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Q&A: Clement Lefebvre: The man behind Linux Mint

Christopher von Eitzen | Oct. 22, 2013
The creator of the popular Linux distro talks candidly about his goals, his successes and his nightmares.

Linux Mint, an Ubuntu and Debian-based Linux distribution, has seen tremendous growth in community support and installed base in recent years. Since arriving on the scene in 2006 with its first release called "Ada," Mint has become the most popular FOSS operating system on DistroWatch.com, surpassing both Ubuntu and Debian themselves.

Mint is available with out-of-the-box multimedia support and now even has its own desktop interface, Cinnamon. Freelance writer Christopher von Eitzen interviewed Project Founder and Lead Developer Clement Lefebvre about Mint's origins, major changes to the distribution, its growth and its future.

What is your professional background and what was the first Linux distribution that you ever used?

I got a Masters in Computer Sciences from the University of South Paris in 2001. I was mostly interested in game development, but as it happened, I worked for banks, telecom and software companies in France and in Ireland. I had various job titles (web developer, IT engineer, software developer, J2EE architect), and in one company I was teaching rather than coding, but most of time my job was to design and to develop software or web applications.

My first distribution was Slackware. In 1997, if I remember well, a student at my university brought a shiny set of Wallnut Creek floppies. Everybody got excited at the idea of having a Unix system at home (we were developing on IBM AIX at the university). I got immediately hooked. Slackware was (and still is) a piece of art, clean, predictable... and it was also my first encounter with Free Software.

Very few people ran Linux back then. You had to own a "Sound Blaster" card for audio to work and it'd take a novice a week or two to get the mouse to work and achieve a good resolution with X11. And of course, there were very few applications available. Most users were university students, teachers, or developers with a serious taste for adventure and a strong immunity to discomfort. This, and the novelty of the Free Software ideas were very enlightening to me and I really enjoyed being part of this in the late 90s.

You launched the first release of Linux Mint, code-named "Ada", in 2006. What made you want to fork Ubuntu and create a new distribution? Why Ubuntu and why the name "Linux Mint"?

I was writing for http://linuxforums.org and I wanted to try and host some of my articles myself so I needed a domain name and I chose "linuxmint.com" (mostly because it was short, obviously related to Linux, and connoted the notion of freshness and technology which just works). That's how the name came initially, as a domain name for a Linux website.

 

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