MX Linux 23.3 released, based on Debian 12.5 • The Register – The Register


The latest update to MX Linux is out, and has some small but handy improvements to make it easier to get online and install.

MX Linux 23.3 is the latest update to MX Linux 23 “Libretto.” The update brings the package basis up to that of Debian 12.5, which came out back in February.

It’s not radically different from the original MX Linux 23 release, which we looked at last August, and builds on the changes in version 23.2, at which we took a quick look in January. Unlike a few more neophiliac distros, its developers seem to take a pragmatic approach of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Significant work has gone into localization and translation in this version. There’s an updated manual, and the documentation has been split up into language-specific packages. Along with the new MX Locale tool, you can uninstall everything from your OS which isn’t in your preferred language.

If you are installing a machine for someone else, the existing OEM setup tool has been tweaked: now, you can pre-configure a new machine with its desired language and so on, and then leave the machine’s intended end-user to go through account creation and final configuration in their own language. This is how the Raspberry Pi version works, too: you write a pre-installed image to an SD card, which then starts like an OEM installation.

The tools for making your own custom installation ISO have also been improved with faster compression. There’s a new option to boot the live ISO with systemd as init, which may throw some errors but may help if you need nVidia proprietary graphics, for instance.

Two changes are called out in the release notes that were also true in the previous release. One is that MX 23.3 includes the build-essential package on the installation media, which means that if you need to compile any drivers just to get online, the tools to do that are right there. Also, it uses version 1.0 of the new Pipewire sound server. This should mean significantly better multimedia support, even from the first boot, than its Debian progenitor.

An old friend of the Reg FOSS desk told us that he’s not bothered by Debian’s use of systemd, since he doesn’t install anything that uses it and has his own hand-written scripts to remove it from any new installations. This is very on-brand for our experience of Debian users: if you know what you want and have the skills to do it, anything is possible, which is why its developers describe Debian as “the universal operating system”. Similar sentiments apply to Devuan users, too: it can do anything – if you know how to configure it. We’ve found that such folks don’t see the appeal of Ubuntu: it can’t do anything that Debian can’t. This is true, and absolutely fine if you have the skills to – say – write a set of customization scripts, keep them to hand and update them occasionally.

The reason that distros like MX Linux exist, though, is that not everyone has those skills… and some of us do, but just don’t want the hassle. If you know enough about Linux to have preferences about packaging tools or init systems, but you aren’t ready to build a bespoke installation-automation tool – or you just don’t have the time – then MX is a solid choice.

We tried it on an old Thinkpad X220, the lower-end model with a Core i5. We recently spend most of a day re-installing Windows 7 SP1 in UEFI mode on this machine. It was a nightmare of missing drivers; after fixing that, we had a few hundred essential updates to install, totalling about 4GB. In contrast, MX 23.3 installed in about 10 minutes and worked perfectly out of the box. So long as it’s online, it applies updates during the installation, so once installation is finished, it’s fully up-to-date. It boots in seconds and flies along on this 13-year-old machine. The Xfce edition took 8.6GB of disk, and idled at about 850MB of RAM in use. The KDE edition is a bit heavier, using 11GB of disk and 1GB of RAM. It does come with Flatpak support installed, but no flatpak apps.

If you choose Xfce, MX Linux puts the taskbar vertically on the left, where it works best on a widescreen – click to enlarge

Version 23.3 comes in multiple variants. It defaults to kernel 6.1.90, the last-but-one LTS kernel version. There are three desktop choices: this vulture’s favourite is the very agreeably configured Xfce, but you can also choose Fluxbox for a no-frills experience, or KDE for all the bells and whistles, in which case you get Plasma 5.27.5. There’s an AHS (advanced hardware support) edition with the latest 6.8.9 Liquorix desktop-tuned kernel if your hardware isn’t supported on kernel 6.1. The Xfce and Fluxbox editions offer 32-bit variants, and there’s a Raspberry Pi edition too. Existing users of MX 23 will get the new release automatically when they next update.

If you choose KDE instead, Plasma 5.27’s layout is closer to the defaults, with a dark theme. – Click to enlarge

If you’re indifferent to init system controversies, and you want the safe, reliable compatibility of Ubuntu, but you want neither Snap nor Flatpak and would prefer a natively packaged version of Firefox, then we suggest trying Asmi on for size. ®

By MX Linux

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