Many thanks to all our donors, sponsors and partners and all the people who are involved in helping our project and our community.

UsrMerge

Last month we announced problems were found in relation to UsrMerge. In particular, packages built in merged systems were not always fully compatible with non-merged systems. A complete scan was done in Linux Mint to identify any other similar issue and a tool was developed to automate this process. In addition, a system report will be backported to recommend a merge to Mint 20 and 20.1 users whose system is not merged yet.

Updates notifications

Statistics recently showed us that many users did not update their computer. The way other operating systems handle updates is either by forcing their users to do so, or by frustrating them and annoying them until they do.

We spent time looking into this and talking to casual users to understand why they weren’t applying updates. We found many of them were sensitive to the importance of applying updates but didn’t do so simply because they were never really told to. When asked why and when they updated their phone they recognized that the phone update notifications were annoying but that they were successful in making them apply the updates.

Some users expressed a feeling of relief after applying phone updates, both because they felt like they were doing “the right thing” and because they knew the notification wouldn’t come back “for a while”. To us this looks like a partial delegation of responsibility. The user is aware of the importance of the issue and happy to be reminded of it to some extent as long as it doesn’t happen too often. Although the user does not review updates and is likely to apply all of them, he/she is not fully onboard with automation, appreciates being asked consent and decides on the timing of the updates.

Statistics showed us we needed to do something. Feedback showed us people hated to be annoyed, taken hostage or forced to do something they didn’t want (this is a major source of frustration for Mac and Windows users apparently). We also had key principles to respect. This is your computer not ours. You’re also all very different and you use the software we make in very different ways, so we needed to keep that in mind and let you configure and tune the software so it remains flexible and useful no matter how you like to use it.

So with all that said here’s what we did. We designed a notification system which acts as a gentle and welcome reminder and took great care not to turn it into an annoyance.

Although it shows the same information as the tray icon, the notification is more noticeable and creates an opportunity for the user which can either be easily taken or easily dismissed.

For the notification to be welcomed and welcomed again it needs to happen for a reason, to be easy to dismiss if the user is busy, to not come back constantly and to not come back at all for a long while after the user applies the updates. When a notification is dismissed it is snoozed for 2 days. When updates are applied it goes away for a long time. The conditions for the notification to be shown in the first place are configurable.

When it comes to default settings we have casual users in mind, and in particular users who are the least likely to modify the settings. We want the OS the work as best as possible out of the box for them, and be flexible enough to be configured and tuned by more experienced users.

By default the Update Manager shows a notification if a particular update has been available for more than 7 logged-in days or if it’s older than 15 calendar days. These values can be configured all the way down to 2 days (for people who want more notifications) or all the way up to 90 days (for people who want less).

By default the Update Manager also only counts security and kernel updates as being relevant for notifications but you can change that.

The last setting is a grace period. If any update has been applied on your computer in the last 30 days, whether it’s via the Update Manager or via another APT software, no notifications will be shown.

When set to 90 these settings basically mean no notification would be shown for more than 3 months of the computer being outdated. If the goal is to never apply any updates (and there are valid reasons for that in some cases and some environments, test VMs for instance), the solution is simply to disable automatic checks or to even disable the Update Manager itself. If for some reason the use case was to be able to see available updates for more than 3 months but never to apply any of them, then in this case we’d recommend the use of a gsettings key we added for that specific purpose: com.linuxmint.updates tracker-disable-notifications.

We hope the default settings will work well for most people and these notifications will be a useful positive experience. The configuration made available is very flexible and should be able to please everybody.

Sponsorships:

Linux Mint is proudly sponsored by:

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Donations in February:

A total of $14,397 were raised thanks to the generous contributions of 519 donors:

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$116, Bernhard E. aka “Manjushri”
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Thank you for your donations and for your support.

Applying Updates

An announcement was made last week to explain why security updates are important and to remind people to update their computer.

If you haven’t read it yet please visit https://blog.linuxmint.com/?p=4030.

We started working on improvements for the Update Manager. In the next release the manager won’t just look for available updates, it will also keep track of particular metrics and be able to detect cases where updates are overlooked. Some of these metrics are when was the last time updates were applied, when was the last time packages were upgraded on the system, for how many days has a particular update been shown…

In some cases the Update Manager will be able to remind you to apply updates. In a few of them it might even insist. We don’t want it to be dumb and get in your way though. It’s here to help. If you are handling things your way, it will detect smart patterns and usages. It will also be configurable and let you change the way it’s set up.

We have key principles at Linux Mint. One of them is that this is your computer, not ours. We also have many use cases in mind and don’t want to make Linux Mint harder to use for any of them.

