Ubuntu was hugely popular in its early releases, making complicated operations easy for those experiencing the world of Linux distros for the first time. Then in 2010, when Ubuntuís Unity desktop interface (DE) was launched, its popularity drastically slipped.
Unity wasnít particularly good or bad. It simply did its job differently than what people were used to, removing levels of desktop control from users and locking down features that people had long depended on to customize their desktop experience to their personal liking. This left users feeling powerless to effect the level of customization in their desktops setups they had come to expect from Ubuntu.
Then Ubuntu began inserting ads in the launch menu, once again changing their desktop GUI, this time to the equally unpopular Gnome 3, leaving a huge number of users disliking Ubuntu even more.
Ubuntu users looking for alternatives made the move to Linux Mint in droves. Mint is by far the most popular Debian/Ubuntu based distro in the world, and Mintís development team listens to its users, making common sense upgrades without changing the look and feel of things so drastically that people become frustrated and leave, like Ubuntu has.
Ubuntu, for those who may not know, is a spin-off from Debian. Theyíre virtually identical at the core, but with the changes Canonical made to Debian to create Ubuntu in 2004, there are a lot of userland differences, some subtle, others more in-your-face including their last two desktop GUIs.
As far as the base operating system is concerned, where configuration files are kept and how the package manager operates, Debian and Ubuntu are virtually the same. Debian might seem harder to use for a beginner, not because the distro is more complicated but because Ubuntu provides a set of preinstalled utilities to help new users configure their systems while Debian does less of that. Itís not difficult to install a video card driver with the help of a graphical application in Ubuntu. In Debian you'd do this manually, by finding the packages required and installing them yourself. Ubuntu can be completely upgraded with a few mouse clicks using a preinstalled GUI application, while with Debian the recommended way to upgrade is to run a lengthy series of commands in the terminal.
Users wanting to find out how things actually work in Linux choose Debian and do these things themselves. Once you understand how everything fits together, Debian becomes easy to use, providing exceptional fine grained control over every part of your desktop computing experience - something you simply won't experience with Windows or MacOS.
Users who prefer not to be bothered with nuts and bolts details, whoíve come from a background where everything was preconfigured for them and they simply used what MacOS or Windows offered when they booted their computer, people who just want to get their computing done using tools that automate things, would likely be happier with Ubuntu.
On the other hand, for those who want the best that Ubuntu has to offer without the subtle and not so subtle aggravations that come with it these days, Linux Mint with its highly polished traditional look and feel and its well considered improvements on both Debian and Ubuntu will prove to suit them even better.
Incorporating and improving on everything thatís available in Ubuntu while allowing users to delve as deeply into Mintís inner workings as they wish without the risk of messing things up beyond recovery, Linux Mint offers the best of both worlds - the fine grained control that Debian provides along with Ubuntu's custom apps, plus a set of highly popular Mint apps that make desktop computing as painless, productive and fun as it can possibly be..
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