Fedora, Linux, Red Hat

How is Linux used by FIT BUT students

The Faculty of Information Technology of Brno University of Technology is one of the two top computer science schools in Brno, Czech Republic. Our development office of Red Hat has intensive cooperation with them including educating students about Linux and open source software. To find out more about how they use Linux, we ran a survey that collected answers from 176 students which is a pretty good sample. I promised to share results publicly, so here they are:

The following chart shows the distribution of responders by year of school. The survey was primarily targeting students in the first year which is why they make up over 50% of the responses.

The following chart shows how many students had experience with a Linux distribution prior their studies at the university. 46% did which shows a pretty good exposure to Linux at high schools.

And now what desktop OS students use primarily. Windows are dominating, but Linux is used as a primary OS by roughly one third of students. macOS is only at 10%. Although we gave responders an option to specify other OSes, no one submitted, for example, BSD.

The following chart shows in what form students use Linux primarily (as either a primary or secondary OS). 44% of students have it installed on their desktop/laptop. 31% use Windows Subsystem for Linux. School programming assignments have to run on Linux, so if they want to stick with Windows, WSL is the easiest way for them. Virtualization is at 9% and remote server at 13% (I suspect it’s mostly uni servers where students can test their assignments before submission).

And here come shares of Linux distributions. Responders could pick multiple options, so the total is over 100%. Basically the only relevant distributions among FIT BUT students are Ubuntu, Fedora, Arch Linux and Debian.

Ubuntu has a clear lead. It’s the default option for WSL where it is on vast majority of installations, so I wondered what the share would be without WSL.

Without WSL the gap between Ubuntu and the rest of the pack is smaller. And since I’m from the Red Hat desktop team I also wondered what are the shares among students who indicated they use Linux primarily on desktop/laptop.

When it comes to desktop computers and laptops the shares of Fedora and Ubuntu are almost the same. That shows two things: 1. Fedora is strong on the desktop among local students, 2. being the default option in WSL gives Ubuntu an advantage in mindshare. Fedora is not even officially available for WSL, but even if it was, it wouldn’t probably change much because other distros are available in the Microsoft Store and only one student of out 50+ who primarily use WSL responded that they use something else than Ubuntu. WSL is probably used by users who want some Linux in their Windows and don’t care much which one it is, so they stay with the default.

We also asked students what prevents them from using Linux primarily. By far the most frequent answer (80%) was “Software I use is not available for Linux”, followed by “I don’t like the UX and logic of the OS” (28%) and “Compatibility with my hardware” (11%). Some students also responded that they simply hadn’t had enough time to get familiar with Linux and are staying with what they know. Other reasons were marginal.


Account Verification: from Mastodon to CzechPoint

When Twitter’s account verification policy began to change late last year, a debate about how to do identity verification for online accounts stirred. As I found out, the way Mastodon does it is surprisingly elegant.

Previously, Twitter had a verification process for high-profile accounts (politicians, journalists, etc.). I honestly don’t know what that verification entailed, but after the Twitter takeover, Musk came up with the idea that anyone who pays $8 is eligible for verification. The ironic thing was that the new process didn’t actually include any identity verification at all. You paid $8, got a blue badge, and could impersonate anyone. This unsurprisingly didn’t work, so after a series of bummers over a short period of time, they discontinued this method of verification. They restarted it just recently and it seems to be as flawed as before.

Not that I have any major need to have my social media accounts verified, but I was wondering if there was any way to verify an account on Mastodon, because there isn’t some central entity that can verify your accounts. I found out that Mastodon goes about it in a pretty elegant way. It outsources the authentication to internet domain administrators.

The Internet domain is, in my opinion, the best “holder” of online identity. Internet domain administrators generally operate in the public interest, have long term continuity, and are globally recognized authorities. Domains are affordable and the rules for owning them are relatively loose. The chances of losing your domain, and therefore your online identity, are relatively small. Email is the most common identifier today and if you run it on your own domain, you are using the domain as an identity across online services. If you don’t have your own domain, I recommend getting one. It’s a much better idea in the long run than relying on an identity derived from accounts with service providers (Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft…) because with you’re just building one big vendor lock-in for yourself.