We’re still forming strategies and deciding when and how the manager should make itself more visible so it’s too soon to speak about these aspects and get into the details which probably interest you the most here. So far we worked on making the manager smarter and giving it more information and more metrics to look at.

Bug Fixes

Package updates were published yesterday for the following projects: xapp, warpinator, nemo, cinnamon-menus, nemo-dropbox, nemo-media-columns, nemo-python. They represent a significant number of changes and fix a variety of issues.

On fast computers an xapp component could delay the login time by up to a second. This was in place to guarantee systray compatibility for indicators and QT applications and it held the session to make sure the system tray was in place before any auto-started applications. This feature was redesigned and the delay no longer exists.

Many usability and niche issues related to favorites were fixed.

An issue was found in the way Nemo handled style calculations. Resizing file browser windows could lead to an accumulation of recalculations and eventually create latency on focus after a while. This was fixed.

Memory leaks were also found and patched in Nemo and some of its extensions.

File operations and thumbnail management received performance and stability improvements.

On the desktop itself, usability bugs affecting bold fonts and icon sort order were fixed.

Plymouth+LUKS Bug and Reproducible Builds

When the upgrade path from Linux Mint 20 to Linux Mint 20.1 was opened we received feedback and bug reports related to a plymouth issue on computers with LUKS-encrypted drives.

We couldn’t identify the cause of the problem. Because the issue only affected some users we first thought it was hardware-related and that it had something to do with NVIDIA drivers.

Before I explain what happened and its consequences, if you’ve been waiting for that fix I’d like to apologize for the time it took and thank you for your patience. As of today this bug is fixed. We identified its cause on Friday and we sent a Plymouth package update to our repositories today which fixes the issue.

The story doesn’t end here though. This bug made us aware of a very important issue which affects Ubuntu (and Debian also, but to a much smaller extent), the issue of non-reproducible builds.

This is quite technical. When we moved from Linux Mint 19.3 to Linux Mint 20, we moved from an Ubuntu 18.04 to an Ubuntu 20.04 package base. One important difference between these two package bases is the fact that Ubuntu 20.04 is a merged system (i.e. a system where some paths such as /bin and /usr/bin are merged via symlinks and are effectively the same, this is described here: https://wiki.debian.org/UsrMerge).

On a merged system if a package places a binary in /bin and another package calls it with the wrong path (/usr/bin for instance), it doesn’t matter, it works anyway. This is an improvement for users but it also hides potential issues from a maintainer’s point of view. If you package something with the wrong path, your package continues to work on merged systems but not on non-merged ones.  

Starting with version 20.1, Linux Mint also adopted usrmerge and all fresh installations are merged. As part of the upgrade from Linux Mint 20 we recommended people merged their system but not everybody did. We were aware of these potential issues at the time and explained it in the upgrade instructions. This was done the very same way by Debian and by Ubuntu when they merged as well. All distributions are committed to supporting both systems.

Debian went further though and understood the impact this could have on build processes. If a package scans its build environment to assess the path of a particular binary and injects that path in the resulting packages, then issues can happen if the build environment is different than the user’s.

Take plymouth for instance, when you compile it from source it scans the build environment to find the path for a systemd binary called systemd-tty-ask-password-agent. On Debian systems, the systemd package provides this binary and places it in /bin. The plymouth build uses autotools and a routine called AC_PATH_PROG to find the path for systemd-tty-ask-password-agent and then injects that path in the systemd service it provides to call it.

On a non-merged computer systemd-tty-ask-password-agent is in /bin (where the systemd package puts it). On a merged computer, it’s both in /bin and in /usr/bin (since these two directories are the same there).

If you compile the plymouth source package on a non-merged computer, it finds systemd-tty-ask-password-agent in /bin and injects “/bin/systemd-tty-ask-password-agent” in its service file. That path works both on merged systems (where the patch doesn’t matter) and non-merged system (since the path is correct).

If you compile the plymouth source package on a merged computer, it finds systemd-tty-ask-password-agent in /usr/bin and injects “/usr/bin/systemd-tty-ask-password-agent” in its service file. That path is incorrect and will thus only work on merged systems.

Debian understood the importance of getting the same output from builds in different environments. In other words, whether the build environment is merged or not, not only should the resulting packages work on all systems, but they also should be identical in every way. Debian runs continuous integration checks to ensure all its builds are reproducible and patches packages where this isn’t the case.

The plymouth source code was indeed patched in Debian to prevent this issue but not in Ubuntu. Worse though, and this is really important in our case, since 20.04 (and thus for us since Mint 20, not 20.1), Ubuntu docker images and user systems are merged, but the Launchpad build environment is not. In other words, some source packages available in 20.04 produce packages which are different than what is in the repositories when they are rebuilt. Because the Ubuntu build infrastructure for 20.04 hasn’t been merged yet we don’t need to worry about binary packages built by Ubuntu (whether the source package builds are non-reproducible or not, if they’re built on non-merged environments they’ll work everywhere).

