How to install software

When you wish to install software in Qubes OS, you should generally install it in a template. For installing templates themselves, see how to install a template.

Advanced users may also be interested in learning how to install software in standalones and dom0.

Instructions

To permanently install new software in a template:

  1. Start the template.

  2. Start either a terminal (e.g. gnome-terminal) or a dedicated software management application, such as gpk-application.

  3. Install software as normally instructed inside that operating system, e.g.:
    • Fedora: sudo dnf install <PACKAGE_NAME>
    • Debian: sudo apt install <PACKAGE_NAME>
  4. Shut down the template. (Do not skip this step.)

  5. Restart all qubes based on the template. (Do not skip this step.)

  6. (Recommended) In the relevant qubes’ Qube Settings, go to the Applications tab, select the new application(s) from the list, and press OK. These new shortcuts will appear in the Applications Menu. (If you encounter problems, see here for troubleshooting.)

[The Applications tab in Qube Settings](/attachment/doc/r4.1-dom0-appmenu-select.png)

Troubleshooting

If things are still not working as expected:

How to update software

Please see How to Update.

Why don’t templates have network access?

In order to protect you from performing risky activites in templates, they do not have normal network access. Instead, templates use an updates proxy that allows you to install and update software without giving the template direct network access.

Advanced

The following sections cover advanced topics pertaining to installing and updating software in domUs.

Testing repositories

If you wish to install updates that are still in testing, you must enable the appropriate testing repositories.

Note: The following repos are in templates and standalones. For dom0 testing repos, see here. For testing new templates, please see here.

Fedora

There are three Qubes VM testing repositories (where * denotes the Release):

  • qubes-vm-*-current-testing – testing packages that will eventually land in the stable (current) repository
  • qubes-vm-*-security-testing – a subset of qubes-vm-*-current-testing that contains packages that qualify as security fixes
  • qubes-vm-*-unstable – packages that are not intended to land in the stable (qubes-vm-*-current) repository; mostly experimental debugging packages

To temporarily enable any of these repos, use the --enablerepo=<repo-name> option. Example commands:

sudo dnf upgrade --enablerepo=qubes-vm-*-current-testing
sudo dnf upgrade --enablerepo=qubes-vm-*-security-testing
sudo dnf upgrade --enablerepo=qubes-vm-*-unstable

To enable or disable any of these repos permanently, change the corresponding enabled value to 1 in /etc/yum.repos.d/qubes-*.repo.

Debian

Debian also has three Qubes VM testing repositories (where * denotes the Release):

  • *-testing – testing packages that will eventually land in the stable (current) repository
  • *-securitytesting – a subset of *-testing that contains packages that qualify as security fixes
  • *-unstable – packages that are not intended to land in the stable repository; mostly experimental debugging packages

To enable or disable any of these repos permanently, uncomment the corresponding deb line in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/qubes-r*.list.

Standalones

The process for installing and updating software in standalones is the same as described above for templates, except no qubes are based on standalones, so there are no other qubes to restart.

RPMFusion for Fedora templates

If you would like to enable the RPM Fusion repositories, open a Terminal of the template and type the following commands, depending on which RPM Fusion repositories you wish to enable (see RPM Fusion for details):

sudo dnf config-manager --set-enabled rpmfusion-free
sudo dnf config-manager --set-enabled rpmfusion-free-updates
sudo dnf config-manager --set-enabled rpmfusion-nonfree
sudo dnf config-manager --set-enabled rpmfusion-nonfree-updates
sudo dnf upgrade --refresh

This will permanently enable the RPM Fusion repos. If you install software from here, it’s important to keep these repos enabled so that you can receiving future updates. If you only enable these repos temporarily to install a package the Qubes update mechanism may persistently notify you that updates are available, since it cannot download them.

Reverting changes to a template

Perhaps you’ve just updated your template, and the update broke your template. Or perhaps you’ve made a terrible mistake, like accidentally confirming the installation of an unsigned package that could be malicious. If you want to undo changes to a template, there are three basic methods:

  1. Root revert. This is appropriate for misconfigurations, but not for security concerns. It will preserve your customizations.

  2. Reinstall the template. This is appropriate for both misconfigurations and security concerns, but you will lose all customizations.

  3. Full revert. This is appropriate for both misconfigurations and security concerns, and it can preserve your customizations. However, it is a bit more complex.

Root revert

Important: This command will roll back any changes made during the last time the template was run, but not before. This means that if you have already restarted the template, using this command is unlikely to help, and you’ll likely want to reinstall it from the repository instead. On the other hand, if the template is already broken or compromised, it won’t hurt to try reverting first. Just make sure to back up all of your data and changes first!

  1. Shut down <template>. If you’ve already just shut it down, do not start it again (see above).

  2. In a dom0 terminal:

    qvm-volume revert <template>:root
    

Reinstall the template

Please see How to Reinstall a template.

Full revert

This is like the simple revert, except:

  • You must also revert the private volume with `qvm-volume revert
  • The saved revision of the volumes must be uncompromised. With the default revisions_to_keep=1 for the root volume, you must not have started the template since the compromising action.

Temporarily allowing networking for software installation

Some third-party applications cannot be installed using the standard repositories and need to be manually downloaded and installed. When the installation requires internet connection to access third-party repositories, it will naturally fail when run in a template because the default firewall rules for templates only allow connections from package managers. So it is necessary to modify firewall rules to allow less restrictive internet access for the time of the installation, if one really wants to install those applications into a template. As soon as software installation is completed, firewall rules should be returned back to the default state. The user should decide by themselves whether such third-party applications should be equally trusted as the ones that come from the standard Fedora signed repositories and whether their installation will not compromise the default template, and potentially consider installing them into a separate template or a standalone VM (in which case the problem of limited networking access doesn’t apply by default), as described above.

