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11.23.13

The Linux Mint Security Controversy Taken Out of Proportions, Distracting From Real Controversies

Posted in GNU/Linux, Ubuntu at 2:25 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Clement Lefebvre
Photo from linuxmint.com

Summary: A so-called accusation (made in a personal blog) causes a media storm which neither Clement Lefebvre nor Canonical seem to be happy about

ONE of the best GNU/Linux distros (distributions of GNU, Linux, and desktop environments, complete with general-purpose applications), based on relative measures of popularity at least, is Linux Mint. It is so popular that in DistroWatch it beats Ubuntu sometimes. Canonical, which is in the centre of several controversies (over trademarks, privacy, and request for ‘licensing’ of binary packages) must realise that alternatives like Linux Mint can outgrow Ubuntu. There is a screenshots tour of Linux Mint 16 [1] and the release is imminent (now in RC [2-5]).

“Neither side was particularly upset over the original remarks, so to frame it otherwise would be somewhat dishonest.”Some people want us to believe that Canonical uses FUD to discourage exploration of Mint as an alternative to Ubuntu (which Mint is a derivative of). Those people, however, base their analysis on the words of just one developer [6] whose words are rebutted by the Mint founder [7] (he is also unhappy about the source of the drama, namely Muktware [8,9], which led to more such coverage [10,11,12]). In trying to judge this, the whole scenario was a demonstration of media gone somewhat rogue, hostile where opportunism lies.

We have been watching this controversy closely for a number of days and it seems like sensationalist authors did a disservice and created an unnecessary rift. Neither side was particularly upset over the original remarks, so to frame it otherwise would be somewhat dishonest. It is very different from what happened recently when it comes to trademarks. Canonical and Shuttleworth (personally) were at fault and the EFF points this out in some follow-ups [13,14,15]. It is important to keep a sober balance and only criticise Canonical (Ubuntu steward) where the company (as a matter of company-wise policy) does something unethical. Presumption of guilt only leads to noise and distraction from the real issues.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Linux Mint 16 Petra Cinnamon Desktop screenshot preview

    Linux Mint 16, code-named Petra, will be the next stable edition of Linux Mint, a desktop distribution based on Ubuntu Desktop. It could be released sometime this month or early next month (December).

    This distribution’s release track record suggests that Linux Mint 16 will be released less than two weeks from today. And when that happens, it will be the first stable edition of Linux Mint with Cinnamon 2.0 desktop pre-installed.

  2. Linux Mint 16 release candidate available for download

    Today in Open Source: Download the release candidate of Linux Mint 16. Plus: Will preloads help Linux? And the top five Linux games

  3. Linux Mint 16 RC released
  4. Linux Mint 16 RC Is Out With Cinnamon, MATE Desktops

    The release candidate version is now out for Linux Mint 16 ‘Petra’ with MATE and Cinnamon 2.0 desktop flavors.

    It’s getting close to another six-month update for the Ubuntu-based Linux Mint and the big feature this time around is the Cinnamon 2.0 desktop.

  5. Linux Mint 16 RC Brings Cinnamon 2.0 and MATE 1.6

    Clement Lefebvre had the pleasure of announcing a few hours ago, November 15, 2013, that the Release Candidate version of both the Cinnamon and MATE editions of the upcoming Linux Mint 16 operating systems are now available for download, and testing, from mirrors worldwide.

  6. Ubuntu dev, media slammed over ‘security’ comment

    Among these outlets were the OMGUbuntu and Muktware sites, both of which only deal with Linux and FOSS stories. In that context, it was even more surprising that they carried such reports.

    Muktware editor Swapnil Bhartiya was asked whether reporter Monika Bhati, the person who filed the story quoting Grawert and contributing to the hysteria, was a Linux user and also whether she had taken a look at the Mint update utility before writing.

    His response: “She is a resident journalist and uses Windows/Linux. We got Robin Jacobs to dive into the git pages and comments in LM to see how updates are labelled.”

    Jacobs also wrote a story which, in effect, contradicted Bhati’s story – and both stories appeared within 4½ hours of each other on November 18.

    The editor of OMGUbuntu, which contributed to the same idea being spread, was asked similar questions to those put to Muktware.

  7. Answering controversy: Stability vs Security is something you configure
  8. Linux Mint falsely accused of being “insecure”
  9. Canonical developer criticizes Linux Mint’s security, called ‘a vulnerable system’

    Ubuntu developer Oliver Grawert does not prefer to do online banking with Linux Mint. The reason being its unsecure handling of packaging upgrades that could leave the system vulnerable to attacks.

  10. Canonical Developer Criticizes Linux Mint’s Security
  11. Does Linux Mint need better security?

    There have been disturbing reports in the media about Linux Mint having security problems. Is this something to worry about or has it been wildly overblown by the press?

  12. Lead Ubuntu Developer Claims Linux Mint is an Unsecure Distro – Is It?
  13. EFF responds: Mark Shuttleworth is still wrong”

    Though Lee was not required, by the law, to remove the logo he removed it.

  14. Trademark Law Does Not Require Companies To Tirelessly Censor the Internet

    Over the past few days, EFF and one of our staff technologists, the talented Micah Lee, have had an illuminating back and forth with Canonical Ltd over the use of the Ubuntu mark. While we don’t believe that Canonical has acted with malice or intent to censor, its silly invocation of trademark law is disturbing. After all, not everyone has easy recourse to lawyers and the ability to push back.

    That matters, because Canonical’s actions reflect a much bigger problem: a pervasive and unfounded belief that if you don’t police every unauthorized use of a trademark you are in danger of losing it. We hope that some clarity on this point might help companies step back from wasteful and censorious trademark enforcement.

    First, some background. This particular story begins in 2012, when Canonical made the disappointing and widely criticized decision to integrate Amazon results into searches conducted through Ubuntu’s desktop dash (this meant that a user searching for one of her own files would receive results from Amazon). At the time, we argued that this default setting raised significant privacy concerns. A few weeks ago, Micah published a web site—at https://fixubuntu.com—that provided users with code to disable this privacy-invasive “feature.”

  15. Electronic Frontier Foundation Goes After Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization devoted to the protection of freedom in the open source world, has criticized Canonical and Mark Shuttleworth.

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