Whonix can become a distribution targeting first time Linux users?

Whonix is looking for feedback on a possible documentation enhancement project which would encompass easy to understand (non-technical) documentation so users can smoothly transition from Windows to Whonix/linux.

  1. Do you think Whonix can become a Linux distribution targeting first time Linux users who are still running Windows and could try Whonix inside VirtualBox?

  2. New step by step documentation is needed that would build up confidence as well as develop the necessary skill so users could stand on their own two feet when finished. Which areas should this documentation encompass? For example:

    Terminal/konsole Cli
    File system permissions
    Directory structure/hierarchy
    File system navigation
    File editing
    sudo vs. root user
    Desktop navigation
    Basic Troubleshooting

  3. Is there current (VirtualBox) documentation that would need refactoring (rewriting, reorganizing, reformatting)?

  4. What areas did you struggle with the most when first transitioning from Windows(?) to Whonix/Linux?

    For example: Cli , file permissions etc.

Any feedback would be appreciated. These question should be based on your experience so don’t worry about repeating answers from previous users. This is ok and encouraged since popular answers are likely to receive priority when creating chapters.


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yes. i have a beta release of the new version i’m working on at http://yuxv6qujajqvmypv.onion/betadl.html

it was long enough ago that it probably isn’t applicable. in later versions, grub/boot loader installs depending on the flavor.


Perfect example of how documentation should be written.

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  1. New step by step documentation is needed that would build up confidence as well as develop the necessary skill so users could stand on their own two feet when finished. Which areas should this documentation encompass? For example:

Terminal/konsole Cli
File system permissions
Directory structure/hierarchy
File system navigation
File editing
sudo vs. root user
Desktop navigation
Basic Troubleshooting

As this info is readily available elsewhere, including extensive collection of questions and answers, I am not sure how doing a “Linux Primer” guide here will have a lot of added value. Having said that, there may be a place for a technical overview of “where to find what” in Whonix. For example, apt sources list files are handled slightly differently than in a vanilla Debian installation.

I guess you’ll think it drastic :slight_smile: but I think the vast majority of the wiki need to be rewritten: without most of the templates, and to be more specific to user groups. Virtual Box users, especially less technical users, certainly don’t need sections about Qubes in the middle of the page. Pros: easier readability, users taking advantage of more features and filing less support tickets; Cons: more initial work on revising documentation and possibly some more work when updates arrive (e.g. when moving to a new Whonix version).

I wasn’t completely new to Linux when I started working on Whonix but my experience was still pretty limited. I didn’t experience difficulties with the common Linux / Debian / Virtual Box topics because solutions are readily available elsewhere. Whonix however offers a vast ocean of possible configurations that are unique, those were (some still are) the harder parts for me.


Yes there is. However, we would want this documentation here so it could be customized for Whonix and could be updated as needed. Once completed most chapters would be very easy to maintain.

Refactoring the entire Wiki is would be worth the effort. Feel up to opening a new thread on this? Would be a great project if a contributer was interested or Whonix had additional human resources.

Information overload can be also be an issue. Many chapters have to much going on (warnings everywhere etc.) that its difficult to focus on the task at hand.

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That’s ok, just expressing my opinion here.

Why won’t I start with one page instead of opening a thread re the hypothetical? then we will have something more concrete to discuss.

Couldn’t agree more.

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I was reflecting back when I first started using Whonix some time ago. What interest me so much about this idea is my first experience with a Linux distro was when I used Whonix for the first time. From what I can remember it was a great experience over all. (I’m still here right?) While I didn’t know the first thing about file permissions, sudo, or even how to navigate around the desktop, the documentation was written well enough that I was able to move up from Window/Virtualbox to Debian/KVM in about two months. This is not to say I didn’t have a few rookie moments.

  1. Spent 4 days trying to verify the KVM images because I didn’t realize the .ova file names in the documentation and the actual .ova files downloaded had a slightly different name. In otherwords, I was blindly following the documentation. Once I realized the problem everything went sort of smoothly. BTW, I’m blaming @HulaHoop for this one. :slight_smile:

  2. Removed all my packages using apt-get autoremove.

  3. Screwed up my host (not sure how) and had to reinstall. That is when I realized the importance of backups! I think this has to happen to everyone before they get into good backup habits.

