Monthly News – October 2017

We’ve got a lot of news to cover this month.

First things first. I’d like to take a moment to thank all the generous people who fund our project. Many thanks for your donations.

Blog

The Linux Mint blog was given a new look and now supports HTTPS and nested comments.

Until now development and technical news were posted on a separate blog called Segfault.These news will now be posted here instead and Segfault will be discontinued.

KDE Edition

In continuation with what’s been done in the past, Linux Mint 18.3 will feature a KDE edition, but it will be the last release to do so.

I would like to thank Kubuntu for the amazing work they have done. The quality of Plasma 5 in Xenial made backports a necessity. The rapid pace of development upstream from the KDE project made this very challenging, yet they managed to provide a stable flow of updates for us and we were able to ship good KDE editions thanks to that. I don’t think this would have been possible without them.

KDE is a fantastic environment but it’s also a different world, one which evolves away from us and away from everything we focus on. Their apps, their ecosystem and the QT toolkit which is central there have very little in common with what we’re working on.

We’re not just shipping releases and distributing upstream software. We’re a product distribution and we see ourselves as a complete desktop operating system. We like to integrate solutions, develop what’s missing, adapt what’s not fitting perfectly, and we do a great deal of that not only around our own Cinnamon desktop environment but also thanks to cross-DE frameworks we put in place to support similar environments, such as MATE and Xfce.

When we work on tools like Xed, Blueberry, Mintlocale, the Slick Greeter, we’re developing features which benefit these 3 desktops, but unfortunately not KDE.

Users of the KDE edition represent a portion of our user base. I know from their feedback that they really enjoy it. They will be able to install KDE on top of Linux Mint 19 of course and I’m sure the Kubuntu PPA will continue to be available. They will be able to port Mint software to Kubuntu itself also, or they might want to trade a bit of stability away and move to to a bleeding edge distribution such as Arch to follow upstream KDE more closely.

Our own mission isn’t to diversify as much as possible in an effort to attract a bigger chunk of the Linux market, and it’s with a bit of sadness that we’re letting this edition go. We focus on things we do well and we love doing to get better and better at doing them. KDE is amazing but it’s not what we want to focus on.

With Linux Mint 18.3, we’ll release one more KDE edition. I wanted this announcement to come before the release. It will hurt its popularity of course, but I wanted to give users time, either to react right now or to take their time, upgrade and adapt to this later on. I’m sure this edition will be missed and I hope its users understand our decision.

LMDE 3

It is important for Linux Mint to continue to support LMDE as a fallback option in case Ubuntu ever disappeared and as a development target for the many projects and technologies we work on to guarantee compatibility outside of Linux Mint. It’s a lot of work to support two separate distributions of course (I can’t think of any other project doing that in fact) and LMDE which started as an experiment has obviously a much smaller audience than Linux Mint itself. For these reasons, LMDE is usually very important but not very urgent.

A lot of people asked about LMDE 3 and we now have some information about it.

First, it will be, as predicted, based on Debian Stretch and the codename for LMDE 3 will be “Cindy”.

We’re planning to release LMDE 3 in the first quarter of 2018 and it will ship as a single edition with Cinnamon 3.8.

T-Shirts

HELLOTUX extended its range of Linux Mint products and now features polos and t-shirts with a stylized logo.

The new embroidery design

 

The embroidery design is being modified at the moment to make the logo uniform and in a single color.

Flatpak

You might have heard of Flatpak, AppImage or Snap.. three solutions to a common problem.

Before I show you what we did, let me explain the problem very briefly.

Installing bleeding-edge applications in Linux Mint

Linux Mint is an operating system built on a package base which doesn’t change and which is supported for 5 years. That base is Ubuntu LTS, a snapshot in time of thousands of packages maintained by Debian, and a commitment to apply security updates. The result is both very stable and very safe. You get all your software from that base, other than security patches, that software doesn’t change and so it doesn’t break. Everything is great, but there’s a trade-off. You don’t have access to new versions of software applications, you can only run the versions which are in that base.. and sometimes these versions can be 1, 2 or even 5 years older than what’s available elsewhere.

Sometimes you can just go on-line and grab the newest .DEB. For instance you can download Virtualbox 5.2.0 directly from virtualbox.org.

Sometimes it’s more complicated. New versions of the software you want to run might come with new dependencies and depend on packages which are not present in Linux Mint. When that happens, installing the newest .DEB won’t work. To solve that issue, we use PPA (Personal Package Archives), which basically are 3rd party repositories. These repositories contain both the software you want to run, and the dependencies they need to run on your package base (in Linux Mint 18.x, that package base is Ubuntu Xenial 16.04, that’s why you see PPAs marked as supporting “xenial”).

And then sometimes it’s even more complicated than that, because the dependencies the new software needs not only aren’t present in Linux Mint, but they’re not compatible with it or they would conflict with it and break other things. For instance if a new version of the software you want to install depends on GTK 3.20, you cannot install it via a PPA. GTK 3.20 cannot be installed alongside GTK 3.18 and upgrading GTK would basically break a lot of things already installed in your operating system.

To solve that last case the idea is to run the software in isolation.. in its own little environment, separate from the rest of the operating system. It’s a bit similar to what’s done in Windows, when you download apps which aren’t just 5 or 10MB but a whole 500MB or so. They contain their own dependencies and it doesn’t really matter what’s installed on your system (Note to advanced users: I’m vulgarizing a bit here.. I’m aware dependencies work much better than that, especially in Flatpak and that they’re not just stuck in the bundle blindly like it’s done when shipping a static build.. I’m just trying to explain it in simple words without getting too technical.).

So the idea is for the software you install to use its own version of GTK and its own dependencies. Linux  Mint continues to use GTK 3.18 and to work very well, and that new software you install uses GTK 3.20 without impacting the rest of the OS.

That idea is to allow you to install new versions of software which aren’t available in Linux Mint, without worrying about dependencies or incompatibilities. And that idea, along with other benefits (in particular in terms of security/isolation) has been implemented by a few projects lately. On the gaming side of things, it’s worth mentioning Steam. On the software side of things you probably heard of AppImage and XDG-APP, and more recently of Flatpak (the former XDG-APP) and Snap.

Why Flatpak

The design of one of these solutions looked very promising to us and its implementation is already very stable. We’re hoping to see it gain more momentum and we’re adding full support for it in Linux Mint 18.3. This solution is Flatpak.

Similar to APT and its deb repositories, Flatpak is a manager which can be configured to point at multiple “remotes”. These remotes host software applications and dependencies (sdks, runtimes.. I don’t want to get into the technical jargon in the scope of this post). When you install a flatpak it runs in its own environment and without impacting your OS. Yet, dependencies can be common across multiple flatpak applications.

Flatpak makes it trivial to install bleeding-edge applications on our frozen LTS base. But it also makes it trivial for upstream software editors to distribute their software to Linux users, without having to care about a multitude of distributions and the many bases we have to support (typically in Linux Mint we’re currently supporting both Mint 18.x and Mint 17.x, and software needs different dependencies and different builds for each base).

Flatpak is also flexible and doesn’t rely on a middle-man between the editor and the users. Editors and users can choose to rely on centralized app stores if they wish.. but they don’t have to. For instance, an editor could ask Flathub to publish its application but it could also publish it directly, or even create its own store (i.e. “remote”). And downstream users could very well set up their Flatpak client to point to either Flathub or the Editor’s store directly, or both of them even. That flexibility is key and it contrasts with Snap which wasn’t designed with multiple repositories in mind.

How Flatpaks are integrated in Linux Mint 18.3

Linux Mint 18.3 will ship with Flatpak installed and configured by default to point to two Flatpak repositories, called “remotes”: Flathub and gnome-apps.

A new section was added to the Software Manager for Flatpaks.

The Software lists the content of each Flatpak remote (here: Flathub and Gnome Apps).

 

Although Flathub and Gnome-apps are configured by default, you can modify the list of remotes. If you add new ones, they will appear in the Software Manager.

Packages and flatpaks are completely different things, but in the Software Manager, they’re presented the same way: They’re just applications you install.

Flatpaks look like other apps in the Software Manager

 

You can browse each remote, see their flatpaks, review them, look at their screenshots, press the Install button and launch them just the same way you install other apps in the Software Manager.

