deutrino's picture

Has anybody ever done a desktop build using Turnkey?

I'm interested in being able to churn out customized .iso builds of Bunsenlabs[1] with my own suite of installed apps, custom desktop environment settings, and the like, using TKLdev.

Just curious if this has been done before and not been a disaster! :D



Jeremy Davis's picture

We did have plans for that ages ago. I actually did a bit of work on it myself (back when I was a community volunteer) but a general desktop system was never completed.

However, we did have a specialised crypto-tool live system called BitKey for a while. Actually it still exists and is available for download, but is essentially abandonware now and is not recommended for real world use. It wasn't ever considered a core product (more of a side project) and was a bit outside my skill set, so has never really got the love it deserved.

FYI I run desktop Linux myself (only OS I use daily), but tend to be a pragmatist and mostly just use OOTB defaults. My main system was installed ~10+ years ago and I've just kept it up to date. Other desktop systems I've installed and/or used are just vanilla Debian (and all with Gnome), installed from ISO. So specific stuff, particularly anything relate to GUI and or "normal" user stuff, I've had very little to do with. From a dev/sys-admin perspective, I'm most confident at the CLI, and all my experience is primarily with headless/CLI. What little desktop experience I have had is either with Gnome, or was 10+ years ago.

As such, BitKey has always tended to be a bit neglected. A community member stepped up and did maintain it for a while. Unfortunately, he wasn't super confident with Linux and got stuck in the upgrade to v16.0. IIRC the problematic component was getting auto USB mounting working. I tried to help, but just didn't have the time or knowledge to be that much value to him, so he drifted off.

FWIW, common (within TKLDev; /turnkey/fab/common by default) still contains the desktop support components (the central makefile is Although it's well out of date and hasn't been touched for ages.

Having said that, I did come across a BitKey fork the other day. I spoke briefly with the developer and they noted that it's Bullseye based and fully operational. Unfortunately, they didn't just fork BitKey and common for their update, but put it all in one repo. That will mean a bit more work will be required to pull their changes back into TurnKey/BitKey, but it's a pretty good start. I did invite them to contribute their updates back to BitKey/TurnKey but I never got a response on that front.

My hope is that once v17.x is out that I might be able to circle back and do a more current release of BitKey. But if you want to jump in sooner and do a more generic, installable system, I'm totally supportive of that!

As for BunsenLabs specifically, I've never used it and know nothing about it. Although I note that it appears to be a successor to CrunchBang Linux (which I never actually used, but did follow back when that was still alive). As it's Debian based, adding their repos and installing any of their packages and/or tools should almost certainly work on TurnKey. I note that they're currently Buster based though. So you'd need to use a v16.x TKLDev and be sure to checkout all the v16.x branches of relevant code (master now includes v17.x stuff, in anticipation of a pending release so will require some tweaking). Actually, they appear to have Bullseye based packages at least?!

If/when you have a closer look at this, please don't hesitate to reach out. Also, perhaps there is interest/room for some sort of collaboration between TurnKey and BunsenLabs?

deutrino's picture

Hey, thanks for all this info. If I do get around to working on this project it will prove very useful.

My main goal is to be able to turn out installable images of desktop appliances, so e.g. an appliance for remote administration (e.g. if you have a bunch of VMs somewhere and it would be easier to administrate them by spinning up an actual desktop VM at the host and interacting with them directly, as opposed to doing so from your off-site location) and things like that. And TKLdev + Turnkey seems like it might be a great way to get a head start, especially since BunsenLabs is Debian based and all their enhancements etc are properly packaged.

BunsenLabs is really great, actually. I've been using Debian for over 20 years but never on the desktop for various reasons - always went with something along the lines of Ubuntu or Mint on the desktop. BunsenLabs has finally created a true Debian flavor that I am happy to use on the desktop. It's lightweight, works great, lots of sensible defaults, etc. And my taste is a little different than yours bc I stopped liking GNOME after GNOME 3, so what's great about BL for me is that it's a polished desktop environment that's based on Openbox and presents a great alternative for people who don't really like GNOME 3 for whatever reason. It's great to have options!

I don't personally have much connection with the BL devs other than posting occasionally in their forum, so I expect if I do take a stab at this, I'll try to get it working on my own and then if I manage to get pretty far with it, perhaps they will be interested. And I'll definitely post about it over there.

I know I've threatened to contribute to TKL a few times in the past and not managed to do it yet, but, I'm a daily user of multiple TKL appliances... just haven't had the spare energy... but given how much I use the wonderful tools/appliances you all have built, I'm really hoping to get some commits in at some point!! :)

Jeremy Davis's picture

FTR I was a big fan of Gnome prior to Gnome3. That turned me off heaps and I used a few different DEs (my favourites were LXDE, Enlightenment and a little Fluxbox & OpenBox too). But I ended up with a default Debian desktop at one point and just stuck with it. Recently I had some issues (with graphics drivers - on another system) and installed Mate (Gnome2 fork). Whilst it certainly felt nostalgic and somewhat familiar, after being used to Gnome3 it felt so clunky... OpenBox is a great desktop, but OOTB (at least on Debian) it requires too much setup to get it configured ready to use IMO. It sounds like BL might have covered that gap?!

Anyway... Yeah, I think it's a great idea. A desktop appliance, with a range of relevant tools pre-installed would be a winner I reckon.

I know what it's like. I don't get to half of the stuff I want to do with TurnKey and I do it full time! I'm sure you'll get there eventually. And I'm looking forward to see what you come up with when it comes! :)

Add new comment