There's a new Linux Mint in town, and something new has been added. Specifically, Mint's Cinnamon desktop is now part of Linux Mint's Debian Edition (LMDE). Mint giveth, and Mint taketh away. The 201204 LMDE release also says goodbye to GNOME 2.x, though users do have a transition plan one way or another.
Just a quick refresher for folks who aren't overly familiar with Linux Mint. The "main" edition of Linux Mint is an Ubuntu-based distribution that has some different software choices than Ubuntu, and is now offering a GNOME 3-based desktop called Cinnamon rather than Ubuntu's Unity.
The project also offers a rolling release distribution (LMDE) based on Debian Testing instead of Ubuntu. The Debian edition gives users the chance to run a release that's closer to Debian (which Ubuntu is based on) and get new software, faster. LMDE has a different installer that's optimized for Debian rather than Ubuntu.
Actually, it's not quite a rolling release distro. If you're running Debian Testing, you're getting updates as soon as they appear in Testing, which can be a bit... interesting. Another word for that might be adventurous, or "only for users who don't mind the occasional broken system."
LMDE is a semi-rolling distribution (their term), that gives users snapshots of Debian testing that have been, well, tested.
In short use LMDE if you want updates more quickly, and you're willing to deal with some rough edges. Use Linux Mint's main distribution if you prefer slower changes to your system and as few rough edges as possible.
Bye Bye GNOME 2
We all knew the day was coming, and it's here. LMDE's latest release drops GNOME 2, as it's not compatible with GNOME 3. But it's not quite as bad as it might sound.
In place of GNOME 2x, Mint is offering MATE, a fork of GNOME 2x. The experience is, well, almost exactly like using GNOME 2x on Mint. I've been using it for a few days and other than a few oddities (Pluma text editor? Really? Why rename Gedit? Eye of Mate?) it seems fine.
Users also have the option of going with Cinnamon, or KDE, Xfce, etc. For GNOME/Mint fans, I'd suggest checking out Cinnamon if you have the hardware to do it.
The thing about Cinnamon is that it requires compatible video hardware that will do 3D to Cinnamon's liking. Cinnamon does just fine on my ThinkPad, not so well in VMware Player.
If you're already using LMDE not quite ready to make the switch from GNOME 2x? See the Linux Mint blog about using the "frozen" repositories so you stay on the last update pack and GNOME 2.
The desktop environment isn't the only thing that's updated in the latest LMDE release, of course. You also get the 3.2 kernel, Firefox 11, LibreOffice 3.4.5 (not the latest, but very stable), and more.
LMDE makes a very good distro for folks who want to get the latest and greatest without going full-on Debian Testing. If you've never tried Debian, it's a good way to ease in.