Because we’re primarily using docker to build our packages and because our images (since 20.04) are merged, we need to worry about this as much as Debian did and not only fix this particular issue but make sure we detect any non-reproducible builds going forward and patch anything that introduce variability and hasn’t been patched upstream already. We’ll be developing internal tools ASAP to tackle this. We’ll also review our own cross-distributions projects (Cinnamon, xapp to name a few) and make sure they’re not scanning paths that way or introduce these kind of issues in their build.

Cinnamon Improvements

Although the solution to a memory leak is an actual fix some leaks go undetected for years. Most of the time it’s because they’re hardware or driver-specific, sometimes it’s simply because the bug report doesn’t point out at something specific we’re missing and we’re unable to reproduce the issue.

Cinnamon itself relies a lot of your GPU drivers. It can use anywhere between 80MB to 1GB RAM depending on your system and what you ask it to do. It’s particularly small on Intel and open-source drivers and particularly big on 64-bit proprietary NVIDIA ones. It also starts small and uses more memory as you activate more of its features. It typically grows over time and up to a certain point. That point depends on how many applets you’re using, whether you’re using all of its features and the system you’re on. Passed that point, if Cinnamon continues to grow indefinitely, you’re looking at a memory leak.

We know there still are a few leaks out there because we hear of people who come back to their computer after days of it being idle to find their Cinnamon process using 2GB, 4GB, 6GB of RAM. We don’t know what cause these leaks yet but we’ll have a workaround in Cinnamon 5.0.

Using the system settings you’ll be able to set a maximum amount of RAM Cinnamon can use.

If that maximum amount is reached Cinnamon will restart itself. You won’t lose your session or your windows, it will just be unresponsive for about a second while it restarts itself internally. It will keep a log of such events so that you can see if this happens often and help us troubleshoot the issue.

Another thing we’re improving is spice management. In past Cinnamon versions there were differences between the installed tab and the download tab for applets, desklets and extensions. 

We modified the way things work to ensure everything is properly translated and that all spices have the same name, icon and description whether they’re installed or not.

We’re also showing more information such as the author’s name and the unique ID of the spice and we’re currently working on the ability to graphically install 3rd party ZIP spices.

Behind the curtain we also strengthened the validation and the translation of spices and implemented continuous integration.

Sponsorships:

Linux Mint is proudly sponsored by:

Gold Sponsors:
Linux VPS Hosting
Silver Sponsors:
Sucuri
ThinkPenguin: For Everything Freedom
Tibor Kaputa
Bronze Sponsors:
Vault Networks *
AYKsolutions Server & Cloud Hosting
hSo
Avery Tarasov / Chr0meiCe2 / @Abdomination1
BGASoft Inc
David Salvo
Feathercoin
HamoniKR
Look To The Right SEO
Michael Hathaway
Synapse Search
Uwe Schneider GmbH
Community Sponsors:

Donations in January:

A total of $18,779 were raised thanks to the generous contributions of 782 donors:

$1078 (2nd donation), Morten K. A.
$200 (8th donation), Tomasz E.
$200 (8th donation), Timothy P.
$200 (5th donation), Duncan G. aka “catraeus
$168 (6th donation), Plamen Atanasov
$162 (5th donation), Jack B.
$108 (3rd donation), Patrick H.
$108 (2nd donation), Nikolaos F.
$108, Eine Erde e.V.
$108, Herbert T.
$108, Felix S.
$100 (30th donation), Fast Junkie
$100 (7th donation), John M.
$100 (4th donation), Billy Bob
$100 (2nd donation), Konrad W.
$100 (2nd donation), Dana C.
$100 (2nd donation), Kenneth S.
$100 (2nd donation), Sherwood O.
$100, Neil P.
$100, Gary R.
$100, Jeffrey L.
$100, Charles Y.
$100, Thomas P.
$100, Charles G.
$100, David S.
$100, Philip F.
$100, James V J.
$100, John H.
$95 (2nd donation), Mario H.
$80, Jerome B.
$70 (9th donation), Ted S.
$66 (3rd donation), hala de inchiriat
$59, Chris S.
$54 (11th donation), Robert M.
$54 (9th donation), Naoise G.
$54 (4th donation), Dr. H. L.
$54 (4th donation), Karl H.
$54 (3rd donation), Reiner S.
$54 (3rd donation), Jürgen S.
$54 (2nd donation), Mr K.
$54, Isabel L.
$54, Matthias B.
$54, A V.
$54, Andreas M.
$54, Mallory T.
$54, John A.
$54, Stephan H.
$54, Eduard H.
$54, Carsten H.
$54, Nikolas H.
$54, Christos P.
$54, Konrad H.
$54, Bruce J.
$54, Rob B.
$54, Johannes R.
$54, Kees S.
$54, Heinrich H.
$54, Martin B.
$54, Christoph K.
$54, Matthias W.
$54, Guy V.
$50 (12th donation), Alfred H. aka “Varmint Al
$50 (12th donation), Peter S. aka “Pierre”
$50 (7th donation), Mimi
$50 (7th donation), George P. aka “taz840209”
$50 (6th donation), Greg C.
$50 (6th donation), Leopoldo G.
$50 (5th donation), Fred W.
$50 (4th donation), Edmund B.
$50 (4th donation), Timothy J. I.
$50 (3rd donation), Frank R.
$50 (3rd donation), Randall D.
$50 (3rd donation), Gary R.
$50 (2nd donation), Marvin F.
$50 (2nd donation), Al B.
$50 (2nd donation), Scott L.
$50 (2nd donation), Randall Thomas
$50 (2nd donation), Mark S.
$50 (2nd donation), Douglas G.
$50 (2nd donation), G W.
$50 (2nd donation), Peter T.
$50, Ryan M.
$50, Brian S.
$50, Stephen R.
$50, Jerry F.
$50, Mohamed A.
$50, Bradford B.
$50, William B.
$50, Justin D.
$50, Philip R.
$50, Lawrence G.
$50, Patrick N.
$50, Arvindh M.
$50, Peter Pal H.
$50, Jean-francois L.
$50, Sebastian N.
$50, Jacqueem S.
$50, David T.
$50, Jamie Aylward
$50, Mark K.
$50, Daniel R.
$50, William M.
$50, Doug M.
$50, Benjamin B.
$50, Lynn C.
$50, Brian H.
$50, Ashiq A.
$45 (3rd donation), Kostiantyn M.
$43 (130th donation), Olli K.
$43 (5th donation), Johannes B.
$43, Joerg R.
$42 (4th donation), Felipe Amaral aka “famaral42
$40 (6th donation), Robert T.
$40 (5th donation), Michael T.
$40, Lloyd R.
$40, Patrick W.
$39 (2nd donation), Christoph R.
$38 (4th donation), George T.
$38, Ruben W.
$32 (2nd donation), Marcus H.
$32 (2nd donation), Ioannis P.
$32 (2nd donation), Harry F.
$32 (2nd donation), Brian E.
$32 (2nd donation), Ralf W.
$30, Kari P aka “Kari”
$30, Pierre C.
$30, Stephen D.
$28 (4th donation), Adam K.
$27 (3rd donation), Robert H.
$27 (2nd donation), Horst W.
$27, Thomas B.
$27, Dieter R.
$27, Michael F.
$27, Ricardo C.
$27, Bernd K.
$26, Sarah Chase Photography
$25 (15th donation), Hubertus B. aka “hubi
$25 (12th donation), George H.
$25 (11th donation), Charles W.
$25 (3rd donation), Richard N.
$25 (3rd donation), Stephen W.
$25 (2nd donation), Ronny “Spider” S.
$25 (2nd donation), Kurt K.
$25 (2nd donation), Greg M.
$25, Victor C.
$25, Loic D.
$25, Ronald R.
$25, Robert E S.
$25, Mitchell J.
$25, Ramylle G.
$25, Donald S.
$22 (24th donation), Michael R.
$22 (10th donation), Peter E.
$22 (7th donation), Frank J.
$22 (5th donation), Justo G.
$22 (5th donation), Klaus G.
$22 (5th donation), Jose A. V.
$22 (4th donation), Lennart J.
$22 (3rd donation), Jerome G. -. A.
$22 (3rd donation), Michael M.
$22 (3rd donation), Vittorio B.
$22 (3rd donation), Juha M.
$22 (3rd donation), Ian M.
$22 (3rd donation), Michael L.
$22 (2nd donation), Finn B. J.
$22 (2nd donation), Armen E.
$22 (2nd donation), Claudia G.
$22 (2nd donation), Daniel H.
$22 (2nd donation), Michael Z.
$22, Wolfgang Z.
$22, Johann M.
$22, Daniel F. G.
$22, Paul H.
$22, NK Informatique
$22, Roger S.
$22, Daniel B.
$22, Chrisotph M.
$22, Tony E.
$22, Andreas T.
$22, Ronny G.
$22, Michael S.
$22, Thomas R.
$22, Vedran B.
$22, Chris O.
$22, Philippe B.
$22, Stefan N.
$22, Nathalie O.
$22, John B.
$22, Eric B.
$22, Grégoire M.
$22, Ramona Z.
$22, Mr J M P.
$22, Clemens G.
$22, Robert A.
$22, Siegmund S.
$22, Marco L.
$22, Heister M.
$22, Arno W.
$20 (33rd donation), Jim A.
$20 (31st donation), Stefan M. H.
$20 (30th donation), Bryan F.
$20 (26th donation), Mike W aka “bajan52”
$20 (21st donation), John D.
$20 (16th donation), vagrantcow
$20 (11th donation), Pawel M.
$20 (8th donation), Dana S.
$20 (8th donation), Dylan B.
$20 (8th donation), Mr. Bee
$20 (7th donation), Kok E. B.
$20 (6th donation), Robert L.
$20 (6th donation), Brent P.
$20 (5th donation), Peter L.
$20 (5th donation), Palmleaf
$20 (5th donation), Pablo L. aka “LAFO”
$20 (5th donation), Robert A.
$20 (4th donation), Daniel O.
$20 (3rd donation), Alexei S.
$20 (3rd donation), Peter B.
$20 (3rd donation), William M.
$20 (3rd donation), Vladislav H.
$20 (3rd donation), Radim J.
$20 (2nd donation), Paul W.
$20 (2nd donation), Paul R.
$20 (2nd donation), Shane W.
$20 (2nd donation), Steven H.
$20 (2nd donation), Jose M.
$20 (2nd donation), Charlie M.
$20 (2nd donation), Christopher S.
$20 (2nd donation), David K.
$20 (2nd donation), Marvin S.
$20, Jeff H.
$20, Michael R.
$20, Jason P.
$20, Harrison M.
$20, David S.
$20, David H.
$20, Håvard S.
$20, Martin N.
$20, Carlos H.
$20, Samuel S.
$20, Timothy D.
$20, John M.
$20, Stephen F.
$20, Lannes L.
$20, Robert K.
$20, James F.
$20, Kingston Locomotive Works
$20, Joe W.
$20, Ian E.
$20, Ken S.
$20, Vitalie L.
$20, Kathleen R.
$20, David W.
$20, Vladimir S.
$20, Michael M.
$20, Kurt B.
$20, John B.
$20, Tyler T.
$20, Adam B.
$20, John S.
$20, Chad B.
$20, Jean-francois B.
$17 (53th donation), Johann J.
$16 (48th donation), Andreas S.
$16 (2nd donation), Reidar S.
$16, Michael W.
$15 (33rd donation), Lance M.
$15 (30th donation), ajgringo619
$15 (9th donation), SecureRandom – LBRY/Odysee
$15 (2nd donation), Talent Sail
$15 (2nd donation), Lawrence M.
$15, Helmuth P.
$14 (5th donation), Antony L.
$14, Bela S.
$14, Fernando B.
$13, Sebastian B.
$12 (119th donation), Tony C. aka “S. LaRocca”
$12 (17th donation), Lance A.
$12 (5th donation), Frederick F.
$11 (15th donation), Raymond M. (retired)
$11 (12th donation), Nigel B.
$11 (11th donation), Daniel S.
$11 (9th donation), Abdulkadir H.
$11 (8th donation), Davide A.
$11 (5th donation), Umzugsfirmen
$11 (5th donation), Mirko A.
$11 (4th donation), Florian L.
$11 (4th donation), Goran V.
$11 (3rd donation), Došlo R.
$11 (2nd donation), Ant
$11 (2nd donation), Dimitris Z.
$11 (2nd donation), Dietmar R.
$11 (2nd donation), Lukas W.
$11 (2nd donation), Bettina W.
$11 (2nd donation), Janis E.
$11 (2nd donation), Steuererklärung ausfüllen lassen
$11 (2nd donation), Alvaro D. A.
$11 (2nd donation), Hilario G. M.
$11 (2nd donation), Cornelius B.
$11 (2nd donation), Santiago P. P.
$11 (2nd donation), Emanuel C.
$11 (2nd donation), Domenico D. B.
$11, Matteo F.
$11, Karl S.
$11, Fernando S.
$11, Marco R.
$11, Erich H.
$11, Nuno T. aka “nunotr”
$11, Silvio S.
$11, Can G.
$11, Iulian S.
$11, Heino S.
$11, Valerio P.
$11, Max W.
$11, aka “Credit Rapid
$11, William F S.
$11, Gezinus V.
$11, Joris B.
$11, Bernd R.
$11, casca de copiat
$11, José Manuel S.
$11, David P.
$11, Jose Angel A.
$11, Aleksandras J.
$11, Marianne L. aka “Kelb78”
$11, Heinz-georg S.
$11, Iker L.
$11, Sebastian S.
$11, Miro P.
$11, David B.
$11, Timothy S.
$11, Oscar J.
$11, Alain C.
$11, Tamás V.
$11, Dušan S.
$11, Sven H.
$11, Andres B.
$11, Karel V.
$11, Taily S.
$11, Ivan M.
$11, Steffen C.
$11, Xavier B.
$11, Patrick G.
$11, Aruna D.
$10 (81th donation), Tree Service Kansas City
$10 (75th donation), Tree Removal Raleigh NC
$10 (59th donation), Thomas C.
$10 (54th donation), Frank K.
$10 (53th donation), Fence Baton Rouge
$10 (37th donation), Rick R.
$10 (34th donation), Dmitry P.
$10 (30th donation), LJNL aka “lauranl”
$10 (20th donation), Francois-R L.
$10 (19th donation), Christopher R.
$10 (18th donation), Serhii B. aka “sinpavla
$10 (15th donation), Mike M. aka “GrouchyM”
$10 (14th donation), Psychology Edmonton
$10 (13th donation), Scaffolding in Kent
$10 (13th donation), Platypus Products
$10 (12th donation), Constantin M.
$10 (11th donation), Tree Service Windsor Ontario
