Linux Mint Debian Edition LMDE Review

By | 2011/05/21

I have decided to give Linux Mint Debian Edition a go on my main desktop! Here is my quick minty-fresh brushed metal review.

LMDE is Debian testing ever so slightly fine-tuned for the desktop. Elegance is the most apt (pun intended) word to describe LMDE.

LMDE is 100% Debian compatible (uses regular Debian repositories), but includes all of the minty-goodness such as flash, mp3 playback, mintUpdate, that wonderful Mint menu, and other cool stuff out of the box. Firefox is called Firefox, Thunderbird is called Thunderbird, and there is peace in the world.

Oh and it’s a rolling release so you are always up-to-date.


Currently as of 21 May 2011 LMDE has:

  • Linux kernel 2.6.38
  • Gnome 2.30
  • Firefox 3.6.13
  • Thunderbird 3.1.7
  • Pidgin 2.7.11
  • LibreOffice 3.3.2

Cool stuff:

You can apt-get these out of the box:

  • latest virtualbox non-free
  • skype
  • dropbox
  • googleearth
  • picasa
  • opera

Here is the /etc/apt/sources.list if you are curious (Edit with Update Packs!):

stmiller@brahms:~$ cat /etc/apt/sources.list
deb debian main upstream import
deb testing main contrib non-free
deb testing/updates main contrib non-free
deb testing main non-free

It’s fast. Many folks have long said that Ubuntu has been seemingly more and more bloated either by default startup services, default kernel configuration used, or other reasons. LMDE uses the current Debian testing kernel. There are no random default startup services such as scanners, dial-up internet, Evolution components, and others which are default to Ubuntu.


I did make a couple of personal adjustments for my own hardware and taste. Firstly, I wanted the proprietary nvidia driver as well as compiz. Also my Audiophile 2496 card does not play well with pulseaudio, so I wanted to remove pulseaudio.

To install the binary Nvidia drivers:

sudo apt-get install nvidia-kernel-dkms

Then run this to enable the driver:

sudo nvidia-xconfig 

And of course log out / back in.

To have compiz start automatically, create/edit one file and add a single line:

sudo nano ~/.gnomerc
export WINDOW_MANAGER=/usr/bin/compiz

Then log out / back in.

You can remove pulseaudio as follows:

sudo apt-get purge pulseaudio pulseaudio-utils gstreamer0.10-pulseaudio libpulse-browse0 paman pavumeter pavucontrol

And then removed this lingering file which kept skype and other apps from just using alsa:

sudo rm /etc/asound.conf

And based on some advice from the Mint forums, install this to make alsa happy:

sudo apt-get install libalsaplayer0

Of course all of this sort of stuff is totally optional – LMDE is absolutely sweet and ready to go out of the box!

So how is it??

Pretty darn sweet. I can’t believe how fast the desktop is. Incredibly faster than Ubuntu which I was running on the same hardware. Windows open and close snappy fast!

I like that Pidgin and Thunderbird are there by default.

Any downsides?

Not that I can think of. It is Debian testing, so this is for persons not afraid of reading the occasional mailing list or bug report if something happens to have trouble with apt or another package. This is obviously not for mission critical servers, or someone who wants something dead-stable as CentOS or Debian stable.

So far LMDE has been 100% excellent for me. I am using it as my full time desktop now after years of Ubuntu.

A few random screenshots

Control Center is logical, clear, and has everything in one place:


The infamous Mint Backup Tool:


Green minty-fresh theme:


Mint’s excellent Software Manager front end for apt:

05linuxmint 06linuxmint 07linuxmint

mintUpdate keeps you up to date. Looks like I’m good!


Go check it out!

Update: Update Packs!

Clem rolled out Update Packs for LMDE. There is a new icon to click ‘Update Pack Info’ in the LMDE update manger. This provides info on known issues and things to be aware of in Debian testing. To use Update Packs, you must enable the repo as outlined here:

update-manager_118 update-pack-info-update-manager_119

25 thoughts on “Linux Mint Debian Edition LMDE Review

  1. Riddick

    I am incredibly disappointed with the sheer lack of consistency in any of the flavours of linux. Any attempt to cover off all things necessary to build a good media centre pc is incredibly difficult.
    I followed this guide after trying ubuntu 11.04, ubuntustudio, linux mint ubuntu. All of which had one show stopper that prevented its usefulness.

    Specs of my system are stated below –

    Case: Antec Fusion
    CPU: Core 2 Duo 2.66
    Motherboard Manu: Intel
    Ram: 6gig
    HDD: 80gig, 1500gig
    Graphics Card: NVidia Geforce 8800GTS
    Soundcard: Creative Soundblaster Audigy 2

    Ubuntu and pulseaudio appeared to cause most of the issues in audio playback with alot of static and popping sounds and anything based on the Unity Desktop had issues with the graphics card.
    Linux mint debian also failed on the sound department as removing the pulseaudio as suggested above and running with ALSA stopped any sound working at all.
    After making an attempt to install OSS the computer no longer would boot into gnome desktop and was stuck at commandline.

