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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 Canonical pushing for its Mir display server technology and XMir, the X server for Mir, for Ubuntu 13.10 and beyond, what does the Linux Mint project plan to do? Will it follow Ubuntu's example or switch to Wayland? 
Whether it's in the scope of Linux Mint or Cinnamon, we're only interested in stable and proven technology. If tomorrow Mir or Wayland arrive in our repositories and we can use them to give people a better experience without causing significant regressions, we'll consider using them. Ubuntu 13.10 is pushing for Mir so we'll probably test it and see if it fits, how mature it is and what are the pros and cons involved in making use of it.

In September 2010, the project released the first Debian-based edition of Linux Mint (LMDE), replacing the distribution's standard Ubuntu base with Debian's testing branch. Why create a Debian edition? How popular has it been and what percentage of Linux Mint users are running it? What are the project's future plans for LMDE?
We wanted to know more about our package base, as a component. So the best way to know more about it was to switch it to another one and compare the differences. What would we lose if we stopped using Ubuntu? What did it bring to us compared to vanilla Debian? It was important for us, as a project which innovates and develops a lot on the desktop layer, to see how portable our technology was. Could we port it to other bases? Would it work out of the box elsewhere? Or was it too tightly tied to Ubuntu?

We wanted to know more about the pros and cons of frozen release cycles vs. rolling models. We learnt a lot from it, so from an R&D perspective it was a huge success. As a Linux Mint edition, it's also relatively popular. If we gather all LMDE users, it comes in third behind the Cinnamon and MATE editions. Our plan is to innovate on the frozen cycle and to develop continuously for Linux Mint n+1. LMDE follows a semi-rolling path with update packs and benefits from all the development done on the latest Linux Mint releases. The goal for LMDE is to continue to be as similar to the mainstream editions as possible and to feature the same improvements release after release with Debian and without Ubuntu.

Do you ever foresee dropping Ubuntu completely in favor of Debian or another distribution for the basis of Linux Mint?
No. We're prepared for it because it's important for us not to depend on our components but there are no plans to replace Ubuntu. LMDE was partly started to prepare for this eventuality. We're also putting a few resources into other R&D projects, one of which is to create our own package base. This of course is pure R&D, there are no tangible plans here, we just want to know what our options are and to be ready whatever happens.


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