Isn’t the Debian-based Mint’s LMDE 5, existing just as a proof-of-concept, actually the best desktop Linux distro? Spoiler alert: it might be!
Linux Mint, a 16-year-old distribution, launched its initial release in August 2006. Throughout the years, the distribution has focused on a single simple goal: an easy and user-friendly Linux desktop for everyday users.
This straightforwardness and adherence to the golden rule of keeping things simple, easy to use, and workable has earned it a large user base. So, of course, it is no coincidence that the Linux Mint 21.1 release takes the top spot in our rankings for the best desktop Linux distros for 2022.
Mint, as we all know, is based on Ubuntu. Its guiding idea is to remove all of Ubuntu’s existing flaws, build on top of the existing base, then package and provide it in an easy-to-use desktop-focused Linux distro. This is achieved mainly in Mint’s Ubuntu-based flagship edition, Cinnamon.
And now, we get to the point of this article: LMDE, or Linux Mint Debian Edition. Some of the newest Mint users are even unaware of its existence. And there’s nothing strange about that. Why? Because it has a purpose other than to be the flagship product, remaining in the shadow of the main Mint release. But out of the spotlight is one of the best things to happen to your Linux desktop. Namely, Mint’s LMDE 5 “Elsie” edition.
What’s the LMDE Purpose?
LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition) is being developed alongside the core Mint release to guarantee that if something happens to Ubuntu, Mint can continue to exist and give the same experience to its users as before.
In other words, LMDE acts as both insurance and proof-of-concept in one. This is a rare approach in the Linux world.
Of course, new Linux users are probably wondering, “What could happen to Ubuntu?”. But, folks, history recalls many occasions when things moved in a different direction than the Linux community expected. Mandrake Linux, Red Hat Linux, CentOS, and so on are only a few examples.
Corporate interests accompanied by financial expectations can almost always change the course of a Linux distribution. And Canonical has a strong business-corporate focus with its Ubuntu operating system. In other words, many factors can cause Ubuntu to differ from what we know today.
Because of these concerns, the Linux Mint developers have ensured through LMDE that what has been done thus far can also be accomplished by building on a pure Debian base, guaranteeing Mint’s future in the absence of Ubuntu.
Get the Best of Both Worlds with LMDE 5
And now we come to the most beautiful part. Keeping out of the spotlight, LMDE 5 is one of the best and most reliable desktop Linux experiences nowadays. Even better than the Ubuntu-based Mint releases. This is due to two significant factors. Here they are.
I’ll start with a question as rhetorical as it is resonant. Do you know that Ubuntu is based on packages from Debian’s unstable branch? In other words, a stable Ubuntu operating system under the hood is just an unstable Debian. Generally speaking, of course.
You know there is a more stable branch above Debian’s unstable branch, namely Debian testing. Then, and only after that, we get to the Debian stable branch. Let your imagination run wild and think of all the stability and reliability advantages of an operating system based on the Debian stable branch, just as is the case with LMDE 5 based on Debian 11 (Bullseye) stable.
In other words, with LMDE 5, you get the best in terms of stability. A long-lasting desktop operating system that will faithfully serve you for years, providing you with the peace of mind and sense of reliability you need to perform your daily computing tasks.
Furthermore, as previously said, the Mint flagship release is based on Ubuntu, which is based on Debian. In other words, we have a derivative based on another derivative. If I am confusing you, here it is explained. So, LMDE allows you to bypass the intermediate links and get straight to the source, in this case, Debian.
Mint’s Experience without Compromise
As nothing in our world is perfect, Debian also pays the price for its outstanding stability. Because of its extremely high criteria for software admission in its stable releases, Debian uses older versions of packages that have stood the test of time and passed many tests. Does this mean that LMDE 5 offers more outdated software than the flagship Mint edition? Of course, and here’s the best part: not!
According to a statement published today on the official Linux Mint blog:
LMDE 5 is already up to date with Linux Mint 21.1; it received its backports just before the holidays. Some of the mint tools will be backported in Linux Mint 21 early this year.
In other words, you get the same desktop experience as you are using the flagship Linux Mint 21.1 release. Here are the most recent versions of the Cinnamon 5.6.5 desktop environment, Firefox 108, Thunderbird 102, and other apps. However, some packages have yet to be updated to the most recent versions available in the Ubutnu-based edition, but these are outside the desktop environment’s base functionality.
Of course, almost all system and in-house built tools, such as Software Manager, Update Manager, Timeshift, Backup Tool, Warpinator, etc., are available in LMDE 5. Flatpak support is also included out of the box.
So, one thing can be said about the desktop itself – it’s just the right amount of clarity and attention to detail without getting bogged down in weird user interaction solutions and flashy transparent panels, windows, and buttons, turning the desktop environment into a work of art, but not a working one.
After considering all the factors, it is clear that Mint’s LMDE 5 is one of the best Linux desktops. It goes far beyond its intended role as insurance and proof-of-concept. As a result, it is an even better choice than the flagship Ubuntu-based Linux Mint 21.
With its guaranteed better stability and reliability under the hood, combined with the same slick and feature-rich desktop experience, LMDE 5 is one of the best choices you can make for your Linux desktop. Additionally, the regular updates and strong community support ensure that the system remains up-to-date and any issues can be quickly resolved.
So, if you’re looking for a Linux distribution for everyday use, I’d recommend you give LMDE 5 “Elsie” a try. You will not be disappointed, I guarantee it. And if you’ve already used it, I’d be excited to hear your impressions refracted through your point of view in the comments section below.