What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnamon?

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mxmaniac
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What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnamon?

Post by mxmaniac »

I'm pretty new to linux, but have put in many hours of reading, but there is one thing I can't quite find the answer to.

What exactly is the difference between installing Linux Mint. And installing Debian, then cinnamon, then ubuntu software manager, and whatever other extras you want?

By the time you choose whatever software you want from the repository on either system. Will there still be major fundamental differences between mint and Debian with cinnamon installed, or will they basically be the same system at that point?

I guess another way to ask the question is, is mint basically debian with a few extras pre installed, saving you the time of running some of those apt-get commands, or are there many other very fundamental changes and differences?
passerby
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Re: What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnam

Post by passerby »

First, you should take a look at the difference between Debian and Ubuntu.
Ubuntu is based off the Debian unstable (or experimental? I don't recall) branch. It's essentially an "unstable" version of Debian.
It has much more up to date software than Debian stable, and there's other software built specifically for Ubuntu that won't work on plain Debian without pulling in a lot of outside packages.

Then, look at the differences between Mint and Ubuntu.
Mint is based off Ubuntu, but comes with additional software, different default programs, different repositories, etc.
At its core it is Ubuntu, and at Ubuntu's core it is Debian unstable.

Also take a look at the different branches of Debian.
Debian stable, testing, unstable, experimental.
The versions of software you download, what packages are available, etc. depends on the branch you use.
I think the names of each branch are a dead giveaway as to the difference ;)

The "exact difference" comes down to the package versions used (ie. stable vs unstable branches), the repositories used, the default software, and not a great deal else.
There's no low-level, core, fundamental difference. Mint is still, at heart, Debian. But it's a particular branch with particular repositories, software, desktop environments, etc.
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Re: What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnam

Post by mxmaniac »

Thanks for that info. Definitely gets confusing when one is based on the next, based on the next.

So a few questions.
1. so mint is based on the unstable releases. Any reason why they don't make a version based on the stable release?

2. When you say "up to date", just how up to date are you talking in general? Are you waiting 2 more weeks, 4 more weeks, 1 year? Is there really "that" big of a difference between software available on debian stable and debian unstable?

3. Why would you need a newer version of debian to run the newer software? Is it that drastic of a difference? I'm used to windows where say for example you get windows 7, software can come out 2 years later, and it still works fine with windows 7, without requiring an upgrade? The only time the os would need to be upgraded is far in the future once windows 7 is obsolete and software is no longer compatible. So what exactly makes linux different that you seemingly must run an experimental os upgrade to get the latest software?

4. So assuming you are running linux mint, or the same version of debian unstable with cinnamon installed, and using the linux mint repositories. At this point are they basically 100% the same system (besides mint has more pre-installed software). Or are there other differences? As far as security, and stability, are they identical, since they are based off the same kernel, or are there other factors I'm unaware of?
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Re: What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnam

Post by passerby »

mxmaniac wrote:Thanks for that info. Definitely gets confusing when one is based on the next, based on the next.

So a few questions.
1. so mint is based on the unstable releases. Any reason why they don't make a version based on the stable release?
Mint is based on Ubuntu. Ubuntu is based on the unstable releases.
Ubuntu was chosen as the base because of the up to date packages, its own software separate from Debian, and support for other technologies, such as PPAs.
If Mint was based on the stable release of Debian, it would involve rebuilding Mint on a different base.
There is something like this available: LMDE. LMDE is based on Debian testing, but can be made to use Debian stable instead.
Don't get fooled by the term "unstable". It's less stable than the stable branch, but the software is far more up to date, so there has to be a trade-off somewhere. Also, I believe the term is used moreso to refer to the APIs used (stable doesn't change much, unstable does more often, etc.). See #3.
mxmaniac wrote:2. When you say "up to date", just how up to date are you talking in general? Are you waiting 2 more weeks, 4 more weeks, 1 year? Is there really "that" big of a difference between software available on debian stable and debian unstable?
It varies depending on the software.
Debian stable will have security fixes and stability fixes backported, but newer features and the like held back. So it's not so much out of date as it is behind on features.
In other words, the packages are still maintained and updated, but newer features may not be added. Depending on the software, the features might be months behind.
This allows for a stable API to program against, the relevance of which comes about in #3.
mxmaniac wrote:3. Why would you need a newer version of debian to run the newer software? Is it that drastic of a difference? I'm used to windows where say for example you get windows 7, software can come out 2 years later, and it still works fine with windows 7, without requiring an upgrade? The only time the os would need to be upgraded is far in the future once windows 7 is obsolete and software is no longer compatible. So what exactly makes linux different that you seemingly must run an experimental os upgrade to get the latest software?
There are a few factors here, and it's a bit tricky to explain. Also, I may not be 100% correct in my summation (not terribly familiar with the nitty-gritty here), but here goes.

