What is a “snap”?

I heard recently that Mozilla has released a Firefox snap. What the heck is a snap and is it something I could use?

I did some research and learned that snaps are Canonical’s Linux version of apps. (Canonical is the parent company that created Ubuntu Linux.) Snaps are little containerized programs that can be run on any distribution that supports them. Each snap contains all the dependencies required to run. This means they can be updated individually without having to worry about breaking the operating system on which it is installed. Also, any changes to the operating system won’t affect the snaps, nor will any update of any other snap.

What do you need to do to use snaps?

Currently, Ubuntu has a tutorial on basic snaps usage. It includes installation instructions for Arch, Debian (Sid only), Fedora, Gentoo, openSUSE, OpenWrt, and Ubuntu. It is estimated to take about 10 minutes to complete.

There’s also an advanced snaps tutorial, which is estimated to take 51 minutes. This may be useful for system administrators.

Snaps rollout controversial?

While Canonical is extolling the virtue of snaps everywhere, some are not as enthused about snaps.

One member of the openSUSE board had no idea their distro was in talks with Canonical to include snap support.

Another Linux expert disagreed with Canonical’s claim that snaps keep your OS secure. According to him, just because an app (snap) is housed in a container doesn’t mean it can’t reach out and communicate with other apps (snaps) for nefarious purposes. The main culprit is the X11 window system. Ubuntu, the primary vehicle for snaps, is planning to switch over to Mir for its window system, but it includes Snappy with its 16.04 release, which still uses X11. So, for security, I recommend not using snaps with X11. Upgrade to Ubuntu 17.10 or try snaps out in a virtual machine until you can get rid of X11.

Have you tried snaps? What do you think of them?

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