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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.

Both Ubuntu and Linux Mint evolve according to their own vision and consider upstream components as ways to achieve that vision, which means things don't have to be different but changes can be introduced when needed. In the case of Linux Mint, we try not to introduce incompatibilities with upstream package bases, so we keep the same libraries, same versions and we do not fork the base.

In recent years, Linux Mint — currently ranked higher on than the distribution it is based on — has steadily increased in popularity among both beginners and expert Linux users. How has this constant influx of new users changed the direction of the project, if at all, and what problems have you encountered because of its quick user-base growth?
The biggest issue is to scale. Some aspects such as hosting are easy to solve (you just throw more money and resources at it), others such as the quality of the communication between the team and the community are much more problematic. Thankfully Linux Mint has always been growing, so this isn't new. We might be X times the project we were back in 2006, but we've always had to scale so we learnt a lot and we continue to learn from it as we grow larger.

This year we introduced a new blog and we recently restructured the way we host packages and deliver Debian update packs.

What was it like transitioning from GNOME, used in Linux Mint 2.0 to version 12, to the Cinnamon and MATE desktops with the release of Linux Mint 13?
It was a nightmare but it's also something we're very proud of.

Some people don't understand how important GNOME was for us. It was by far the most popular and the most mature desktop environment. It was a huge component for us. Most of the technology we had developed was built around GNOME and as a desktop distribution we had improved incrementally around it since 2006. So there was simply no way we were going to stop using it.

We have a vision and no matter what happens we get things done. This was the biggest challenge we faced since 2006. Linux Mint 12 was hugely impacted and it shipped with an early version of MATE and a set of GNOME Shell extensions which roughly did the job but weren't any long term solution. This was really tough for me personally. You can imagine what happened during that development cycle... all efforts, all resources, everything we had went into getting back on our feet. When Linux Mint 13 "Maya" was out, I had a huge smile on my face, MATE was stable and Cinnamon was there. I'll probably always have fond memories of Linux Mint 13 as it marks the end of the drama and the recovery from the loss of GNOME for us. "Maya" is also my daughter's name, so that adds to it even more. :)


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