Linux Mint 201104 Xfce

Linux Mint Debian Edition has proven to be a popular release for the Linux Mint developers. It’s certainly at the top of my list of favorite distros. Linux Mint Debian edition uses the GNOME desktop and, as good as it is, it’s just not right for some folks (especially those on older or slower computers).

Enter Linux Mint 201104 Xfce version. Now you can get the benefits of a rolling Debian distro and the virtues of the lightweight Xfce desktop environment. Linux Mint Xfce runs on top of a Debian Testing base and makes use of the same repositories as regular Linux Mint Debian Edition.

For those aren’t familiar with rolling release distros here’s a brief bit of background:

In software development, a rolling release approach refers to a continuously developing software system, as opposed to one with versions that must be reinstalled over the previous versions. It is one of many types of software release life cycles. Rolling releases are typically seen in use by Linux distributions. A rolling release is typically implemented using small and frequent updates. However, simply having updates does not automatically mean that a piece of software is using a rolling release cycle; to qualify as a rolling release, the philosophy of developers must be to work with one code branch, as opposed to discrete versions. Updates are typically delivered to users using a package manager and a software repository accessed through the internet. Not all distributions based on rolling release distros are themselves rolling. Conversely, there are rolling release distributions that are based on development branches of non-rolling distros; there are also (partial) rolling release distributions based on stable branches of non-rolling distros.

And if you aren’t familiar with Xfce, here’s a bit more background to bring you up to speed:

Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment for UNIX-like operating systems. It aims to be fast and low on system resources, while still being visually appealing and user friendly. Xfce embodies the traditional UNIX philosophy of modularity and re-usability. It consists of a number of components that provide the full functionality one can expect of a modern desktop environment. They are packaged separately and you can pick among the available packages to create the optimal personal working environment. Another priority of Xfce is adhereance to standards, specifically those defined at freedesktop.org. Xfce can be installed on several UNIX platforms. It is known to compile on Linux, NetBSD, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, Cygwin and MacOS X, on x86, PPC, Sparc, Alpha…

What’s New In This Release
Since this is a rolling release, there really wasn’t a coherent list of new features for this section of the review. However, you can browse the release announcement to gain some additional insight into the virtues of Linux Mint Xfce. I found it interesting that the other version of Linux Mint Debian Edition will eventually be called Linux Mint GNOME Debian or something like that.

Here are some of the highlights from the release notes:

Performance boost
Better software selection

Here are the figures from the Linux Mint blog regarding the performance boost:

  • Mint Xfce: 114 MB RAM (Mint 9 Xfce: 153 MB RAM)
  • Mint Xfce + Writer + Calc + Firefox: 177 MB RAM (Mint 9 Xfce + Writer + Calc + Firefox: 212 MB RAM)
  • Mint Xfce + Writer + Calc + Firefox + Thunderbird + VLC + Rhythmbox: 220 MB RAM (Mint 9 Xfce + Writer + Calc + Firefox + Thunderbird + Gnome MPlayer + Exaile: 256 MB RAM)

The big thing here obviously is the performance boost. I have not verified this but the figures presented seem quite reasonable and if they are true then I think users should be quite happy indeed with this release! That said, it’s not like running any Xfce version of Linux Mint was ever slow or pokey. It’s probably one of the most responsive, least bloated desktop environments you can pick to run. But if the Linux Mint developers can make it even better, I’m all for it.

The software selection basically puts it on par as the GNOME version including adding VLC and replacing Exaile with Rhythmbox. These are good moves and should add value for most users. Of course these programs were available for download but if they come installed by default now, so much the better especially for new users that might not have come across them before.

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Preinstall Boot Menu

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Live Desktop

Hardware Requirements & Installation

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Comments

  1. slumbergod says

    Still no home encryption option built into the installer?

    Hmmm, I think that is probably the main reason I won't try this despite its appeal.

  2. linux2u.co.cc says

    Always find XFCE and LDXE environment is fast compare to kde and gnome ,mint xfce is really fine but it could be more speedy distro

  3. Hugues-Antoine Suin says

    I agree with Bill B. Linux Mint Xfce is somewhat bloated. "Mainstream" (Gnome) programs are not as light as Xfce programs and make a mixed bag in the end.

    The distro stills looks unfinished as LMDE was unfinished when it came out. Some of the Ubuntu based Mint goodies are not adapted anymore to a Debian base. For instance Mint Update is inadapted and even useless. I think it was better to implement apt-listbugs and smxi to allow safer, simpler, debian way dist-upgrades. It's also a pity that the artwork was not adapted. Why still Linux Mint 10 wallpapers?

    I have used and loved Linux Mint for many years but IMHO CrunchBang Xfce, another distro based on Debian (stable, not testing) is at the moment the very best Debian based Xfce distro by far in all aspects.

  4. Brian Masinick says

    Bill B. wrote:

    Linux Mint XFCE may be lighter than other current desktops, but it still has unneeded code bloat. Modern XFCE in Linux Mint is slower and clunky when compared to older versions of Linux Mint XFCE (being Ubuntu based, not Debian based, which should not matter that much). I am very disappointed in the bloating of code over time. The performance has consequently degraded too.

    I was not impressed by Linux Mint XFCE, because it does not live up to the claims of low draw upon system resources, relative to the efficiency which could be achieved.

    Bill, there may be too many plugins enabled on your system then. Xfce, even today, can be made to be quite light and frugal, and the reason is because it is modular, so you can either add or remove components. If it is bloated, it is only because a lot, maybe all, of the the features, have been included. Take out what you don't need, and it is nearly as light as LXDE. I've used light, tight implementations of Xfce that started out using under 100 MB of RAM (before starting up a Web browser, that tends to shoot most systems up in the 200-300 MB range, some much higher than that). Linux Mint Xfce is not particularly extra light, as initially set up, but it's not a total pig either, and like all good Xfce implementations, it is configurable. Tighten it up and see how it does. Mine works fine.