A lot of Windows programs use the APIs that Windows provides. As long as Windows doesn't change the API, those programs will continue to function as expected.
It does happen after a while though. WinXP programs will work on XP, Win7 programs will work on 7, but Win7 programs may or may not work on XP and vice-versa.
In Linux, this is much the same, but at a different rate, given the difference in release rates between the two.
On stable, the core packages are updated, and a few years down the line, the API might have changed. When the API changes, as with Windows, new features are introduced that any program created/updated thereafter can take advantage of. On the other hand, old features may be removed, meaning old programs are no longer compatible. As the newer core packages are used, other programs must be updated accordingly.
This ties in with #2. Since Debian stable tends to only receive bug fixes, security fixes, etc. the APIs really don't change much, if ever. It isn't until the next release that big changes are made.
On Debian unstable, this stuff changes more often, hence "unstable".

In regards to frameworks, it's a bit more simple.
Take .NET programs, for example. If you program something with .NET 4.5, and someone on Win7 only had .NET 4, they're going to need to upgrade.
The same goes for DirectX and other technologies. If it's a newer program, you're going to need to install newer versions of the API.
But because of the way Windows works, installing newer frameworks doesn't necessarily mean the old stuff will break. You can have DirectX 9 and 11 both installed at once, so even if stuff is stripped out or changed in the newer version, programs build for the older one will still work.
This is great for backwards compatibility, but it means having multiple versions of the same software installed. In other words, your OS becomes bloated. You double up on stuff you don't necessarily need, and you sometimes wind up with obsolete libraries gunking up your system.
On Linux, this isn't really allowed. I can't have two versions of the same core library installed, so I can't have really old software and brand new software side by side.
You can sometimes get around this in linux by compiling programs yourself, or running portable applications bundled with the libraries they need, but for usual installations, you either have a compatible version or you don't. If the software you're using tries to reference methods that don't exist in the old version of an API, it isn't going to work. If an old program tries to use features that were removed from a newer version of an API, it won't work. You stick with older and more stable or new & bleeding edge.

So yeah, there's a bit of a trade-off involved here. Linux is quite slim on disk space as a result, but can't run very old and very new packages concurrently.
mxmaniac wrote:4. So assuming you are running linux mint, or the same version of debian unstable with cinnamon installed, and using the linux mint repositories. At this point are they basically 100% the same system (besides mint has more pre-installed software). Or are there other differences? As far as security, and stability, are they identical, since they are based off the same kernel, or are there other factors I'm unaware of?
If you took Debian unstable, redirected all of its repositories to match Mint's, upgraded your software, core packages and all, to match Mint's, you would have essentially turned Debian into Mint.
At that point they would be the same in regards to security, stability, etc.
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kurotsugi
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Re: What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnam

Post by kurotsugi »

current LMDE is a nightmare for several user. you might want to wait a new iso in january to get a better one.
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Re: What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnam

Post by cwsnyder »

Even with Windows, as time passes, there comes to be software and hardware which will not support the older versions, ie., Internet Explorer 11, some of the gaming graphics APIs, or touch screens.
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mxmaniac
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Re: What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnam

Post by mxmaniac »

Thanks so much for the detailed response. Many things are much more clear to me now.

I think one of the things I had found most confusing is all the literature that would state "based on" debian, or "based on" ubuntu. Well based on is a ver subjective term which could mean almost anything. Movies for example often are "based on" a true story, yet only around 10% actually comes from the story, the rest is fabricated. So just hearing "based on", its difficult to know just what, or how much is the same, especially when mint is based of ubuntu, which is based on debian. Who would know how much was changed each time, whether its very little changed, or whether its extremely different by the time it goes through 2 translations. That's what was confusing.

But I think its quite a bit more clear now. The basic OS and kernel stays the same, but they are simply pre-customized with different settings, preloaded software, etc.
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Re: What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnam

Post by passerby »

The degree to which distros are "based on" one another changes as well, just to make things even more confusing ;)
In this case, Ubuntu takes the core packages from Debian (the kernel, drivers, a plethora of libraries, etc.), picks and chooses other Debian packages, then adds its own.
It's more simple for Mint -> Ubuntu. A lot of it is the same, but Mint has a different desktop environment, doesn't come with some of the newer stuff (like lenses and Mir, though that's a different kettle of fish) and adds some of it's own (eg. mintUpdate).
Most of the derivatives in this family are "based on" the same core packages, but begin to differ at the desktop environment and end-user applications. Under the hood they're more or less the same (aside from the difference in versions).
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Re: What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnam

Post by mxmaniac »

Thanks again for the great info.

