A system based on Debian

The idea of a Linux Mint desktop based on top of Debian Testing is quite seducing. It’s much faster than Ubuntu and the current Linux Mint desktops, it uses less resources, and it opens the door for a rolling distribution, with a continuous flow of updates and no jumps from one release to another. It’s something we’ve always been tempted to do. Needless to say, whether it’s been because of our lack of communication on that topic or not, this has been a source of numerous rumors within the community.

A while ago, we released an ALPHA non-installable liveCD based on Debian. Then, last August I announced I was working on a new installer, and recently, I was joined by Ikey Doherty to work on the Debian base again.This time we’re producing our own liveCD, straight from the Debian Testing repositories, and it also comes with its own installer. What we’re aiming at, this time, is a fully working and fully installable liveCD which behaves in every way as similarly as the main Linux Mint edition.

Before I explain a little more about this project, I just need to stress a few important points:

  • Until we release it as stable and we can assess the feedback of the community and the percentage of our users using it, the priority of this project is secondary.
  • We’ve never considered our goal to be linked to Ubuntu in anyway. We consider Ubuntu one of the upstream components that we use on some of the systems we distribute. The same way we distribute Gnome on most systems and other desktops on some others, it’s possible for us to distribute a system with a different package base such as Debian. We’ve also considered experimenting with an RPM Fedora base, a Slackware/APT base  and even making our own from scratch. Of course, changing the base represents more work than changing the desktop, which itself is harder obviously than changing a user application, but we’re a distribution and this is what we do: We distribute a system made of the best upstream components available to us, including our own alternatives.
  • We’re not “switching base”, we’ll continue to use Ubuntu on most of our systems. This Debian-based project will produce an additional system (to start with), it’s something we want to try, and if it proves successful, it’s something we’ll continue to maintain.

At the moment, we’ve got an installable liveCD which comes with a rough Linux Mint desktop. All tools are present, the look and feel is almost identical to the Main edition, but there are a few rough edges. The installer itself is working fine, it supports locales and most features, but it’s still missing a partitioner. That’s what we’re working on at the moment.

Here’s a screenshot of the installer:

And here’s what the installed system looks like (this particular installation is in Korean, as we were testing the new locale support in the installer):

We’re starting with Gnome and i386. We’re not sure whether it will be a CD or DVD yet, and we really can’t say much in terms of ETA. You can follow our progress on the installer on github:

http://github.com/linuxmint/live-installer/commits/master

And once the installer is ready, we’ll start testing ISO images on the Community Website:

http://community.linuxmint.com/iso

I’d like everyone to be patient with this project. A lot of things are happening indeed, but as I said before, the other editions take priority over this and until it gets the release and success it certainly deserves, we’re still considering it an R&D project. Whether you’ll be able to try this out in a few weeks, in a few months or even next year is really hard to say at this stage. Be confident that it will happen, that the team is extremely interested in it and that Ikey and I are working really hard on it. I planned to work on this during the last release cycle, but the development of the new mintInstall and the new Linux Mint 9 features took priority. We’ve got some time at the moment and we’ll make as much progress as we can. No matter what happens, we won’t release it publicly until we’re 100% happy with it.

To those who’ve waited a long time already and to everyone in advance, thank you for your patience.

Posted by Linux Admin