Earlier this year, Linux Mint seemed to have two choices: Stay close to Ubuntu and take on the Unity desktop, or move to GNOME 3.0. Rather than choose between two immature desktops, Mint chose to stand pat on GNOME 2.32. This time around, Mint is taking a different approach, taming GNOME 3.2 for Mint users and planning to offer a legacy version of GNOME as well.
Mint project lead Clement Lefebvre has been fairly quiet about desktop plans for releases after Mint 11. On Friday November 4th, Lefebvre finally took the wraps off the plans for Linux Mint 12. Despite the Ubuntu-based heritage of Mint, it looks like the team is sticking with GNOME over Unity.
GNOME 2 vs. GNOME 3
Lefebvre said that Mint would like to keep GNOME 2.32 "a little
longer," but "we need to look forward and embrace new
technologies." He said that GNOME 3.x is "a fantastic desktop" that's getting better with each release. Eventually, Lefebvre said, "we'll be able to do much more with it than was possible with the traditional desktop." Eventually, but not today.
In the meantime, Lefebvre's plan is to ship GNOME 3.2 and MATE, which is
of GNOME 2.32 that is currently packaged for Arch
Linux. One problem, though, is that MATE has naming conflicts with
GNOME 3.x, which Lefebvre said the Mint team is "working hard in
collaboration with the MATE developers to identify and fix these conflicts
so that we can have both Gnome 3 and MATE installed by default on the DVD
edition of Linux Mint 12." Unfortunately, there's precious little information online about MATE, but you can find Debian-ized packages for MATE on GitHub. In the comments to the post about Mint 12, Lefebvre also directs interested parties to the #MATE channel on Freenode.
So, if all goes well, users will have a familiar GNOME 2.32-ish desktop to use. More adventurous users, though, can opt for Mint's take on GNOME 3.2. This GNOME is not what you'd see with Fedora 16 or openSUSE 12.1, though. Lefebvre said that they've put together a "desktop layer" that hammers GNOME 3.2 into a traditional desktop if users want that:
We've been using application menus, window lists and other traditional desktop features for as far as I can remember. It looked different in KDE, Xfce, or even Windows and Mac OS, but it was similar. Gnome 3 is changing all that and is developing a better way for us to interact with our computer. From our point of view here at Linux Mint, we're not sure they're right, and we're not sure they're wrong either. What we're sure of, is that if people aren't given the choice they will be frustrated and our vision of an Operating System is that your computer should work for you and make you feel comfortable. So with this in mind, Gnome 3 in Linux Mint 12 needs to let you interact with your computer in two different ways: the traditional way, and the new way, and it's up to you to decide which way you want to use.
For this, we developed "MGSE" (Mint Gnome Shell Extensions), which is a desktop layer on top of Gnome 3 that makes it possible for you to use Gnome 3 in a traditional way. You can disable all components within MGSE to get a pure Gnome 3 experience, or you can enable all of them to get a Gnome 3 desktop that is similar to what you've been using before. Of course you can also pick and only enable the components you like to design your own desktop.
Unfortunately, there's not a lot that Mint can do about GNOME 3's other major drawback — 3D acceleration required. Lefebvre said that Mint 12 will allow running GNOME 3.2 in Virtualbox if you have video acceleration enabled, but otherwise, you're stuck with the fallback mode. Users can also choose the MATE desktop.
So, in the end, users should have three options with Mint's main release: GNOME 3.2, GNOME 3.2 with Mint's extensions, or MATE as a GNOME 2.x replacement.
Ubuntu users' pain is Mint's gain
According to Lefebvre, Mint saw a "40% increase in a single month" and he claims that Mint is quickly catching up with Ubuntu for the top spot in the Linux desktop market and fourth overall for desktop operating systems.
There's little doubt that Mint saw a big jump in users following the
Fedora 16 and Ubuntu 11.04 releases. Linux users around the world made
their unhappiness with GNOME 3.0 and Unity widely known. If you consider
DistroWatch's rankings to be accurate, consider that Linux Mint is
currently in the top spot (for the six-month ranking). Ubuntu hasn't been
displaced from that spot for years.
Unfortunately, like Ubuntu, Mint doesn't actually publish hard
numbers. Occasionally Canonical cites a hard number (most recently 20
million), but doesn't provide anything the public can verify. (Unlike Fedora and openSUSE, which
provide statistics based on the number of unique IPs that connect to their
update servers.) So Mint appears to be doing well lately, but how well we
With so many users, though, Mint may want to do a bit more to publicize its
security fixes and explain its security policy. Trying to find a
coherent policy about security updates on the Linux Mint website is an
exercise in futility. In addition, Mint doesn't have mailing lists, so no
list exists. Since many of Mint's packages are taken directly from
Ubuntu, and use Ubuntu's repositories, users will get security updates
when Ubuntu's users do for those packages. But for Mint-specific packages,
it's unclear what the policies are.
Another interesting development with this release is Lefebvre's announcement that Mint will be trying to go beyond user donations and extract revenue out of searches.
Mint has always shipped an add-on that "enhances" search results given
by Google in Firefox. With any luck that's going away, since the default
pages produced by Mint were, shall we say, less than optimal. However,
Mint may be limiting user choice when it comes to search engines out of
the box. Lefebvre said:
Our goal is to give users a good search experience while funding ourselves
by receiving a share of [search] income. Search engines who do not share
the income generated by our users, are removed from Linux Mint and might
get their ads blocked.
Exactly how Mint will be blocking ads is not explained — and Lefebvre hasn't yet responded to our questions about the plans to block ads in Mint 12 — or whether this might influence the browsers shipped with Mint 12. A preview to Mint's partnerships with browser vendors might be found in the updated Opera 11.52 package for Linux Mint, which seems to be aimed at demonstrating the size of Mint's user base.
