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Ubuntu, which is itself based on Debian.
Linux Mint is composed of many software packages, of which the vast majority are distributed under a free software license (also known as open source). The main license used is the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) which, along with the GNU Lesser General Public License (GNU LGPL), explicitly declares that users are free to run, copy, distribute, study, change, develop and improve the software. Linux Mint also includes some proprietary software, such as the Adobe Flash plugin, and uses a Linux kernel that contains binary blobs. Linux Mint is funded by its community of users. Individual users and companies using the operating system act as donors, sponsors and partners of the distribution.
Origin and development process
Linux Mint uses primarily free (libre) software, making an exception only for some proprietary hardware drivers and some other widely used software, such as Adobe's Flash plugin and RAR. Unlike many other Linux distributions, Linux Mint does not strive to restrict itself to FLOSS but to prefer free software to proprietary alternatives.
Linux Mint started in 2006 with a beta release called 1.0 "Ada". The project wasn't well known at the time and this version was never released as stable. With the release of 2.0 "Barbara" a few months later, the distribution caught the attention of many people within the Linux community and started to build an audience. Using the feedback given from its new community, the distribution released a quick succession of releases between 2006 and 2008. 5 versions were released as follows: 2.1 "Bea", 2.2 "Bianca", 3.0 "Cassandra", 3.1 "Celena" and 4.0 "Daryna".
Version 2.0 "Barbara" was based on Ubuntu 6.10, using its package repositories and using it as a codebase. From there, Linux Mint followed its own codebase, building each release from its previous one but it continued to use the package repositories from the latest Ubuntu release. As such the distribution never really forked. This resulted in making the base between the two systems almost identical and it guaranteed full compatibility between the two operating systems.
In 2008, Linux Mint adopted the same release cycle as Ubuntu and dropped its minor version number before releasing version 5 "Elyssa". The same year, in an effort to increase the compatibility between the two systems, Linux Mint decided to abandon its code-base and changed the way it built its releases. Starting with version 6 "Felicia" each release was now completely based on the latest Ubuntu release, built directly from it, timed for approximately one month after the corresponding Ubuntu release (i.e. usually in May and November).
Linux Mint focuses on usability. The Ubiquity installer allows Linux Mint to be installed to the hard disk from within the Live CD environment, without the need for restarting the computer prior to installation. Linux Mint also emphasizes accessibility and internationalization to reach as many people as possible. UTF-8 is the default character encoding and allows for support of a variety of non-Roman scripts. As a security feature, the sudo tool is used to assign temporary privileges for performing administrative tasks, allowing users to administer the system without using the root account.
Linux Mint comes installed with a wide range of software that includes LibreOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, XChat, Pidgin, Transmission and GIMP. Additional software that is not installed by default can be downloaded using the package manager. Linux Mint allows networking ports to be closed using its firewall, with customized port selection available. GNOME 2 (the current default desktop) offers support for more than 46 languages. Linux Mint can also run many programs designed for Microsoft Windows (such as Microsoft Office), through Wine or using a Virtual Machine (such as VMware Workstation or VirtualBox).
Installation of Linux Mint is generally performed with the Live CD. The Linux Mint OS can be run directly from the CD (albeit with a significant performance loss), allowing a user to "test-drive" the OS for hardware compatibility and driver support. The CD also contains the Ubiquity installer, which then can guide the user through the permanent installation process. CD images of all current and past versions are available for download at the Linux Mint web site. Installing from the CD requires a minimum of 512 MB RAM.
Users can download a disk image (.iso) of the CD, which can then either be written to a physical medium (CD or DVD), or optionally run directly from a hard drive (via UNetbootin or GRUB). The main edition of Linux Mint is available in 32 and 64-bit.
Installation CDs can be purchased from 3rd party vendors.
A Microsoft Windows migration tool, called Migration Assistant (introduced in April 2007), can be used to import bookmarks, desktop background (wallpaper), and various settings from an existing MS Windows installation into a new Linux Mint installation.
Linux Mint can be booted and run from a USB Flash drive (as long as the BIOS supports booting from USB), with the option of saving settings to the flashdrive. This allows a portable installation that can be run on any PC which is capable of booting from a USB drive. In newer versions of Linux Mint, the USB creator program is available to install Linux Mint on a USB drive (with or without a LiveCD disc).
The Windows installer "Mint4Win", which is based on Wubi, is included on the Live CD and allows Linux Mint to be installed from within Microsoft Windows. The operating system can then be removed similar to any other Windows software using the Windows Control Panel. This method requires no partitioning of a Windows user's hard drive. It is only useful for Windows users; it is not meant for permanent installations because it incurs a slight performance loss.
