A look at Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) 201303

A look at Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) 201303

Summary: Here's what you need to know and the latest LMDE roll-up release, and where you need to pay attention.

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Let's start this off with a brief review of what Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) is and what it isn't, followed by what this release is and what it isn't. 

LMDE is a Linux Mint distribution, containing all of the nice Mint tools (installer, updater, menus and other utilities), plus lots of preloaded and preconfigured packages, but built on top of Debian GNU/Linux, rather than Ubuntu as the numbered/named Mint distributions (currently 14/Nadia).

The pros and cons of Debian

Specifically, it's built on the Testing Branch of Debian — currently the 'Wheezy' release (although probably not for much longer).  There are pros and cons to this - if you don't like Ubuntu, or you really prefer to start from a cleaner, more basic distribution, then being based on Debian is a big plus. 

On the down side, it means that it contains a lot of things which are well behind the latest current releases, starting from the Linux kernel itself — 3.2.0 rather than the 3.7.x or 3.8.x that other recent distributions feature — and the X Window System, 1.12.4 compared to 1.13.x, and so on. 

What this means is that you need to pay a bit more attention if you're going to try LMDE, make sure your hardware is compatible and supported, and be prepared to put in a bit more effort in getting everything installed, configured and running. The fact is that pretty much describes a typical Debian user anyway, so I don't see it as a big problem.

LMDE is a 'rolling release' distribution, so this release is a roll-up of the updates which have been made since the last set of ISO images was released, it is NOT a huge leap forward packed with a new kernel, new utilities, new applications and such. 

Update packs

In fact, LMDE is a bit of an exception even in the world of Linux rolling release distributions, because by default LMDE does not update continuously: instead, updates are collected into bundles, which are then released as 'update packs'. (This new release comes with update pack 6 included.)

The advantage here is that it reduces the chance that an update will have negative side effects and break something (or everything); the disadvantage is that it can seem like a long time between update packs.  So long, in fact, that for things which are commonly used and frequently updated, such as Firefox, separate patches are issued independent of the update packs.  (If you prefer a more typical rolling release model, you can use the LMDE "incoming" repositories.)

EFI boot

The release announcement for the 201303 build gives a good overview and summary of this release.  One thing that is important to note there is that it explicitly states that there is no EFI, GPT or secure boot support.  So if you have a UEFI system, you can only install LMDE via Legacy Boot, if your BIOS supports that option.  Even in that case, though, the other limitation is likely to bite you because as far as I know, the majority of EFI systems also have GPT partitioning (perhaps all?), so what is likely to happen is that you switch to Legacy Boot, install LMDE, it looks like the world is going to be a wonderful place, and when you try to reboot after installing it fails with a complaint about not being able to load the kernel.  Does this sound like the voice of experience talking to you?  Well, it is... the bottom line is, if you have an EFI boot system, and you do not have strong masochistic tendencies, you probably don't want to try to install LMDE on that particular system.

Of course, the other major thing that LMDE gives you is a choice of desktops.  There are ISO Live images for Cinnamon and MATE (with 32-bit and 64-bit versions of each of those).  I installed the Cinnamon version on most of my systems:

LMDE Cinnamon
Linux Mint Debian Edition - Cinnamon 1.6

But on one of my netbooks (the Samsung N150-Plus), I installed the MATE version:

LMDE MATE
Linux Mint Debian Edition - MATE 1.4

Other than the different desktops, the rest of the content of the two versions is the same.  Some of the highlights are:

  • Linux Kernel 3.2.0
  • Cinnamon 1.6 / MATE 1.4
  • Firefox 19.0
  • Thunderbird 17.0
  • LibreOffice 3.5
  • GIMP 2.8
  • gThumb 3.0
  • Image Magick 6.7
  • Banshee Media Player 2.4
  • Totem Movie Player 3.0

Another major advantage of LMDE is that it is 100 percent compatible with the Debian Testing repositories.  If there is something you want or need that is not included in the base distribution, your chances of finding it and being able to just download and install are very high.

Summary

So, to return to the opening paragraph, how do I summarise Linux Mint Debian Edition in general, and this release in particular? In rather loose terms, I would call LMDE a Linux devotee or hobbyist distribution.  As it says in the LMDE release notes, "LMDE requires a deeper knowledge and experience with Linux, dpkg and APT". 

If you're new to Linux and don't have that knowledge but would like to learn, LMDE is an excellent place to start — but don't expect it to be as complete, polished and user-friendly as the Linux Mint Ubuntu-based distributions. 

As for this release, if you already have LMDE running all you need to do is make sure that you have update pack 6 installed and it will be the same as this release - there is no need to reinstall this.  If you're installing a new system from scratch, though, you will definitely want to use these new ISO images.

Topics: Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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46 comments
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  • Short - Sweet - Feature Complete

    J.A., this is a great, thorough intro breakdown of what to expect and how it suits you as a user. Thank you.

    On another note.... PLS update/improve the photo.... PLS.... it looks more like a photo missing persons screen grab than a professional mini-bio photo....
    ZenZenPup
  • UEFI

    Could you not just turn UEFI off in the bios/startup/setup/whatever? I did a little digging a while back and other than certain Acer laptops, most boards I looked at seemed to have that option available.
    GKSeifert
    • I think

      That that depends on whether your manufacturer has decided to enable that capability in the BIOS.
      fairportfan
  • Waiting for Lovey to get home from work at the Mickey D's to remind us that

    we must Compile, Compile, Compile!
    WhatsamattaU
    • Exactly half an hour

      After you posted this, Loverock popped in with his typically completely uninformed comment...
      fairportfan
    • You must grow a brain

      You obviously don't know anything about Linux.
      Thomas Mc
  • Very nice review, J.A. Watson

    Thanks.

