2011-03-24

Linux Mint Xfce: Now Based on Debian

In all honesty, I didn't see this coming. Sure, if you browse through this blog, you'll see plenty of posts and prognostications on my part about the future of Linux Mint and Debian, but I didn't think this would happen the way it has happened. I regularly open the Linux Mint homepage to check for updates, so when I saw "Linux Mint Xfce RC" released, I got excited because finally Linux Mint 10 "Julia" Xfce will have been released after the release of the GNOME, KDE, and LXDE editions. Then, I realized that in place of "10 'Julia'" was a date number. That's when I knew. In short, the Xfce edition of Linux Mint has moved to a Debian base.

The reason for my surprise is that the move happened only partly due to reasons that I wrote about; the upstream issues are only briefly mentioned as causes for the move. The biggest reason was that the other editions are released sometimes mere weeks before the release of an RC for the next version of the main edition. I mean, just look at it: it has been 4 months since the release of Linux Mint 10 "Julia" GNOME, yet the KDE and LXDE editions were released just a few weeks ago. That's bad. That's why the developers have moved the Xfce (and, apparently, Fluxbox) edition to the Debian base; there's no more worry about late releases, and the rolling-release schedule makes for easier maintenance. Another thing mentioned is the huge performance boost over the previous Ubuntu-based Xfce edition; the Debian-based Xfce edition uses almost 50 MB less RAM for comparable task combinations.

Of course, the KDE and LXDE editions have already been released with the Ubuntu base, but the developers have said they are looking into possibly shifting them over to the Debian base and make the Ubuntu-based Linux Mint come solely with GNOME. This would make sense because those editions are also released relatively late in the release cycle. As was mentioned earlier, the Fluxbox edition will move to the Debian base when it gets released.
The developers have said they are committed to releasing Linux Mint 11 "Katya" this May and Linux Mint 12 "L[...]a" this November. Their uncertainty about releases beyond that also seems to imply that Linux Mint 12 will be the last Ubuntu-based Linux Mint, and future versions of Linux Mint will solely be based on Debian; that seems to coincide with Canonical's plan to put Wayland in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, so I guess that's a good place to stop.
The developers also said they had two big plans for Linux Mint 11, but these may have to be put off until Linux Mint 12 or later. Ooooh, the developers have really piqued my curiosity!
Finally, the developers have said that this and future Debian-based editions of Linux Mint are to be referred to as simply "Linux Mint XYDE YEAR-MONTH". The "Debian" moniker will be dropped.

One thing that has annoyed me about the Debian-based Linux Mint edition (now editions) is that there aren't any release notes saying what's new. I guess it makes sense from one angle in that it's a rolling-release distribution, so users will always have the latest packages, but I would still like to know exactly what is included in a particular snapshot. The developers left out release notes for past snapshots of Linux Mint "Debian", and they've done the same for this new Linux Mint Xfce RC. For example, I didn't know what version of Xfce was included until I saw the comments section; I was excitedly hoping to see that the brand-new Xfce 4.8 has been included, only to read that it is Xfce 4.6, though this can be changed with a quick upgrade. Dear Linux Mint developers, could you please start including release notes when new snapshots of Debian-based Linux Mint editions are released?

In conclusion, the Xfce edition of Linux Mint is moving to a Debian base for a better release schedule, more mainstream packages, and better performance.
I'm currently using Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora" GNOME, so I was thinking of using that until Linux Mint 13 LTS gets released; now it looks like there may not be a Linux Mint 13 LTS, so I'm looking forward to using a Debian-based Linux Mint full time on my laptop's hard drive!

2 comments:

  1. So much for Debian is not any longer relevant.

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  2. @Barnaby: That's true, but the original debate was also about whether Debian as a standalone distribution is relevant, and this doesn't answer that part. Thanks for the comment!

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