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Linux Mint

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Linux Mint 11 ("Katya")
Linux Mint 11 ("Katya")
Linux Mint is a Linux-based computer operating system best known for its usability and ease of installation, particularly for users with no previous Linux experience. It is available in several editions with different codebases, nearly all of which are based on 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).

In 2010 Linux Mint released a Debian Edition. Unlike the other Ubuntu-based editions, this is based directly on Debian, and hence is not tied to Ubuntu packages or release schedule.


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.


Various programs (such as remastersys and Reconstructor) exist to produce customised remasters of Debian/Ubuntu and probably can be used to produce modified versions of Linux Mint Live CDs.

Package classification and support

Linux Mint divides its software repositories into four components to reflect differences in their nature and in their origin.

  • main
  • component only includes software that is developed by Linux Mint.

  • upstream

    component includes software which is present in Ubuntu but patched or modified by Linux Mint. As a result, the software present in this component behaves differently in each distribution. Notable examples are Grub, Plymouth, Ubiquity, Xchat, USB Creator and Yelp (the help system).

  • import

    component includes software that is not available in Ubuntu or for which no recent versions are available in Ubuntu. Notable examples are Opera, Picasa, Skype, Songbird, the 64-bit Adobe Flash plugin and Frostwire.

  • romeo

    component is not enabled by default. It is used by Linux Mint to test packages before they are included in other components. As such it represents the unstable branch of Linux Mint.

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.


Version Code name Release date
1.0 Ada 2006-08-27
2.0 Barbara 2006-11-13
2.1 Bea 2006-12-20
2.2 Bianca 2007-02-20
3.0 Cassandra 2007-05-30
3.1 Celena 2007-09-24
4.0 Daryna 2007-10-15
5 Elyssa 2008-06-08
6 Felicia 2008-12-15
7 Gloria 2009-05-26
8 Helena 2009-11-28
9 Isadora 2010-05-18
10 Julia 2010-11-12
11 Katya 2011-05-26

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 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:

  • KDE Software Compilation based on Kubuntu
  • Xfce based on Debian
  • LXDE based on Lubuntu
  • LMDE based on Debian

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.

System requirements

Linux Mint currently supports the Intel x86 and AMD64 architectures.

Minimum Recommended
Processor (x86) 600 MHz 1 GHz
Memory 256 MB 512 MB
Hard Drive (free space) 5 GB 10 GB
Monitor Resolution 800×600 1024×768

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, 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.

Development team

Linux Mint is developed and maintained by the following people:

  • Clement Lefebvre - Founder, project leader, developer and maintainer of the Main, Universal and x64 editions
  • Don Cosner - Release manager and internal tester
  • Jamie Boo Birse - Maintainer of the KDE edition
  • merlwiz79 - Maintainer of the Xfce edition
  • Shane Joe Lazar - Maintainer of the Fluxbox edition (for versions 5 and 6 of Mint)
  • Kendall Weaver - Maintainer of the Fluxbox and LXDE editions (version 8)

A full listing is available on the distribution's website:,

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
The Linux Mint Software Manager allows
users to view and install programs
from the Software Portal directly
from their desktop
The Linux Mint Update Manager
The Linux Mint Update Manager
Linux Mint actively develops software for its operating system. Most of the development is done in Python and the source code is available on GitHub.
  • Software Manager: Lets you run .mint files, which are files containing instructions to install packages. As of Linux Mint 6, this tool has been revamped, and now lets you view all the applications on the Mint Software Portal offline, providing you have an Internet connection to download the information first. Also allows you to install any of the programs listed directly from the desktop, instead of going to the site. The option to use the old MintInstall program is available, where you can go to the Ubuntu Repositories or the website from a search.
  • Update Manager: Designed to prevent inexperienced users from installing updates that are unnecessary or require a certain level of knowledge to configure properly. It assigns updates a safety-level (from 1 to 5), based on the stability and necessity of the update. Updates can be set to notify users (as is normal), be listed but not notify, or be hidden by default. In addition to including updates specifically for the Linux Mint distribution, the development team tests all package-wide updates.
  • Main Menu (MintMenu): An advanced menu, featuring filtering, installation and removal of software, system and places links, favorites, session management, editable items, custom places and many configuration options.
  • Backup tool: Lets you backup and restore your files, your settings and your software selection to easily upgrade to newer releases by performing fresh installations.
  • Upload Manager: Lets you define upload services for FTP, SFTP and SCP servers. Services are then available in the system tray and provide zones where you can drag and drop files for them to be automatically uploaded to their corresponding destinations.
  • Domain Blocker: A basic domain blocking parental control tool. Lets you manually add domains to be blocked system wide. This tool was introduced with the release of Linux Mint 6.
  • Desktop Settings: A desktop configuration tool for easy configuration of the Gnome desktop.
  • Welcome screen: Introduced in Linux Mint 7, an application that starts on the first login of any new account. It shows a dialogue window welcoming the user to Linux Mint, and providing links to the Linux Mint website, user guide and community website.


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

Debian Edition

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.

Ubuntu-based editions

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:

  • A distinct user interface, including a custom main menu.
  • A different approach to update management.
  • A collection of system applications designed to make system management and administration easier for end users.
  • A different software selection installed by default and a number of differences in the configuration of the system.

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:

  • Unlike Ubuntu, Linux Mint does not communicate release dates. Releases are announced "when ready"; they can be released early when the distribution is ahead of schedule or late when critical bugs are found.
  • Unlike Ubuntu, the philosophy of the Linux Mint project is compatible with the use of proprietary software. Linux Mint favors Open Source technology but also considers proprietary alternatives, the user experience of the desktop being the main concern with licensing coming second. For instance, most editions of Linux Mint come with Adobe's Flash plug-in installed by default.
  • Ubuntu and Linux Mint adopt radically different update strategies. Ubuntu recommends its users update all packages and upgrade to newer versions using an APT-based upgrade method. Resulting problems and regressions are regarded as temporary issues that can be fixed by further updates. In comparison, Linux Mint recommends not to update packages that can affect the stability of the system and recommends the use of its Backup Tool and fresh installations to upgrade computers to newer releases.
  • Linux Mint is completely community driven, while Ubuntu takes input from both its community and its parent company, Canonical.



Published - November 2011

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