Once installed Flatpaks can run in their own environment. Below is GNOME Games 3.26 running on its own GTK 3.26 inside of Linux Mint.

GNOME Games 3.26 running in its own Flatpak environment

 

Compared to packages there are a few subtle differences:

  • Flatpak apps use the Adwaita GTK theme (they’ll use Mint-X/Mint-Y eventually, but that wont’ be ready in 18.3)
  • Flatpak apps are updated automatically when you log in
  • Flatpak apps do not appear in “Installed applications” and are not reinstalled by the Backup Tool when restoring a package selection.

Cinnamon 3.6

The latest version of Cinnamon was released yesterday.

We’ve described most of its new features already.. but we’ve been developing a few more since last month 🙂

On-screen keyboard:

First, the size and position of the on-screen keyboard are now configurable. You can place it on top or at the bottom and it can take half, a third or a quarter of your screen. We’ve also reviewed a couple of things when it comes to ons-creen keyboards in general. We fixed AT-SPI support (the ability for the Cinnamon keyboard to pop up automatically when you focus on a text entry) and we patched both Onboard and Cinnamon for them not to interfere with each others anymore (which means you’ll be able to use the Cinnamon onscreen keyboard without onboard getting in the way, but you’ll also be able to use onboard in Cinnamon if you want).

GNOME Online Accounts:

Cinnamon 3.6 supports GNOME Online Accounts. Among other things, this support makes it possible to browse Google Drive and OwnCloud in Nemo.

GNOME Online Accounts support in Cinnamon 3.6

 

Libinput support:

The Cinnamon version of Linux Mint 18.3 will ship with the libinput driver. Cinnamon 3.6 now fully support both Synaptics and Libinput and ships with an “automatic” configuration which adapts well to most touchpads no matter which driver you’re using.

Other improvements:

There’s no real point in listing them all. You’re better off looking at github for a comprehensive list. There are a huge number of bug fixes of course, and some things are really technical… for instance we’ve improved something really important in the way Nemo extensions work, both for performance and stability. The Alt-tab switcher received a few improvements too.. windows from all workspaces can now be displayed and whether or not to push minimized windows to the end of the selection is now configurable.

PIA Manager

The PIA Manager now runs in user mode (i.e. without admin privileges and so without the need to enter a password).

PIA Manager

 

This tool makes it trivial to connect your computer to your PIA account and a PIA VPN. It will be available in the Linux Mint 18.3 repositories and featured in the Software Manager.

Redshift

Redshift will be installed by default in Linux Mint 18.3. This tool adapts the color temperature of your screen based on the time of day, making it look warmer at night to reduce the impact on your eyes.

It will be available in your Accessories menu.

Info Reports

In addition to crash reports, Mintreport will be able to show information report.

Unlike the release notes which show the same generic information to everybody, Mintreport is able to detect and scan elements of your computers to target information and only show you what’s relevant to you.

Here’s a simple example of this is in action:

Information reports in Linux Mint 18.3

 

In the screenshot above Mintreport detected the fact that you didn’t configure your Timeshift backups.

As we go along we’ll ship more and more reports through Mintreport and we’ll be able to assist you and guide you through situations that are specific but for which we know workarounds or even solutions.

XApps improvements

The Xed minimap

 

The text editor Xed now features a minimap.

The PDF reader Xreader now detects DPI and the size of your monitor to make the size of the document you see on the screen match the size of the paper in real life when using a 100% zoom level.

Sponsorships:

Linux Mint is proudly sponsored by:

Platinum Sponsors:
Private Internet Access
Gold Sponsors:
Linux VPS Hosting
Silver Sponsors:

Acunetix
Sucuri
Bronze Sponsors:
Vault Networks *
AYKsolutions Server & Cloud Hosting
7L Networks Toronto Colocation *
Goscomb
BGASoft Inc
David Salvo
Thomas K
Community Sponsors:

 

Donations in September:

A total of $10,033 were raised thanks to the generous contributions of 422 donors:

