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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.

Parallel to that, I had been reviewing distributions for a while and tinkering with a lot of things so I had good knowledge of how they worked and what I liked or didn't really like in each one of them. At some stage I got something out and I wrote a bit about it on linuxmint.com. I was surprised by the feedback I got and a few months later it was clear people were more interested in that little project than in my articles.

There was no plan to create a new distribution initially, and certainly not one that could rival the likes of Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS or even the established Linux distributions. People showed interest in what I was doing and so I responded to that.

Ubuntu was never "forked". It was and still is used as a package base and regarded as an upstream component. Why Ubuntu? Because it was (and still is) the best package base.

What were the original goals that you set for the initial version of Linux Mint and did you achieve them all? And what would you have changed about it if you were given the chance to do so?

The first version had no goals at all. It was something I experimented with. After that, feedback shaped versions 2.0, 2.1 and 2.2. It's only after Linux Mint 2.2 "Bianca" that things got serious. 

The biggest goal for me is to make sure each release is the best release to date. It might sound funny but it's not always easy to achieve. Things move fast upstream, technologies change. My main concern is to continue to provide to people what they like and to get closer to a better desktop, to make it easier and more pleasant to use, each time.

What makes Linux Mint different compared to Ubuntu or Debian beyond the visual changes?
I'm not really sure. It never "had" to be different. We're already radically different in the way we work, in what we think is or isn't important, in the vision of the desktop we have, in how we look at security and package updates... so with all that we've often evolved in opposite directions. Now, from a technical point of view, if you look at Linux Mint, it is either using an Ubuntu or a Debian package base, so beyond the desktop layer (where we're primarily focused) you'll find very few differences.

To a certain extent, and despite a fork of their package base, it's also the case between Ubuntu and Debian. We're talking about the same base but the two distributions are very different, primarily because they're focused on very different things. Ubuntu patches the desktop and user applications layers heavily and at times they introduce significant differences in the core of the OS (locales, Upstart for instance...).

 

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