Package classification and support
Linux Mint divides its software repositories into four components to reflect differences in their nature and in their origin.
In addition to the above, there is a "backport" component in the Linux Mint repositories. This component is there to port newer software to older releases without affecting the other components. It is not enabled by default.
There are two Linux Mint releases per year. Each release is given a new version number and a code name, using a female first name starting with the letter whose alphabetical index corresponds to the version number and ending with the letter "a" (e.g., "Elyssa" for version 5, "Felicia" for version 6).
Releases are timed to be approximately one month after Ubuntu releases (which in turn are about one month after Gnome releases and two months after X.org releases). Consequently, every Linux Mint release comes with an updated version of both GNOME and X and features some of the improvements brought in the latest Ubuntu release. Selected releases (such as Linux Mint 5 and Linux Mint 9) are labeled as Long Term Support (LTS) versions, indicating that they are supported (with updates) for three years, as compared to the 18-month support period for other releases.
The current release is Linux Mint 11 "Katya", released on 26 May 2011.
Linux Mint uses GNOME 2 as its main desktop with Ubuntu as its base. The following editions are also available:
All editions of Linux Mint are available in both 32 and 64-bit.
The distribution also provides an "OEM Edition" (previously called the "Universal Edition") which is targeted at distributors and companies operating in countries where the legislation allows patents to apply to software (The USA, Japan and to a lesser extent, Australia and the UK) which does not include patented technologies, such as DVD playback.
Starting with Linux Mint 9 "Isadora", the distribution will provide Live CD, Live DVD, OEM and US/Japan installation images for its main edition in both 32 and 64-bit.
On September 7, 2010, the Linux Mint Debian Edition was announced. The goal of this edition is to be as close to the main (Gnome) edition as possible, but based on Debian (as opposed to Ubuntu). Another notable difference is the rolling release distribution cycle. On April 6, 2011, the XFCE version of Mint Debian was released.
Linux Mint currently supports the Intel x86 and AMD64 architectures.
Note: If visual effects are desired, a supported GPU is required.
Installation does not support LVM or disk encryption.
Linux Mint relies on user feedback to make decisions and orient its development. The official blog often features discussions where users are asked to voice their opinion about the latest features or decisions implemented for upcoming releases. Ideas can be submitted, commented and rated by users via the Linux Mint Community Website.
The community of Linux Mint users also participates in translating the operating system and in reporting bugs. Linux Mint uses Launchpad for translations and bug reports.
Most of the development is done in Python and organized on-line on GitHub.com, making it easy for developers to provide patches, to implement additional features or even to fork Linux Mint sub-projects. The Linux Mint menu was forked to be ported to Fedora. With each release, features are added that are developed by the community. In Linux Mint 9 for instance, the ability to edit menu items is a feature that was contributed by a Linux Mint user.
The members of the development team are spread around the World and they communicate through private forums, emails and IRC.
Linux Mint reviews are tracked by the distribution and discussed by the development team and the community of users.
Linux Mint is developed and maintained by the following people:
Software developed by Linux Mint
The Linux Mint Software Manager allows
users to view and install programs
from the Software Portal directly
from their desktop
Linux Mint is one of the most popular Linux distributions. As of October 2008, Mint was listed as a major distribution in DistroWatch, replacing MEPIS in the category of user-friendly distributions.
Comparison with Ubuntu
Linux Mint released a Debian Edition (LMDE) on September 7, 2010, in addition to its other, Ubuntu-based editions. Unlike Mint's Ubuntu-based editions, LMDE is based directly on Debian-testing (as opposed to Ubuntu) and retains a rolling release schedule as done by Debian-testing. The last releases of Debian Mint were on September 17, 2011 for GNOME and Xfce.
LMDE is shipped in versions with both a GNOME and an Xfce desktop, and is available for both 32 bit and 64 bit architectures.
Linux Mint's Ubuntu-based editions have much in common with their parent Ubuntu releases, from the software repositories of which they build. For instance, release 6 (“Felicia”) uses the package pools of Ubuntu 8.10 (“Intrepid Ibex”).
Linux Mint has a stated focus on elegance, and it includes a number of applications that are not available in Ubuntu, and vice versa. Mint has a number of design differences from Ubuntu, including:
The Main version of Linux Mint has often been cited as a better beginner's Linux distribution than Ubuntu, due to the out-of-box readiness created by its default application choices and inclusion of restricted codecs (such as MP3 support and Flash).
From a project point of view, the main differences are:
Published - November 2011
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