I did a full review earlier of Linux Mint Debian Edition and loved it. Now there’s an update to it and I couldn’t resist doing a quick look. If you aren’t familiar with the Debian version of Linux Mint, you’re in for a real treat. LMDE has quickly become my favorite Linux distribution. It’s a great blend of Debian and Linux Mint.
Before I get into this quick look, please be aware that there were some problems with the 32-bit version of Linux Mint Debian Edition (201012) that was released earlier. These problems do not apply to the 64-bit version. For this quick look, I downloaded the 201101 release.
Please see the Linux Mint announcement for full details on why 201101 was released. Here’s a brief snippet that explains the problem:
A re-spin of the LMDE 201012 32-bit ISO was made available under the name “201101?.
The new ISO comes with an up-to-date live kernel which addresses the following issues:
“Black screen of death”, live session hanging with a black screen.
Installer hanging while configuring Grub.
Explanation of the problem:
A liveCD contains two systems: One that is decompressed, copied during the installation and eventually used post-install, and another one (smaller and with minimal functionality) which is used to boot the liveCD itself, decompress the filesystem and get an operational live session running on top of it. As such, the liveCD comes with two kernels, one of which is used for the live session and the other which is actually installed on your system. In theory, these two kernels should be identical to avoid mismatches since the live session uses the live kernel but relies on the kernel files present in the compressed system.
In practice this was never an issue (until now) for the following reasons:
On a frozen base (Ubuntu for instance), kernel changes and updates are minimal and the difference between two kernels could be insignificant in the scope of the liveCD.
Linux Mint is extremely conservative when it comes to changing base elements such as the kernel and as a consequence, Linux Mint ISO releases based on Ubuntu always use the exact same kernel as their Ubuntu base.
The Debian live CD we’re basing LMDE on is built by us from scratch. Unlike Ubuntu-based releases, LMDE doesn’t rebase itself with each release, it continues to use the same base which is simply updated using the repositories. LMDE 64-bit is relatively new and so the difference between its two kernels is insignificant. LMDE 32-bit was built in August 2010 and the difference between its old live kernel and its modern embedded one were quite dramatic and affected modesetting with the “nouveau” driver. On some hardware, it also affected the configuration of Grub.
The problem was hard to spot but easy to fix. The live kernel was updated in the ISO and after a lot of testing we were happy to see the 201101 successfully boot and install on a large variety of hardware.
Here’s a sample of what’s new in this release:
All Mint 10 features
Performance boost (using cgroup, the notorious “4 lines of code better than 200? in user-space)
Installer improvements (multiple HDDs, grub install on partitions, swap allocation, btrfs support)
Better fonts (Using Ubuntu’s libcairo, fontconfig and Ubuntu Font Family) and language support (ttf-wqy-microhei, ttf-sazanami-mincho, ttf-sazanami-gothic installed by default)
Better connectivity and hardware support (pppoe, pppoeconf, gnome-ppp, pppconfig, libgl1-mesa-dri, libgl1-mesa-glx, libgl1-mesa-dev, mesa-utils installed by default)
Better sound support (addressing conflicts between Pulse Audio and Flash)
Updated software and packages
If you aren’t familiar with any of the changes in Linux Mint 10, you might want to browse my full review of it on DLR. Bear in mind that LMDE actually only comes in the 1 GB DVD version, so you don’t need to worry about upgrading to the DVD version in the Linux Mint Welcome Menu (one of the new features in Linux Mint 10).
Here’s what you’ll need to run this update:
x86 processor (for both 32 & 64-bit versions)
x86_64 compatible processor (for the 64-bit version)
512 MB of system memory (RAM)
3 GB of disk space for installation
Graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution
CD-ROM drive or USB port
Install & Update
The ISO file is about a 1.03GB download.
The install is pretty painless, with the exception of partitioning the disk. I had no problem with that but if you are totally new to doing then you might get a little confused. It’s a good thing to learn though, it will serve you well when installing other distros.
This release features some installer improvements such as multiple HDDs, installing grub on a partition, brfs support and swap allocation.
It’s a good idea to run MintUpdate after you do your install to make sure your system is completely up to date. My updates took a little while to download, but I had no problems updating my system. I’m not sure why the download seemed a bit slow, but eventually all the files were downloaded and installed properly.
LMDE comes with a very good selection of software. Here’s a sample of what you’ll find after you boot into your LMDE desktop:
MPlayer Media Player
The Software Manager has tons of other applications available, so you should have no problem finding what you need and easily downloading it to your LMDE system. Software is broken down into the following categories:
Sound and Video
I recommend taking a look at the Featured category first, that will let you snag some of the best apps available. Some of the featured applications are already installed by default, so you’ll have them at your fingertips once you start using LMDE. But there are others worth considering too.
Here are a few of those:
Using LMDE 201101
My experience with LMDE 201101 has been overwhelmingly positive (big surprise!). I haven’t seen performance problems, bugs or crashes.
I’ve found it to be very comfortable and reliable to use as a daily distro. The Linux Mint tools add a lot of value to LMDE and, frankly, spoil you once you get used to having them.
As I noted above, I really enjoy Linux Mint Debian Edition. It really has become my distro of choice, for now. It combines the power of Debian with all of the Linux Mint tools & features. Of course, I will still continue to distrohop because you never know when another distro could tickle your fancy just a bit more.
As much as I like LMDE, I understand that it might not be for everybody. Some folks might prefer the Ubuntu version of Linux Mint, and that’s fine. I just happen to prefer LMDE for my daily distro at this point. If you aren’t familiar with the differences between the two, here’s a brief FAQ from the Linux Mint site that highlights some of them:
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.
If you aren’t sure which one you should use, try them both for a week and then see which one you like better. You really can’t go wrong with either one of them. At some point you’ll settle in comfortably with one or the other.
What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments. For full distro reviews, visit Desktop Linux Reviews.