$10 (10th donation), Edward A.
$10 (10th donation), Preciocpa.es
$10 (10th donation), Hot Tub Repair Calgary
$10 (9th donation), Speech Therapist Edmonton
$10 (9th donation), Towing Calgary
$10 (9th donation), Andrew C.
$10 (8th donation), A. Ruzhnikov aka “aruzhnikov”
$10 (8th donation), Actuz.net
$10 (7th donation), Roy D.
$10 (6th donation), Vjeran B.
$10 (6th donation), Philip Woodward
$10 (6th donation), Fence Company Raleigh
$10 (6th donation), Soeren S.
$10 (5th donation), Flamingo Merch
$10 (5th donation), José Clóvis A.
$10 (5th donation), Harald S.
$10 (4th donation), Timeless Leaves
$10 (4th donation), Owen D.
$10 (4th donation), Rickardo C.
$10 (4th donation), Jorge R.
$10 (4th donation), FindContinuingCare.com
$10 (4th donation), Deck Builders Columbus Ohio
$10 (3rd donation), Optimizare SEO
$10 (3rd donation), Greg B.
$10 (3rd donation), Greg K.
$10 (3rd donation), Dog Grooming Red Deer
$10 (3rd donation), Ontstoppen Amsterdam
$10 (3rd donation), Concrete Contractors Raleigh
$10 (3rd donation), Daniel W.
$10 (2nd donation), Martin G.
$10 (2nd donation), Mark O.
$10 (2nd donation), Ernie H.
$10 (2nd donation), Jorge D.
$10 (2nd donation), What The * Services LLC aka “What The Server
$10 (2nd donation), Alexey B.
$10 (2nd donation), Michael H.
$10 (2nd donation), Diego O.
$10 (2nd donation), Minneapolis Towing
$10 (2nd donation), Five Guys Plumbing Troy
$10 (2nd donation), Chris C.
$10 (2nd donation), Schwyzerörgeli lernen online
$10 (2nd donation), Richard Bergen (Autor)
$10 (2nd donation), Scaffolding in Manchester
$10 (2nd donation), Michael G.
$10 (2nd donation), Donny B.
$10 (2nd donation), Paul D.
$10 (2nd donation), Chris T.
$10 (2nd donation), Daniel G.
$10, Sattam J.
$10, Five Guys Plumbing Dearborn
$10, Veniamin S.
$10, Luis C.
$10, DA
$10, David S.
$10, David B.
$10, JigsawPMR
$10, Landscaping in Los Angeles California
$10, Kenneth H.
$10, Five Guys Plumbing Warren
$10, Robert A.
$10, Gerald S.
$10, Thomas L. aka “tholis”
$10, Nader I.
$10, Tree Service Reno
$10, Brian C.
$10, Ramanujam R.
$10, Dennis C.
$10, Carmel Lawn Mowing Service
$10, Global Conference Call
$10, Robin G.
$10, Muhammad S.
$10, Mario M.
$10, minneapolis commercial cleaning
$10, Nicole D.
$10, Russell E.
$10, Peter S.
$10, Dave E.
$10, Ivica K.
$10, Christian P.
$10, Benjamin D.
$10, Oleksii Y.
$10, Paul K.
$10, Maxeem
$10, Samuel W.
$10, SerTommeh
$8, Nikola A.
$7, Rodrigo D.
$6 (5th donation), Lukas W. aka “Luk”
$6 (2nd donation), James B.
$6, Cameron M.
$6, zzzzz .
$6, Elliot F.
$5 (57th donation), Eugene T.
$5 (47th donation), Bhavinder Jassar
$5 (27th donation), William Menezes
$5 (24th donation), GaryD
$5 (21st donation), Hristo Gatsinski
$5 (15th donation), Thomas R.
$5 (12th donation), Kirill G.
$5 (9th donation), Marcin Ziółkowski aka Mario Nesta
$5 (8th donation), Sérgio D. S. S. aka “sersantos”
$5 (8th donation), Michael V.
$5 (7th donation), Bertrand S. J.
$5 (6th donation), Dominik E.
$5 (6th donation), Timo K.
$5 (5th donation), Vanessa & Markus
$5 (5th donation), Szilard S.
$5 (5th donation), Maciej G. aka “Jodator”
$5 (4th donation), Sávio Rodrigues
$5 (3rd donation), www.malina314.com
$5 (3rd donation), Douglas R.
$5 (3rd donation), Javier F.
$5 (3rd donation), Thanks
$5 (2nd donation), Craig F.
$5 (2nd donation), Pavlito To Vlito
$5 (2nd donation), Asphalt Paving Ft Lauderdale aka “https://www.asphaltfll.com”
$5 (2nd donation), notgratefulenough
$5 (2nd donation), William B.
$5 (2nd donation), Matthew M.
$5 (2nd donation), Willem (Barneveld)
$5 (2nd donation), Barry O.
$5 (2nd donation), Tree Service Florissant
$5, Bimal K.
$5, Shawn H.
$5, zzzzz .
$5, Filippo B.
$5, Marius @ Awesome AF Tech
$5, Tomasz F.
$5, Florian C.
$5, Andreas G.
$5, Vinay S.
$5, Georg W.
$5, Kaarel R.
$5, j
$5, Layton W.
$5, Massimo Giancani aka “FortNhyver”
$5, William M.
$5, Florin B.
$5, aka “Egorama”
$5, Rafal
$5, Eddie P.
$5, Konstantinos K.
$5, Marcos B.
$5, Simon D.
$5, Christopher S.
$5, Zdeněk K.
$4 (15th donation), Oleksandr P.
$4, Jan W.
$4, Francisco D.
$3 (50th donation), Йошкар-Ола Восточный
$3 (12th donation), Jonathan Gaddi Giomini aka “JonnyBarbun87”
$3 (3rd donation), Rohan F.
$3 (3rd donation), Потапов С.
$3 (3rd donation), Milos M.
$3, Sylvia S.
$31 from 24 smaller donations