The other thing that is quite confusing is that there is Linux Mint Debian (LMDE).

If linux mint is based on ubuntu based on debian, than that means they are both based on Debian. So why could LMDE be very different from regular mint?
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Re: What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnam

Post by passerby »

mxmaniac wrote:Thanks again for the great info.

The other thing that is quite confusing is that there is Linux Mint Debian (LMDE).

If linux mint is based on ubuntu based on debian, than that means they are both based on Debian. So why could LMDE be very different from regular mint?
LMDE is based directly off Debian Testing rather than Ubuntu/Debian Unstable.
This means that:
a) If the Mint team ever needs to move away from Ubuntu as a base, they've already done the hard work
b) The packages aren't as bleeding edge and debatably more stable, especially if you direct the repos to Debian Stable instead of Testing
c) LMDE, unlike Mint*, is a rolling (or semi-rolling, w/e) release. That means, like Debian Testing, you never need to reinstall.

*Ubuntu/Mint does need reinstalling because it's based off snapshots of Debian Unstable and then goes its own way, it doesn't continually receive the same updates as Debian Unstable.
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Re: What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnam

Post by cwsnyder »

As has been stated, Ubuntu (and main edition Mint) is based on a snapshot of Debian unstable. Debian has 4 main branches:
  • old-stable -- Still supported for servers and other users with security updates, but no back-ports of more recent software. This version will be unsupported after a new release of Debian stable.
  • stable -- This is the main supported version. Versions of application software won't be changed without user intervention since the last feature freeze before going stable, but some back-ports are available. Will go to Debian old-stable upon a new Debian stable release.
  • testing -- Newer software undergoing test to prepare for the next stable release. This is the bug swatting stage, and there may be some unfixed bugs.
  • Sid -- also called experimental or unstable -- The very latest kernels and software are tested here by developers and other users brave or foolish enough to fend for themselves when the bugs show up. All software shows up here first, and only when most of the known bugs are swatted do the packages migrate to testing. This is comparable to Gentoo or Arch, and is constantly changing or rolling to follow the latest changes.
LMDE is based on Debian testing, and will change when Debian testing changes. There have been some brave souls who want bleeding edge software packages who base their LMDE on Debian Sid, and you can read about their adventures on the forums.

Since Ubuntu/Mint main are based on the constantly changing Debian Sid, they will have newer applications, except immediately following a Debian stable release than LMDE based on testing, but over most of the time, LMDE (testing) will have fewer application bugs. Also Ubuntu and Mint for their main edition do their own tweaks of the kernel and applications which make them not totally compatible with Debian, whereas LMDE will remain 99% software & repository compatible with Debian, and only about 95% compatible with main line Mint if the main Mint release was close to the Debian stable release. Debian releases have come only about once every 2 years or so, as Debian releases only when their testing repository has every major bug fixed. In the mean time, Ubuntu/Mint have released 3 or more versions and the applications versions and kernels can vary greatly between LMDE and main line Mint.
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Re: What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnam

Post by kurotsugi »

just a little correction. experimental and unstable are two different branch. despite of the name, testing is used to prepare next debian stable and actually quite rock stable. most of test were done at unstable.
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Re: What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnam

Post by Tejas_0 »

Wondering how Squeeze and Wheezy fit into the scheme of things?
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Re: What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnam

Post by passerby »

Tejas_0 wrote:Wondering how Squeeze and Wheezy fit into the scheme of things?
Every two years, Debian "releases" a new version, which becomes the new Stable release.
Squeeze was, until not that long ago, the current stable release.
After two years with Squeeze as the stable release, Wheezy was released, thus making Wheezy the new stable release and Squeeze the old stable.

The Debian release model is a bit different than Ubuntu/Mint.
Rather than do new interim releases every 6 months with LTS versions every 2 years, Debian Stable, Testing, etc. are all "rolling" (ie. each branch will continue seeing updates indefinitely).
The actual releases of Debian are snapshots of the stable branch and are supported for a couple of years until the next release supersedes it.
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Re: What's the difference? Linux mint vs Debian with cinnam

Post by Tejas_0 »

Sticky?
Release: Linux Mint 16 "petra"
Edition: Cinnamon 32-bit
Linux mint 3.11.0-12-generic #19-Ubuntu SMP Wed Oct 9 16:12:00 UTC 2013 i686 athlon i686 GNU/Linux
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