There are already a zillion and twelve articles, blog posts, and videos on the web comparing these two beginner-friendly Linux distros. I’m not going to add to the clutter by writing yet another “Which is Better” post. They’re both superb, and compare roughly the same way. The only real difference technically is that Linux Lite ships with a highly modified Xfce desktop, where Linux Mint is available in several desktops, most notably Cinnamon which is their flagship.
The purpose of this post is to focus on the philosophical differences between the two, which probably doesn’t even matter to most users.
But being a person of severe conscience, ideologically driven probably more so than most casual computer users considering Linux, these philosophical differences matter a great deal to me. It’s why I made a fuss over the bookmarks in antiX Linux. In the end those bookmarks are no big deal if you want an ultralight systemd-free distro without elogind or any of that sort of thing. They’re not hidden for goodnessakes, those bookmarks appear in their own folder inside Firefox and can be instantly deleted with two mouse clicks! So go ahead and remove the offensive bookmarks and enjoy antiX Linux with a clean conscience. It’s a great little lightweight OS. I made a fuss, yes. But I don’t mind using antiX developer Anticapitalista’s work to advance capitalism and conservatism and all the stuff he hates. I actually rather enjoy the irony of it, using his own work “against him” in a sense. Heh heh heh, evil grin.
But when it comes to the philosophical issues I’m writing about in this post, it’s more complicated than simply deleting offensive bookmarks. The philosophical differences between Linux Mint and Linux Lite mean, for me at least, choosing one over the other from bottom to top.
Linux Lite compares best with Zorin, I think, rather than with Linux Mint philosophically. Zorin and Lite are both specifically targeted towards Microsoft Windows users. They are designed to look and act like Windows and be “familiar” to those users. Linux Mint is not specifically targeted towards that group, yet it appeals to many more people in that group who want to switch to Linux than either Zorin or Lite. I think the developers need to ask themselves why. And no, it isn’t just because more people know about Linux Mint because it’s been around for a long time and appears at the top of Google searches for beginner’s Linux. I think there’s much more to it than just those things, valid reasons though they are.
Also, both Zorin and Lite are developed and maintained by “benevolent dictators” whose vision is their own, without nearly as much community input as Linux Mint enjoys and includes in it’s products. I happen to think this is a very big deal.
Linux Mint is a community-driven Linux desktop distribution that is not aimed at any particular group of computer users. It’s “beginner friendly” because that’s how most computer users want things: Point-and-click, no fancy command strings to type in a terminal window, stable, easily maintained, and polished to a high shine without gobbling up RAM and CPU resources. While it’s really not “aimed at” new Linux users, it is far and away the most popular Linux distro for that market. One reason in particular, which I have written a lot about in the past, is the wonderful mint-updater that allows users to selectively update their OS and avoid the breakage and regressions that inevitably happen with most Ubuntu flavors and derivative distros. It’s safe and stable, very much more like Debian than the others. It won’t break unless you deliberately do something stupid. Other stupid Ubuntu stuff like snaps are disabled by default in Linux Mint. They fill up the hard drive like crazy by not sharing libraries with other applications. I know they have some advantages, but popularity with most users sure as heck ain’t one of them. It’s a Canonical gimmick that saves them some money they would otherwise spend on maintaining packages, and that’s fine. But their users pay a price for that in duplication and hard drive space. In Linux Mint, it’s not an issue. The decision to disable the “snap store” was made based largely on community input, which goes a lot farther in Mint than in Lite.
When I first decided to try out Linux, I wasn’t looking for anything like Windows at all. I freakin’ hated Windows and I still do, all these years later. The last thing I want in an operating system is for it to look and act like Microsoft’s abomination. Point-and-click ease doesn’t have to imitate Windows in order to be intuitive, for cry’n out loud!
Philosophically, from this writer’s conscience-driven point of view, Linux Mint beats it’s younger siblings hands down, and should continue to be the top recommended Linux distro both for newcomers to Linux and for users like me who enjoy the simplicity and stability of a rock-solid operating system with a few safeguards built in. I still love my Xfce desktop, so I chose the Xfce version of Linux Mint over the highly-modified Lite desktop. Philosophically, it’s far and away the better of the two.