In this article, I want to explain how the Linux Mint releases work and why that is important for you to know. Unlike some other more “cutting edge” distributions, the Linux Mint developers focus on absolute reliability and stability and consciously choose not to be a leader in all bleeding edge developments. In order to do that, Linux Mint is always based on what is called an LTS, or Long Term Support, release. So, in the article, as part of my Linux Mint 21 tutorial series, I will explain the release cycle of a Linux Mint distribution.
- The release cycle of Ubuntu
- Linux Mint releases explained
- The release cycle of Linux Mint
- Linux Mint 21 Cinnamon
The release cycle of Ubuntu
The foundation on which Linux Mint is built is Ubuntu. Ubuntu, created by Canonical, offers both a Long Term Support release and multiple intermediate short-term but more up-to-date/bleeding edge releases. Canonical, the provider of Ubuntu, releases a new version of Ubuntu every six months, in which the latest and best applications and newest functionality are always made available. For these 6-month releases, you get only up to 9 months of support and security updates.
Like said, there is also a Ubuntu Long Term Support release. A new LTS version is issued every two years. In the old days, a Ubuntu LTS version had three years of support on Ubuntu Desktop and five years on Ubuntu Server. From Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and up, both versions have promised support and updates for five years.
Linux Mint releases explained
Hopefully, after reading the above it is a bit clearer for you why the Linux Mint Team chooses to use the LTS version of Ubuntu as a base for their own distribution. The LTS releases receive 5 years of support and security updates compared to only 9 months for the short-term versions, so stability can be offered for a longer time to end users.
There is also a “downside”, which is only minor, as I explain later. When choosing an LTS version for the foundation of a Linux Mint distribution, the consequence is that the age of the base for Linux Mint can be up to 2 years without updates of packages, namely the frequency in which a new LTS release for Ubuntu is delivered. Basically, as a Linux Mint user you start to lag behind modern developments as time progresses after release. But how big of a problem is that if you have a system in which all teething problems are solved and therefore stand like a house. And that lag is only relative since Linux Mint itself also comes with interim updates (point releases) with improvements, but always based on the stable LTS releases.
Furthermore, we see a strongly increasing popularity of the use of Flatpak and Snap formats to offer software, at the expense of the use of the classic .deb format. The advantage of Flatpak and Snap is that you, as a user, receive every update on an application immediately when available. This is a clear advantage compared to the .deb format, where the applications usually receive an update with the next LTS release of the Linux distribution. So even with an LTS-based distribution like Linux Mint, you no longer suffer from the potential disadvantages.
The release cycle of Linux Mint
Now that we have some more knowledge of different types of releases and what that means for Linux Mint, let’s have a look at the release cycle of Linux Mint.
At the moment of writing this article (February 2023) the current Linux Mint is version 21.1 Vera. This version is based on the Ubuntu 22.04 LTS release (Jammy Jellyfish), which came out on April 21, 2022, and has formal support till April 2027. Since the Linux Mint team always needs some extra time after the newest Ubuntu LTS release for their own development and test work, Linux Mint 21, the first Linux Mint version based on Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, came out on July 31st, 2022. This gives Linux Mint 21, the current 21.1, and all future 21.X versions, support till April 2027.
The previous version of Linux Mint was 20.3 as part of the 20.X series. This version and also 20.2, 20.1, and 20 were based on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (Focal Fossa) (with a release date of April 23, 2020), and have support until April 2025. These are all still available to download.
Below is a visual representation of the Linux Mint release cycle.
For more information on the Linux Mint version history see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_Mint_version_history
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