The final release of Linux Mint 16 (Petra) Cinnamon/MATE came a little over a week ago, and the KDE/Xfce Release Candidates arrived this week. I decided to install all four of them, each on a different one of my commonly used notebook or netbook systems:
You can get the ISO Live images from the Mint 16 Download page but please remember, at the time of this writing, the KDE and Xfce versions are still 'release candidates', the final versions will appear sometime in the next few days or weeks.
The images are fairly large, ranging from just over 1.2GB to just under 1.5GB, so they will certainly not fit on a CD, they require either a DVD or a 2GB or larger USB stick. These are hybrid images, so if you already have a Linux system you can simply dd them to a USB stick; otherwise you can use the windows Image Writer to accomplish the same task. For details on this, Clem has written a very concise How to install Linux Mint via USB tutorial.
The USB or DVD installation media can be booted on Legacy Boot (what most users still consider "normal" boot) or UEFI Boot systems, and on UEFI they can even be booted with Secure Boot enabled (or Secure Boot disabled, or even with Legacy Boot enabled).
Installation is easy, and is pretty much identical to previous Mint releases.
I will make note here of one potentially significant issue, but it is likely to affect only a very few people — those with UEFI boot systems who want to install both Linux Mint and Ubuntu on the same system.
Unlike the previous release, Mint 16 installs its EFI boot files in a directory called ubuntu. This makes it difficult to install both Mint 16 and Ubuntu on the same UEFI boot systems. It's not impossible, but if you aren't very familiar with UEFI boot installation and configuration, I would recommend that you simply avoid this problem, and install only one of these two.
Hint: I have a LOT of experience with multibooting UEFI systems, and trying to do it is enough trouble, and sufficiently error-prone, that I am not going to bother with it in this case.
The screen shot below shows the Mint 16 Cinnamon desktop. Perhaps the most important part of this version is the new Cinnamon 2.0, which Clem announced and gave an overview of some of the improvements and new features on Segfault — Cinnamon 2.0 Released! at the beginning of October.
Next up is Mint 16 MATE, shown below, which was released at the same time as the Cinnamon version. This is the version for those who still prefer the Gnome 2 desktop — MATE reached a point some time ago where I can no longer distinguish it from the original Gnome 2. There is not one huge improvement here as with Cinnamon 2.0, but the list of changes and improvements is relatively long and impressive. Check the New Features in Linux Mint 16 MATE document for an overview.
The KDE version of Mint 16 reached release candidate status this week. That in itself is good news, because with the previous release there was a considerably longer delay between the Cinnamon/MATE release and the KDE release. This version is built with KDE 4.11, and includes the usual array of KDE utilities and applications rather than their Gnome counterparts which are in the Cinnamon and MATE versions. The New features in Linux Mint 16 KDE document gives more details and screen shots of some of the improvements.
Finally, the Xfce version was the last Release Candiate to be announced. This is built on Xfce 4.10, and includes a new release of the excellent Whisker Menu (1.2). This Mint version is a bit of an anomaly in the world of Xfce distributions, because many of them, perhaps even most of them, strive to be "lightweight", so they either replace a lot of the common packages with smaller/simpler versions (abiword/gnumeric instead of LibreOffice, for example), or they omit them completely (such as GIMP).
Not so with Mint 16 Xfce, it includes Firefox/Thunderbird, LibreOffice, GIMP, VLC, Banshee and a whole lot more. This distribution stands on equal terms with the others in the Mint family, the difference is just in the desktop. The updates and improvements in this release are similar to those in the other versions; check New features in Linux Mint 16 Xfce for details.
So, that's the whole family. What they all have in common is the Mint base, ranging from the Mint login screen and MDM to the Mint administration, software management and update utilities, and much more.
There's pretty much a desktop for every taste (well, unless you are one of the few who really like the Gnome 3 shell), so pick the one you like and give it a whirl.