Review :: Linux Mint Debian Edition 201204 with MATE

I had been using Ubuntu Linux for several years when they released the Unity interface, and like many Linux enthusiasts I was put off by the "mobile" centric view Ubuntu had adopted. After being finding myself without a distro, home I settled into the comfortable familiarity of Linux Mint. It is build off of Ubuntu so it was a logical next step after giving up Ubuntu. I used Mint for a while and eventually made it to ArchLinux and now I have found myself wandering back to Linux Mint, but with a pleasantly surprising twist of Debian.  

Linux Mint, an Old Familiar Friend

Linux Mint Debian edition has almost everything I am looking for in a distro. The familiarity of debian commands from my Ubuntu days, the rolling distribution updates of Debian (and ArchLinux) plus my the nostalgic window manager that I never could give up - MATE (a Gnome 2 fork) . After having two weeks of using LMDE as my primary distribution on my Lenovo T420, I have been very pleasantly surprised. MATE has the stability and programs that Gnome 2 had, although it takes a bit of getting used to since the applications have different names.


Overall I have been very impressed by the performance of LMDE and MATE. Compared to the latest version of Ubuntu and Gnome 3 in general, the memory usage of LMDE is lower. My setup which I use as my my development station rarely uses more than 1.5 GB of RAM and usually hovers around 675 MB when I'm doing normal internet browsing. The availability of graphics drivers isn't quite as nice as Ubuntu or other version of Linux Mint which will display a notification if proprietary drivers are available. The same drivers are available for LMDE, you just have to install them yourself through the command line or synaptic package manager. For those of you who have a hybrid graphics card like Nvidia Optimus, LMDE works surprisingly well with bumlebee to run everyday programs through the Intel integrated graphics and switch to the Nvidia chip for more power.


Mate is the desktop manager of LMDE. After Gnome stopped supporting Gnome 2, the MATE project picked up where Gnome left off and began forking the existing Desktop Manager and application suite that came with it. They tweaked it into something called MATE. Besides the names of applications, you won't notice much of a difference between MATE and Gnome 2, which is absolutely fantastic. I grew up on Gnome 2 and haven't been the same sine I was forced off of it. The developers on the MATE project have done a great job bringing the useability back to the desktop. If you happen to have the opposite opinion that I do, LMDE comes with Linux Mint's Cinnamon desktop installed as well. It is as simple as selecting a different session from the login menu to add a bit of spice (pun intented) into your mint.

Battery Life

The length of your battery life depends greatly on the version of the kernel you are running (to find this run the command uname -r). LMDE currently has kernel version 3.2 which has brought some great improvements since early kernel versions. Out of several distros I have had installed on my laptop recently, LMDE has the longest battery life by at least an hour. If you are running a debian based system and want to take advantage of the latest and greatest kernel, take a look at my tutorial and compiling the kernel on Debian based systems.


LMDE comes with Linux Mints standard applications and philosophy on a distribution. The Linux Mint creators believe that a distribution should just work, which means they include almost everything you need out of the box.  The main applications are:
  • Firefox for web browsing
  • Pidgin for instant messaging
  • Xchat for IRC
  • The LibreOffice suite for documents
  • Pluma (a gedit continuation) for text edititing
  • Banshee for music
And much much more. One of the best things about Linux Mint is that if you are missing some application you would like to install, the Software Manager is only a few clicks away on the start menu.


Yes, updating the system has its very own section. My absolute favorite thing about LMDE is the Debian-based rolling release. This means that unlike Ubuntu where you have to upgrade EVERYTHING in your system to get the next version, you simply roll everything together. Basically once you install LMDE, you won't have to upgrade to another version again just to get the latest and greatest updates. This is a fantastic approach to software updates. It remains painless and easy to upgrade.


If you are just getting into linux, Linux Mint Debian Edition may not be the best choice for you. It takes more command fu in the console and knowledge of linux in general than running the standard version of Linux Mint. If you are more experienced LMDE is a fantastic desktop that brings the performance and stability of the Gnome 2 desktop back from the grave. The rolling release update style keeps takes the headache of major release upgrades away and replaces it with simple and normal updates. LMDE comes out of the box ready with flash and other codecs for listening to music and has a great repository of applications should you need anything else. I still haven't decided which distro is the right one for me, but Linux Mint Debian Edition has passed my stress test and checklist for my main Operating System. Thanks for reading and happy hacking!

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