This isn’t an in-depth review, just my thoughts after attempting to make QubesOS my daily driver. I used Qubes for about a week, although during that time I spent a good amount of time studying it.
First of all, I really love the concept. The ability to compartmentalize your activities, determine exactly what each VM has access to (especially the ability to restrict network access to a specific VM, which is a huge security advantage), dispose of VMs easily, and plug in devices without compromising the entire system, these are all amazing features.
For me, similar to Tor, Whonix and TailsOS, I know that Qubes is an incredibly useful asset for my security and privacy, but unlike them, I know how I can integrate Qubes into my workflow. (Side note about Tor, Whonix and Tails, I don’t know how I can take advantage of those tools because they’re focused more on anonymity rather than security and lack accessibility and performance, and I am more interested in security).
There’s two major reasons why I won’t be using QubesOS as my daily driver:
Performance. Qubes is a huge, and I mean huge resource hog. It’s a black hole for your system resources. I tested Qubes on two machines: Lenovo Thinkpad T570 with a Samsung (860?) SATA SSD, and an Intel NUC 11th gen Core i5-1135G7 with an NVMe SSD and 32GB 3200Mhz RAM. The laptop was hardly usable. The NUC was usable, but struggled to play anything above 1080p videos smoothly. 4k video was next to unplayable. For me, if I can’t play videos at up to 4k smoothly, then I can’t use that operating system for my primary activities, since I spend so much time watching videos.
Bluetooth. I looked up how to add bluetooth to Qubes, and I’m aware there is a way to do it, but I was cautioned against it due to the security issues it brings. I’m not willing to risk compromising my entire system just to enable bluetooth, but I can’t imagine using my system without bluetooth. It’s essential for me. I use bluetooth headphones and I can’t imagine being constantly tethered to a computer like a dog on a leash. However, I did try it out and it’s not worth it. Also, although this didn’t happen, because I’m so used to bluetooth headphones, you’d be inclined to get up and walk away with your headphones on, not realizing they’re still connected to your PC. With my little NUC, that could be disastrous.
Constant configuration. Now, this isn’t as major as the two mentioned above but still a concern. In the last few days I have actually moved onto Arch Linux for the first time (and loving it). Trust an Arch user when he says QubesOS is difficult to use. Now, I want to say that QubesOS is not difficult to use in the same way other people say it is - I actually find the compartmentalization of AppVMs, TemplateVMs, sys-net, sys-usb, etc…to be intuitive. I get it, that’s how my mind works. The Qubes structure aligns with my brain somehow. But when I say it’s difficult, it’s more about the fact that doing anything takes considerably longer. I find myself creating AppVMs all the time. Also, and this could warrant its own section, apps are very difficult to install. I went through hoops trying to figure out how to install apps, and trying to get it to show up in the quick menu. Again, I’m using Arch now, and apps are super easy to install, even when they’re not in the core repository.
I will probably use QubesOS on this NUC after I upgrade to something else and use it as my “secure” personal PC, but as it stands, I won’t be using it as my daily driver, and that’s sad. If it wasn’t for the issues mentioned above, I would happily use Qubes as my daily driver. And I’m sure that some of you may have fixes for some of the performance issues I mentioned, and maybe for the issues I had with installing apps. But I’ve gone through the troubleshooting and it’s a nightmare. I don’t want to constantly keep trying to fix issues, I want to set it up once and have it work 99% of the time from then on.
Thanks for reading.