Life is full of surprises, some of them good and some of them bad. This week I got a great surprise when a Debian version of Linux Mint was released. I wasn't aware that the Linux Mint developers were even working on it, so the release was quite unexpected. I did a full review of Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) for the Desktop Linux Reviews blog, but I wanted to talk about why this release is so important and helpful for desktop Linux users.
Not Everybody is a Fan of Ubuntu
As you probably already know, the other versions of Linux Mint are based on Ubuntu. There are various versions including the GNOME version of Linux Mint, Linux Mint KDE, Linux Mint Xfce, etc. Each of these is popular, in their own way and with their own base of users.
But not everyone is enamored with Ubuntu. There are those who think that Ubuntu has made Linux too Mac-like. Remember the controversy over where the title bar buttons were placed in the last release of Ubuntu? Swarms of angry Ubuntu users castigated Canonical for following too closely in Apple's footsteps.
Personally, I think the hostility toward Canonical and Ubuntu is more than a little overblown. Ubuntu has been a big plus, for the most part, for desktop Linux. So I hate to see some of the venom directed at it by those who disagree with the direction that Canonical is taking with Ubuntu.
However, I accept the fact that some people simply don't like Ubuntu and never will. LMDE removes any and all Ubuntu baggage, so it's a great option for those who don't like Ubuntu.
Why Do We Need a Debian Version?
I've seen this question posed in some online discussions, and it struck me as a little bit funny. Some folks are basically confused in a chicken/egg sort of way since the Ubuntu based versions of Linux Mint have been out for a long time now.
It's important to note that Ubuntu itself is actually based on Debian. The Ubuntu developers obviously have customized their offering, but the fact remains that Ubuntu really is nothing more than a remaster of Debian itself (albeit with many significant changes).
So, in a sense, LMDE simply bypasses Ubuntu altogether and instead uses Debian itself as the base. It's sort of like cutting out the middleman, so to speak.
It also clearly demonstrates that Ubuntu isn't necessary to enjoy all that Linux Mint offers. All of the wonderful, helpful Linux Mint tools are there in the Debian version without any Ubuntu claptrap or changes.
A Rolling Release
One of the other advantages of Linux Mint Debian Edition over the Ubuntu versions is that the Debian version is a rolling release. This simply means that it is updated continuously; you never have to do another install to upgrade it as you do with the Ubuntu versions. Here's a more detailed explanation from Wikipedia: