LMDE Update Pack 4 is being prepared and tested at the moment.
Among other important updates this new update pack features:
Linux 3.2 kernel
MATE 1.2 (with mintMenu and mintDesktop now fully ported to MATE)
Gnome Shell 3.2.2
The one thing it’s missing is Gnome 2.
Gnome 2 is, by far, the most used and popular Linux desktop. It’s also the environment we’ve been improving and polishing since we started in 2006 and it’s been a core component of the Linux Mint desktop. Gnome 3 carries the same name but the similarities stop there. It’s a new and radically different desktop and it has very little in common with it.
As you probably know, Gnome 3 conflicts with Gnome 2 and so most distributions lost Gnome 2 about a year ago. Linux Mint 12 lost it in November and LMDE is about to lose it as well with this update pack.
As more and more Gnome 2 users couldn’t use it anymore, many people migrated to other existing desktops such as KDE, Xfce or LXDE. Some people used Gnome Fallback (a Gnome 3 environment which looks like Gnome 2 but which lacks support for Gnome 2 applets and is meant to disappear) and others migrated to a distribution which still had Gnome 2 (Linux Mint 11 or LMDE for instance).
Since that happened, we’ve been worried about the lack of satisfactory alternatives to Gnome 2. Looking towards the future of LMDE and the upcoming Linux Mint 13 release, our top priority was to get to the stage where we can provide our users with something most people would find as good or better than Gnome 2.
We worked extremely hard on Linux Mint 12 and provided an early release of MATE 1.0 and a set of extensions to Gnome Shell called MGSE.
LMDE was frozen at Update Pack 3 with a Gnome 2 desktop until we reached the point we are at today, where both MATE and Cinnamon are ready.
MATE is basically Gnome 2 renamed. The more the Mate team works on it, the more stable it gets. What it looks like and how it behaves is exactly like Gnome 2. So for most people, this is probably the best alternative.
Cinnamon is a brand new desktop which looks modern (like Shell and Unity) but which works in a similar way than Gnome and Compiz. It’s also a desktop we develop ourselves, which is tailored to the vision we have and so which fits the purpose of Linux Mint perfectly. For this reason Cinnamon is both extremely innovative in the features and polish it gets and very traditional in its layouts and paradigms.
Like Gnome Shell, Cinnamon uses Clutter and needs 3D acceleration. It’s stable and full-featured but it might not work well for you, depending on your graphics card.
With Update Pack 4 LMDE users will gain access to new versions of KDE, Xfce and LXDE, but also for the first time to Gnome Shell, MATE and Cinnamon.
We’re delighted with the current state of these desktops. It’s still too soon to predict which of MATE or Cinnamon will become the most popular desktop in the future, but they both, and in a very different way, represent viable and quality alternatives to Gnome 2.
Last but not least, if you’re still not convinced by the alternatives you can freeze your LMDE system and avoid Update Pack 4 (thus keeping Update Pack 3 and Gnome 2), by pointing to the following repositories:
debian main upstream import
debian main upstream import
testing main contrib non-free
testing/updates main contrib non-free
testing main non-free
We hate to put people in a position where they can’t choose, so we will maintain these repositories for a little while, but please consider your options going forward as Gnome 2 will eventually completely disappear.