  4. Deleted a few drivers on my host (keyboard driver was one of them) I didn’t know about live CDs then so I reinstalled my host and tried to restore my system from backups. Thats when I learned to use a password that i could remember. And not to try to remember multiple complicated passwords.

  5. This next one is pure genius so pay attention!

    I thought I had a perfect solution to my password problem. Create short and easy to remember aliases for each passwords.

    alias keypassx=somelongpassword

    Obviously that didn’t end up working out but you can’t knock me for tying. I’m sure there are a few Whonix developer shaking their heads right now in disbelief. Or maybe nodding their heads saying to themselves “Yup that something 0brand would do” :slight_smile:

  6. I also had an issue with spice (3D)? when using KVM. But I was able to find a solution after a few hours. I remember it was extremely rewarding finding a solution on my own (that was an actual bug). After that I was was pretty much hooked.

While I’ve made a few mistakes along the way most of the knowledge that I have accumulated over the past few year about Linux has been here on the Whonix forums. This is mostly because Whonix/VirtualBox (KVM) is the perfect platform for learning.

  • Users can keep their present host without duel booting
  • VitrualBox is easy to use and is cross platform compatible.
  • Users can experiment with little consequence if mistakes are made. (Snapshot can be taken. If mistakes are made users can roll back to the previous snapshot)
  • Great support from the Whonix community.
  • Extensive documentation

Since a lot of the preexisting docs can be used the biggest challenge will be creating the learning chapters. The Virtualbox pages could use some screenshots and maybe finding a better place in the TOC. Most new users will be looking for VirtualBox not Non-Qubes-Whonix. I wonder if anyone can come up with a catchy name to replace Non-Qubes-Whonix?


Haha sorry. Let me know if it’s still a problem I need to improve.

I lol’d. Good passwords are reall hard to come up with without diceware. Not your fault here. Good guidelines were not readily available for lay people before our chapter was up.

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The VirtualBox tutorials could use new screenshots for the areas that new users would have the most difficulty. And the download table could use an update. For new users that have never used gpg or verified an image it could be a cause for confusion. Maybe rearrange it a little better.

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It can very well become a first choice if we have minimal guides for first timers. Windows users(I use windows for games mostly) love the GUI. So If we concentrate on Graphical Installation, That would remove the fear of terminal from the user. We can have a seprate guide for terminal’s use once the user is comfortable with Whonix.

As I said in previous answer. A new user will need a complete set of documentation/guides/videos from basics like How To connect to wifi or set clock to different time zone to Creating a non-admin account This will definitely help the user to keep using Whonix.

Documentaion just like code needs to be updated whenever major changes happen. For eg; The current version on Virtualbox has more polished and intuitive UI than the one I had installed nearly 1 and half year ago. This changes affect way we install. Some options in menu may get shifted to some other dropdown ,That will definitely cause a panick for a first time user. We must update the screenshots. And My firm belief is that there is nothing bettter than a awesome YouTube video. Whatever I have learned till now is because of YouTube. So a detailed , slow paced and friendly video can help thousands of first time users. I have made Installation video for OWASP organization which are on their webite for SecureTea project. Similary, We can have a collection of videos for the user. Categoriza them under different categories such as Features, How-Tos, Troubleshooting, etc. I’m open for new ideas.

I have been tinkering with virtualbox since I was 15 so it was a breeze for me. But I know very well where a new user can get stuck, For example

  • During installation of virtual box itself (Many don’t know that we need to enable virtualization from BIOS)
  • Selecting a wrong OS type in virtualbox dialogue box
  • Allocating insufficient storage, for eg; allocating what is recommended by virtual box assistant instead of allocatiing space as per recomendation of whonix team.
  • Misplacement of whonix iso file by mistake and when you try to run the machine, You get iso not found error. A first timer will definitely run away.
  • and many more such
    My idea would be to focus on generating youtube videos and have them on official whonix youtube ccount. This was anyone can use whonix without anyone’s help. Also the comment section will help to have a healthy discussion. Similarly we can have subreddit where user guides are present in form of posts. Anyone can contribute their without a girhub account.

This was my honest answer . Please let me know what do you guys think.

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WiFi from the host or Whonix?

I agree videos are a great tool.

A few questions come to mind.