If you want to help Linux Mint with a donation, please visit https://www.linuxmint.com/donors.php

Patrons:

Linux Mint is proudly supported by 538 patrons, for a sum of $2,373 per month.

To become a Linux Mint patron, please visit https://www.patreon.com/linux_mint

Rankings:

  • Distrowatch (popularity ranking): 2131
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TLDR

  • Security updates are very important
  • Stats tell us they’re not being applied by all users
  • Apply updates right now!
  • Don’t run an EOL version of Linux Mint

Security updates

Updating is important

Security updates patch vulnerabilities in your computer. They protect you from local attacks (people with physical access to your computer and people who have an account on it) but also remote ones (attackers targeting your computer through your Internet connection).

Other than directed attacks security updates also protect you from malicious software. When you ask your computer to execute external content (software you downloaded, email attachments, a link you click or even just a webpage you visit in your Web browser) you also take the risk to open a door into your computer and invite attackers in.

When a vulnerability is found developers fix it as soon as possible and distributions ship it as an update so you can apply it in a timely fashion. These vulnerabilities then become public and known by potential attackers. This means an outdated system isn’t just vulnerable, it is known to be vulnerable.

Let’s have a look at the list of known vulnerabilities in Firefox:

https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/security/known-vulnerabilities/firefox

If you’re not running the latest version, check which version of Firefox you’re using and count the number of critical (red) patches you’re missing.

Updating is easy

Linux Mint comes with one of the best update managers available. It’s very easy to use, it’s configurable and it shows a lot of information.

It handles security updates for all your software. All you need to do is use it.

Updating is safe

Linux Mint ships with Timeshift to provide integrated system snapshots. With a click of a button you can revert your computer to your previous snapshot and negate the effect of any potential regression.

Thanks to Timeshift you can configure your computer to perform automated snapshots and thus safely configure your Update Manager also to perform automated updates.

After it was introduced in Linux Mint 18.3, Timeshift was backported to previous Linux Mint releases. It’s available in all modern versions of Linux Mint, including EOL ones.

