Likely developments in UM regarding snaps

Over the past couple of years I have tried just about all of the top 40 or so distros (except OpenSuse which I've never been able to get to work) but have always come back to Ubuntu Mate. However, I'm not a fan of snaps. I have removed snap from UM and have lost AFAIK only the Welcome package (which I never use) and the Software Boutique (which I never found to be of any use).
I wonder if anyone can respond to the following:

  1. Is there likely to be an official snap-free version of UM?
  2. Will snaps be reinstalled when I next upgrade UM?
  3. Is the use of snaps likely to be increased in future UM versions?

Hi and welcome to the community !

1 - I don't think so as Canonical heavily promote snaps. There would be no point in releasing a snap-free version of Ubuntu MATE (when you can get rid of them with two commands if you dislike snaps) except confusing new users. This is a small team and devs already have a lot to do. However, If snaps ended up bombing for whatever reason, I assume UM would end up snap-free.

2 - I think so. Prepare a script with the commands you just entered to get rid of them, should it happen. Clean installs are always better anyway and quick to do as well if you take the time to backup the adequate files and make a post-install script with all the software you use.

3 - I have absolutely no idea.

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Not if you use LinuxMint method of apt preferences. Following is from /etc/apt/preferences.d/nosnap.pref of LM.

# To prevent repository packages from triggering the installation of Snap,
# this file forbids snapd from being installed by APT.
# For more information: https://linuxmint-user-guide.readthedocs.io/en/latest/snap.html

Package: snapd
Pin: release a=*
Pin-Priority: -10

That's for upgrades after you have gotten rid of all traces of snaps on your PC. On fresh install you will get snaps obviously (at the very least snapd and couple of UM snaps).

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Welcome!

Is there likely to be an official snap-free version of UM?

@Utsuro nailed it :+1: A few commands and it's gone - building a non-snap ISO is overkill. :cd:

If anyone wants the non-snap package of Welcome / Software Boutique, I maintain the PPA for them:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-mate-dev/welcome
sudo apt install ubuntu-mate-welcome 

Will snaps be reinstalled when I next upgrade UM?

Only if you reinstall the ubuntu-mate-desktop metapackage or any package in future decides to depend on snapd (like chromium-browser). Hopefully Chromium is the one and only exception - and doesn't start a trend.


Is the use of snaps likely to be increased in future UM versions?

With our project leader being the leader of Ubuntu desktop as well, there is a possibility Ubuntu MATE could be used as a testing ground for snaps, like how they were originally piloted in 17.10 before being added by default in 18.04.

From what I know, there isn't an evil mastermind plan for snaps to take over Debian packages :smiling_imp: nor any plans for this flavour to bundle any more at this time.

I'm not a fan myself, but since it's just a default, we're not locked or forced to use the format. Just a bit of inconvenience after a fresh install :slight_smile:

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Thank you all very much for the answers.

Perhaps one could say is there a point in including snaps for just two applications when you can install snap yourself if you want to? Unless UM is buying into the snap philosophy. Snaps seem to be very controversial. The (small) poll here gave two thirds of respondents not wanting them in UM.

Sadly, time for more distro hopping perhaps?

UM is obviously «buying into the snap philosophy» since it's an Ubuntu Flavour and as @lah7 reminded us, its project leader is the director of Ubuntu Desktop at Canonical and likes to try new stuff on his creation that is Ubuntu MATE.

You can make a controversy out of basically anything on a GNU/Linux distribution (systemd ? Gnome's code of conduct ? Firefox the privacy default browser that sports Google as its default search engine and puts Facebook/Twitter in its search bar top sites from the company that fires its engineers while the CEO makes more and more money ? MPV's recent turmoil with its former main maintainer ? That one distro where the team bought gaming laptops with user donations ? Zorin OS that used to count the number of users with telemetry etc...).

An unofficial poll with ~10 power users on a board doesn't tell much about how the global user base of a distro thinks. Keep in mind this «annoyance» takes less time to get rid of than the time it takes someone to write a post here (or distro hopping ...).

If you tried ~40 distros in a 2 year span you should know for now that no perfect distro exists as you just cannot please everybody with default settings/software. It always require a bit of tinkering.

However, If you like the MATE desktop and would like to hop, there's Linux Mint MATE, OpenSUSE Leap/Tumbleweed with MATE, Manjaro MATE or Arch/Gentoo etc... let's hope you find one that fills your needs in the end.

