Linux Mint is one of the most important open source projects which cater to the needs of users by proving what users want. Linux Mint has been around for a while but it rose in popularity when Unity happened and Canonical started to drift away from the core Linux and open source communities and began doing their own things secretly, behind the closed doors. What Canonical is doing is fine for protecting a company’s interests but many see it as unhealthy for open source.
Since Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu many users are concerned about the future of this distribution. So I reached out to Clement Lefebvre of Linux Mint to get his views on some of the pressing issues.
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Q. What’s more important for Linux Mint – the base OS or the user environment (Gnome/KDE) that it offers to suit user’s needs – since Ubuntu is moving in a direction which is totally different from stanadard Linux distribution?
Lefebvre: Neither. What’s important is the end result, Mint itself, the experience given to the user. How we get there and what components we use to reach our goal is secondary.
Q. What strategy do you have in place as Ubuntu transitions to in-house technologies such as Mir. How will Linux Mint handle this transition to Mir (will you use it?)
Lefebvre: Mir is irrelevant. Nobody ever heard of it a week ago and plans don’t change based on wild speculations. If Ubuntu isn’t clear on what they want Ubuntu to be, that’s their problem. It has nothing to do with Linux Mint.
What’s important is the end result, Mint itself, the experience given to the user. How we get there and what components we use to reach our goal is secondary.
Q. With so many changes in Ubuntu would Linux Mint consider completely switching base to Debian?
Lefebvre: All components are reviewed and expected to work well. Ubuntu is the component we use as our package base. We also use Debian and we also perform R&D on independent package bases. At the moment Ubuntu is the best alternative for us. If that changes we’ll consider not using it, until then we’ve no plans to change anything.
Q. Since Linux Mint/Netrunner and Kubuntu are funded by the same organization is there is collaborations between these teams?
Lefebvre: Yes, although it’s important to note that these three projects are led by different people. On the matter at hand though, I think we’re all on the same page. Martin put it really well when he mentioned “a question nobody asked”, ” a solution to a problem which does not exist”. I appreciate your work Swapnil but you’re coming to us for news and reactions on a non-event here…
Q. Linux Mint uses Canonical’s infrastructure (repos and launchpad), any change possible there? Is it possible for all BlueSystem funded projects to use a non-Canonical yet common infrastructure?
Lefebvre: The funding and leadership are completely separate here. Blue Systems funded projects do not share the same infrastructure and they use different ways of working, they’re different projects. In the case of Linux Mint we use Ubuntu repositories for the product itself (which is what I refer to as the component “package base”) and we also use services such as Launchpad, primarily for translations.
Q We often hear that without Canonical Ubuntu would be nothing. If that be the case we won’t have innovative community driven projects like Linux Mint or hundreds of other such great open source projects. Is it undermining the value of contributors? As a project leader, what is your opinion about community?
Lefebvre: The community is the most important asset of a distribution. It provides feedback, ideas, promotion, support, bug reports, artwork, motivation, it’s the living heart of any open-source project. In my opinion you need both clear leadership and good communication with the community. It’s easy when the project is small and it gets harder as the project goes mainstream. Mint is funded by its community, by advertising and by sponsors which do not participate in the decision-making, so its leadership is independent from commercial concerns. This is a privilege of course and we feel really lucky and grateful about this.
I have no comment on Canonical itself and the way it structured the decision-making in Ubuntu. I wouldn’t like to tell other projects how to conduct their business or how to organize themselves, especially in the case of Ubuntu. I’ll simply point to the fact that Ubuntu is a huge success, that it topped the charts for many years, that it’s the most well-known distribution and probably still the most widely used. We can speculate on where it’s going and doubt the decisions it’s taking are good for the current Ubuntu user base, but we can also look at its track record, and what it’s achieved and at all the successful projects it’s already implemented. I don’t think we need to have an opinion on whether Ubuntu is taking the “right” decisions or the “wrong” ones, we simply need to know whether we want to follow or not when they’re changing directions.
Q. Are you also working on Tablet port of Linux Mint as Plasma Active is now running successfully on devices like Nexus 7.
Lefebvre: No. We’re working on making Linux Mint 15 better than Linux Mint 14 on the very same equipment we’ve been focused on since 2006: the PC. If we can make things better for people whose screen is tactile, we’re happy to do so. If it’s t the cost of frustrating desktop computer users based on the limitations of these portable devices, we’re not interested.
Q. As LM is part of BlueSystems GmbH together with Netrunner and Kubuntu, will we see a merge of these distros? Possibly a KDE OS, like Gnome is planning? Will they move towards Debian or stay with Ubuntu and Mir? How much duplication is happening in these three projects supported by BlueSystems? (asked by Daniel Horak on Google+)
Lefebvre: These projects are not “part” of Blue Systems. Linux Mint is an independent project, it’s not for sale and you can’t buy shares or participate in its decision-making or its leadership. Blue Systems participates in its funding, like other sponsors such as Opera and eUKhost, or like thousands of users who donate to us every months. Money is one thing and the help is appreciated, but decisions come from top to bottom, have nothing to do with sponsors and are generally free of commercial concerns. Kubuntu works differently but is also completely independent from its sponsors. Netrunner was founded and is led by Clemens Tonnies himself.