  • (curiosity, If 100 users were asked this question we would probably have 100 different answers. ) Since there is a very high learning curve with security/anonymity distributions. Do users gain confidence and become proficient (quicker) with well written and detailed Cli doc as opposed to GUI (have them jump in head first)?
  • Is there a balance between using just enough video to help with specific (difficult) areas. And to much video instructions that would hold a users hand and not “encourage” beginners to use Cli?
  • The Whonix wiki is not static. Packages break, DE change etc. If the focus is on video, what happens if our documentation changes today, tomorrow, 3 months from now? (very likely) Will the written docs be comparable in quality to the video? Our current contributors could easily fix the written docs.
  • Ideal: self-explanatory, no instructions required
  • Second best: Documentation, feedback inside application (like tooltips or an arrow after the user typed its e-mail address)
  • Third best: GUI
  • Fourth: CLI

Through the internet we learned a lot about people.

  • bounce rates vs page load times, the longer it takes, exponentially more people are bouncing

Recent development (?):

  • attention spawns are getting shorter?
  • videos seem to become more popular than writing everywhere? But is readership really going down in total or merely new user groups which find text inaccessible are being onboarded on the internet)?

Videos are not well searchable at this time in the development of the internet. They are also not easily updateable (it’s not happening at the moment) or wiki style. Maybe that will change one day.

Videos reach different kinds of users. Some users just listen and/or partially watch a video with partial attention. Perhaps just to get a first overview. During that structures / basic knowledge gets established in their mind. Later on that prior knowledge might simplify reading documentation.

Videos seem complementary at this point due the issues mentioned. Videos are great to have even though they might get outdated but in most cases they don’t get so much outdated as in they couldn’t even establish concepts in minds.

Anyone saw any project that is mostly documented by video and very little text?

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I completely switched from Windows to Linux more than two years ago, and it was mainly thanks to Whonix, my first real experience with Linux :slight_smile:

Definitely. It was my case. That’s why some nice theming is also important (new users are put off by ugly GUI).

Do you mean “stand on their two feet” once they shift from Windows to Linux?
If somebody is willing to dedicate some time to document that stuff, why not, but all this has been covered thousands of times in thousands of tutorials online. May be not worth the time (again, depends who does it, and does it impact Whonix development).

Seems OK to me.

File permissions was definitely a big trouble to me. The rest was pretty OK, because I took the smart decision to begin my Linux experience on the desktop with the most user-friendly distro I could find (Ubuntu), then only when I was ready did I switch to Debian stable. On Debian I had troubles installing wifi and GPU drivers.

In general, my initial experience with Linux was much better that I had thought. There is a common (mis)understanding that Linux is hard and/or for crazy geeks only. It is definitely not the case anymore. Ubuntu was working better out-of-the-box than Windows 7. It was amazing, I was really not expecting that.

I had a lot of difficulties later while trying to do complicated, way above my skills, stuff, but that was a personal choice. For daily use, modern distros do not need any particular computer literacy. In fact, it is probably easier than Windows nowadays.

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proprietary wifi drivers have been the cause of many regular support requests for me in relation to my guide for debian. for a long time, i’d wanted to keep debian set to the default foss configuration. but, wifi issues had me at times considering moving the base install to ubuntu, simply because it was easy. at one point, i’d experimented with a chapter to enable “contrib” and “non-free” in debian for 3rd party driver issues for those who needed it. but, that resulted in its own set of issues on initial install. instead, i decided to go with the “unofficial” netinst iso for debian, which includes many 3rd party drivers for wifi. in testing that with people, it’s only been a very small few that had a machine where the unofficial distro did not work.

there’s debate about which interface is more user friendly by default. but, if drivers are the issue, take a look at what is available at https://cdimage.debian.org/images/unofficial/non-free/images-including-firmware/current/. i’ve tested it on a multitude of machines that require proprietary wifi drivers an dit has been quite easy most of the time. for the times when wifi still failed, an ethernet cable still worked for the base install, and wifi could be sorted from there later. but, then it becomes a bit more custom.

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Thanks for the report, interesting!

As for any replies related to free vs non-free, these should be redirected to the following subject to keep this thread on topic.

I fully agree with that. Videos are great but not instead of a good writeup. Personally when looking up technical issues I prefer a concise article than a video. One of the reasons is, text can be viewed more securely than a video.

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