Today, I was reading DistroWatch when I saw an interesting tidbit about how Linux Mint's KDE Edition is moving to a Debian base, though the developers originally intended this KDE release to be based on Ubuntu as before. I think the reason why I felt as surprised as I did was because as opposed to the other editions (Xfce, Fluxbox) which were announced as moving to a Debian base without any previous statements regarding them, the developers did say the KDE edition of Linux Mint would be based on Ubuntu, and judging from the forum posts, this decision seems to have been rather abrupt, as opposed to being more carefully planned.
I think this will be a good thing for the developers and for some users. First, the developers can focus even more on the Ubuntu-based main GNOME edition, while the other editions can get the latest software with less maintenance on the part of the developers. Second, the users will be able to get the latest KDE releases thoroughly tested by the developers through the official repositories without having to resort to PPAs, as is almost always the case in Ubuntu-based releases (and even then, sometimes the latest PPAs don't support even slightly older releases of Ubuntu — for example, I couldn't test KDE 4.6 with a PPA on Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora", which is based on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS "Lucid Lynx").
But for a few reasons, I also feel less enthusiastic about this move than I did with the development of the original Debian-based GNOME edition and the move of the Xfce and Fluxbox editions (the latter of which still hasn't been officially released yet, thanks to the developers' utter devotion to providing quality releases for users regardless of schedules, unlike another certain Linux organization I know whose name starts with a 'C' and ends with an 'anonical'). Why?
First, I and other reviewers have found the Debian-based Linux Mint editions to be a little less stable and slightly rougher around the edges than the main Linux Mint edition. This is supposed to be fixed in the next few weeks or so with the introduction of update packs, which consists of the developers thoroughly testing packages from Debian Testing (to whose repositories Debian-based Linux Mint points by default) and then releasing collections of those packages to users in one month intervals if and only if those packages are stable and don't cause conflicts or breakages. Hopefully the Debian-based KDE edition will be released around the same time as that and not before, so that stability is less of an issue.
Second, I've found that there isn't quite as much software available for Debian as there is for Ubuntu; for example, if I wanted to install the Nautilus Elementary mod, I could just use a PPA in Ubuntu, but I would need to compile the source code and manually install that in Debian. Related to that, I've found that hardware isn't quite as well supported in Debian as in Ubuntu. For example, Skype has been problematic in Debian-based Linux Mint but not at all in Ubuntu-based Linux Mint. That's a deal-breaker for me, and I'm sure it's a deal-breaker for a large number of Skype users on Linux Mint.
Third, as I briefly mentioned above, the Xfce and Fluxbox editions of Linux Mint moved to the Debian base so that the developers wouldn't have to expend as much effort to maintain them and they could focus more on the main Ubuntu-based editions. The move of the KDE edition happened for a totally different reason: the maintainer of that edition was having some small issues trying to get a fully working system (I believe the issues related to the network management program), so the fix was to move to a Debian base. I'm not really sure I get that. Was it that bad? Couldn't the KDE edition use a few more maintainers to get these sorts of things ironed out? Or is there only one maintainer due to the low take rate relative to the other editions? In that case, does it make sense to continue maintaining a separate KDE edition at all/would it be better to create a sort of customized Linux Mint KDE package available to both the Ubuntu- and Debian-based Linux Mint editions?
Or better yet (and please keep in mind that this question is coming from a nontechnical newbie), could the problem have been avoided altogether by starting from Kubuntu instead of Ubuntu? After all, as far as I can tell, the Linux Mint KDE edition is basically little more than Kubuntu with different applications and a different Plasma theme and wallpaper. This is in contrast with the main GNOME edition, which before had a different desktop layout and Linux Mint Menu in addition to the application modifications, and now diverges significantly from the Unity interface included by default in Ubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal". Also, related to this, while Ubuntu continues to stray farther and farther from what users actually expect, Kubuntu is getting more and more refined, and in version 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot", it's supposed to get a new package manager called Muon to replace the aging KPackageKit (along with, if I remember right, a new update manager too); Linux Mint KDE users would benefit not just by having a wider software selection, better hardware support, and support for Ubuntu PPAs, but would also benefit from these innovations and more guaranteed stability if Kubuntu was used as the base.
Finally, there's a part of me that instinctively associate Linux Mint KDE releases with an Ubuntu base. Part of that stems from the earlier announcements that there would be a Linux Mint 11 "Katya" KDE, and part of that stems from the fact that Linux Mint actually started as a KDE distribution based on Ubuntu (it wasn't really until version 3.0 "Cassandra" that GNOME became favored over KDE, as far as I've read), so this move would constitute Linux Mint abandoning its roots. If there is to be a Debian-based KDE edition, I'd at least like to see a simultaneous effort to release Linux Mint 11 "Katya" KDE, hopefully with more developers on board. Then again, it has been a while since Linux Mint 11 "Katya" GNOME came out, and even longer since Ubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" came out, and Ubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot" isn't that far away, so it's pretty late in the release cycle to release an Ubuntu-based Linux Mint KDE edition, and that's something the developers wanted to do away with entirely by moving the Xfce and Fluxbox editions to the Debian base. Maybe the problems will be ironed out in time for a Linux Mint 12 "L[...]a" KDE release soon after the release of the corresponding GNOME edition.
In short, I'm more ambivalent about a Debian-based Linux Mint KDE edition than about Debian-based Linux Mint GNOME, Xfce, and Fluxbox editions. Plus, I wonder why the LXDE edition is sticking with the Ubuntu base. I think that's because it was originally planned that the LXDE edition, like the KDE edition as originally announced, would stick with the Ubuntu base, and there were fewer problems so a live CD image could be pushed out faster. What do you think?