Mastodon simply uses the XHTML Friends Network format, which has been around since 2003. It allows a link to declare a relationship. So on a domain you own, you can place a link to your Mastodon profile in the format:

<a href="https://floss.social/@sesivany" rel="me">Me on Mastodon</a>

In your Mastodon profile, you link back to the page that contains the link, and when Mastodon detects the backlink, it marks the connection as verified. This will link the account to your domain. If you run, say, a popular blog on your domain and you’re generally known as the owner, that may be enough, but proving that you have control over the content of a site on a domain does not mean that you have verified your identity.

My profile with verification.

But if you own a Czech domain, you can go further. CZ.NIC allows you to link your entry in the domain registry to your account with MojeID which is also operated by CZ.NIC. This identity service is also certified to log into online government services in the EU and in order to do that requires in-person identity verification. This means that you have to go to a CzechPoint with your ID card, where someone will verify that you are really who you claim to be in MojeID (you can also use an eID card or a data box to verify your MojeID account online, but these also required in-person verification when you created them).

I have my MojeID account verified this way. So the chain of trust goes from my Mastodon account to verification with my ID at a CzechPoint. Which online service has such strong authentication? Yet from Mastodon’s side, this is a simple thing to implement and costs me about $8 in domain fees per year, not per month. And it has a much broader application. It’s a pity that XFN is not used by more services.


Fedora at OpenAlt 2022

Covid stopped a lot of activities including IT events. As things are hopefully coming to normal the Czech community of Fedora had its first booth at a physical event since 2019. It was also a revival for OpenAlt, traditional open source conference in Brno, because its last edition was in 2019, too. The traditional date of OpenAlt is the first weekend in November, but to avoid any possible autumn covid waves the organizers decided to have it on Sep 17-18.

Fedora booth

The conference grew to occupy pretty much the whole venue (Faculty of Informatics of Brno Technical University) and offer 6+ tracks. This year it shrank back to its pre-2012 times.

For us from the Fedora community it was great to be back among people, talking directly to our users. We demoed the freshly released Fedora 37 Beta and we also showcased Fedora on a Pinephone (with the Posh environment). The theme of this year’s OpenAlt turned out to be Linux on mobile phones. There were several talks on this topic, people showed up with different phones (Pinephone, Librem 5…) and different OSes on them (Fedora, Manjaro, Debian, SailfishOS…).

Fedora on Pinephone

During the last 3 years we have also accumulated a lot of Fedora swag in the storage, so we had a lot to give away and people appreciated it because apparently getting a sticker of your favorite distribution is something people were missing too.

I’d also like to thank Vojtech Trefny, Jan Beran, Ondrej Michal, and Lukas Kotek for helping me staff the booth.

Fedora, GNOME, Linux

Copr repo with the latest GNOME Software

We’ve been working hard for the last months to improve GNOME Software both in Fedora Workstation and Silverblue, especially its reliability. One thing we identified as a problem is a long feedback loop. I took months before bug reporters and designers could easily test changes made based on their feedback.

That’s why Milan Crha, the new GNOME Software maintainer, created a Copr repository that includes the latest development version of GNOME Software. If you want to help us with testing, install GNOME Software from the Copr repository and report issues. They won’t be overlooked. Milan is a very responsive maintainer.

Fedora, GNOME

Silverblue: pretty good family OS

I’m the go-to IT guy in the family, so my relatives rely on me when it comes to computers and software on them. In the past I also helped them with computers with Windows and macOS, but at some point I just gave up. I don’t know those systems well enough to effectively administer them and I don’t even have much interest in them. So I asked them to decide: you either use Linux which I know and can effectively help you with or ask someone else for help.

Long story short: I (mostly remotely) support quite a few Fedora (Linux of my choice) users in my family now. It’s a fairly easy task. Usually after I set up the machine I don’t hear from the user very often. Just once 6 months and a year typically when I visit them I upgrade the machine to the new release and check whether everything works. But Fedora upgrades became so easy and reliable that recently I usually just found out that they had already done it by themselves.

But there was still one recurring problem: even though they performed upgrades because it was probably a big enough thing to catch their attention they didn’t act on normal updates and I often found them with outdated applications such as Firefox.

