Ubuntu on Steam Deck? No problem with Distrobox: With the tool, the strengths of different distributions can be conveniently used from one terminal.
The Distrobox tool is currently making waves in the Linux community because it allows users to seamlessly integrate Ubuntu, Fedora and other popular distributions into the SteamOS of Valve’s SteamDeck. This has been possible since the recent major update 1.4.0 and a few subsequent fixes. The tool published on GitHub thus allows exactly what was its basic premise from the beginning: the flying change between Linux distributions – without affecting the root file system, without a great loss of speed, without much (installation) effort, directly from the terminal .
Among other things, developers can set up an environment within an immutable system like Fedora Silverblue, which is then mutable after all. Their reproducibility makes them ideal for testing. And the option to quickly run software across different distributions further expands Distrobox’s usefulness for testing purposes. The tool is also useful if you want to set up locally privileged environments within company networks. In the current case, it becomes particularly clear how Distrobox can combine the specific strength of SteamOS – gaming – with the usual possibilities of Fedora or Ubuntu and thus get the best of both worlds.
“Any distro to any distro” – with comfort as a core competence
The concept itself is not new: Developer Luca Di Maio describes the tool as a “fancy wrapper” for Podman and Docker – and one of the two container engines is also required to operate Distrobox. It is strongly reminiscent of the Podman-based shell wrapper Toolbox, which can be seen as the spiritual predecessor of Distrobox.
After installation, with a simple
distrobox-create command, a container can be created in which the desired distribution is located. Distrobox always uses an official OCI image for this. GitHub users have tested over 50 combinations of distributions and their major releases so far, including Archlinux, Slackware and Kali Linux alongside the usual suspects Ubuntu, Fedora and OpenSUSE. Already here, Distrobox makes a better impression than Toolbox. Because the selection of distros is simply larger and the setup is more comfortable.
Once created, users can start the containerized operating systems directly from the terminal with distrobox-enter. The operating systems are closely linked to the host: The $HOME directory is accessed by every distribution, the Wayland and X11 sockets are connected, external data carriers and all important OS components are accessible. The shared home directory in particular shows that Distrobox is not aiming for the most effective sandboxing possible, but on the contrary is committed to closely linking the containers to the host system. That’s how you can go with me
$ distrobox-enter --name container-name -- command Also easily execute commands from the Distrobox container without having to enter the shell. Although there is an effort to include sandboxing in the future, the focus of the tool will continue to be on making it compatible with even more distributions. The jump to the SteamDeck can therefore certainly be seen as a small breakthrough for Distrobox.