    I have abandoned this project to get xbmc working nicely on linux just due to time constraints. Its a shame really, soo much potential.

    I am familiar enough to know alot of useful commands in linux and I’d call myself half decent at working with it. Not being able to get everything running as I want I can’t help but feel like something that is soo easily handled on windows could be this difficult for a distro of any sort on linux.

    It has been a good learning process no doubt, any suggestions on how to revisit it I am anxious to know. Any opportunity to use linux I am keen to do.

    1. Tony

      I have the same sound card, and while I couldn’t get it working through Pulseaudio, it works very well through Alsa. Basically, once you’ve fully purged Pulseaudio, unchecked the related items to ensure it doesn’t try to start on boot, and installed Alsa, it defaults to the digital setting. You want analog … not sure why its coded this way, but no worries. Basically you go to terminal, pop in “alsamixer” (minus quotation marks, obviously), and scroll over until you see the analog/digital switch (it doesn’t have a volume bar, just a box). Hit M on the keyboard, and this should switch it from digital to analog … I heard my speakers magically turn on. After that, sound is loud and proud.

      Fyi, I use LMDE based on the Sid repos for all my machines, including my 2 HTPCs (only one uses this sound card). Single most efficient system I’ve ever used, I swear by LMDE.

  2. Riddick

    With the sort of issues I have had with Creative’s soundcards and the terrible support they also showed for Win7 I definately will never buy another Creative product.

    As for onboard sound, it would be a big step back for me to walk away from the use of my soundcard. Thanks for the tip Scott in relation to the model I should chase in the future, that is useful to know. I will definately be paying closer attention to linux supported hardware in my next upgrade.

  3. PB

    In theory, LMDE is awesome. I must emphasize the “theory” part of that statement. I am anxious to see it develop into the user friendly experience that is now the Main Edition (Ubuntu Based). I don’t like where Ubuntu is heading. I believe that the Mint team is perfectly capable of building on top of Debian, or perhaps becoming completely independent in the future. However, from my experience, LMDE has a long way to go. I currently have a working LMDE installation, if you want to call it working. It took the better part of the day to get the initial install updated and broken packages fixed, etc. I have yet to find a process that gets the nvidia driver installed proper for my home system. This is a non-issue in Main Edition. I respect the other opinions of users on this commentary page and others about the speed of their LMDE system. However, I am running Mint 9 still as my primary system. There’s just something about Mint 10 that makes my wonder, and I’m not at all thrilled with Mint 11. If I were a betting man, I would challenge anyone of you to a boot-up race which compares Mint 9 and LMDE. I know some of you are willing to take the time to tweak, and in the end, you might have a system that beats the pants off mine. But compared to the 30 minutes that it takes me to get Mint 9 up and running, it runs terribly fast. My bet is that most of you would be whipped as Mint 9 beats the pants off my current LMDE tester, which again, isn’t even using nvidia drivers. Even Libreoffice snaps into action way faster than it does on LMDE. The one Wine application that I run launches faster than it does in Windows, not to mention LMDE, although it runs acceptably in LMDE. I can’t explain it, as I do not have the time to do the research. I just need a system to work well with minimal effort. So far, I keep crawling back to Mint 9, and each time I do, I say to myself: What a world of difference. Mint 9 blazes on my hardware. It also entered Long Term Support. Again, I may be doing something seriously wrong, and I am humble and willing to learn. But for now, I will log onto my LMDE tester from time to time to check for updates. I don’t dare try to install the nvidia drivers until a sure fire process reveals itself. Otherwise, I’ll be at the command line from now on. I understand that the Mint team is going to be making some LMDE re-spins available later this summer, with lots of positive changes. I am looking forward to it. But for me, LMDE is going to have to match or exceed the performance I get out of Mint 9 before I commit to LMDE. This includes the time it takes to get a system installed, updated, and running like it should.

    1. scott Post author

      Check this out:

      You can now optionally do monthly ‘update packs’ with LMDE now by changing to the new mint repo.

      This will bring much more stability to LMDE. Woot!

  4. LMDE Rocks

    LMDE is excellent. PB, you need to have a bit of patience and experience with linux in general to work with distros like slack, deb etc..

    I’m not big on proprietary drivers etc.. but I draw the line with nvidia. With LMDE, I download the latest driver from Nvidia and install it.
    Only takes a few moments and your good to go on reboot. If you don’t know cli and cannot work from the prompt for many things, you don’t want to
    google it and learn, then you will be better off with Ubuntu or other distros that find your hardware and pop a box in your face. But it’s all
    very unnecessary and if you want a better running linux box, you’ll be hard pressed to find better than either debian, lmde for debian based
    distros. That is my opinion on the matter, but I’m not opposed to fixing a few things when they don’t work.

