Sunday, May 15, 2011

LMDE - the Xfce variety

LMDE stands for Linux Mint Debian Edition. Xfce, at one time, stood for the XForms Common Environment because the early editions of Xfce used XForms to create a common desktop environment.

The Xfce project originally began around the same time as another desktop environment project, KDE, around 1996. Xfce, in its early implementation, was similar to CDE, the Common Desktop Environment that was prevalent on UNIX workstations in the mid to late nineties. CDE was pretty ugly, and so were the early implementations of Xfce, but arguably Xfce worked better than CDE ever did, and Xfce became portable to a lot more systems.

Xfce was eventually rewritten to use the Gtk+ in 1999, and that was what was available during the Version 3 life cycle. In Version 4, Xfce migrated further to the Gtk+ 2 libraries, and this opened the way to significant new development, including a solid file manager and a new SVG icon set. The current version, included in the Linux Mint Xfce 201104 Edition (the actual name of the release), which is the Linux Mint Debian Edition for Xfce, adds a number of additional features, provides some interesting history and details, from which I extracted much of this information.

As far as this 201104 release, this is the first LMDE that has been configured for use as a "Debian Edition". Past releases came out after the main Linux Mint versions (which use GNOME for their desktop environment), but this caused quite a bit of delay in their release. The idea for LMDE was first tested with a GNOME desktop, and this Xfce edition is the first of what will probably end up being most of the other Mint editions that will be based on a Debian rolling release core in order to save on development effort and result in more frequently updated software.

The software itself works quite well. For those familiar with traditional versions of Mint, this edition is not quite as finely polished at this stage in its life as the primary Mint editions, but on the other hand, it is a bit more flexible and a lot more current. We can expect it to become slightly more polished over time, though probably not to the extent of the official Mint releases.

For a veteran like me, I definitely prefer these LMDE versions to the primary versions of Mint, but not everyone would agree with that, and that is why it is great to have choices and alternatives. This one is pretty good for those with some Debian experience, and it is somewhat easier to deal with than a stock Debian system, but you can still do most things that you do with a genuine Debian system, so in some ways it adds to the flexibility commonly found on a Debian system. These editions are all based on Debian Testing, a solid core of software.

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