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Linux Mint vs Ubuntu: What is the difference?

If you are a beginner in the Linux world, chances are you were advised to install Ubuntu or Linux Mint as your first distribution. Not a bad recommendation; on the contrary, both distributions are a great choice for a novice user, especially if you're switching from Windows.

However, you must be wondering: what is the difference between Ubuntu and Linux Mint? With so many Linux distributions out there, surely they all have to differ from each other in some way. also true for Mint and Ubuntu, although the differences may not be as impressive as, for example, between Ubuntu and Arch Linux. We will take a look at several aspects of Ubuntu and Linux Mint to find out how they differ.


Maybe you already know that Linux Mint based on Ubuntu, but how did it all start?

At the beginning there was Debian, and in 2004 Ubuntu was developed as a standalone Linux distribution based on the unstable version of Debian with the same package format (.deb). Two years later, in 2006, the first version of Linux Mint was released. It was based on Ubuntu (technically, in its KDE style called Kubuntu) and used Ubuntu software repositories. Here we have the first distinction: Ubuntu older than Linux Mint.

Ubuntu also has a much larger team of developers behind it. funded by Mark Shuttleworth and his company Canonical, which has several subsidiaries with over 500 employees worldwide. The development of Ubuntu and its various sub-projects controlled by the Ubuntu Technical Committee and numerous engineering teams in collaboration with the Ubuntu Community Council and local community teams.

On the other hand, Linux Mint does not have an elaborate and multinational structure for backup, and relies mainly on sponsors and donations from users, as well as partnerships with other companies. The leader and founder of the Linux project Mint Clement Lefebvre, and there are dozens of maintenance workers and team developers who help create, translate, test and improve new versions of Linux Mint. The teams are mostly based in Europe, although there are some local communities in Asia.


Both Ubuntu and Linux Mint have a consolidated naming scheme for their versions. Linux Mint traditionally gives every new version a female name that ends with -a. Until 2007, Linux Mint had point versions (2.0, 3.0 …) – pass to the main release numbers in 2008 with Linux Mint 5 LTS codenamed Elyssa. At the end of 2014, however, they returned to a point number naming scheme with the 17 LTS version, which is currently in its 17.1 version, and 17.2 scheduled for June 2015 (it will be called Rafaela).

Ubuntu has always had, and has still published, point versions with the version number reflecting the year and month of the release. The Ubuntu versions are in alphabetical code, with the name consisting of two words starting with the same letter. The first word is always an adjective, while the other indicates an animal, usually of a rare species.

In the beginning Ubuntu didn't follow the alphabetic model, so the first two release names started with W and H respectively, and there was never a version called with A or C. The current version 15.04 Vervet lively, which means that it was released in April 2015. We already know the name of the next version: Wily Werewolf, which will be released in October this year.

Release cycles

A new version of Ubuntu is released every six months, which comes in two versions a year, usually in April and October. Each version supported for nine months, after which it reaches "end of life" and stops receiving updates and official patches.

There are also LTS (Long Term Support) versions, which receive support for five years after their release. Currently, every fourth version of Ubuntu is an LTS, which means they come out every two years. We had Lucid Lynx (10.04) in 2010, Precise Pangolin (12.04) in 2012 and Trusty Tahr (14.04) in 2014. The next Ubuntu LTS will be released in 2016.

Linux Mint follows the Ubuntu release program, so they also have two new versions per year. However, the program is not fixed and the new versions come out "when they're ready", which is usually a month or two after the new Ubuntu versions. LTS versions are also present in Linux Mint, with support for up to five years. Every fourth version of Linux Mint an LTS.

The latest LTS, Linux Mint 17 Qiana, famous for its special release cycle. Instead of switching immediately to Linux Mint 18, the developers decided to back up the applications and create a stable system by providing updates on a smaller scale. So Linux Mint 17.1 Rebecca was released in November 2014 and 17.2 coming this year.

Aromas and editions

Over the years, Ubuntu has grown to include different editions for different devices and purposes. The main Ubuntu Desktop edition, usually called simply "Ubuntu", and there are Ubuntu Server Edition, Ubuntu Touch for smartphones and tablets, Ubuntu Cloud images and Ubuntu TV for smart TVs. There is also a version of Ubuntu Desktop for Chinese users called Ubuntu Kylin, a bundled edition with educational software called Edubuntu, a multimedia editing edition called Ubuntu Studio and Mythbuntu, an Ubuntu edition for building a PC home theater.

