upcoming usability improvements that will hurt, TLS downloads, abolishing torrent downloads

Whonix website, especially downloading and getting started is so super secure that mortal users give up on it. Even friends of mine, who graduated from university and working as engineers are incapable of getting Whonix installed.

My mission to make everyone happy with implementing geeky feature requests like “optional torrent downloads” has failed. Stuff like this really gets small groups of geeks happy, but overall it over complicates the download process.

Whonix downloads were hosted on http mirrors that were are run by volunteers. This came with various issues. All Whonix downloads are now downloadable directly from whonix.org. The download tables have been updated accordingly. So Whonix apt repository might be downloaded over TLS by default in next Whonix version 13.

During the transition, torrent download files were not migrated. There will be no Whonix torrent downloads in foreseeable future. It all adds up to the release maintenance effort that is primarily done by me. I have concluded that the ratio on the negative side with people confused by the big download table and the metal and time effort to have working torrents files is bigger than the positive side of having “optional torrent downloads” implemented.

For the foreseeable future, until funding and man power is not drastically increased, no “geeky” feature requests will be implemented. Also contributions for “geeky” features that add up to my maintenance effort will be rejected. Please briefly explain how your feature would benefit the larger community rather than exotic use cases. The way to contribute should be to relive work load from me rather than adding stuff that adds up work on my plate.

See the following video, which strengthen what I slowly learned during the last months. I recommend watching it. Worth the hour.

Aral Balkan: Superheroes & Villains in Design

Patrick started developing Whonix, the Anonymous Operating System in 2012, when quickly others joined efforts. He collected experiences working pseudonymous on Whonix for two years, enjoys collaboratively working on privacy preserving software.

Notable Replies

  1. Ego says:

    Good day,

    just watched the video, very interesting in deed. The question is though, wether applying his ideas to Whonix is possible without sacrificing to much. A lot of the features which make Whonix what it is sadly are bound to have a certain complexity in them. So the question is, wether we can hide that, without sacrificing to much. For example, switching between the GW and WS is both time consuming and needlessly complex for most users. However, both of them beeing independent is one of the key advantage of Whonix compared to other solutions. My personal solution would be something along the lines of giving people remote access to the GW's settings via the WS without the need of continuously "tabbing" arround. This would in turn also benefit performance, as the GW could then run in "non GUI mode" for everyone, as having a GUI wouldn't be necessary anymore. Then again, the question is, how to implement this and wether it could lead to security risks.

    Furthermore, going with his "metaphor" of "ticket machines", the thing is that the second ticket machine brings more issues to the table then security, simply by not allowing anyone who doesn't own a creditcard with a magnetic stripe to use it, which in my book would be quite a design flaw and actually a point for the first, seemingly more complex implementation. In our case, this would be comparing the "standard issue" TBB installed under Windows, something anyone can use, to Whonix. Whonix may seem more complex, but that may actually be for a reason.

    In conclusion, with things like the simple GUI (which, while at the moment "not fancy" is in my books the best tradeoff of usability and not limiting advanced users) and the, hopefully soon finished installer, Whonix will already be easier for beginners. Improving and simplyfing the download process will help even more, however I feel like design problems need to be attaked at their deep roots. Maybe designing a custom desktop for beginners which makes entry easier might be a way to go, while including an "Advanced" button which shows more skilled users the "standard KDE UI".

    Have a nice day,



    i wonder if that will satisfy users of torrents.

    It will not.

  3. Your problems are your problems. Not the community's. Don't make them ours. Please keep the two separate, and distinguish the two. Get out of the kitchen, if you have to.

    That may seem harsh, but this is the community, not Patrick's personal space.

    The problem is, and I agree that walking the discrepancy is not black and white, is that as the maintainer responsible to the community, what moves you forward moves the community forward. And vice versa.

    So I take your point.

    "Please briefly explain how your feature would benefit the larger community" makes sense. "The way to contribute should be to relive work load from me rather than adding stuff that adds up work on my plate." not so much. Advancing the community is what matters, not the other way around. And by definition, enhancing or advancing functionality only comes with additional work.

    You are a nice guy. That is VERY evident. As a result, you probably don't make clear often enough that "there are only so many hours in a day", and as a result, "you must prioritize your time." You should probably say that more often.

    To your point, also ... let's remember that by definition this beastie is 'geeky' (which is a very unfortunate term, these days). Especially in today's context of PDA's, tablets, and Macs. By definition, one wants virtualbox, while the very concept of a virtual machine is 'geeky'. Which is to say 'complex', or 'complicated' - equivalent terms, yet terms that don't seem to carry the same disparaging connotation with them.

    -- the world is a complicated place, and complex functionality is, well, complex. If you don't put (time) into it, you won't get out of it.

    -- if the functionality matters to you, you will put the time into it that it requires. And it is for such that whonix really matters. Don't lose sight of that. It is not 'for everybody', nor should it attempt to be. (Arguably, it shouldn't be necessary - but necessity has deemed that it is. But that's another story for another time.)

    -- so for your engineering friends, I would guess that they had 'better' / other 'more important' things to do with their time, than try to figure out whonix. If 'other' things are really that much more important to them than whonix, are they the community that whonix is trying to serve?

    So make sure to only accept to be addressed any -additional- 'geeky'ness that whonix brings, not all such necessary to merely get to the point of being able to specifically install whonix itself.

    Correspondingly, when the world makes OS and virtualbox installation 'easier', whonix will also benefit. Let the rest of the world worry about its own 'easiness', and whonix its own.

    Also, recognize, by definition, whonix will always be geeky, for lack of manpower. The whonixcheck and timesync boxes that come up at boot are inherently geeky. It is the nature of the beastie.If the manpower were present, they would be spiffier, but it's not, and they're not. 's OK.

    So let's not beat up on whonix (too much) for being geeky - by definition it is inherently so, and is the nature of the beast. It is what it is. What reality forces it to be. Never mind that whonix is a necessity born of invention. (And don't decry that it hasn't had decades of manpower applied to it that many other things have, to make it absolutely touchless and 'pretty'. It will get there, at exactly the rate of the growth of the community that needs it, and are willing to apply resources to it.)

    So don't sweat, too much, being geeky. It can't be anything but. To what extent may be addressable, as you point out with torrent downloads. Do what can be (whonix specifically and uniquely) done, but let's not lose sight that it will always be geeky.

  4. From whonixcheck Whonix 14 ideas

    It’s not so much about what the current userbase is but what the idealized goal for the userbase is. And that is towards less technical, more users. I am convinced this makes Whonix more sustainable long term.

Continue the discussion forums.whonix.org

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