  5. LMDE Rocks

    PS. Sorry Scott, wanted to say I liked your review and forgot all about it. 🙂

  6. PB

    LMDE Rocks,

    I appreciate your comments. However, with all due respect, you’ve done nothing more than repeat my position on the matter. I have googled the subject with drivers all too often, and have screwed around with several different “great” ideas to get nvidia drivers working. I know there is something I’m missing about this specific issue, but I didn’t leave Windows because I wanted to screw around with stuff to get it to work. If you’ve ever used Windows or perhaps you use it now from time to time, you know what a time difference there is in getting an XP machine up and running compared to the 25 minutes max for a turn-key PC with Mint. This is not to say that I’ve never had to fix things with Mint Main Edition. It happens from time to time. I do enjoy looking for fixes on the Web every now and then, and that’s pretty much the process with the Main Edition. However, with LMDE, it has become my lifes work to get a fully functioning PC, and there are still issues, such as nvidia, etc. Again, I don’t think this is the way it will always be with LMDE, but until it gets as good or better than the Main Edition, I’ll be sticking with Mint 9. I’m not a fan of Ubuntu, and I feel I will only dislike them more as time goes on. That’s why I see no need to move passed Mint 9. It works, and it flies on my PC.

    1. scott Post author

      Yep, LMDE is Debian _testing_ 😛 I actually like living on the edge.

    2. LifeInTheGrey


      I can understand your frustration … some people (like myself) love tinkering with their machines, and that’s why they got into Linux. Some people like to have a quick, easy, fast, turnkey solution without needing to troubleshoot things like driver support, and that’s why they got into Linux. Not sure why you’re sticking with Mint 9 (version 10 was REALLY solid, unlike 11), but more power to ya. Just a heads up, though, they are transitioning the KDE version to a Debian-base, like LMDE and XFCE. They also have stated that they will be improving the installer and proprietary driver installation (like nVidia … perhaps a jockey port), and they have already stabilized the update process from breakages with their own LMDE repo. LMDE may be less than a year old, but it has come a LONG way, and I will be GREATLY surprised if by the end of the year it hasn’t caught up to the main edition in terms of driver support, ease of installation, and usability.


      You think Testing is on the edge … try based on Sid! Weird as it sounds, I find a lot less breakages (as in never had a single one on sid) so there is far less troubleshooting, plus I am always on the bleeding edge.

  7. PB

    To LifeInTheGrey,

    As I mentioned, I will be keeping a close eye on LMDE. I am aware of the new things that the team is implementing, and they look promising. The main reason that I have stayed with Mint 9 is that, believe it or not, my PC runs faster than Mint 10, and I tried Mint 11 on a test partition, and I didn’t get a good feeling about it. Mint 10 doesn’t run badly, but it is a marked difference. I’m sure it has to do with my specific hardware base, but I suppose I got lucky on that. I don’t believe in buying new hardware to make Linux work the way I need it to. On the other hand, I tried Mint 9 on some older PC’s at work, and it turns out that there is an issue with the kernel used in Mint 9 where it doesn’t play nice with certain Intel P4 processors. You can update the Kernel, but you open yourself up to other issues–issues we can’t have in the business world. Apparently, Dell used those processors in many of their older PC’s, and we have a pile of them. No matter. We loaded up Mint 10, and all is well. For my home PC, I choose Mint 9, of course until things get smoothed out with LMDE. In reference to a graphics driver installation tool like in the Main Editions, the latest news I see, is that they are putting that on the shelf for now, and will address it later in favor of more important pursuits. I understand completely. I’ll just wait and see what happens. My Mint 9 PC works great the way it is. In the words of a certain somebody: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It you can’t fix it, don’t break it.”

  8. ove

    Broken packages.
    Tried many “solutions”.
    Nothing works.
    This is really a bad distro.
    Download the 201101, and this problem was known at least in September 2010.
    Linux is a mess.

    1. scott Post author

      Yep broken is correct. This is based on Debian Testing which is living on the edge.

      There are other versions of Linux which are more stable and more user friendly as well. Either Ubuntu, OpenSuse, or Linux Mint (regular edition).


  9. axedre

    Hi Scott, thanks for the nice review.
    I’ll soon install LMDE, coming from Trisquel Linux which I gave a (very) short try (I went insane trying to make flash work, then I gave up, they’re way too strict on the FOSS philosophy).
    Just a question: if I try to remove undesired programs like Evolution, Thunderbird or any other pre-installed software bundled with gnome (apart from the mint-specific applications), will LMDE – as other distros I’ve tried – prompt me to remove gnome entirely? If so, is it a suicidal idea to proceed and maybe install just gnome-core, followed by just the programs I really need?
    Thanks in advance for any advice.


