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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.

This is also the reason most of the GNOME backend was forked recently. We don't want to release a frontend which is only compatible with specific versions of GNOME and plays catch up with changes it doesn't need every six months. We want to provide a desktop environment which works everywhere no matter what version of GNOME, if any at all, are present.

Cinnamon 1.8 talked to gnome-settings-daemon 3.6, cinnamon 2.0 will talk to cinnamon-settings-daemon 2.0. We're making sure everyone can use Cinnamon and that we can backport it easily.

Do you have plans or desires for additional sub-projects or a version of Linux Mint for mobile devices (e.g. Ubuntu for Phones, etc.)?
No, not at all.

The project receives financial support through sponsors such as BlueSystems and Opera Software, and partnerships including usage of DuckDuckGo as the distribution's default search engine and revenue from the MintBox, a Linux Mint-branded version of the CompuLab fit-PC3 with the distribution pre-installed. What percentage of the project's funding do these revenue streams provide aside from donations? What kind of feedback have you received from the community?
Our business plan is similar to the one used by TV and radio stations. We want to be funded by our users, directly via donations and indirectly via the traffic they generate in advertisement on our own websites and within Linux Mint on the search market. This is very important to us because it means our design isn't driven by anyone else, Mint continues to develop itself with its own community in mind and our development team doesn't need to engage in commercial activities where it would lose focus away from what really matters.

The feedback from the community is great. We were clumsy in the early days and didn't properly introduce the reasons as to why we used a modified version of Google for instance. But our business plan, our priorities were properly explained to our users and to our partners alike and we've had great responses since. Not everybody agrees with not using their favorite search engine of course, so we made it easy for people to change, but I think we were successful at raising awareness around this and introducing partners such as Yahoo and DuckDuckGo.

Our donations are also very high. Everything we do is with our users in mind and when we look at the number of donors at the end of each month, it's like quantifying that happiness we manage to create in them, it's really motivating.

The partnership with BlueSystems will end [in September] for financial reasons. We had a great relationship with them and I hope we'll continue it again in the future. Partnerships with vendors are there to provide additional services and products which can be of interest to our users, they don't produce important sources of income. The MintBox for instance is something we're very excited about, it's something unique technologically. People wondered why we didn't sell budget laptops. Our core interest is the development of Linux Mint, not getting on additional markets, whether they would be profitable or not.


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