Whonix‘s current Download page only mentions the downloadable stable VirtualBox images. But Whonix can do far more. There is also physical isolation and there is support for other virtualizers, testers-only support for KVM, QEMU and experimental support for Qubes.
Due to Whonix’s diverse user base, presenting all that information to (first time) visitors is a huge challenge. A dedicated wiki page about this topic has been created. I will convert those raw information into a more elaborate explanation in this post.
Obviously the Download page should be as simple as possible. This is also not ideal with the current Download page. On the other hand it shouldn’t omit security critical information.
There are so many different types of users. They are using various host operating systems, that are all more or less recommended to use a host for Whonix. Users who are using Windows and Mac hosts may not be using the safest host operating system available, but they get a chance to try Whonix and to get accustomed to Linux until they are ready to switch their host operating system. (This is by the way how I got in touch with Linux. Experimented with it inside virtual machines for years.] Unfortunately, Windows users can only use VirtualBox, because there is no KVM for Windows. [QEMU might be possible, but no one worked that out yet, and it may not be a huge gain anyhow.]
Obviously users who are using Qubes as their main operating system will want to learn about Whonix’s support for Qubes. The point is, what version of Whonix is the right one for particular users depends a lot on their environment (host operating system), knowledge, requirements and so forth.
Download security is another point. There is a compromise between usability and security. It depends on the threat model one is having in mind. An issue any software project that distributes any kind of downloadable files is affected by. Due to an issue at other levels, namely that browsers do not support metalinks and OpenPGP, and the lack of Linux distributions integrating well with a usable, secure public key sharing mechanism, so file verification is complicated and left to the user. As an experiment has shown, the improved download table that highlights the importance of file verification has increase the number of users who actually do verify files.
Download method, while browser downloads was always the main method to provide file downloads, every now and then torrent downloads were requested. But I am still unsure about the benefits. While not having torrent downloads would lower maintenance effort when creating new Whonix versions, the absence of torrent downloads might annoy a few users. However, I am very uncertain if the torrent download method is one of the less important aspects that should be more hidden at first view.
Users should also be informed about the state of development. Stable, testers-only, experimental.
- I was wondering if dropdown selection menus might be the way to go?
- Or perhaps to not overwhelm users, go as minimal and simple as possible, catch their interest and then provide the more advanced information behind an expand button?
- A combination of both methods?
- Other ideas?
- Let’s perhaps create various mockups of alternative (Download) wiki test pages, then compare them and discuss?
I am confident that there must be a solution. Others, such as Debian, the excellent, successful and universal operating system that Whonix is based on, also supports so many platforms at once also has found a solution to this.
Summary, see wiki page:
(The overview of all pages related to downloads can be found here. Let’s try to focus on the Download page for this discussion and eventually use other topics for other related topics.)
Let’s better not consider what happens if someone wants to maintain other desktop environments or 64bit builds.
Forum discussion can be found here.
Thomas White is now hosting a Whonix onion mirror: