Fullscreen mode and/or single mouse pointer with Linux HVM?

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Otto Kratik

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Sep 16, 2016, 1:36:56 PM9/16/16
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With a Windows 7 HVM, initially upon creation it is a fixed small window size and shows two mouse pointers chasing each other within that HVM window. By installing Qubes Windows Tools, both of these limitations are removed. One single mouse pointer and full screen resolution are achieved - as well as seamless mode becoming available.

My question is, can the same full window size and single mouse pointer objectives be achieved when using a Linux-based HVM, such as one in which Ubuntu for example is installed? As far as I know, there is no equivalent "Qubes Ubuntu Tools" which facilitates this.

I know of course that regular Fedora/Debian/Whonix type PVM's based upon templates already do this perfectly, and I use them frequently for almost everything. I am asking specifically about an HVM for a special usage case. It doesn't have to be Ubuntu specifically, but it does have to be a Linux distro capable of running within an HVM under Qubes R3.1.

Does any such option exist?

Andrew David Wong

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Sep 16, 2016, 4:44:10 PM9/16/16
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I think you (or someone else) would have to put in the coding work in
order to make this work in the desired way. However, a lot of work
has already been done on the Archlinux Template (which, I assume,
can be run as an HVM if desired, though I haven't tried it myself):

https://www.qubes-os.org/doc/templates/archlinux/

Some work has also been done on an Ubuntu template:

https://www.qubes-os.org/doc/templates/ubuntu/

There's also a more general workaround for the screen resolution issue
(as well as a pointer regarding Qubes agents):

https://www.qubes-os.org/doc/linux-hvm-tips/

- --
Andrew David Wong (Axon)
Community Manager, Qubes OS
https://www.qubes-os.org
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Otto Kratik

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Sep 21, 2016, 4:14:56 PM9/21/16
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On Friday, September 16, 2016 at 4:44:10 PM UTC-4, Andrew David Wong wrote:

> There's also a more general workaround for the screen resolution issue

> https://www.qubes-os.org/doc/linux-hvm-tips/

Thanks Andrew. I was able to use the instructions on that linked page to fix the screen resolution as desired. Much appreciated.


> (as well as a pointer regarding Qubes agents)

I'm not currently familiar enough with the inner workings or code underlying Qubes Agents to take a casual shot at customising them, but it's good to know for future reference what would need to be tweaked in order to modify mouse pointer behavior. For now I'll just live with the dual pointers in standard Linux HVM's.


> I think you (or someone else) would have to put in the coding work in
> order to make this work in the desired way. However, a lot of work
> has already been done on the Archlinux Template (which, I assume,
> can be run as an HVM if desired, though I haven't tried it myself):
> https://www.qubes-os.org/doc/templates/archlinux/
> Some work has also been done on an Ubuntu template:
> https://www.qubes-os.org/doc/templates/ubuntu/

Generally speaking, is it the case that running apps directly from a TemplateVM (whether it's Debian, Fedora, Arch, Ubuntu) is functionally equivalent and identical to operating that template/distro as a self-contained standalone HVM? Meaning if I wanted a Debian HVM, it's just as easy to clone my Debian TemplateVM and treat it as an HVM, instead of creating an actual new HVM the classic way and then installing a Debian ISO?

Is there any fundamental intrinsic difference between how a Template behaves if used in this fashion, and how a normal HVM would behave?

Andrew David Wong

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Sep 21, 2016, 9:03:30 PM9/21/16
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The term "TemplateVM" describes any VM that supplies its root
filesystem to another VM. TemplateVMs are distinct from
TemplateBasedVMs, which depend on other VMs for their rootfilesystems,
and StandaloneVMs, which do neither. By contrast, the term "HVM"
(Hardware Virtual Machine) refers to any "fully virtualized," or
hardware-assisted, VM that utilizes the virtualization extensions of
the host CPU (e.g., VT-x). HVMs are distinct from PV (paravirtualized)
VMs, which do not require virtualization extensions from the host CPU,
and other variants such as PVHVM (PV-on-HVM).

So, TemplateVMs and HVMs are categorically different. The former refers
to the VM's degree of (in)dependence relative to other VMs in the
system, whereas the latter refers to the manner in which a VM is
virtualized. An HVM itself can be a TemplateVM (in which case it's
called a "TemplateHVM"), a TemplateBasedVM (in which case it's
typically just called an "HVM"), or a StandaloneVM (in which case it's
called a "StandaloneHVM").

For more on Qubes terminology, see the glossary:
https://www.qubes-os.org/doc/glossary/

Since your question is about the functional or behavior differences
between TemplateVMs and HVMs, I take it that what you're really
interested in is the practical difference between using TemplateVMs and
StandaloneVMs as VMs which do not depend on any other VM for their root
filesystems.

The only significant difference I'm aware of is that using a TemplateVM
allows you to retain the option of creating TemplateBasedVMs based on
this TemplateVM in the future, whereas a StandaloneVM does not. If you
one day decide that you'd like to have a TemplateBasedVMs based on your
StandaloneVM, you'll have to re-create it as a TemplateVM. There's no
(easy) way to turn a StandaloneVM into a TemplateVM.

- --
Andrew David Wong (Axon)
Community Manager, Qubes OS
https://www.qubes-os.org

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Andrew David Wong

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Sep 21, 2016, 9:07:39 PM9/21/16
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Correction: "HVM" usually refers to a StandaloneHVM, not a
TemplateBasedHVM. We don't actually have a term for a TemplateBasedHVM
(so I'm adding that to the glossary now).

> For more on Qubes terminology, see the glossary:
> https://www.qubes-os.org/doc/glossary/
>
> Since your question is about the functional or behavior differences
> between TemplateVMs and HVMs, I take it that what you're really
> interested in is the practical difference between using TemplateVMs and
> StandaloneVMs as VMs which do not depend on any other VM for their root
> filesystems.
>
> The only significant difference I'm aware of is that using a TemplateVM
> allows you to retain the option of creating TemplateBasedVMs based on
> this TemplateVM in the future, whereas a StandaloneVM does not. If you
> one day decide that you'd like to have a TemplateBasedVMs based on your
> StandaloneVM, you'll have to re-create it as a TemplateVM. There's no
> (easy) way to turn a StandaloneVM into a TemplateVM.
>
>

- --
Andrew David Wong (Axon)
Community Manager, Qubes OS
https://www.qubes-os.org
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Drew White

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Sep 21, 2016, 9:22:00 PM9/21/16
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On Thursday, 22 September 2016 11:07:39 UTC+10, Andrew David Wong wrote:
> Correction: "HVM" usually refers to a StandaloneHVM, not a
> TemplateBasedHVM. We don't actually have a term for a TemplateBasedHVM
> (so I'm adding that to the glossary now).
>

It's called an AppVM.

Andrew David Wong

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Sep 21, 2016, 9:26:12 PM9/21/16
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No, the term "AppVM" (Application Virtual Machine) is a functional term.
It simply refers to any VM that is intended for running software
applications. AppVMs can be either TemplateBasedVMs or StandaloneVMs
(but never TemplateVMs), and the designation is independent of the
underlying virtualization method (PV, HVM, etc.).

- --
Andrew David Wong (Axon)
Community Manager, Qubes OS
https://www.qubes-os.org
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Drew White

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Sep 21, 2016, 9:43:36 PM9/21/16
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On Thursday, 22 September 2016 11:26:12 UTC+10, Andrew David Wong wrote:
> No, the term "AppVM" (Application Virtual Machine) is a functional term.
> It simply refers to any VM that is intended for running software
> applications. AppVMs can be either TemplateBasedVMs or StandaloneVMs
> (but never TemplateVMs), and the designation is independent of the
> underlying virtualization method (PV, HVM, etc.).

But my non-standalone HVM is used and intended for running software, as you say.

My HVM is a template based VM, it even has Qubes extensions in it and more.
It runs the same as any other AppVM.
It is PV and HVM.

Andrew David Wong

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Sep 21, 2016, 10:23:31 PM9/21/16
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Then your TemplateBasedHVM is an AppVM. But it doesn't follow from that
fact that TemplateBasedHVMs should be called "AppVMs" rather than
"TemplateBasedHVMs." The reason is simple: Some TemplateBasedHVMs are
AppVMs, but not all AppVMs are TemplateBasedHVMs.

- --
Andrew David Wong (Axon)
Community Manager, Qubes OS
https://www.qubes-os.org
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Drew White

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Sep 21, 2016, 10:36:45 PM9/21/16
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On Thursday, 22 September 2016 12:23:31 UTC+10, Andrew David Wong wrote:
> Then your TemplateBasedHVM is an AppVM. But it doesn't follow from that
> fact that TemplateBasedHVMs should be called "AppVMs" rather than
> "TemplateBasedHVMs." The reason is simple: Some TemplateBasedHVMs are
> AppVMs, but not all AppVMs are TemplateBasedHVMs.
>

So they should then be AppHVM?

Otto Kratik

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Sep 22, 2016, 10:45:39 AM9/22/16
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On Wednesday, September 21, 2016 at 9:03:30 PM UTC-4, Andrew David Wong wrote:
> Since your question is about the functional or behavior differences
> between TemplateVMs and HVMs, I take it that what you're really
> interested in is the practical difference between using TemplateVMs and
> StandaloneVMs as VMs which do not depend on any other VM for their root
> filesystems.
>
> The only significant difference I'm aware of is that using a TemplateVM
> allows you to retain the option of creating TemplateBasedVMs based on
> this TemplateVM in the future, whereas a StandaloneVM does not. If you
> one day decide that you'd like to have a TemplateBasedVMs based on your
> StandaloneVM, you'll have to re-create it as a TemplateVM. There's no
> (easy) way to turn a StandaloneVM into a TemplateVM.


Your interpretation is correct, I am mainly interested in the practical differences between running either a TemplateVM or a StandaloneHVM as a self-contained VM that doesn't depend on another VM's root filesystem.

As in my example, if I want a self-contained, non-dependent Debian VM it's far easier to just clone a Debian TemplateVM and use it independently as such, and thus get the single mouse-pointer desired, as opposed to creating an HVM and installing Debian there, and getting dual mouse pointers instead. If the two solutions are functionally the same, the first is more optimal.

However one reason I ask is that I seem to have in fact noticed some behavioral differences I wouldn't have expected, based on the descriptions above. The example case is unfortunately too unique to be likely duplicable by others for testing, but here it is nonetheless.

I purchased a Linux game that needs no installation, you just download it from the vendor website, unpack the tar.gz archive and run it from shell. At first run it asks you to input the license code received at the time of purchase, which is easy to do. After that, all future launches don't ask you to input the code again, as it's already saved and stored by the game.

On normal standalone Linux systems (whether an HVM within Qubes or a truly separate bare-metal installation on another computer/drive) this works as expected. Enter the code once, game works smoothly forevermore.

But on a TemplateVM, the code works for that session, but doesn't seem to "stick" or get saved next time around, and it has to be entered again each time the game is launched. While I'd understand and perhaps expect this if running from a TemplateBasedAppVM, since maybe the location where the game records the registration is on the rootFS and isn't remembered next time, I'm perplexed to see it occurring on a TemplateVM, which shouldn't have this issue saving data to rootFS if necessary - which isn't of course even the logical place for game data to be stored, as it should use a local directory like Home I would think.

I've even made sure to run the game's launch command as sudo in case elevated permissions are needed to write the registration data permanently, but without any luck.

As I said, this specific game issue is outside the scope of Qubes or its dev team to attempt to solve, but it does illustrate at least one behavioral difference between the two VM types. On a StandaloneHVM, the game registration is saved successfully as expected. On a TemplateVM, the registration is forgotten each time. To make things even more confusing, the registration is forgotten each and every time even within the *same session* of the TemplateVM being run. Shutdown and restart isn't necessary to trigger the problem. Launch game, enter code, proceed with game. Exit game, launch it again, and code is requested again, even though TemplateVM is still running continuously without interruption or restart. Thus, anything saved during session should still be preserved, and yet isn't.

Again, not asking for a solution here, just describing the scenario that precipitated the issue. Could just be some odd quirk of the game itself. Who knows.

Andrew David Wong

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Sep 22, 2016, 7:37:24 PM9/22/16
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No, because not every HVM used for running applications is based
on a template. Some are standalone.

- --
Andrew David Wong (Axon)
Community Manager, Qubes OS
https://www.qubes-os.org
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Andrew David Wong

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Sep 22, 2016, 7:54:31 PM9/22/16
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There are certainly Qubes-specific customizations that will cause a Debian
TemplateVM (or StandaloneVM created from the Qubes Debian TemplateVM) to
be different from a Debian HVM. (Some differences are beneficial, like
fixing the double-cursor issue.) You may want to try running the game in a
StandaloneVM rather than a TemplateVM, just to see if there's any
difference. I afraid I don't know the solution to your issue, but it
sounds like it might be some kind of file permission issue.

- --
Andrew David Wong (Axon)
Community Manager, Qubes OS
https://www.qubes-os.org
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Otto Kratik

unread,
Sep 23, 2016, 12:52:42 PM9/23/16
to qubes-users, ottok...@gmail.com
On Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 7:54:31 PM UTC-4, Andrew David Wong wrote:
> There are certainly Qubes-specific customizations that will cause a Debian
> TemplateVM (or StandaloneVM created from the Qubes Debian TemplateVM) to
> be different from a Debian HVM.

Thanks again. Just to clarify, there is no actual step required to create a StandaloneVM "from" a TemplateVM, correct? All I am doing is cloning the standard Debian 8 TemplateVM and then operating that TemplateVM independently, treating effectively it as a StandaloneVM. Meaning, installing software in it and then then running that software directly in/from it, instead of creating AppVM's based on it and running the software from those.

If there is an extra step needed to transform a TemplateVM into a true StandaloneVM (not a full HVM) I am not aware of it, or doing it.

Andrew David Wong

unread,
Sep 25, 2016, 6:25:04 AM9/25/16
to Otto Kratik, qubes-users
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA512

There is an extra step. In Qubes Manager, when you create a new VM,
you can check the "Standalone" box.

- --
Andrew David Wong (Axon)
Community Manager, Qubes OS
https://www.qubes-os.org
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