Each time Ubuntu is updated, we get also get another version of Linux Mint. I usually end up reviewing most of the Linux Mint derivatives of Ubuntu. This time around though, we’ve gotten a delightful surprise from the Linux Mint developers. A Debian version of Linux Mint! Yes, there is now a rolling release Linux Mint distro!
When I found out about it, I couldn’t resist doing a review. Frankly, I was not aware that the Linux Mint developers had even undertaken this project, but I’m very glad that they did. It’s the icing on an already very sweet Linux Mint cake, to say the least.
Before I get into the review, I’m sure some of you have some questions about this release. The Linux Mint developers have released an FAQ that I’ve reproduced here to help alleviate any concerns of potential Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) users:
1. Is LMDE compatible with Ubuntu-based Linux Mint editions?
No, it is not. LMDE is compatible with Debian, which isn’t compatible with Ubuntu.
2. Is LMDE fully compatible with Debian?
Yes, 100%. LMDE is compatible with repositories designed for Debian Testing or Debian Squeeze.
3. What is a rolling distribution?
LMDE constantly receives updates. Its ISO images are updated now and then but users do not require to re-install it on their systems.
4. How does LMDE compare to the Ubuntu-based editions?
* You don’t need to ever re-install the system. New versions of software and updates are continuously brought to you.
* It’s faster and more responsive than Ubuntu-based editions.
* Although it’s using Romeo for unstable packages, LMDE continuously changes as it receives updates and new software. Compared to a frozen version of Linux Mint which changes very little once it’s publicly released, it’s not as stable. Things are likely to break more often but fixes can also come quicker. For this reason, LMDE requires a deeper knowledge and experience with Linux, dpkg and APT.
* Debian is a less user-friendly/desktop-ready base than Ubuntu. Expect some rough edges.
5. Will it come in 64-bit? With KDE or other desktops?
The decision wasn’t made yet. LMDE is an experiment. Although we’re quite confident it will gain in popularity, we want to get an idea of how many users will switch to a Debian base before going further with it and bringing impacts to other editions. The idea of reaching the same level of functionality without using Ubuntu is quite challenging. It means there are missing pieces in the equation, components which need to be ported or re-written, and whether the pros outweight the cons, this is something we need to assess. A 32-bit Debian-based Gnome edition allows us to work on this with the community. When it’s fully on par with the Main Edition and if there is a demand for it, further editions will come for LMDE.
What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release. Some of these features are also in the Ubuntu version, so I’ve reproduced some of my comments about them from the original Linux Mint 9 Isadora review while also noting any differences in the Debian version.
Changes to the Linux Mint Menu
New Desktop Settings Tool
The Linux Mint developers have created a new install routine for the Debian version. I’ll talk more about it in the install section of the review.
New Backup Tool
LMDE has a new backup tool. The new backup tool preserves your data and preferences. It also tracks the software you installed. The backup tool will restore your data as well as the software you had installed on your Linux Mint system.
You can also opt to restore your software selection on a different computer. The backup tool can perform incremental restorations and backups, and it can compress and archive “on the fly.” It also performs an integrity check on each file (but you can turn this off if you want to speed up your backup).