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Thanks Utsuro. Interesting, I didn't realise some of that.
Anyway, I wish everyone at/with UM well (as off I hop).

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From the distro's maintenance point of view, those two default applications did become a snap because that update model suits their purpose.

  • :ubuntu_mate: Welcome - for the latest documentation and translations.
  • :boutique: Software Boutique - because it's a curated collection of software, and its database is stored within the application (it's not downloaded remotely).

Before, the user had to explicitly click a button to "subscribe for updates" (add the PPA) via either program, but new users might had missed it or misunderstood why. Updating the Boutique database is essential to stop software breaking because of external factors, such as Spotify changing their signing key. Some software isn't available from an Ubuntu repo.

Official flavour policies may had influenced this too:

  • PPAs cannot be pre-installed (possibly for security reasons)
  • Updates to the package had to go through a SRU process.
    • That could take some time for someone at Ubuntu to review, but it could be rejected if it's not a bug or qualified for updates.

:+1: Upside of snap: delta updates - could be as small as a few 100 kBs rather then downloading a new 30 MB package.

:man_shrugging: Debatable: auto-updating

:-1: Downside: Welcome doesn't appear straight away in a live session or after a first boot! And that non-standard ~/snap directory in the home folder. :expressionless:


Best wishes to you too @Algy, maybe we'll see you hop by again :wave: A few members stick around here even though they don't use an Ubuntu implementation of MATE. Like I use Manjaro since rolling release works best for me!

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Hello Algy

Have you thought of trying MX Linux? Debian-based (Debian stable) {Ubuntu is based on Debian testing - as far as I know}, only uses Systemd if you choose to do so, Flatpak (Flathub) integration in the package manager, version with newer kernel based on Debian testing also available. Default desktop Xfce, others available. Snaps can be installed if desired, but the snap-infrastructure is not installed by default. It is not Ubuntu-Mate, but does have its use case.

Snaps
Ubuntu has put a lot of effort (read time and money) into reaching out to software developers to encourage them to package their software for Linux. The selling line "package once, distribute to many Linux distributions", is what non-Linux developers want to hear. This is a pragmatic approach to getting more software from non-Linux environments available to Linux users.
Some Linux users have an opinion about this, others just want to be able to use their computer to get stuff done. Both are entitled to their point of view. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thanks alpinejohn (reminds me of ‘Alpine Joe’ in Jeeves & Wooster).

I’m on Mint Mate now, but I have tried MX Linux a 2 or 3 times, but each time (from a USB stick) it froze after a short while. I did investigate installing it to a spare partition, but didn’t get past the keyboard selection! Now I know I’m a bit of a nincompoop (my wife says my latin species name is 'twerpus twerpus') but I was a bit puzzled to see only US keyboards to choose from. Eventually I twigged that you had to ADD the keyboard so I added UK then was asked for the variant! What? No idea - none of them seemed to apply to my keyboard. Now I’ve never had any problem selecting my UK keyboard in any of the many other distros I’ve looked at – indeed many are automatic or very easy, some give pictures and test areas etc. That looked rather user unfriendly of MX and did not bode well, so it put me off investigating further.

I'm very impressed that you have managed to try 40 distros. It takes me all my time keeping abreast of Ubuntu/Ubuntu Mate. Every time I have to upgrade the version, it takes me about six weeks before I've got everything running the way I like it to.

Well, desconocido, maybe 'try' was too strong a word. Perhaps 'looked at'.
Looked at the live version, played around with it, tried to get a feel for it and its possibilities, compared it with Ubuntu Mate, etc. Sometimes I took an almost instant dislike to a distro, sometimes I used it for quite a while (don't forget it was all over a period of years), sometimes I was not impressed by the general 'tenor' of the distro/forum.
When I first started with Linux I tried Mint (and nearly gave up on linux because I found Cinnamon, for me, to be confusing and very beginner unfriendly). When I found Mate I felt much more at home. After quite a while with Mint Mate I felt UM was a bit 'nicer', and up until now UM was my go-to distro. I suppose I 'evaluate' others by that (high) standard.

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I am trying out UM. My main objection to snaps is that they are updated without any user control. Is there a method to just permanently disable snap daemon?

And I notice that in LM I get a list of updates, but no possibility to disable update of individual application/packages. Am I missing something there?
TIA