I could set up automated DNF updates running in the background, but it’s really not the safest option. And that’s where Fedora Silverblue comes to rescue. Applications run as flatpaks which can be and in fact are by default updated automatically in the background. And it’s pretty safe because the updates are atomic and the app is not affected until you restart it.

The same goes for system updates. rpm-ostree can prepare the update in the background and the user switches to it once the computer is restarted.

So I thought: the user base of Silverblue typically consists of developers and power users used to the container-based workflow, but hey, it could actually be a pretty good system for the users I support in my family.

I got an opportunity to try it out some time ago. I visited my mom and decided to upgrade her laptop to Fedora 32. Everything would have gone well if my son hadn’t pulled the power cord out during the process. The laptop is old and has a dead battery, so it resulted in an immediate shutdown. And that’s never good during a system upgrade. Instead of manually fixing broken packages which is a lengthy process I decided to install Silverblue.

The fruits of it came a week later. My mom called me that she was experiencing some graphical glitches and hangs with Fedora 32. Probably some regression in drivers/mesa. It’s a T400s from 2009 and neither Intel nor anyone else does any thorough regression testing on such old models I suppose. On the standard Fedora Workstation my mom would have been screwed because there is no easy way back.

But it’s a different story on Silverblue. I just sent her one command over Telegram:

rpm-ostree rebase fedora/31/x86_64/silverblue

She copy-pasted it to Terminal, pressed Enter and 5 minutes later she was booting into Fedora 31.

And the best thing about it is not that it’s so easy to upgrade and rollback in Silverblue, but that the apps are not affected by that. I know that if I let my mom rollback to Fedora 31 she will find her applications there just like she left them in Fedora 32. The same versions, same settings…

P.S. my mom’s laptop is from 2009, but Fedora Workstation/Silverblue flies on it. Who would have thought that GNOME Shell animations could be smooth on an 11-year-old laptop. Kudos to everyone who helped to land all the performance optimizations in the last several releases!


Virtual Fedora 32 release party

We’ve been organizing Fedora release parties for the Czech community since Fedora 15 (normally in Prague and Brno, once in Košice, Slovakia), but in those coronavirus times it seemed like we were out of luck. Not quite. We’ve decided to organize a virtual release party everyone can join from the comfort (and safety) of their homes.

Originally I was planning to use Jitsi.org with streaming to Youtube. Speakers would join the call on Jitsi.org and attendees would watch it on Youtube and comment under the Youtube stream or in our Telegram chat. But the stream was one minute delayed behind the call which didn’t promise an interactive event.

In the end we were offered a solution from Czech Technical University (BigBlueButton running on powerful physical hardware and with a really good connectivity) and went for it which turned out to be a great decision. I have never had a better video call experience. It was the first time I could fully utilize my FullHD webcam, there were virtually no delays and BBB could hold 8 webcam streams in parallel and 40 participants in total without a hiccup. Afterwards people told me that when I was demoing GNOME 3.36 the GNOME Shell effects looked almost as smooth as performed on the local machine.

Fedora 32 release party in full swing.

We put together a program of 4 talks on Fedora topics and had an open discussion afterwards. Most people used the integrated chat to comment and ask questions, a few besides the speakers used their voice which is something I expected because most people feel too intimidated to speak in front of strangers who they can’t even see.

The event lasted for 3 hours and would have probably continued if I hadn’t had to stop it because I had to put kids to bed. The kids were the biggest challenge for me. Our offices were closed, so were public universities, so I couldn’t find any quiet private space to join the call from. So I was moderating the event and delivering my talk with my kids constantly crying in the background or demanding my attention. But I somehow managed and it was not a complete disaster.

What was originally an improvised solution turned out to be a pretty good experience. Participants said they would like to do it again or perhaps combine it with the physical release parties. Although the virtual event can’t deliver the same experience as in-person one, it brings some sense of equal opportunity. No matter if you’re stuck home with small kids, or with disability, or if you’re a young student living in countryside far away from a big city, you can join. In-person events are pretty selective in this.

We also have a recording from the event in case you’re interested (it’s in Czech).

If you can’t organize the traditional Fedora release party for your local community, don’t hesitate and organize a virtual one!

