Linux Mint users are surprisingly irresponsible regarding updates

Linux users are more knowledgeable regarding computer maintenance than Windows users, right? Maybe. That is certainty up for debate. With that said, Linux user may not be very responsible computer users. Well, Linux Mint users, at least.

You see, in a stunning development, it turns out Linux Mint users are often very behind in installing both operating system and application updates. In other words, Linux Mint users are often running outdated software, which could be no longer supported, or even worse, it could contain exploitable vulnerabilities. For example, a surprisingly high number of these users are running Linux Mint 17.x, which is unsupported since 2019!

Believe it or not, it is the Linux Mint developers that are highlighting this worrying trend. Yes, the devs are publicly embarrassing their own users in an effort to improve update percentages. With that said, the developers admit their metrics probably aren't very accurate -- they aren't entirely sure how many Linux Mint users are running outdated packages.

Shockingly, the developers claim as many as 30 percent of Linux Mint users are running version 17.x, which is unsupported for nearly two years. Clement Lefebvre, Linux Mint head developer, explains more below.

These stats come from two distinct sources, both highly unreliable.. as you can see there’s quite a gap between 5 and 30, but they both tell us the same story.

0 percent of users should run Linux Mint 17.x! Anything above is not good, whether it’s 5 percent or 30 percent.

Linux Mint 17.x reached EOL (End-Of-Life) in April 2019. In other words it stopped receiving security updates for almost 2 years now!

The 5 percent figure comes from your default browser start page. The longer you use Linux Mint after you installed it the more likely you are to have changed your first page, so we can reasonably assume the number is lower than reality.

The 30 percent figure comes from our APT repositories. It’s the traffic percentage we get from Linux Mint 17.x. It’s unreliable because APT got better at performing less HTTP requests for the same queries and we lowered the default cache update frequency in modern releases. It’s unreliable also because we’ve started and became better release after release at recommending the use of local mirrors, so there is naturally a higher proportion of users not using mirrors in older releases. We can reasonably assume the number is higher than reality.

Again, it really doesn’t matter to us if the real number is 10 percent or 15 percent. It needs to be 0 percent. We have mechanisms in place to tell users when a new release becomes available now, but we didn’t have them at the time of Linux Mint 17.x.

Say what you will about Microsoft "forcibly" installing updates on Window 10, but at least those users should be running an up-to-date operating system. While I don't think Linux Mint needs to go the forced-update route, the developers obviously need to do a better job of educating and informing its users about the importance of updates.

All of the blame isn't just with the users and developers, however. It is important to remember that not all Linux users installed the operating system themselves. If you installed Linux Mint on a friend or family member's PC years ago as a favor, for instance, you should probably check in on them and make sure they have been installing updates. In other words, if you switched someone to Linux, you are partially responsible for their digital well-being.

Are you surprised by how irresponsible many Linux Mint users are? Please tell me in the comments below.

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