  10. WMR

    I like Mint Debian, but when I try to install Nvidia drivers it will never reboot. I’ve read everything and nothing helps. It is faster than Ubuntu, but with them I could install drivers for my video card. I’m sure that it will be fixed someday and I’ll try it again.

  11. chas

    If LMDE continues its development path, I have a new favorite distro. I had no trouble with sound, compiz on nvidia card, or anything for that matter. It took a bit of tweaking, of course, but it all went very smoothly.

    I am not an Ubuntu fan, so a distro based on Debian is really cool.

    I started with KDE 3. Loved it. KDE 4 came and I left.
    Went to Gnome 2. Loved it. Gnome 3 came and I left.

    Now with LMDE XFCE, I am happy again.

    I like this distro, and I’ve run a bunch of them.

  12. Citizen Zed

    Seems important to jump through some hoops about APT wth upgrades but I’m confused by logical priority and exactly how to do. … before LMDE install I was in Mint 8 KDE. It’s officially dead but it worked so well for me that I had to do very little under the hood… or even with terminal/bash. Basically a n00b who knows enough only to be dangerous… and stupid enough to be annoyed by a “lack of clarity”.

    So, upon reading lots of posts and infos about upgrade, I see things that make me wonder what it is exactly to do first. Run Update, then change APT sources… or change APT sources and then run Update?? I swear I’ve run into both logics. (I’m in holding, going no further since Update Manager updated itself).

    When it comes to one “first thing you need to do” lines, for instance, I see instruction:

    “gksu gedit /etc/apt/sources.list
    Within this file, replace the following:

    Replace with
    Replace with”

    I’m guessing there’s some kind of terminal/bash syntax.. command that does this. But worrying I’d get it wrong (maybe I think debian different from former ubuntu/mint). I go into Software Sources and see: testing testing/updates testing

    Now I changed these via edit to where they now read testing main contrib non-free testing/updates main contrib non-free testing main non-free

    … another line that is supposed to be there is not in “other”, namely:
    deb debian main upstream import
    … but I guess this is the main thing and just not listed there.

    So am I good to run the update manager now? … or was I supposed to update and then do that later? Basically scared ;/

    1. scott Post author

      Yeah Linux Mint Debian is somewhat living on the edge, so not for everyone.

      This post has info about using ‘update packs’:

      I’d suggesting checking out the linux mint forums which has a LMDE section as well,

  13. Armein

    Great review!
    I have stopped using Ubuntu and moved to LinuxMint 10 six months ago. Very satisfied. Last month I gave LMDE a try and found it as good as mint 10 in term of usability. And the rolling updates feature really got me interested. No more reinstalling rituals. Now I am LMDE user daily.

    Anyway, I also installed LMDE on an external hardisk with USB 2.0, and carry it in my pocket anywhere I go for work. I dont have to bring my laptop anymore. Just plug it to any available computer or netbook or laptop, and have it usb booted. I can have all my files and apps now ready to work with the same configuration anywhere. I even can acces it using virtualbox on anybody’s computer without hardware booting. Very convenient.

  14. Conek

    I have been using Linux for just a few years jumping from OS to OS. I am excited to try a new OS when I find one. My first experience ever with Mint has been LMDE. I am sold. I am now running LMDE on all my computers. I still use other linux OS distros also for specific purposes. But LMDE is the only OS I keep on my hard drives. Everything works right out of the box with LMDE. I can not say enough good about the opearating system, thanks to all those involved with the development of LMDE. It is everything I have been looking for. For any newbie having problems with LMDE all I can say is search the web and forums for answers. There seems to be a lot of support from the community. I have been working with computers since 1969 and I still consider myself a newbie. There has been a lot of changes over the years and lots more to come. LMDE is a keeper.

  15. sito

    The only problem with this distro is the iso that distribute, still contains the wrong repository and the people who are not very experienced tend to install and update it as also suggested in the site.
    They should make a iso with the correct repository.
    Small problems can be found if you want to change the background image on the login screen or (and this I could not fix it) to change the background image on the lock screen.
    Then there’s the installation that does not provide an automatic partitioning, but you must manually partition, ok this is not a fault, I was used to learn.
    However, your post was useful, I had to remove pulseaudio just that I take issue with skype.

  16. shawn bright

    Great review. I found the instructions for removing pulseaudio and restoring alsa to be very helpful. I don’t use lmde, but on the new crunchbang based on debian, so they are very similar.
    Thanks again, and yeah, great distro

  17. Dale Kaup

    I thought Mint’s backup application was good but you say it’s infamous (having an extremely bad reputation). So which is it?

    Or maybe you just meant famous? Let me know.


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