Fedora, Linux

Mozilla makes Firefox Beta available on Flathub

I’m glad to see that Mozilla has made a significant process with offering Firefox as a flatpak. Having Firefox as a flatpak was one of our long-term goals.

Three years ago we started a testing flatpak repo with Firefox Developer Edition and soon after that we added Firefox Nightly. For a long time it was the only source of Firefox for Flatpak out there. The user base grew into thousands, a level our hosting could barely deal with. Lately we haven’t had much time for its maintenance and at least the nightly builds were often broken.

That’s why from the very beginning we worked with Mozilla to make official Firefox builds available as flatpaks. The effort was later on picked up by Endless.

Now it brings first fruits, Mozilla is already shipping Firefox Beta in the beta channel on Flathub. You just need to enable it by installing this file: https://flathub.org/beta-repo/appstream/org.mozilla.firefox.flatpakref

I think it may already be useful for Silverblue users who have relied on our testing repo if they didn’t want to use package overlay.

There are still a few things to polish before making the stable Firefox available in the stable channel. One of them is localization files which has always been a difficult thing with Firefox. Mozilla has traditionally provided official localized builds for each language. This is not how localizations are typically handled in Flatpak or even in Linux distro packages.

For Fedora Firefox RPM we had to write a script that on startup automatically loads a particular localization file in the form of an addon. I suppose the official Firefox flatpak will work in a similar way.

Last year we also started providing Firefox flatpak built from Fedora packages. That has been the only stable Firefox for Flatpak around. And even after Mozilla releases their official Firefox for Flatpak, we will stay committed to it because there is demand among Fedora users for Firefox that is verified and built by the Fedora Project and it’s also a requirement for software included in Fedora anyway. So if we want to have Firefox as a default, pre-installed browser e.g. in Silverblue we’ll have to build the flatpak ourselves. It also gives us flexibility to ship crucial fixes and features important to our users faster than upstream (e.g. Firefox in Fedora already runs natively on Wayland by default, not on XWayland like upstream Firefox).

In the future, users will have a choice. They can either stick with the default Firefox provided by us, or switch to the one provided directly by Mozilla in a more convenient and secure way than the current tarballs with binaries are. We will also keep maintaining our testing repo for those who are interested in Nightly and Developer Edition. And we’ll see if there is sufficient interest in it to continue.


Fedora, Linux

F30 release parties in Prague and Brno

As it’s our tradition since Fedora 15 we’ve organized Fedora 30 release parties in the Czech Republic. Normally the Brno one is earlier, but this time the Prague took place one week before the Brno one – on June 4.

The Prague party was again held in offices of Etnetera, a Fedora-friendly software company. I was worried about the attendance because at the same time the biggest demonstration since 1989 (100+k people) was taking place in Prague. A lot of our friends went there. A lot of old faces didn’t show up, but they were replaced by quite a few new faces (which I think it’s partly due to posting an invitation to the biggest Czech Linux group on Facebook), and in the end the attendance was the same or a bit higher than last time – around 30 ppl.

F30 release party in Prague

We’ve prepared 5 talks for visitors. I started with news in Fedora Workstation and also added a pack of news in Fedora Silverblue. We try to make the release parties as informal as possible, so the talks should not be lectures where one is talking and the rest is listening in silence. My talk was again mixed with a lot of discussion and instead of 30-40 min, it took 1h20m.

Then Petr Hráček introduced the project he’s working on Packit. As someone who maintains packages in Fedora I find the idea interesting because in package maintenance there is a lot of work that can be automated and if there is a tool that can help you with that, great! The only thing that limits my enthusiasm about Packit is that it relies on having YAML files in the upstream repo. And you know how some upstream projects are dismissive to hosting any downstream-specific files…

The next two talks were delivered by Fedora QA guys – František Zatloukal and Lukáš Růžička. František talked on how they test Fedora, what tools they use and how you can help them. Lukáš talked on how to report bugs the useful way.

The 5th talk that was supposed to be on GNOME Builder was cancelled because we were considerably over time, but its author – Ondřej Kolín – promised that he’d change it into an article on mojefedora.cz.

