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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.

With the latest stable release — Linux Mint 15 "Olivia" — out the door at the end of May, what changes and features are you most excited about?
Linux Mint 15 brought a lot of features people were asking for; a more interactive login screen (MDM HTML5 engine), unified settings in Cinnamon, an independent Driver Manager, proper repository and PPA management...etc. For the first time also, Cinnamon handles the entire visual layer of the desktop on its own including the control center and the screensaver, no part of GNOME 3 is visible.

What would you like to see make it into version 16 "Petra", which will be based on Ubuntu 13.10 to be released in October?
The Software Manager will feature performance and speed improvements. We'll introduce a USB stick formatting tool. Cinnamon won't be a frontend to GNOME anymore but a complete desktop environment with its own backend. Cinnamon 2.0 will also introduce improved window tiling, a new feature called window snapping, and better user and session management. These are the features which are ready for Linux Mint 16 at the moment. There's also a roadmap and a lot of further improvements planned for the release but I'd rather not talk about these until I'm sure they'll be implemented.

While Ubuntu offers an automated in-place upgrade option to install the latest major releases of the distribution, Linux Mint does not officially support this functionality. Instead users are advised to backup their data, perform a fresh install of the current stable version and then restore their data. Why has the team decided to forgo this option and are there any plans to include official support for in-place upgrades in the future?
Well, it's possible to upgrade Mint the same way you upgrade any Debian-based distribution, including Ubuntu, and I'm sure it works pretty well. That's not to say it's a good idea to do so. First, few people are experienced enough to troubleshoot problems related to APT. Second, it takes more time and bandwidth to perform an APT upgrade than to download and install a new release (which 900MB ISO can contain between 3 and 5GB of compressed data). Third, when you install from a live system you get a unique opportunity to see the new release, to test the new kernel with your hardware and to make sure things work fine before you make the jump. Now with this said, things can certainly be improved. We should probably insist on people creating a /home partition during the installation, we should probably implement safeguards on UID and permission checks after a fresh upgrade... there's definitely work to be done for upgrading to be made easier. Ubuntu's recommended solution isn't something we want to back though, it's not good enough for us to recommend. Automation is one thing and making a process trivial is usually an improvement, but when that process is risky, automation is really dangerous.


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