Linux Mint is doing something that is new, at least to me. If they’ve done this in the past, I didn’t know about it, so I’m assuming that they didn’t. They’re releasing a “point” update to version 17 “Qiana”, their latest LTS release of Mint, which will be 17.1 “Rebecca”. Based on what has been said in this blog post on Mint’s official website, I assume that all point releases will feature a different codename.
If my understanding is correct, Mint’s point-release updates won’t be quite the same as Ubuntu’s. Where Ubuntu 14.04.1 is actually the same exact distribution as 14.04 only with updated packages and kernels that would automatically be updated from Ubuntu’s repositories anyway (though saving you the time of downloading them – by getting them in the installation ISO), Mint 17.1 will feature updates to the desktop environments themselves. So, where 14.10 will feature an updated Unity, most likely, that could only be applied to 14.04 by enabling unstable repositories, Mint will work out a stable update to their environments and actually push it to be a stable update to their LTS release. This is awesome. There were small changes to Unity that I wanted from 13.10, but I didn’t want to upgrade to 13.10 or take the chance of upgrading the Unity environment in 12.04 at the risk of it having compatibility issues with packages in the 12.04 repositories. Even if my concerns were unfounded, updates to LTS releases are typically limited for a reason, and that’s usually to help ensure that people don’t run into compatibility issues or crippling bugs.
What’s also cool about the point-releases for Mint is that it will be upgradable through their Update Manager. Though Mint sees updates to packages at a slower pace than Ubuntu, this usually means the chance of having issues with those updated packages is minimized, which is better than getting the new bells and whistles only to have them break your machine and put you in an aggravating position of having to revert and recover. I like Mint. When the next LTS version is released, I may just change for my primary PC. I have two years to think about it, though I’m already running it on my laptop to see how the progression goes. That’s not to say that Ubuntu is being looked at as a loser in this. After all, I’ve used it as my primary OS for nearly three years now, and there’s obviously good reasons for that. I just can’t fail to consider another distribution that may be making better strides in improving the Linux experience, even if Ubuntu continues to be an excellent OS that is probably the best for first-time Linux users to try. On top of that, Windows users considering the migration over to Linux may find Cinnamon and MATE both more comfortable than Unity, in terms of a layout that closer resembles Windows’ Start menu-style layout. I would recommend Mint over Ubuntu to such a person.