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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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74 comments
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GBee 5 Jun
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Quoting: Purple Library Guy
Quoting: GBeeWhat 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
That's ridiculous. If I choose to use a particular distribution, I want the people in charge of that distribution to have control over the packages. If I wanted the packagers of a different distribution to have control, I would have chosen that different distribution. Duh.

You seem to be misunderstanding the difference between distro level customisation and packagers silently modifying and f***ing up applications in all sorts of ways for no good reason and usually without end-users even being aware. Packages being created by _developers_ of the original application (you decided to ignore that part of my comment) would avoid a lot of instability, bugs, security flaws and provide consistency in application behaviour but would not prevent distros customising configurations, themes and generally deciding the mix of default packages to give their own spin.
14 5 Jun
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I don't know where I stand on snaps, but I do like that Mint is making another step to make themselves distinct from Ubuntu. I'm not saying I hate Ubuntu either. I just like choice. But I don't like when you have 20 options and each of them are barely different at all.
Quoting: GBee
Quoting: Purple Library Guy
Quoting: GBeeWhat 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
That's ridiculous. If I choose to use a particular distribution, I want the people in charge of that distribution to have control over the packages. If I wanted the packagers of a different distribution to have control, I would have chosen that different distribution. Duh.

You seem to be misunderstanding the difference between distro level customisation and packagers silently modifying and f***ing up applications in all sorts of ways for no good reason and usually without end-users even being aware. Packages being created by _developers_ of the original application (you decided to ignore that part of my comment) would avoid a lot of instability, bugs, security flaws and provide consistency in application behaviour but would not prevent distros customising configurations, themes and generally deciding the mix of default packages to give their own spin.
But Snaps would prevent all that. They're centralized to Ubuntu and can't be modified by other distros that carry them. That's the point of Mint avoiding them and hence the point of the article. If you're talking about something different you should perhaps signal that you're shifting off topic.
But in any case, no I'm not. The thing is, you're looking at things from a packager's perspective, but I'm looking at things from an end-user perspective, and as an end-user I have no real way to judge between packagers' ideas of what's a good package and Distro maintainers' ideas of what makes a good package, but I have some notion who the distro people are and basically no idea about the packagers. I don't choose between packagers, I choose between distros. So my instinct is going to be that no, I want the people I have some ability to choose between, to have the power to make alterations. Come to that, if I'm acquiring a whole system, I want the people testing it as a whole system to be deciding what's good security, not the people creating tiny individual bits in isolation. If that upsets some package maintainers, that's a pity, but too bad.
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Quoting: Purple Library Guy
Quoting: GBee
Quoting: Purple Library Guy
Quoting: GBeeWhat 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
That's ridiculous. If I choose to use a particular distribution, I want the people in charge of that distribution to have control over the packages. If I wanted the packagers of a different distribution to have control, I would have chosen that different distribution. Duh.

You seem to be misunderstanding the difference between distro level customisation and packagers silently modifying and f***ing up applications in all sorts of ways for no good reason and usually without end-users even being aware. Packages being created by _developers_ of the original application (you decided to ignore that part of my comment) would avoid a lot of instability, bugs, security flaws and provide consistency in application behaviour but would not prevent distros customising configurations, themes and generally deciding the mix of default packages to give their own spin.
But Snaps would prevent all that. They're centralized to Ubuntu and can't be modified by other distros that carry them. That's the point of Mint avoiding them and hence the point of the article. If you're talking about something different you should perhaps signal that you're shifting off topic.
But in any case, no I'm not. The thing is, you're looking at things from a packager's perspective, but I'm looking at things from an end-user perspective, and as an end-user I have no real way to judge between packagers' ideas of what's a good package and Distro maintainers' ideas of what makes a good package, but I have some notion who the distro people are and basically no idea about the packagers. I don't choose between packagers, I choose between distros. So my instinct is going to be that no, I want the people I have some ability to choose between, to have the power to make alterations. Come to that, if I'm acquiring a whole system, I want the people testing it as a whole system to be deciding what's good security, not the people creating tiny individual bits in isolation. If that upsets some package maintainers, that's a pity, but too bad.

For me it's mostly a matter of trust. Like you I choose my distributions carefully, I don't like using PPAs or the AUR, I don't like using proprietary software outside a sandbox.
When I hear that snaps are packaged by someone I don't know, put on a canonical server, which uses a proprietary snapd to deliver that software to users, who think they just installed an apt package, then I'm glad the Mint devs oppose it.
Intuitively I like flatpaks morr. I use Flatpak Steam, because it's great to have one sandboxed Steam installation for different distros that solves most possible compatibility issues, but I must admit there are open questions about Flatpak/Flathub security too. How regularly are packages updated? Who maintains packages? How transparent are package contents?
CatKiller 7 Jun
Quoting: Neverthelesswho think they just installed an apt package

You really should read the link that Liam gave. There is exactly one package that does that, which was widely publicised, and the reason for picking that package for dogfooding snaps is
QuoteIn summary: there are several factors that make Chromium a good candidate to be transitioned to a snap:

  • It’s not the default browser in Ubuntu so has lower impact by virtue of having a smaller user-base

  • Snaps are explicitly designed to support a high frequency of stable updates

  • The upstream project has three release channels (stable, beta, dev) that map nicely to snapd’s default channels (stable, beta, edge). This enables users to easily switch release of Chromium, or indeed have multiple versions installed in parallel

  • Having the application strictly confined is an added security layer on top of the browser’s already-robust sand-boxing mechanism
as given in Liam's link.

If Mint don't like Ubuntu's packages they can maintain their own.
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Quoting: CatKiller
Quoting: Neverthelesswho think they just installed an apt package

You really should read the link that Liam gave. There is exactly one package that does that, which was widely publicised, and the reason for picking that package for dogfooding snaps is
QuoteIn summary: there are several factors that make Chromium a good candidate to be transitioned to a snap:

  • It’s not the default browser in Ubuntu so has lower impact by virtue of having a smaller user-base

  • Snaps are explicitly designed to support a high frequency of stable updates

  • The upstream project has three release channels (stable, beta, dev) that map nicely to snapd’s default channels (stable, beta, edge). This enables users to easily switch release of Chromium, or indeed have multiple versions installed in parallel

  • Having the application strictly confined is an added security layer on top of the browser’s already-robust sand-boxing mechanism
as given in Liam's link.

If Mint don't like Ubuntu's packages they can maintain their own.

I did read it. I always read that blog.
Yes it's only one package, and thats what I said.
There is nothing wrong with Ubuntu packages. Why shouldn't the Mint devs use them?
Snaps, Flatpaks, Appimages, PPAs, AUR packages, proprietary software from the internet, etc, are something you should install informed with care and trust. To install a snap with the apt tools is like sneaking that snap and the snap tools into your system without telling you.
Linux Mint do not ban snaps, they give you a little more work to install them, which gives you a chance to know what they are before you have one on your system.
Bestia 7 Jun
Quoting: NeverthelessTo install a snap with the apt tools is like sneaking that snap and the snap tools into your system without telling you.

But the apt will tell you about installation of snapd and that it installs snap package.

$ sudo apt install chromium-browser
Zostaną zainstalowane następujące NOWE pakiety:
  chromium-browser
0 aktualizowanych, 1 nowo instalowanych, 0 usuwanych i 2 nieaktualizowanych.
Konieczne pobranie 48,4 kB archiwów.
Po tej operacji zostanie dodatkowo użyte 164 kB miejsca na dysku.
Pobieranie:1 http://ftp.agh.edu.pl/ubuntu focal-updates/universe amd64 chromium-browser amd64 81.0.4044.129-0ubuntu0.20.04.1 [48,4 kB]
Pobrano 48,4 kB w 0s (174 kB/s)               
Prekonfiguracja pakietów ...
Wybieranie wcześniej niewybranego pakietu chromium-browser.
(Odczytywanie bazy danych ... 374287 plików i katalogów obecnie zainstalowanych.)

Przygotowywanie do rozpakowania pakietu .../chromium-browser_81.0.4044.129-0ubuntu0.20.04.1_amd64.deb ...
=> Installing the chromium snap
==> Checking connectivity with the snap store
==> Installing the chromium snap
snap "chromium" is already installed, see 'snap help refresh'
=> Snap installation complete


I have snapd on my system if I didn't have it apt would list it as a package that will be installed.


Last edited by Bestia on 7 June 2020 at 5:53 pm UTC
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Quoting: Bestia
Quoting: NeverthelessTo install a snap with the apt tools is like sneaking that snap and the snap tools into your system without telling you.

But the apt will tell you about installation of snapd and that it installs snap package.

$ sudo apt install chromium-browser
Zostaną zainstalowane następujące NOWE pakiety:
  chromium-browser
0 aktualizowanych, 1 nowo instalowanych, 0 usuwanych i 2 nieaktualizowanych.
Konieczne pobranie 48,4 kB archiwów.
Po tej operacji zostanie dodatkowo użyte 164 kB miejsca na dysku.
Pobieranie:1 http://ftp.agh.edu.pl/ubuntu focal-updates/universe amd64 chromium-browser amd64 81.0.4044.129-0ubuntu0.20.04.1 [48,4 kB]
Pobrano 48,4 kB w 0s (174 kB/s)               
Prekonfiguracja pakietów ...
Wybieranie wcześniej niewybranego pakietu chromium-browser.
(Odczytywanie bazy danych ... 374287 plików i katalogów obecnie zainstalowanych.)

Przygotowywanie do rozpakowania pakietu .../chromium-browser_81.0.4044.129-0ubuntu0.20.04.1_amd64.deb ...
=> Installing the chromium snap
==> Checking connectivity with the snap store
==> Installing the chromium snap
snap "chromium" is already installed, see 'snap help refresh'
=> Snap installation complete


I have snapd on my system if I didn't have it apt would list it as a package that will be installed.

What about installations from the software center (GUI)?
Bestia 7 Jun
Software center already displays only the snap version.

Also the software center doesn't inform users about pretty much anything besides the installation progres. You don't know what additional packages are installed but ordinary users don't care. They just want the program.
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