Statistics

Statistics are not precise but they do tell us something

Before I give statistics, take the numbers in this blog post with a pinch of salt.

We can’t measure anything with precision because there’s nothing in your computer which sends data to us and we don’t configure Linux Mint in a way that even allows us to count how many users we have. In other words, there is nothing in Linux Mint that is common to all users and that we could rely on to establish statistics.

That being said, we do have a few metrics we can measure. They give us stats which only tell one particular aspect of the story and they are unreliable and imprecise but do tell us something nonetheless.

About 30% of users apply updates in less than a week

After we updated Firefox 85.0 we asked Yahoo to give us a breakdown of the Linux Mint traffic per user agent. These stats only covered users which use Yahoo of course but they did show us how fast the update was applied.

We were able to observe the fact that only 30% of users updated their web browser in less than a week.

These statistics also show us users of recent Linux Mint releases which do not apply updates at all. For instance, a part of that traffic uses Firefox 77 (the version which shipped with Linux Mint 20).

Between 5% and 30% of users run Linux Mint 17.x

These stats come from two distinct sources, both highly unreliable.. as you can see there’s quite a gap between 5 and 30, but they both tell us the same story.

0% of users should run Linux Mint 17.x! Anything above is not good, whether it’s 5% or 30%.

Linux Mint 17.x reached EOL (End-Of-Life) in April 2019. In other words it stopped receiving security updates for almost 2 years now!

The 5% figure comes from your default browser start page. The longer you use Linux Mint after you installed it the more likely you are to have changed your first page, so we can reasonably assume the number is lower than reality.

The 30% figure comes from our APT repositories. It’s the traffic percentage we get from Linux Mint 17.x. It’s unreliable because APT got better at performing less HTTP requests for the same queries and we lowered the default cache update frequency in modern releases. It’s unreliable also because we’ve started and became better release after release at recommending the use of local mirrors, so there is naturally a higher proportion of users not using mirrors in older releases. We can reasonably assume the number is higher than reality.

Again, it really doesn’t matter to us if the real number is 10% or 15%. It needs to be 0%. We have mechanisms in place to tell users when a new release becomes available now, but we didn’t have them at the time of Linux Mint 17.x.

Apply updates right now!

Check your version of Linux Mint

Open a terminal and type:

lsb_release -r

Install timeshift

If your version of Linux Mint is 18.3 or higher, Timeshift is already installed. Otherwise, type the following commands in your terminal to install it:

apt update
apt install timeshift

Create a system snapshot

Run Timeshift and configure it it it’s the first time you run it (select the default options if you’re not sure).

Press the “Create” button to perform a system snapshot.

If anything goes wrong you’ll be able to come back thanks to this snapshot.

Apply all updates

Run the Update Manager.

Press the “Refresh” button to find available updates.

If a new version of the Update Manager itself is available, you will need to apply it first.

Press “Install Updates” to update your computer.

Automate snapshots and updates

Updates are indicated by a shield icon in your system tray. Unlike other operating systems which rely on frustration and which annoy you at the worst possible time until you perform updates, Linux Mint gives you a visual indication that updates are available but it’s up to you to decide when to apply them.

This setup is empowering and comfortable but it does rely on you to eventually apply the updates. We’ll need to consider a frustration mechanism if the system is neglected for months but we’ll touch on that in the next blog post.

If you don’t apply updates regularly then you should consider automating the process.

In the Timeshift configuration screen you can automate system snapshots.

Likewise, in the Update Manager configuration screen you can automate the updates.

Do this and you no longer need to worry about it.

Firefox ESR in Linux Mint 17.x

If you are still using Linux Mint 17.x you need to backup your data and reinstall a modern version ASAP.

Because Linux Mint 17.x has reached EOL and hasn’t received any updates for almost 2 years, we decided to send an emergency update to upgrade your Firefox web browser from version 66.0 to version 78 ESR.

Because it’s ESR, this update will create a new Firefox profile for you. If you want to get back to your previous profile, close Firefox, open a terminal and type:

firefox -ProfileManager

Select the “default” profile.

Do upgrade Firefox right now as it is a very important part of your system, but please be aware that it is not enough. You will need to reinstall Linux Mint as soon as possible. You cannot run something that has unpatched known vulnerabilities for years, it’s too risky. Think of all these banks and establishments which got hit because they were still running Windows XP. We don’t want this to be you. After 5 years of support, Linux Mint 17.x is simply not supported anymore. You need to move away from it.

The latest version of Linux Mint is 20.1. It is supported until April 2025.

Thank you

If you know users of Linux Mint which do not read the blog, please spread the word for us, especially if their system is not up to date or if they run an old release. We’ve no other way of reaching them than via communication here or software updates.

Thank you all for your attention and consideration.