Behind the scenes of Linux Mint

Who is actually making Linux Mint, how do they do it and where do they get their money from?

These where some of the questions I asked myself as a new user of Linux Mint. The answers might give some hints about the future and reliability of Mint. 

The Beginning

The domain name linuxmint.com was bought in 2006 by Clément Lefebvre. Clément, a Frenchman, had studied Computer Sciences in Paris and got a Masters Degree in IT. After his studies he worked for different companies and wrote for linuxforums.org (the articles are still available). He started publishing his articles and reviews on this own new site linuxmint.com and gathered a lot of ideas while researching and writing about Linux distributions. It inspired him to try to make one of his own distribution. As a base he used Ubuntu, as he considered it to be more user-friendly than Debian. On the 27th. of august 2006 he released his first product, Linux Mint 1.0, named “Ada”. This version never got really stable, but the next version, 2.0, named “Barbara”, caught attention and quickly got users who started to create a Linux Mint community. With the release of “Bea” in December, and “Bianca” in February, Linux Mint developed its own style and additions to the Ubuntu releases.

Linux Mint 2.2 Bianca (febr. 2007) - Source: Wikimedia

Linux Mint 2.2 Bianca (febr. 2007) – Source: Wikimedia

The Community

Clement Lefebvre, who moved to Ireland and lives there with his family, was keen on listening to the newly formed community, who got a voice on the Linux Mint Forums and a blog in 2007 to comment on news. New ideas where written down, bugs where discovered, patches proposed, improvements written, so people started helping out many different ways. Some people accepted the responsibility to take care of maintaining the different editions, some became testers or forum moderators.

At the present day there is a development team, a bug squad, a community moderation team and so on. Wikipedia names the following people as being part of the development team:

  • Clement Lefebvre – Founder, project leader, developer and maintainer of the Main, Universal and x64 editions
  • Don Cosner – Release manager and internal tester
  • Jamie Boo Birse – Maintainer of the KDE edition
  • merlwiz79 – Maintainer of the Xfce edition
  • Shane Joe Lazar – Maintainer of the Fluxbox edition (for versions 5 and 6 of Mint)
  • Kendall Weaver – Maintainer of the Fluxbox and LXDE editions (version 8 )

On linuxmint.com there is a page that lists the current teams and its  members.

Around the release of Linux Mint 10 “Julia” (Nov. 2011), a community site was published. This gives members more possibilities to interact with the technical aspects and development of Mint, as opposed to the more social role that the forums have.

Bugs, new ideas and translations can be reported to different launchpad pages, and art-work has gotten its own domain under linuxmint-art.org. Code can be found at github.com.

As mentioned before on this blog, Linux Mint also has a podcast, called Mintcast – “the podcast by the Linux Mint community for all users of Linux”.
In episode 54, the MintCast team had an interview (starting at 14:50 min.) with Jamie Boo Birse, the KDE edition maintainer living in Australia. This interview gives an excellent view upon the way some people contribute to Linux Mint.

Linux Mint 12 Lisa - (2012) Source: Wikimedia

Linux Mint 12 Lisa – (2012) Source: Wikimedia

The Money

Linux Mint gets its money from advertising on its sites, donations, partnership and sponsoring.

In a 2008 interview with distrowatch.com, Clement Lefebvre said that Mint hardly makes any money from supporting clients, as he wants to concentrate on developing Linux Mint. He did however mention a company created by him and ideas about future plans in another interview from 2008 on linuxmintusers.de, but seems to be more clear about his policy of letting development come before support in this interview from  June 2009 on tech-no-media.com.

So the above mentioned means of getting money are important. Donations can be made on this page, and are published on the blog. According to a blogpost, they received $7632.31from donations, and $1542.78 from sponsors in the month of November 2011. This brought about the following comment in the post:

“The donations we received this month were simply amazing. This is an all-time high since the creation of the project and the support we’ve been getting from the community during this release has been fantastic. The figures speak for themselves, $9,175 in total, 335 people offering help via donations, 150 sponsors, and this is just the visible tip of the iceberg, the tangible financial support! We’re also receiving patches, suggestions, ideas, bug fixes, and help in so many other ways. The IRC and forums are booming with people helping each others. There’s a lot to be proud of when you’re part of such a community. Many thanks for your support and to everyone out there in the community who help make Linux Mint better.”

A list of sponsors can be found here, and partners and vendors are listed here. Most partners are important for their offering of web-hosting, dedicated servers and bandwidth.

Since 2009 Clement Lefebvre could afford to work full-time on Linux Mint. According to his own words, about 10% of this time goes to the actual coding.

In January 2012 Linux Mint announced a partnership with Blue Systems, which included a cooperation with Netrunner, a KDE/GNU Linux distribution. This allowed Linux Mint to attract a second full-time developer for the whole year of 2012.

The Future

Although it is very hard to measure, if not impossible, it seems clear that Linux Mint is growing rapidly in number of users at the moment. Linux Mint is probably in the top 3 of the most used flavors of Linux and seems more vital than ever. This means that some form of reorganizing might be necessary.
In a long and recommendable interview with MintCast from January 2011, Clement Lefebvre expresses (around 1h.02 min. in the episode) his worries about having “too many users” for the number of developers working on Linux Mint. This number of users certainly has increased considerable since, but with the current success, the possibilities for funding and other help must have increased as well.

 

Sources:

http://www.linuxmint.com/

http://blog.linuxmint.com/

http://www.mintcast.org/

MintCast » Episode 50: Interview with Clem Lefebvre January 2011.

MintCast » Episode 54: Jamie Interview March 2011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_Mint

http://news.softpedia.com/news/Interview-Clement-Lefebvre-Linux-Mint-52754.shtml April 2007

http://www.fsdaily.com/Community/Interview_Clement_Lefebvre_of_Linux_Mint_by_Tony_Mobily-1/ Sept. 2007

http://www.linuxmintusers.de/index.php?topic=177.0 March 2008

http://www.tech-no-media.com/2009/06/interview-with-clem-from-linux-mint.html June 2009

http://distrowatch.com/weekly.php?issue=20100222 February 2010

http://www.com-sl.org/entrevista-a-clement-lefebvre-por-tuxinfo.html June 2011

 

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