$1000 (2nd donation), Clive M.
$500, Ryan S.
$218 (5th donation),
$200, Peter K.
$140 (2nd donation), Mark A. aka “Amoeba”
$109 (2nd donation), Rolandas R.
$109 (2nd donation), Hendrik S.
$109, Maik B.
$109, Petr Kopecek
$109, Carlos P. H.
$109, Jan S.
$109, Pierre F.
$100 (7th donation), Bruce R.
$100 (5th donation), Pasi K.
$100 (3rd donation), Meta N.
$100 (2nd donation), George D.
$100 (2nd donation), Raphael S.
$100, Scott Y.
$100, Tim G.
$100, Luther T.
$100, Jan O.
$100, Joseph R.
$76, Juan J. G. K.
$54 (2nd donation), Gerald H.
$54 (2nd donation), Frank B.
$54, Peter F.
$54, Norbert W.
$54, Martin B.
$54, Stefan J.
$54, Norbert O.
$54, Corentin L.
$54, Gustaf E. R.
$54, Andres V. P.
$54, Derek C.
$50 (9th donation), Peter S. aka “Pierre”
$50 (4th donation), Mike M.
$50 (3rd donation), Bob T.
$50 (2nd donation), Michael B.
$50 (2nd donation), Carol M.
$50 (2nd donation), David T.
$50, Dan S.
$50, Jonathan B.
$50, Jonathan S.
$50, John G.
$50, Frank B.
$50, Robert B.
$50, Terence R.
$50, Harald M.
$50, Robert D.
$50, Chris L.
$44, Paavo S.
$42 (3rd donation), Martin K.
$40 (21st donation), Wolfgang P.
$40 (5th donation), Claudia S.
$40 (2nd donation), Lee D. K.
$40 (2nd donation), Paul C.
$40 (2nd donation), J. C. .
$40, Ron H.
$35 (4th donation), Borisov G. aka “method
$35, John M.
$33 (91th donation), Olli K.
$33 (2nd donation), Jean-pierre S.
$33, Harald G.
$33, Martin G.
$31, John S.
$30 (11th donation), Geoff_P
$30 (8th donation), James D. aka “Spearmint2”
$30 (3rd donation), Rene H. aka “Hogi”
$30, Swen
$30, M D. H.
$30, David B.
$30, Fulvio G.
$27 (4th donation), Ralf D.
$27 (3rd donation), Ralf D.
$27, Lars P.
$27, Jan S.
$27, Günter B.
$27, Stewart C.
$27, Hans P.
$27, Klaus D. M.
$27, Sven B.
$25 (74th donation), Ronald W.
$25 (4th donation), Michael K. S.
$25 (4th donation), cocasema
$25 (3rd donation), Conrad M.
$25 (3rd donation), Ranald C.
$25 (2nd donation), B. H. .
$25 (2nd donation), Jordan K.
$25, Gary B.
$25, David DeFebo aka “ Schweitzer Formula, LLC
$25, Yeon H. J.
$25, Earl C.
$25, Markov K.
$25, Hank W.
$25, Kenley W.
$25, Terrance E.
$25, James E. B.
$25, Donald P.
$25, Kevin B.
$25, Aider M.
$25, David A.
$25, Keven L.
$25, Noel C.
$24 (2nd donation), Dennis B.
$24, Charles J.
$22 (12th donation), Francisco L. D. A.
$22 (8th donation), Pentti T.
$22 (6th donation), Rüdiger K.
$22 (4th donation), Heinz K.
$22 (3rd donation), Sachindra Prosad Saha aka “Love you grand dad”
$22 (2nd donation), Stefan N.
$22, Andreas B.
$22, Klaus L.
$22, Bruno M.
$22, Ulf-andreas S.
$22, Christian K.
$22, Johan S.
$22, Stephane B.
$22, Santiago
$22, Arne S J.
$22, Illia D.
$22, Victor G.
$22, Paolo B.
$22, Florent G.
$22, Michael L.
$22, Nicolas G.
$22, Michael R.
$22, Ulrich M.
$21, Jan & Ed C.
$20 (30th donation), Curt Vaughan aka “curtvaughan ”
$20 (18th donation), Larry J.
$20 (12th donation), Henry W.