Flavors, or Ubuntu variants, are versions of Ubuntu Desktop with different desktop environments installed by default. The main edition of Ubuntu Desktop comes with Unity, the Ubuntu environment. Other flavors are Ubuntu GNOME, Kubuntu (KDE), Lubuntu (LXDE), Xubuntu (Xfce) and Ubuntu MATE, which was recognized as the official flavor of Ubuntu this year.

Linux Mint available in 32 and 64 bit editions with multimedia codecs included or without them. There is also an OEM version for hardware manufacturers. Since 2010, the Linux Mint team maintains a semi-rolling distribution called Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE). based on Debian Testing, available in 32 and 64 bit versions and has an intuitive installation program. For now there are two official versions of LMDE – MATE and Cinnamon – but users can install any desktop environment they want.

As for the flavors of Linux Mint, there are Cinnamon (Mint's desktop environment), the MATE, KDE and Xfce editions, but only the first two are considered "major editions". There were the Linux Mint GNOME, LXDE and Fluxbox editions, but they are no longer actively developed.

Software and under the hood

Provided that you download and install the Linux Mint edition with codecs, you will have Flash, Java and other essential multimedia elements installed by default, while on Ubuntu you must install them yourself. The selection of similar default apps on Ubuntu and Mint – both offer Firefox, LibreOffice and Thunderbird, but Mint also includes VLC, Pidgin and GIMP.

Users can enable the "import" repository in Mint which allows them to easily install Opera, Picasa and Skype from Mint's software manager called mintInstall. This application is only one of the many smaller utilities developed by the Linux Mint team, including mintDesktop, mintBackup, mintUpload, mintConstructor and mintUpdate, a standalone support utility for managing and installing system updates.

In addition to this, Mint also has its desktop menu called mintMenu, and a display manager called MDM, which can replace KDM or GDM and manage the desktop login process. The Mint developers also modify or patch some applications provided by Ubuntu, such as GRUB, Xchat and Plymouth.

Ubuntu allows users to install new applications from the Software Center. It is worth noting that they include some commercial applications in their offer, requiring users to purchase the software.


Ubuntu comes pre-installed on desktop and laptop computers on many popular vendors, including Dell, Lenovo, HP and ASUS. also a popular choice for mini-PCs, so users can purchase Entroware Aura or System76 Meerkat – both minimal configurations supported by Ubuntu. However, one of Ubuntu's biggest successes is the launch of its smartphone – BQ Aquaris E4.5 – which runs Ubuntu Touch.

Linux Mint has collaborated with some projects and companies that make it possible to purchase computers with Mint as a pre-installed operating system. The most interesting project MintBox, a mini-PC produced by CompuLab. available at an affordable price and 10% of earnings are part of the Linux Mint project.

Plans for the future

Linux Mint has always been known for its user-friendly approach and developers strive to provide a traditional desktop experience suitable for both beginners and average users. Although they bring new and interesting features to each release, they have usually maintained a somewhat conservative attitude and have not applied too radical changes. Their desktop environment, Cinnamon, will soon reach version 2.6, which is destined to bring new options and improvements. Since Ubuntu passed to systemd in the 15.04 release of this year, it is expected that Linux Mint will also switch to systemd in version 18, and in LMDE 3. also possible that systemd is offered as an option along with Upstart, which Mint currently uses .

On the other hand, Canonical visionaries have never been afraid to introduce revolutionary changes, even at the cost of their users' loyalty and, sometimes, the overall stability of the operating system. Their Unity desktop environment divided the user base into those who loved it and those who hated it – there was almost no field. With convergence as the ultimate goal, the Ubuntu developers are planning to move from X to a new display server called Mir. The switch will be linked to another change, which introduces Unity 8 as the new default desktop environment. These changes are expected in 2016.

We can also expect a completely different approach to software packaging, since Ubuntu moves away from .deb packages and PPAs and starts using its Snappy product or snap packages. They should be safer, easier to carry and create, faster to update and their updates will be incremental, which means smaller downloads. Sounds interesting, but all we can do now is wait and see what happens.

And that's it – these are the most obvious differences between Linux Mint and Ubuntu. Of course, we could compare them on other levels; for example, take a look at the percentages of their popularity or count the languages ??in which each translated distribution. However, this should be enough to help you decide which distro to choose. To make the decision even easier, you can use this graph that shows the features and differences at a glance:

Can you name other differences between Mint and Ubuntu? What distribution of your favorite between the two? Tell us in the comments below.

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