Updates proxy

Updates proxy is a service which allows access only from package managers. This is meant to mitigate user errors (like using browser in the template), rather than some real isolation. It is done with http proxy (tinyproxy) instead of simple firewall rules because it is hard to list all the repository mirrors (and keep that list up to date). The proxy is used only to filter the traffic, not to cache anything.

The proxy is running in selected VMs (by default all the NetVMs (1)) and intercepts traffic directed to 10.137.255.254:8082. Thanks to such configuration all the VMs can use the same proxy address, and if there is a proxy on network path, it will handle the traffic (of course when firewall rules allow that). If the VM is configured to have access to the updates proxy (2), the startup scripts will automatically configure dnf to really use the proxy (3). Also access to updates proxy is independent of any other firewall settings (VM will have access to updates proxy, even if policy is set to block all the traffic).

There are two services (qvm-service, service framework):

  1. qubes-updates-proxy (and its deprecated name: qubes-yum-proxy) - a service providing a proxy for templates - by default enabled in NetVMs (especially: sys-net)
  2. updates-proxy-setup (and its deprecated name: yum-proxy-setup) - use a proxy provided by another VM (instead of downloading updates directly), enabled by default in all templates

Both the old and new names work. The defaults listed above are applied if the service is not explicitly listed in the services tab.

Technical details

The updates proxy uses RPC/qrexec. The proxy is configured in qrexec policy in dom0: /etc/qubes-rpc/policy/qubes.UpdatesProxy. By default this is set to sys-net and/or sys-whonix, depending on firstboot choices. This new design allows for templates to be updated even when they are not connected to any NetVM.

Example policy file in R4.0 (with Whonix installed, but not set as default UpdateVM for all templates):

# any VM with tag `whonix-updatevm` should use `sys-whonix`; this tag is added to `whonix-gw` and `whonix-ws` during installation and is preserved during template clone
@tag:whonix-updatevm @default allow,target=sys-whonix
@tag:whonix-updatevm @anyvm deny

# other templates use sys-net
@type:template @default allow,target=sys-net
@anyvm @anyvm deny

Installing Snap Packages

Snap packages do not use the normal update channels for Debian and Fedora (apt and dnf) and are often installed as the user rather than as root. To support these in an app qube you need to take the following steps:

  1. In the template you must install snapd and qubes-snapd-helper. Open a terminal in the template and run:

    [user@fedora-30-snap-demo ~]$ sudo dnf install snapd qubes-snapd-helper
    Last metadata expiration check: 0:55:39 ago on Thu Nov 14 09:26:47 2019.
    Dependencies resolved.
    ========================================================================================================
     Package                       Arch    Version                             Repository              Size
    ========================================================================================================
    Installing:
     snapd                         x86_64  2.42.1-1.fc30                       updates                 17 M
     qubes-snapd-helper            noarch  1.0.1-1.fc30                        qubes-vm-r4.0-current   10 k
    Installing dependencies:
    [...]
       
    Transaction Summary
    ========================================================================================================
    Install  20 Packages
       
    Total download size: 37 M
    Installed size: 121 M
    Is this ok [y/N]: y
       
    Downloading Packages:
    [..]
    Failed to resolve booleanif statement at /var/lib/selinux/targeted/tmp/modules/200/snappy/cil:1174
    /usr/sbin/semodule:  Failed!
    [...]
    Last metadata expiration check: 0:57:08 ago on Thu Nov 14 09:26:47 2019.
    Notifying dom0 about installed applications
       
    Installed:
      snapd-2.42.1-1.fc30.x86_64                                              qubes-snapd-helper-1.0.1-1.fc30.noarch
    [...]
    Complete!
    

    You may see the following message:

    Failed to resolve booleanif statement at /var/lib/selinux/targeted/tmp/modules/200/snappy/cil:1174
    /usr/sbin/semodule:  Failed!
    

    This is expected and you can safely continue.

    Shutdown the template:

    [user@fedora-30-snap-demo ~]$ sudo shutdown -h now
    
  2. Now open the app qube in which you would like to install the Snap application and run a terminal:

    [user@snap-demo-app qube ~]$ snap install <package>
    

    When the install is complete you can close the terminal window.

  3. Refresh the Applications list for the app qube. In the Qubes Menu for the app qube* launch the Qube Settings. Then go to the Applications tab and click “Refresh Applications”

    The refresh will take a few minutes; after it’s complete the Snap app will appear in the app qube’s list of available applications. At this point the snap will be persistent within the app qube and will receive updates when the app qube is running.

Autostarting Installed Applications

If you want a desktop app to start automatically every time a qube starts you can create a link to it in the ~/.config/autostart directory of the app qube. This might be useful for Qubes that you set to automatically start on boot or for Qubes that have a set of apps you typically use all day, such as a chat app.

  1. Open a terminal in the app qube where you would like the app to launch.

  2. List the names of the available desktop shortcuts by running the command ls /usr/share/applications and find the exact name of the shortcut to the app you want to autostart:

    [user@example-app qube ~]$ ls /usr/share/applications/
    bluetooth-sendto.desktop
    eog.desktop
    firefox.desktop
    ...
    xterm.desktop
    yelp.desktop
    
  3. Create the autostart directory:

    [user@example-app qube ~]$ mkdir -p ~/.config/autostart
    
  4. Make a link to the desktop app file you’d like to start in the autostart directory. For example, the command below will link the Thunderbird app into the autostart directory:

    [user@example-app qube ~]$ ln -s /usr/share/applications/mozilla-thunderbird.desktop ~/.config/autostart/mozilla-thunderbird.desktop
    

Note that the app will autostart only when the app qube starts. If you would like the app qube to autostart, select the “Start qube automatically on boot” checkbox in the app qube’s Qube Settings.