$20 (12th donation), Jeffery J.
$20 (10th donation), Matej V.
$20 (9th donation), Peter J.
$20 (4th donation), T. P. .
$20 (4th donation), J.M. Tremblay aka “JM”
$20 (3rd donation), Justin Oros
$20 (3rd donation), I. B. .
$20 (3rd donation), Reel D.
$20 (2nd donation), Lubos C.
$20 (2nd donation), 鈴木 和夫
$20 (2nd donation), Martin C.
$20 (2nd donation), M. H. .
$20, Fabio A.
$20, Heather L.
$20, Vladimir H.
$20, Brian H.
$20, Frederick W.
$20, Christos S.
$20, Marian R.
$20, Andy P.
$20, Russell R.
$20, Steve S.
$20, Carlos S.
$20, Gary P. S.
$20, George W. H.
$20, Larry L.
$18, Jan J.
$18, Jose M. C. R.
$16 (7th donation), Julian M.
$16 (3rd donation), Evzen M.
$16, Thierry G.
$16, Jean B.
$16, Frank G.
$16, Pgm Roosenboom
$16, Michiel B.
$16, Chris P.
$16, Jean-sébastien G.
$16, GPSBoomerang
$16, Lars B. aka “akoyaxd”
$15 (13th donation), Stefan M. H.
$15 (2nd donation), Harris B.
$15 (2nd donation), Spring G.
$15, Warren M.
$15, Xin Z.
$15, Shreyas G.
$14 (4th donation), Toni K.
$13 (17th donation), Anonymous
$13 (5th donation), Michał M. aka “Zaraki
$13, Donald T.
$12 (78th donation), Tony C. aka “S. LaRocca”
$12 (24th donation), JobsHiringnearMe
$12, JuliusZ
$12, Roger M.
$12, Došlo R.
$11 (12th donation), Hans P.
$11 (5th donation), Denis D.
$11 (4th donation), Émilien K.
$11 (4th donation), Tomas S.
$11 (4th donation), Annette T.
$11 (3rd donation), Joss S.
$11 (3rd donation), Lothar G.
$11 (3rd donation), Tony L. aka “tone39”
$11 (3rd donation), Mark Tetrode
$11 (2nd donation), Claudio F.
$11 (2nd donation), Rodney M. B.
$11 (2nd donation), Dieter R.
$11 (2nd donation), aka “KENOS”
$11 (2nd donation), Marcos P. G.
$11 (2nd donation), Bertrand S. J.
$11 (2nd donation), Peter R.
$11 (2nd donation), Horst Mückikowski
$11, Peter G.
$11, Jozef P.
$11, Reiner B.
$11, Aivivid AB.
$11, Ondrej D. B.
$11, Thomas L. aka “Tool”
$11, Esa T. V.
$11, Philippe D. S. V.
$11, Eskild T.
$11, C. K.
$11, TheGentleman-Shop aka “TGS
$11, Anastasiya Z.
$11, Breixo L. P.
$11, Modesto P. V.
$11, Stephane A.
$11, Victor B.
$11, Gabriele T.
$11, Walter S.
$11, Martin F.
$11, Łukasz S.
$11, Roy P.
$11,
$11, Jorma V.
$11, Thomas N.
$11, Markus S.
$11, Artur M.
$11, Giannattilio B.
$11, Jason S.
$11, Giuseppe A.
$11, Manoel A. L. G.
$11, Mathieu P. aka “Pila
$10 (22nd donation), Thomas C.
$10 (13th donation), Mike C.
$10 (13th donation), Paul O.
$10 (13th donation), Frank K.
$10 (12th donation), HotelsNearbyMe
$10 (8th donation), Rick R.
$10 (7th donation), Andre Cardoso
$10 (7th donation), Rick R.
$10 (6th donation), Terrance G.
$10 (5th donation), Agenor Marrero
$10 (4th donation), Prepress by Sloane
$10 (4th donation), James F.
$10 (3rd donation), Ray M.
$10 (2nd donation), Marcelo G. P.
$10 (2nd donation), Michael Chen
$10 (2nd donation), Troy T.
$10 (2nd donation), Jeff F.
$10 (2nd donation), Gary N.
$10 (2nd donation), David W.