    Am, primarily, a Debian stable user myself. Since Etch. Tried Arch Linux, another rolling release distro, several years ago for some months. But, too much updating for my tastes.

    As I prefer network (or netboot) installs, I probably won't try LMDE directly. However, I will consider a network install of Debian testing and then adding LMDE repositories to the /etc/apt/sources.list post-install ...

    P.S. A couple of links for those considering LMDE installation on a PC with UEFI and GPT:

    "How to boot LMDE on an UEFI-based pc?
    http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=189&t=121151

    "[Updated 5x]HOWTO: AMD64 Debian GNU/Linux and UEFI
    http://forums.debian.net/viewtopic.php?t=81120
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Irrelevant links

    I believe that I made it clear in the original post that the problem isn't installing with UEFI boot, I actually explain how to do that. The problem is that LMDE does not support GPT disks, so the installed system fails to boot. Neither of the links you provide addresses that problem, so I fail to see how they are useful.

    jw
    j.a.watson@...
    • RE: Irrelevant links

      "The problem is that LMDE does not support GPT disks, so the installed system fails to boot. Neither of the links you provide addresses that problem, so I fail to see how they are useful.

      Both links are relevant. The first addresses LMDE and the second addresses Debian testing (remember, LMDE is based on Debian testing). And from the first link:

      "... it's possible to install Mint (or any Linux) in BIOS mode and then switch it over to use EFI-mode booting. I've got an LMDE installation that I set up in this way."

      Both links address GPT.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • This might be helpful

        Release announcement

        Comment 3
        I noticed that LMDE apparently does not support EFI/Secure Boot. My question is: If EFI/Secure Boot are disabled and Legacy Bios mode is used, will LMDE install properly?

        Edit by Clem: Yes, unless your partition table on your HDD is using GPT (in which case you’d have to wipe it).
        daikon
        • You'd need a bios boot partition

          Set on the GPT disk so that the boot loader can find the kernel. Best done using something like gparted live disk.

          UEFI set to legacy boot and a bios boot partition should allow the system to boot on a GPT disk.
          MarknWill
          • Both of my above links for LMDE and Debian testing

            resulted in booting the OS in UEFI mode when finished. With GPT.
            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Still looking...

            I am still looking carefully at both of those links to see what kind of magic they contain which makes it possible to run from a disk that it can not read.

            Is this success you claim based on you, yourself, installing this latest version of Mint Debian to a system as described in this article? If it is not, then it is totally irrelevant.

            jw
            j.a.watson@...
          • The Problem is the GPT Partition Table

            Sorry, it has nothing to do with EFI Boot at all.

            jw
            j.a.watson@...
          • It Gets the XXXX Wrong

            Sorry, I am posting short comments because I keep running afoul of the blasted profanity-checker.

            jw
            j.a.watson@...
          • It Gets the disk segments Wrong

            In my case this caused to write the wrong information to the Grub configuration file, which then caused the boot to fail. But the result could be much worse. Some time ago I tried to install PCLinuxOS (also a Debian based distribution with no GPT support) to a GPT disk. It got it so wrong that it overwrote one previously installed Linux segment with the swap area, and another previously installed Linux segment with its own root file system, even though I had given it the correct layout.

            jw
            j.a.watson@...
          • Please Don't Post Comments With Unsubstantiated Hear-Say

            So my original statement still stands. LMDE can not be installed successfully and reliably to GPT disks, regardless of what you do about booting. The results of attempting to do so will be unreliable at best, and could be catastrophic. Please, PLEASE do not post comments here claiming that it can be done if you have not personally done it successfully, and if you can not explain why Clem would say "it would require wiping the disk". I really don't want someone else to come along later and say "I read in Jamie's blog that this should work, but it wiped my computer".

            Thanks,

            jw
            j.a.watson@...
      • Ok, now I'm confused...

        There have been enough comments on this that it is almost getting to the point that I am confused too. I obviously did not explain this clearly in the original post.

        The problem in this case is not EFI Boot, in fact it has nothing to do with booting at all. The problem is the GPT partition table. This is the reason why I was able to install LMDE, but then it wouldn't boot.

        The comments about booting are correct as far as they go, there are several ways to get around the UEFI boot problem; one way is to enable Legacy Boot, and then write the boot info either to the MBR of the disk or to the LMDE root partition. Another way (the way I used) would be to not bother writing boot info to the disk at all, but add the necessary info to the grub.cfg file of a previously installed EFI-compatible distribution (such as openSuSE 12.3 in my case).

        But the point is, neither of those will work because when it tries to boot, LMDE will not be able to read the GPT disk.

        Thanks for reading and commenting to one and all.

        jw
        j.a.watson@...
        • what about efi-grub?

          Not sure, mayb this what J. A. is talking about.
          In my case (I still have to check on this, oh, boy, it was frustrating!) I was not able to boot to the installed *303 rc (or was it 204?) and only ugly Windows logo kept popping up as the indestructible ugly Hydra's head to make me agree with the immanent EULA ;-)
          My wife's asus laptop had no "legacy boot" but had a couple options I apparently had to turn off (one was "secure boot)". After installing efi-grub (to the EFI partition)I had to still sub the EFI/BOOT/bootx64.efi file with grub.efi (moved grub.efi to the former) I followed this http://rodsbooks.com/efi-bootloaders/installation.html
          Also once you update your kernels or grub.cfg, you gotta manually copy them that to the efi partition, EFI/boot/grub/ ir directory wherever grub installs itself. Of course it can be automated with every update-grub command.
          eulampius
          • sorry, it's grub-efi

            .
            eulampius