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Debian's Cinnamon desktop maintainer quits because he thinks KDE is better now

Panic over for users as others step up to take his place

Norbert Preining, the maintainer of the Cinnamon desktop packages for Debian, is quitting as he no longer uses it – though others have volunteered to take his place.

The origins of the Cinnamon desktop go back to 2011 and the release of the controversial GNOME 3 desktop, which introduced radical changes. Some Linux users preferred the desktop metaphor offered by GNOME 2.x, including the Linux Mint team. The MATE desktop was a fork of GNOME 2, while the Linux Mint folk made Cinnamon, a fork of GNOME 3 designed to retain the design of GNOME 2, using the Mint Gnome Shell Extensions (MGSE). Cinnamon later became a full fork of GNOME 3.

Cinnamon remains the default desktop for Linux Mint (which also offers MATE and Xfce editions), but is also available for other distributions including Debian. Mint itself is based on Ubuntu, though there is also a Linux Mint Debian edition (LMDE).

Preining caused some consternation last week when he stated: "Since my switch to KDE/Plasma, I haven't used Cinnamon in months." Preining said that he left GNOME 3 because of its "complete lack of usability for pro-users" and adopted Cinnamon because of what he felt was the bloat "during the bad days of KDE 3 and 4". However, he is a recent convert, calling it "more lightweight, faster, responsive, integrated, customizable" than earlier versions.

The switch made him unenthusiastic about continuing to maintain Cinnamon for Debian. He has completed work packaging Cinnamon 4 for Debian Bullseye (the next version, currently in testing), but acknowledged that Cinnamon 5 is already available and that he "will most probably NOT be packaging Cinnamon 5, nor do any real packaging work of Cinnamon for Debian in the future."

Although the default desktop for Debian is GNOME (version 3.38 in the case of Bullseye since GNOME 40 was released too late to be included), the threatened loss of the Cinnamon option did not please users. Fortunately for them, Joshua Peisach has stepped up to replace him, adding in the statement on the Debian list that he hoped to be joined by another volunteer as "just hopping up to be the one man is difficult."

LMDE was not directly affected since the Mint team packages Cinnamon for this edition, but nevertheless the news was welcomed by its users with one stating that "LMDE users were concerned."

By way of contrast, a comment to Preining's post said: "Thank you. We need fewer desktops." While diversity is a good thing, it also dilutes resources, arguably making it harder for Linux to compete with commercial products. Even a decade later, there remain rumblings of dissatisfaction with the direction of GNOME, while for some KDE is tainted by association with the commercial Qt company and the dual-licensing of the Qt component libraries. There is also value in offering a choice between full-featured desktops like GNOME and KDE, versus lightweight takes like Xfce.

There is little sign of consolidation in the free software desktop world, with newcomers like the GNOME-based COSMIC gaining interest as well as the more experimental retro-minimalist helloSystem. ®

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