To continue with the bad luck, the release party in Brno a week later had a time conflict with another demonstration against our prime minister. And this time it had an impact on the attendance, around 40 people showed up and we normally get twice more. I hope he will go away, so that there are no longer any demonstrations against him that lower attendance of our release parties 🙂

The party took place in the offices of Red Hat and the program of talks was exactly the same as in Prague.

F30 release party in Brno

F30 release party in Brno

At both parties we also had cool swag for participants. Especially brand-new Fedora hadbook that arrived from a printing-shop just before the Prague party.

New Fedora handbooks

Fedora, Linux

Get notified of new upstream releases

If you maintain a distribution package, or app bundle, or container image, it’s handy to know when components you use in it have new releases.


There is a really useful service Anitya that resides on release-monitoring.org. It watches almost 20 thousand projects for new releases and notify about them.

I maintain several packages in Fedora and the Fedora Project already makes it really convenient for me. It uses Anitya and opens a new bug against your package every time there is a new upstream release which I close once I update the package. But not every project gives you this service.

I also maintain several apps on Flathub which doesn’t provide such a service (yet). And it’s even more important to know about new upstream releases because besides the apps themselves I also have to maintain their dependencies which are not available in runtimes. Especially Evolution has quite a few of them.

Anitya gives you an API, so you can write your own service that will be checking with Anitya. But I’m a lazy person and why to write something that already exists, right? The Fedora Project has a web app called Fedora Notifications which can send notifications of all sorts of events to your email or IRC. You don’t have to be a Fedora package maintainer or anyhow involved in the Project. All you need is a Fedora account (FAS) to log in.

You pick Email Notifications (or IRC, whichever you prefer), click Create New Filter, then you pick Anything regarding a particular “upstream project” rule, and add projects you want to monitor separated by commas. Then click Add this rule and you’re good to go. This is what my rule for components I maitain in Flathub looks like:

Snímek z 2019-05-03 16-47-04

You’ll be getting notifications of new upstream releases to your email and it’s up to you how you’ll act on them. I typically check what kind of release it is, if there are any security or important bug fixes. I try to release those ASAP. Otherwise I plan them for future app releases and test with them beforehand.

I can imagine that there can be a nice automation built on the top of the Anitya API. If it detects a new release, it updates the manifest, triggers a build, and sends you info how it went. Maybe one day 🙂


Fedora in Fediverse


I really like how Fediverse is shaping up and its federation is starting to make sense to me. It’s not federation for the sake of federation and running different instances of the same service, but about variety of different services that focus on different things, cater different users and yet being to able to talk to each other.

There is Mastodon for microblogging, Friendica for a Facebook-style social network, PeerTube for videos, PixelFed for pictures, Nextcloud Social for making a social network out of your private cloud etc.

The number of users is also growing, it’s already in millions, so it’s becoming an interesting platform for promotion. There are quite a few open source projects already present: GNOME, KDE, openSUSE, Ubuntu, Nextcloud, Debian, F-Droid… And I’ve seen quite a few Fedora contributors scattered across different instances.

So I was like why not to have a Fedora instance there. That’s where Fedora contributors and enthusiasts can have their fediverse homes and create a community within a community, and where the Project can have official accounts for posting just like on Twitter or Facebook. The Fedora Code of Conduct would be enforced there, so that people can feel safe there.

I think the most suitable service for that would be Mastodon, microblogging is generally the most popular in Fediverse, Mastodon has a very active development and seems to be the most mature. There is also “Mastodon as a Service” hosting called masto.host. The domain could be e.g. fedora.social.

After proposing it on Fedora Discourse and talking to several people I think the best approach would be starting it as a personal initiative and if it gets traction handing it over to the Project. It would mean that I’d have to cover the hosting costs and rely on donations for the time being because that’s what having a social network where you’re not the product that is being sold takes.

But it would all go in vain if there was no demand for it. So I wonder:

  • Would it make you start using Fediverse/Mastodon?
  • Would it make you switch from another instance? (Mastodon allows you to transfer your data)
  • Would you be willing to take a more active role (admin, moderator…)?
  • Would you make a small contribution to help cover costs of running the service?

If you answer yes to any of the questions, let me know. I’d love to know if there is some demand for this or even people willing to help with it.