I spent four days last week attending Ohio LinuxFest 2014, one of the busiest and most successful Linux shows in the country. It was my honor and privilege to deliver the closing keynote this year, and much of what I said either alluded to or squarely addressed our trust in free open source software.
That should be a no-brainer, right? I mean, GNU/Linux, or just “Linux”, is rooted in FOSS applications and principle.
Except when it’s not.
Here’s what I want to know. Is replacing a well known application in Linux with a crippled version acceptable when it’s done in the name of stability? I’ll go ahead and place myself in front of you for scorn and castigation by admitting that I’ve been a member of the Slashdot community since 2002. Everyone has a sig line, right? Mine was thoroughly honed to be as concise a possible:
“Windows assumes you are an idiot…Linux demands proof.”
In other words, for the most part, Linux users are in complete control of everything in/on their system. Linux will allow you to completely bugger your installation, because as a user you have the responsibility to know what you are doing. Fools are not suffered gladly when using Linux. You wanna play with the rm command? Go ahead…it’s your computer.
Some lessons are best learned the hard way.
So here’s my point. I’m a big fan of Linux Mint. So much a fan that we modify the Mint KDE LTS to serve the needs of our Reglue kids. I think it was somewhere around the middle of the support time for the Maya release that I noted something odd. You could no longer use Synaptic to update your computer. I mean, you could install packages in Synaptic, but the means to update or upgrade your system was completely missing.
Mint had already made upgrades a bit more difficult by making you choose all apps with a ctrl+A command and then right click to update all apps. But now, you can’t do even that. The Mark All Upgrades button is completely missing. It wasn’t stripped out; from my understanding, Synaptic had been replaced by Mint’s version of Synaptic. You can search and install applications with it…you just can’t upgrade your system with it.
Why? Let’s take a look. From the author of Tux Tweaks:
“I’ve written before how to restore the Mark All Upgrades button to Synaptic in Linux Mint. Things have changed in the latest version: Linux Mint 17 Qiana. The previous technique no longer works because the Mint team is providing their own version of Synaptic rather than using the package from the Ubuntu repositories. The following will show how to restore the Mark All Upgrades button to Synaptic in Linux Mint 17.”
So they are providing their own version of Synaptic? Why…when the regular synaptic works just fine? And that’s the problem. Synaptic allows you to upgrade every app, kernel release, theme, script and software voodoo curse you chose to update, but in the Mint world that can be a problem…or so it seems.
The Mint Update Manager is a slick and fantastic piece of code. It’s preformed flawlessly for me when I choose to use it. See what I did there? When I choose to use it.
By default in the Mint Update Manager, applications and other software in the repositories are coded by numbers, one through five. Those are the levels of safety the installation presents. One through three are just fine and install at will. If you want to live dangerously and install software considered “dangerous”, at levels four and five, you have to go into the settings and agree that you understand the possible negative consequences.
That’s not such a bad thing, right? I’m not gonna gripe about that in particular. What I will gripe about is completely neutering Synaptic as an alternative method of system upgrade/update.
“Remember kids, this is for your own good. You might break something and I don’t have time to fix it. Now run along and play nice.”
And by the way…someone has created a work around of sorts to get Synaptic to work correctly in Mint via a downgrade of Synaptic. I’m not endorsing or condoning. I haven’t tried it myself. I’m simply providing this link for your review and consideration.
See, it wasn’t too long ago that a program called Mintconstructor was removed from the Mint repositories because of some people taking liberties with the Mint system without giving credit to the Mint creators. That’s what I understand anyway. The results of that donnybrook are fading in the search results.
Our Reglue 2014 Volunteer of the Year, Randy Noseworthy ran into this problem when adding apps for the Reglue respin. Being the brilliant guy he is, he hacked it together enough to make it work for the Linux Mint 17 LTS spin. But he did that by the seat of the pants…he doubts he will be able to do so in the future.
So are there any other methods of doing respins? You bet. One of them is called UCK.
“But Ken…Ken, UCK is for native (K)Ubuntu systems, not Linux Mint.”
That’s my point. Exactly.
Ken Starks is the founder of the Helios Project and Reglue, which for 20 years provided refurbished older computers running Linux to disadvantaged school kids, as well as providing digital help for senior citizens, in the Austin, Texas area. He was a columnist for FOSS Force from 2013-2016, and remains part of our family. Follow him on Twitter: @Reglue