  5. Bill B. says

    Linux Mint XFCE may be lighter than other current desktops, but it still has unneeded code bloat. Modern XFCE in Linux Mint is slower and clunky when compared to older versions of Linux Mint XFCE (being Ubuntu based, not Debian based, which should not matter that much). I am very disappointed in the bloating of code over time. The performance has consequently degraded too.

    I was not impressed by Linux Mint XFCE, because it does not live up to the claims of low draw upon system resources, relative to the efficiency which could be achieved.

  6. says

    darkduck wrote:

    I generally don’t like Mint. But Mint XFCE is very good!

    My notes about it:
    http://linuxblog.darkduck.com/2011/04/9-steps-to-

    Pretty decent review, Dark Duck. I think that you cover a couple of perspectives and take a somewhat different look at things than Jim did.

    I don't think that Linux Mint 201104 Xfce (or LMDX, as some people referred to it in your blog comments), isn't the fastest, the easiest, the cleanest, or the most finely honed system, whether Xfce based or not, but it is a very good overall blend of these things. While not the fastest, it is reasonably fast. While not the easiest, it is close. While not the cleanest, it is not a mess by a long shot. The primary Mint is probably one of the most complete systems (rivaled by PCLinuxOS, but PCLinuxOS pays for its approach with a great deal of overhead; Mint does a much better job at this).

    LMDX loses a bit of the polish of its parent, but gains the capabilities of a rolling release and the clear use of underlying Debian packaging tools that its parent seems to discourage.

    I think that straight Debian Testing is just a bit faster, but that's mainly because it has fewer Python based tools (which do have some resource costs to them).

    You can't beat LMDE/LMDX when it comes to including the typical add-ons. You can get them fairly easily with Debian, but you do have to know how to do that and it does take a bit of time. Those who gain satisfaction from setting things up themselves will prefer Debian, and those who want the time convenience LMDX offers will definitely like this one.

    I already have a Debian Sid system set up and finely tuned with Xfce, and it has other environments too. I can't see LMDX out-doing my Sid setup, but I've probably put as much "development effort", if not more, into my effort than the LMDE team has put into theirs (I had more time, after all). Someone coming in and starting today would definitely have the jump with LMDX.

    By the way, one last note on how I created my alternative. I just grabbed a bootable, installable, snapshot live instance of Debian Testing last Fall, then I put the stuff I wanted on it, then converted to Sid and upgraded, and it was just what I wanted. I used a great tool called smxi to put together my system.

    Maybe some day I will remaster it and call it "Masix" or something to that effect. Meanwhile, LMDX does a pretty darn good job.

  7. Brian Masinick says

    Jim, concerning the problem you encountered one time, after using Synaptic, then using the Software Manager, I ran into a similar issue. At the time, the system, whether it was the repository collection I was using, the network, something consuming too many resources on my system, or a combination of these things, I also encountered a problem, and at one stage, Software Manager flatly refused to work. I got into the system at the command level and did some quick diagnosis. I forget exactly what my conclusion was, whether a package lock had failed to close, or some other synchronization mechanism left an artifact behind, but with a combination of Debian command line magic, I got the issue resolved, discovered that the command line tools were working better than they had in an earlier build of LMDE, so I was happy.

    I think there is probably a defect in there somewhere, but it's not a high profile defect, and as long as people either use a standard tool and stick with it, or really know what they are doing, they are not as likely as you or me to run into any package related issue at all.

  8. Brian Masinick says

    Nice to see you get back to this one Jim. My opinion of it is that they have significantly and measurably improved upon the versions the LMDE project was stumbling around with around Christmas time, and they seem to have resolved the issues that they were having then that first delayed the release until the week between Christmas and New Year, then resulted in yet another quick update the first week of January. Those things seem to be passed.

    Moreover, one thing that bothered me several months ago was what appeared to be a disabling of things like doing a classic command line dist-upgrade. I don't see that issue any more, which may not matter to most of your readers, but as you also pointed out in your review, choice is good, and I prefer the choice to manage packages at a lower level; it is faster and I can see what is taking place. So I'm happy they got that restriction lifted. Package authentication is also an issue of the past, and I am happy with that as well.

    Comparing this system on a performance level with other Xfce-based distributions, such as Xubuntu, Debian itself, or other Debian derivatives, this one fares comparably to them. Compared to another easy to use system that can optionally include Xfce, the consumer friendly PCLinuxOS, which I happen to be running at the moment, PCLinuxOS throws the "kitchen sink" into its distributions, so unless you grab an Xfce only variation of PCLinuxOS, it will have a great selection of software, but considerable feature bloat, so much so, in fact, that you may not appreciate any speed gains with Xfce at all. I am using PCLinuxOS with IceWM, one of the lightest window managers you can find, yet this system is consuming more memory, because of the extras they turn on by default, than even a full featured KDE desktop. It works well, and it provides anything you can possibly think of, but for the minimalist at heart, yes, you are definitely better off with LMDE with the Xfce desktop. Beginners who have a system that is less than three years old, however, may be better suited to PCLinuxOS than Linux Mint Xfce Debian Edition.

    I'd like to see a shootout or comparison between Xubuntu and this Linux Mint Xfce system. I am pretty sure you favor the Mint-style software manager, but they ought to go toe to toe pretty well in most other respects and come out at or near the top of your review tower. Are you up to or planning to review Xubuntu, since you reviewed most of the other Canonical 11.04 releases? I hope so; I think Xubuntu is the best of the bunch there and its a great alternative to either this Mint derivative or to Ubuntu itself.

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