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Linux Mint votes no on Snap packages, APT to block snapd installs

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The Linux Mint distribution team put out another of their monthly updates, and this month was quite interesting.

In the past the Linux Mint team had been quite vocal about Snaps, the next-generation Linux packaging system backed by Ubuntu maker Canonical. Like Flatpak, they're trying to redefine how Linux users install packages. The main issue here it seems (from what they said) is that Snaps are more locked-down. They compared Snaps to using proprietary software as you "can't audit them, hold them, modify them or even point snap to a different store", it pushes Ubuntu directly and Snaps are done in the background.

Mint's founder Clément Lefèbvre has said that with Linux Mint 20, they will push back firmly against Snaps. Currently in Ubuntu, which Mint builds off, Chromium is an empty package which installs a Snap (info) so the Mint team will ensure it tells you why and how to go and get Chromium yourself. Additionally, by default APT on Mint will not let snapd get installed but you will be able to do so manually.

NVIDIA users rejoice! NVIDIA Optimus is to get better Mint support, with their included applet being able to show your GPU and select what card to use from the menu.

Optimus support goes further though, as they will also now fully support the “On-Demand” profile too in the MATE and Cinnamon desktops directly. You will be able to get a menu option to run something with the more powerful NVIDIA GPU. Like we've seen GNOME be able to do with the 3.36 release:

As for theme changes, the additions and tweaks to colours they previously announced will not happen due to a fair amount of negative feedback. They're not stopping though, instead they will seek feedback about each colour option individually during the Beta period of Linux Mint 20.

See the Linux Mint monthly update here. Their attention to the small details are always nice to see.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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72 comments
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CatKiller 3 Jun, 2020
It's worth people watching this video - part of a much longer interview - so that they're informed about snaps.
Linas 3 Jun, 2020
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Did Mint retire their Debian version? No forced Snaps or Flatpaks there. They are available, if you want them, but it's your choice.


Last edited by Linas on 3 June 2020 at 9:40 am UTC
fagnerln 3 Jun, 2020
I understand the problem with Snap, but I really don't like the way that mint are working. An empty package is a silly idea, they should ask if the user cares about using snap or not and do the job.

It's funny they complaining about the ubuntu's base as LMDE evolves slowly.

Manjaro looks like have a good support to Snap, letting the user choose easily
Linas 3 Jun, 2020
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Quoting: fagnerlnI understand the problem with Snap, but I really don't like the way that mint are working. An empty package is a silly idea, they should ask if the user cares about using snap or not and do the job.
It's an empty package in Ubuntu. Mint are opposing this.
GBee 3 Jun, 2020
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Maybe I need more coffee, but I've no clue what "Snaps are more locked-down as they compared it to using proprietary software, it pushes Ubuntu directly and Snaps are done in the background." means?

Perhaps I should read the original for elucidation. The above explanation has severely confused me :(


Last edited by GBee on 3 June 2020 at 9:56 am UTC
CatKiller 3 Jun, 2020
Quoting: GBeeMaybe I need more coffee, but I've no clue what "Snaps are more locked-down as they compared it to using proprietary software, it pushes Ubuntu directly and Snaps are done in the background." means?

Perhaps I should read the original for elucidation. The above explanation has severely confused me :(

It's Liam's summary of Mint's position, but it's hard to make it clear because Mint's position is just argle bargle.

In Ubuntu chromium is distributed (by default - you can still use a PPA) as a snap, for the reasons Liam linked to. Snaps have a central repository that Canonical pays for and maintains, for the reasons listed in the video I linked to, but other developers can put their stuff on there (other developers putting their stuff on there is kinda the point).

These things have made the Mint people Very Angry.

There are issues with snaps, but they aren't the ones that people get Very Angry about.


Last edited by CatKiller on 3 June 2020 at 10:11 am UTC
g000h 3 Jun, 2020
Well, it's a good result as far as I'm concerned. Not a fan of alternative packaging systems. I just like to use the main one for the operating system, i.e. APT for Debian (and Debian clones) and RPM for Redhat (and clones).

Looking further into Snap myself, I notice that it adopts an update schedule very similar to Windows 10, i.e. Preventing the end-user from halting updates if they want to do so. Also Snaps introduce a bunch of file system mounts i.e. one extra mount point for each Snap which is active. No need to complain that you can turn this stuff off or hide it if you want to - My point about these two aspects is that it is the default behaviour and it is fiddly to deactivate.
CatKiller 3 Jun, 2020
Quoting: Guestyou're allowing a third party to have total access to your system even if you're using them from Mint, Fedora, Manjaro... they're a big security risk.

As opposed to PPAs?
GBee 3 Jun, 2020
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Yeah, reading more around the issue, this seems likely a completely flawed argument, and even back-firing argument by the Mint packagers. They argue that because Canonical builds the Snap packages they are proprietary, yet if the Mint team built the packages they are not. From the end-user perspective there is no difference - both are building packages that have to be decompiled in order to see what is actually in them.

What the Mint packagers seem most concerned about is their own demise. If the world moves to Snap then there will be less opportunity for them to screw with code before it reaches the end user. This is a future I can get behind, but ONLY IF the building of the Snap is done by the original application developers.

As a developer, we've long battled the packagers to get them to properly and faithfully provide their end users with the application we've poured thousands of hours of time into. Instead, many distributions quietly make changes of their own to the code before shipping a usually broken version under the name of the original. Because end users are usually unaware that they are getting something that's been modified by the packager they blame resulting bugs on the Devs and the product reputation suffers. The more public battles that resulted in the likes of IceFox (Firefox modified by Debian packagers) are just the tip of the iceberg.

Of course the source code remains open, and Mint packagers (amongst others) will remain free to create their own versions, but it will be much clearer that these aren't the original unmodified package as they would be required to change the package name to avoid collisions.

All in all, if they are arguing for greater transparency for end users, they are arguing against their own existence.

Now as a Dev I do have my own issues with Snap - namely that a full Snap distribution makes building and testing out changes much harder. I for one wouldn't want to use a Snap based distro for that reason, it would make my life significantly more difficult.
CatKiller 3 Jun, 2020
Quoting: GuestMy main grip with snap was when it installed chromium on my Kubuntu 19.10 it was slower to start. Even with a SSD.


Yep. First run startup of a graphical application is slow. It needs to set up an entire environment of all the things that the application expects to be there to keep it isolated from the actual environment.

The other big one is that, because the application is sandboxed and the default permissions are quite conservative, users don't have access to the files that they expect to from within a snap application.

QuoteAlso i do not get The point of snaps and flatpacks for open-source software well integrated in the distro. They are maybe less up-to-date but they take less disk space.


For normally-supported stuff, don't use snaps. Just use your normal package manager and get normal package manager updates.

But people want new stuff, even new open source stuff. Containerised applications are much better, and much more discoverable, than plonking on some PPA.

QuoteFor commercial software that is compiled once and not updated i understand better.

This is the big win. Users can find commercial software in the same place that they find open source software, and it all gets updated the same, without developers having to worry about fragmentation or library incompatibilities, or any of the other things that might scare them away.
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