious thing but when you remember that you are dealing with vm’s then it become quite logical.