It's not entirely surprising that Mint is looking to go beyond what
users contribute directly. Lefebvre writes that "we're in a difficult
situation financially" because the project is only generating income
via donors. Despite having "millions" of users, the September stats show the
about $5,600 from 316 donors.
If the timeline put forward by Lefebvre holds, then Mint should ship its first RC for Mint 12 by November 11th and a final release around November 20th. Lefebvre said that the GNOME 3.x stuff is "fully ready and fully functional" with just a few minor bugs. The MATE packages may need more work, though, and negotiations with browser vendors may mean some search engines are not included in the RC.
As a project that was caught between the GNOME Shell and Unity
conflicts, Mint seems to have not only weathered the desktop turbulence but
emerged better for it. By catering to what the existing audience wants,
Mint has grown its user base considerably. Whether the project can now turn
that into a reliable source of revenue and continue that growth is another
Comments (7 posted)
The magic happening in Android, and I hate to admit but iOS too, is
they've gone back to the bazaar model where anyone can share any app
they like. Sure, most of it is crap. In fact they probably have an app
for crap. Part of it is driven by developer greed, which is counter to
what Debian stands for, but most of it is just hackers enjoying their
new found freedom to share. Sure, the base is solid, and carefully
crafted and built at Google. You can't just write any old crud and
expect it to ship installed on every phone by default. You need the
default code base to "just work". However, anyone is enabled to share
whatever crap they like as an app in the market. That freedom to share
is missing in Debian.
(Thanks to Paul Wise.)
Significant accommodations were made by Banshee upstream in order to make
life easier for Canonical to integrate Banshee into their OS. For one
thing, that's why the Ubuntu One Music Store support is a core Banshee
, not part of the third-party community extensions package. If
Banshee was being considered for replacement due to unresolved technical
issues, then perhaps it would have been polite to, I don't know, inform
upstream that it was on the cards? Or, if Canonical felt that problems
specific to their own itches required scratching, then is it completely
beyond the realm of possibility to imagine they might have spent developer
resources on bug fixing their OS and sending those fixes upstream? Or even
- and call me crazy - providing access for upstream to specialized hardware
such as a $174 Pandaboard to empower upstream to isolate and fix
unreproducible bugs specific to Canonical's target hardware?
-- Jo Shields
unhappy about Banshee possibly being removed as an Ubuntu 12.04 default application
As such, while Ubuntu has always shipped a huge archive of available
software, today the visibility on that software and the gems inside is
better than ever. I think it would be a disservice for us to obsess too
much on what is included on the default installation when there is a wealth
of content available in the Ubuntu Software Center. Default apps are
important (particularly for those in non-networked environments), but let's
not forget about the wider commons that in only a click away and all the
value it offers.
Doing btrfs development makes sense, but inflicting it by default
on users who really have no need for it isn't quite the same
discussion. For performance it's not showing any signs of being
better than ext3/4 - in fact on some media its massively
underperforming them currently. The funky feature set really isn't
relevant to most users while their data still being available most
-- Alan Cox
I admire and respect the fact that you can make free software do
exactly what you want - that's precisely what I set out to support
in founding Ubuntu. What I did not set out to found was a project
which pandered to the needs of a few, at the cost to the many.
Especially when the few can perfectly well help themselves, and the
-- Mark Shuttleworth
Comments (none posted)
The Fedora 16 release
is now available.
There's a lot of new stuff in this release, of course, including GNOME 3.2,
KDE 4.7, a new document manager, GRUB2, and more; see the feature
for details. The Fedora project has also announced
that the Fedora 14 release will
be unsupported as of December 8.
Comments (none posted)
One of the big complaints about GNOME Shell is that it requires 3D
acceleration to function. The Fedora Rawhide distribution is about to get
an update, though, that removes that requirement, enabling GNOME Shell to
work on all displays, including those on virtualized systems. This work
should find its way into the
Fedora 17 release due sometime around April.
While people are happy to see this change, there is concern about whether
it will bring about an end to support for fallback mode. In that thread,
Adam Williamson rather confirmed those
fears: "But based on what
they've said in the past, I expect that once most hardware that previously
needed the fallback mode is covered, fallback mode will die. AIUI, fallback
mode isn't meant to be a GNOME 2-by-stealth for Shell refuseniks, it's
purely an attempt to accommodate hardware which doesn't support
Shell." That is not quite the message that "refuseniks" have been
given in the past; expect complaints.
Full Story (comments: 203)
is a new
forum site run by the Fedora project. "The goal of Ask Fedora is to
be the best place for community support in Fedora and integrate tightly
with the rest of the Fedora infrastructure.
" The project is looking
for both users to post (and answer) questions and developers to help make
the site better.
Full Story (comments: none)
The final openSUSE 12.1 release candidate is now available. "All of development is now frozen except for the most urgent bugfixes. If
you find any new, grave problems, please report it as soon as
Full Story (comments: none)
The Linux Mint Blog looks
forward to the Linux Mint 12 release
. "Going forward, we won't
be using a custom search engine anymore. Linux Mint is the 4th most popular
desktop OS in the World, with millions of users, and possibly outgrowing
Ubuntu this year. The revenue Mint users generate when they see and click
on ads within search engines is quite significant. So far this revenue's
entirely gone towards search engines and browsers. Our goal is to give
users a good search experience while funding ourselves by receiving a share
of this income. Search engines who do not share the income generated by our
users, are removed from Linux Mint and might get their ads blocked.
Comments (28 posted)
Newsletters and articles of interest
Comments (none posted)
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