Linux Mint claim to produce the world's fourth most popular operating system after Microsoft Windows, Mac OSX Unix, and Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu is based on Debian. Mint is based on Ubuntu and Debian. That makes Debian the base for most of the world's Linux.
Mint Linux is from www.linuxmint.com.
Linux Mint or Mint Linux?
Most people refer to the distribution as Mint. The Mint Web site uses Linux Mint as the official name.
Ubuntu or Debian
Mint uses Ubuntu Linux as the base for the Mint distribution then applies fixes and changes default settings. Ubuntu is Debian plus a bunch of drivers, media codecs, and other software not allowed in Debian. Debian does not include Firefox because Firefox has a copyright on the Firefox logo. Debian delivers Iceweasel, a version of Firefox with the Firefox logo removed. Most people prefer Ubuntu to Debian for personal computers because Ubuntu saves us the work of finding all the media codes and other bits. Many people use Ubuntu on their desktop then use Debian for all their servers. People using the Mint version of Ubuntu have all the advantages of Ubuntu for use on desktops, notebooks, and netbooks.
Mint also offers a Mint based on Debian without Ubuntu. Mint start with Debian then add extras similar to, but different from, Ubuntu. There is no Unity desktop to delete. Linux Mint call their Debian edition LMDE. Debian is available in several versions including
testing. LMDE is based on the testing version of Debian. If you buy brand new hardware, with new chip designs inside, you might find support for the chips in Debian testing today then see the support trickle down to the stable version a year later.
Mint or Ubuntu?
Ubuntu was the best choice until Ubuntu decided to push the Unity user interface. Now there are lot of people looking for alternatives. If Mint choose Gnome 3 or just stick with the current Gnome 2, a lot of Ubuntu users will switch. The only thing stopping Ubuntu users from switching is the ease of switching Unity off in Ubuntu.
Which version of Mint?
Mint, like Ubuntu and a few other distributions, has several versions. The special versions of interest in Ubuntu are the alternate install and Ubuntu Studio. Mint does not have equivalents.
If you edit audio or video, you want Ubuntu Studio because it has special low latency modifications. Mint does not have an equivalent. Ubuntu is working on adding the low latency modifications into Debian and, at that point, they will be used in every version of Ubuntu and Mint.
The Ubuntu alternate install provides RAID configuration and should be used on every computer with more than one disk. Mint does not have an equivalent. The Mint Debian edition offers the disk configuration features of debian, including RAID, but can be too complicated for common uses. I will use the Ubuntu alternate installation for most computers.
Many Linux distributions have automated application installation and updates. When you are selecting an application for installation, you want information about the version and options, similar to the way Ubuntu does it. From what I see in Mint application installation, mint leaves out a lot of the useful information and the add-on options then wastes screen space on user ratings. Really useless. Why would you want to know that user X rates something as 3.5 stars if you cannot read the details of what features worked and what features did not work?
A user might give an application five stars because it is easy to use for simple activities. You might be looking for an application to solve a specific problem not attempted by the user awarding five stars.
Some Ubuntu users prefer Mint because Mint has Firefox and Thunderbird installed instead of whatever Ubuntu installs. I would consider the switch for the same reason if Mint had an equivalent to the Ubuntu alternate installation.
Some people like Mint because the Mint menus are a cross between the Ubuntu Gnome menus and the Ubuntu KDE menus. I prefer the Gnome menus to the KDE menus. Linux Mint 13 changed again and offers the choice of MATE and Cinnamon, with both missing features because they are new.
Some people preferred the Mint green theme over the Ubuntu orange/brown theme but Mint threw out the green theme and went black while Ubuntu switched to something different. The instant you install either, you will change something in the theme and the default settings will be irrelevant.
Some people moved from Ubuntu to Mint because Ubuntu crashed and Mint
never crashes. Other people switched from Mint to Ubuntu because Mint crashed and Ubuntu does not. Some switched to Windows XP because both Ubuntu and Mint failed (plus some other distributions were tried and failed) or were missing too many applications. (Currently there are just two applications that are important to me and are only available on Windows.)
The main recommendation for Mint is as the first Linux for inexperienced computer users switching from Microsoft Windows. KDE is often recommended over Gnome for people switching from Windows to Linux but people switching from Windows to Linux learn Gnome just as easily as KDE. KDE might have a closer set of shortcut keys but it also has some real weird things that slow down people converting from Windows.
The things in Mint that are like KDE, instead of Ubuntu's Gnome, include a mix of advantages and disadvantages. Do you want something that superficially looks like Windows and only one person in the office can explain or do you want something that is less Windows like and can be explained by seven people in the office? My recommendation would be to convert to what other people are using so you can ask for help.
Mint is equivalent to Ubuntu with some media codecs installed from the Ubuntu restricted repository. You can switch the restricted repository on in seconds and enjoy the same freedom to play music and videos. VLC plays the music and videos without switching on the restricted codecs. You have some installation choices to make in Ubuntu. Some of those choices are not required in Mint because stuff is preinstalled and that makes Mint easier for the first time user who wants to play music.
Every other difference varies from release to release of both operating systems. Ubuntu 11.4 switches to Firefox 4 for Web browsing. A comparison of specific releases is irrelevant if the comparison is invalid six months later.
Who will install and use mint?
If a Web developer is setting up a server, there is no suitable Mint. If the same web developer is building a powerful workstation, they need the Ubuntu alternate installation. People working on audio and video need Ubuntu Studio. A Windows user switching to Linux and learning to use Linux by installing Linux by themselves might find Mint easier. The same people might find Ubuntu has better support forums if there is a problem. I would give them Ubuntu because I can help them. If their closest friend gives them Mint and offers support, Mint is probably the better choice.