vladtepes wrote:So I suppose as a segue from the above... if Mint is ultimately based on debian (via Ubuntu) ... why are there separate Mint 'main edition' and 'debian edition'. ?
Just getting my head around it all...
Debian is one of the "upstream" Linux distros (for lack of a better word) - in other words, it is not based on another Linux distro. Debian takes the Linux source code and the source code for every application it offers and packages them into .deb files. Debian offers three releases at any given time
- Debian Unstable, or "Sid". This contains all-new code from software developers. All the programs in it are updated frequently to later releases - so, if package foo gets a new release, Sid receives an update soon. Because it's constantly changing, Sid is prone to bugs, ranging from minor glitches to full-blown breakages.
- Debian Testing, currently "Stretch" or Debian 9. After packages have been in Sid for a few weeks, if there are no major bugs they're sent to Debian Testing. The goal of Debian Testing is to provide a holding ground for packages and to be the environment from which each new Debian Stable release is built. This means that every few years Testing enters several months of "freeze", in which all the packages are held at their current version and tested heavily by the community. During the freeze, packages are only updated to fix bugs, and then only to the minimal version necessary.
- Debian Stable, currently "Jessie" or Debian 8. After months of the "freeze", if Debian Testing has no known serious bugs (and relatively few minor ones), a new Debian Stable is released. Debian Stable is called "stable" because packages are not updated except in the event of a security flaw (i.e. the package base is stable and does not change). This also means that Debian Stable is very, well,stable in terms of breakages and bugs. Without intentionally abusing Debian Stable with something like
rm -rf /*
, it's very difficult to break it. Stable is the Debian distro you could use equally well for a server or as your desktop OS, although the stability means that many packages are not the latest available version.
Stable is supported for several years: until the release of the next Debian Stable and then for at least one more year. There are no deadlines for the release of Stable; it's released when it's ready and not a moment before!
Stable is also considered secure because it's undergone so much review to get to be Stable.
Ubuntu is based on a mix of Debian Testing and Unstable. This allows it to offer newer packages than Debian Stable, but this comes at a cost of stability. Although Ubuntu is pretty stable, it's not as rock-solid as Debian Stable (though it's at least as stable as Testing or Unstable). A new version of Ubuntu is released every 6 months, and there are two types of Ubuntu releases.
- Ubuntu LTS. This is Ubuntu's equivalent to Debian Stable. LTS is supported for 5 years. Each Ubuntu LTS release version has an even major number, and the minor number is ".04" - i.e. 12.04, 14.04, 16.04, and (in 2018) 18.04. The major number is the year of release, and the minor number the month (April). As you can probably guess, LTS is released every two years.
LTS follows a similar philosophy to Debian Stable, in that packages are not updated except for security bugs. At release, the software in LTS is generally newer than in Debian Stable... but the forced deadlines and newer software can come at a price. LTS is stable, but it's not as stable as Debian Stable. That being said, it's fine for both desktop and low- to mid-value servers. I personally would not run a high-value server on Ubuntu, LTS or not, unless it were offline.
- All other Ubuntu releases. These releases have relatively new software, but they're only supported for 9 months. There's not really an analogue to them in the Debian world that I can think of. They're not unstable, but they're neither as stable as Ubuntu LTS or Debian Stable. That being said, thousands of people use 'em so they have to be pretty stable.
(Bear in mind this is all a bit of a simplification.)
Since version 17, Linux Mint is only based on Ubuntu LTS. This gives the Mint team two years without having to build on a new package base, freeing up a lot of development time for improving Mint itself.
So what we have here is:
upstream software bits and the Linux kernel >> Debian (Stable, Testing, and Sid)
Debian Testing + Sid >> Ubuntu (LTS and others)
Ubuntu LTS >> Linux Mint
LMDE skips the middle man and is based directly on Debian Stable. For me, it's the best of both worlds - a highly stable base, and all the goodness of Mint. This does mean that some things that work for "normal" Mint, such as PPAs, aren't compatible with LMDE. Drivers are also handled differently.
LMDE also gets all Mint-specific updates, without having to update to a newer version of LMDE. What I mean by this is that the software that is directly developed by Mint (Cinnamon, mintstick, the Update Manager, and so on) are provided directly to LMDE as ordinary updates in the Update Manager. For normal Mint, to get a new version of Cinnamon or the other Mint tools, you have to upgrade to the latest Mint release.