With Ubuntu releasing 8.04 “Hardy” BETA we took a look at the new base and upgraded a Daryna desktop to it to see how it behaved.

The desktop seems faster and more responsive. The kernel is 2.6.24, it comes with CFS, the new linux scheduler and chances are this improves things a lot. Gnome 2.22 also seems snappier and comes with its own compositing effects so you can achieve minimal effects without actually using Compiz (we’re planning to add this to mintDesktop so you can configure this easily).

Rhythmbox 0.11.5 handles Magnatune, Jamendo, Last.fm, online radio, iPod support, podcasts, library monitoring, CD ripping, lyrics, album artwork etc… and it should replace both Amarok and SoundJuicer.

Firefox 3.0 comes with smart bookmarks, uses less RAM than its predecessor and integrates better with Gnome. The system gets the popular PulseAudio and PolicyKit frameworks. Xorg 7.3 provides better auto-configuration and Ubuntu improved the screen configuration tool. Brasero and Deluge should replace Serpentine and the Gnome integrated features for disc burning and torrent downloading. Inkscape isn’t part of the default selection but the new version comes with native PDF support.

Since Daryna most of the mint tools were improved but also localized and made more robust. We focused on stability for this release and although we postponed ambitious designs and innovations for Mint 6 a lot of small yet noticeable improvements made their way into the Mint 5 roadmap. It looks like this also happen with Ubuntu and with quite tangible improvements coming from upstream, in particular from the Gnome and the kernel projects.

We were already excited by the LTS aspects of Mint 5 (which we’re planning to extend, not as a complete rolling distro, but in order to guarantee that most desktop applications stay up to date), by the performance gains of the new mintUpdate, by the new features of mintMenu and mintInstall, by the overall GUI, localization, and stability improvements of our tools. Now we’re seing this new scheduler in action and a brand new Gnome deskop, already nicely integrated together by Ubuntu. What a release Elyssa is going to be! After we merge all these improvements together, Mint 5, and Hardy before it, are going to be real killer releases!

We’ve seen a lot of innovations on the desktop for Linux Mint 4.0, this time the release is going to be equally innovative but with more maturity. If we could ever make the desktop which was going to kill Windows, then this would be it. Ladies and gentlemen prepare yourselves for one of the greatest Ubuntu releases and right after that for one of the best desktops you ever got to see.

Ok, maybe I’m overdoing this a little 🙂 Time will tell, but from what I can see things look extremely promising.

If you’ve upgraded to Firefox 2.0.0.12 you probably noticed some changes in the results brought by searches from the top-right corner Google search plugin.

Basically:

– The result page shows a Linux Mint logo instead of a Google one.
– The layout of the page is a bit different (ads are on top instead of being on the right).
– There is no access to advanced Google features (account, cached links, similar pages..etc).

The reason it is different is because instead of using the default plugin we now distribute our own and take advantage of a Google Custom Search Engine. The reason it it is different from the default Google search is because Google doesn’t offer the same features to Custom search engines as it does when searching directly from google.com. The reason we changed from default google to a custom engine is because it generates a lot of revenue and this single plugin could potentially make Linux Mint into a company which actually hires full-time employees.

The highest single source of revenue for Linux Mint isn’t the donations, it isn’t ads on the website, it is the default start page in Firefox. This simple search plugin is estimated to generated from 2 to 40 times more money than the start page itself. If this proves to be the case we’ll be in a position to grow and to achieve things we never dreamed off before. At the moment Linux Mint is maintained by me on a 2.5 hours / day basis with the help of a team of volunteers who are paid nothing. The income is similar to a single small salary. With this plugin, and although you may not enjoy the same level of comfort as when searching with the default Google layout, you contribute to making Linux Mint grow and we should soon see the day where our distribution gets maintained by a team of people working full-time on it.

For most distributions the business model is to sell associated products (Powerpack, Enterprise Desktops, Server offers) or services (Professional Support..etc). Although this allows the distributions to hire full staff employees it also takes a lot of resources and most employees end up working on these associated services/products instead of focusing on the distribution itself. If we find a way to finance ourselves by clever little changes like this one we can grow into a medium sized company with full time employees working ONLY on the distribution itself. As you can see this is a very interesting perspective.

For people used to using Google Images we included a second search engine so that they could achieve the same things as before. For people used to cached links and used to access their google account there is a workaround and it is possible to revert to the default Firefox plugin. Of course this is a pity and we don’t encourage you to do that (since this is the best way you can contribute to Mint and it costs you nothing) but it’s your desktop, not ours, and we always believed you should have a choice. So if you really want to revert back to the default plugin, follow the steps below:

Go to https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3682
Install the addon and restart Firefox
Go to google http://www.google.com
Right click in google search bar and select “add to search bar”
Left-click arrow at left side of firefox search combo
Select “manage search engine”
You should find google at the bottom of the list
Move it to the top

By doing so your search results will use the original Google layout again (cached links, etc..) but hey everytime you make a search you could have made us grow at the same time.

It’s good to have a choice and it’s good to know why you’re going one direction or another. I’m sorry we rolled out this as an update without informing people. Hopefully this blog post will make things clearer and if you’ve been surprised by this new plugin you’ll now be able to understand how and why you want to keep it or change it back to the original plugin.

I’ll talk about Mint, as a Republic of Ireland registered company, in a separate blog post.

Clem.

After some investigation it looks like a simple call to apt.Cache() from the python apt module is responsible for the high memory usage of mintUpdate. Without this call mintUpdate uses 4.6MB of RAM. As soon as the module is called the memory usage grows to 47MB. The python interpreter doesn’t free up memory and an additional 47MB of RAM is reserved every time mintUpdate refreshes (every 5 minutes by default).

Of course mintUpdate relies on the apt module to get the list of available packages so we’ll need to find some decent solution to replace this call. Either we’ll manage to force python in freeing the memory used by the module or we’ll rely on APT directly without using the module.

Anyway, the next release of mintUpdate should use around 5MB of RAM and this shouldn’t grow over time.

Note: This comes as excellent news as I was personally worried that we would have to rewrite mintUpdate from scratch using another language. The java-gnome bindings lacked popularity and were not even packaged for Debian. Perl kind of scared me a bit when it came to OO-threaded development and I wasn’t particularly amused at the thought of using C++ (although I must say I was quite impressed with how Eclipse handles C++ and with the quality of the Gtkmm API). Well anyway, more on this later.. and hopefully we’ll stay with Python, at least for already existing Mint apps.

Edit: Apparently python won’t let us force any garbage collection. However the apt module can be replaced entirely by calls to “sudo apt-get -s upgrade | grep ^Inst” and “sudo apt-get -s dist-upgrade | grep ^Inst”. We’ll even save calculating dependencies ourselves…

Clem