Top Linux distro tells users: Stop using out of date versions, update your software now

Really, you need to update your software and this is how you do it, Mint maintainers say.

The maintainers of the Mint Linux distribution are calling on users to update their software after conducting research that found many of them are not keeping their software up-to-date.  

Linux Mint is a popular distribution of Linux based on Ubuntu and Debian. Linux Mint's research found that less than a third of its users update their browser within a week of a new version's release, and that 30% of users are running Linux Mint 17.x. The latter statistic is bad because that branch went out of support in April 2019, meaning these systems haven't received security updates for almost two years. 

The project released Linux Mint 20.1 in January and ZDNet's J.A. Watson has instructions on how to navigate the upgrade.  

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Mint maintainers note that the project doesn't actually have tools to accurately measure anything about its users' behavior. However, it does have enough to paint a rough picture of what they're doing, albeit in an "imprecise" and unreliable manner.  

"After we updated Firefox 85.0 we asked Yahoo to give us a breakdown of the Linux Mint traffic per user agent. These stats only covered users which use Yahoo of course but they did show us how fast the update was applied," said Clement Lefebvre of the Mint project in a blogpost

Mozilla released Firefox 85 in January, 2021, while Firefox 77 was released in June, 2020.  

"We were able to observe the fact that only 30% of users updated their web browser in less than a week. These statistics also show us users of recent Linux Mint releases which do not apply updates at all. For instance, a part of that traffic uses Firefox 77 (the version that shipped with Linux Mint 20)."

The project reminded users that no one should be using Linux Mint 17.x. "Anything above [0%] is not good, whether it's 5% or 30%," the team said. 

To help users, Linux Mint maintainers remind users to open a terminal or "shell". It has a tutorial on how to use commands versus relying on a graphical user interface (GUI). After opening a terminal, users should type "lsb_release -r" to check the version of Mint they're running. 

The page also includes instructions to install Timeshift, which comes with Linux Mint 18.3 or higher. 

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Then Mint users should Run Timeshift and configure it the first time it is run; press the "Create" button to perform a system snapshot to recover if a disaster happens. 

After this, users should run the Update Manager and hit "Refresh" to find updates that are available. Users need to check if a new version of the Update Manager is available, then hit "Install Updates" to update the computer.

"If you don't apply updates regularly then you should consider automating the process. In the Timeshift configuration screen you can automate system snapshots," the project notes.