$10 (2nd donation), Luigi D.
$10, Joshua R.
$10, Auttawut H.
$10, Florin M.
$10, Evan L.
$10, Osmar Franco
$10, Ronald W.
$10, Maziar M.
$10, Whitley L.
$10, Michael H.
$10, Antonio M.
$10, Stan B.
$10, Erick R.
$10, Scott S.
$10, William E.
$10, Roy F.
$10, Michael D.
$10, Андрей Н.
$10, Jackson N.
$10, Paul M.
$10, Alex K.
$10, Juan G.
$10, Dariusz K.
$10, Nidhin D.
$10, Peter K.
$10, Stuart W.
$10, Peter F.
$10, Marius G.
$10, Cary B.
$10, Bonnie
$10, Samuel C.
$10, Alexandr L. aka “alexandr_lamdan
$10, Bjarne J.
$10, Surin R.
$10, Mark N.
$10, Steven S.
$10, Jimmy C.
$10, Kyaw Swar Th
$9 (2nd donation), Omar Q.
$8.08, Robert S.
$7 (14th donation), CV Smith
$7 (5th donation), Donald F.
$7 (2nd donation), Jesús J. D. M. G.
$7, 정우 이
$7, Patrick B.
$6, Kamil G. aka “Grzyb”
$6, Hussein P.
$5 (19th donation), Slartibartfast
$5 (15th donation), Jens-uwe R.
$5 (10th donation), Jim A.
$5 (8th donation), Bhavinder Jassar
$5 (8th donation), Alessandro S.
$5 (7th donation), Aliki K.
$5 (6th donation), Dmitry P.
$5 (6th donation), KLM Merchant Hubs
$5 (5th donation), J. S. .
$5 (4th donation), Andre P.
$5 (4th donation), Godfrey H.
$5 (3rd donation), John M.
$5 (3rd donation), gutscheinchamp.de (Gutscheine 2017)
$5 (3rd donation), A. C. aka “openlark
$5 (3rd donation), Gary V.
$5 (2nd donation), J. B. .
$5 (2nd donation), Bret P.
$5 (2nd donation), Thorsten B.
$5 (2nd donation), Vishal J.
$5 (2nd donation), Arndt (Games4Linux.de)
$5 (2nd donation), Michael H.
$5 (2nd donation), L. B. .
$5 (2nd donation), Nenad G.
$5 (2nd donation), Andrey Stepanov aka “Eraser”
$5 (2nd donation), Karl H.
$5 (2nd donation), Michael H.
$5, Victor A.
$5, custom computer builder
$5, Lilly
$5, Daniel W.
$5, Sergio V.
$5, Поповских Ю.
$5, Ivano F.
$5, Karl H.
$5, Javier H. M.
$5, Jimmy C.
$5, Isidro C.
$5, Ibra J. A.
$5, Body Face Shop
$5, Willem V. U.
$5, Maciej D.
$5, Piotr W.
$5, Ian H.
$5, Benjamin M.
$5, Mickel V.
$5, Alcides A. Benitez
$5, LauraNL WebDesign
$5, Michael A.
$5, Anjo T.
$5, Johan A.
$5, Winfried V. P.
$5, Andreas Tselios
$5, Elissei I.
$5, Stephan D.
$5, Husic M.
$5, Brian H.
$5, Reginald F.
$5, Giuseppe B.
$5, Suraj S.
$5, Chris L.
$5, Adeolu O.
$5, ChrisMac aka “Atlyeti”
$5, Mauricio A. S.
$5, Abhishek M.
$5, Bradley R.
$5, Tony H.
$5, Brendon V. Z.
$5, Tobias S.
$5, aka “KENOS”
$5, Akash S.
$4, Nicole R.
$3.5 (8th donation), David Y.
$3 (6th donation), Miguel E. S. aka “MQL”
$3 (3rd donation), Dmitriy S. aka “mpolk”
$3 (3rd donation), Maxime H.
$3 (2nd donation), cheval a vendre
$3, P P.
$3, S. R. Greenhalgh aka “The Prawn
$3, Adrien L.
$3, Octavain B.
$3, Muhammad Y.
$3, Maciej G.
$3, Affordable Dental Care in Dunedin
$3, Carlos C. P.
$3, BarcaCity’s Specials
$2.95, Scott S.
$48.48 from 36 smaller donations

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

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