There is always a delay between the release of the Linux Mint Cinnamon/MATE distributions and the KDE/Xfce distributions, but for those who have been waiting patiently (or perhaps a bit anxiously), the wait is almost over.
The 'Release Candidates' for both KDE and Xfce are available now, so the final releases should be out soon. I decided to take a brief look at each of them, and in the process of doing that I got into the new kernel management system, so I will add a few notes here about that as well.
As was the case with the Cinnamon and MATE releases, there are separate release announcements (KDE / Xfce) and release notes (KDE / Xfce) for each version. It is worthwhile to read these, as they not only contain information about what is new and different in this release, but also some tips and tricks that might save you some time.
Links to the download mirrors are included in both the release announcement and release notes. The KDE download is about 1.4GB and Xfce is about 1.3GB. They are hybrid ISO images, so they can be burned to a DVD or dumped directly to a USB stick. Both versions are UEFI compatible, but both still use 'ubuntu' as the name for their EFI boot directory.
This means that you have to be very careful if you want to install either of these on the same system where you already have either Ubuntu or Mint 17 installed — or if you want to install both of these on the same system, for that matter. It can be done, but it requires a bit of fancy footwork.
It is important to note that these two distributions are not repackaging of either Kubuntu or Xubuntu, they are original creations of the Linux Mint development team. This means they have their own package selections, customisations and configuration.
Both distributions appear very typical for their respective desktop types. One thing that distinguishes the Xfce version is the use of the Whisker menus, rather than the standard Xfce manu system.
When I wrote previously about the Mint 17 Release Candidate and Mint 17 Final Release, I mentioned some of the changes to the Mint Update utility. I didn't talk about the new kernel management capability, though, so I would like to go through that now.
Although Linux Mint follows Ubuntu updates pretty closely, it does not automatically install certain kinds of updates which are considered very risky to stable systems, such as kernel updates. There are situations where a user may need an updated kernel, perhaps for device support such as was recently mentioned in the comments of a previous post by my friend Thomas, or when some security vulnerability has been found in the kernel.
In order to make this a bit easier, they have added a new function to the mintUpdate utility. Under 'View' on the menu there is now 'Linux kernels'. Selecting that brings up the window shown here, listing all of the available kernels and their status.
Initially only the 3.14.0-24 kernel is installed and running; you can click 'Install' under any or all of the others to get them downloaded and installed. For kernels which are already installed, you can click 'Remove'.
The 'Fixes' section contains links to Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures addressed by each kernel. As a side note, if you aren't familiar with the CVE system, I think it would be worth your time to at least have a look and familiarise yourself with it.
The 'Regressions' section contains links to Ubuntu launchpad bug reports of possible problems introduced by each kernel. These are not necessarily confirmed problems, they might only have been reported and still under investigation for confirmation and possible resolution.
The 'mintUpdate' utility will dynamically determine which kernel is currently booted, and indicates that with a check in the 'Installed' column. With all three kernels installed, and the -27 kernel booted, the window looks like this.
Finally as far as content goes, for the most important (commonly used) applications these distributions are similar to the Cinnamon/Mate distributions — Firefox browser, VLC Media Player, Libre Office, and GIMP. For other common applications and utilities they have what is included or at least typical with their respective desktop software collections, such as (KDE) Amarok music player, Dolphin file manager, k3b CD/DVD disk burning, Kate text editor, digiKam photo management; (Xfce) Banshee music player, Thunar file manager, Xfburn CD/DVD burning, gedit text editor, gThumb photo viewing/management.
I have installed these two RC distributions on my Acer Aspire One 725 (KDE) and Acer Aspire V5 (Xfce). Both are UEFI firmware systems, and both installed with absolutely no problems. All hardware was recognised and drivers were configured with no manual intervention.