New, and looking for the simplest version of linux.
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Have a look at their website http://www.linuxmint.com/. Normally all Linux Mint editions are based on Ubuntu but they also have a LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition) which is based on Debian testing and is a rolling release. Although being based on Debian testing, LMDE is very stable in my opinion. I've been using it for a couple of months on my work laptop and hasn't failed me yet.
That is not true anymore. They have changed the base of the XFCE edition to Debian and will do the same with the Fluxbox edition. They may change the other community editions, but currently no decision is made about that. Have a look at the FAQ on this page.
I don't quite understand what you mean. Aside from the normal Linux Mint versions they have a LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition) which includes Gnome and some time ago they also provided one with Xfce which has the same base, Debian testing. Could you clarify a bit on what you mean with 'not true anymore'?
LMDE that is based on debian testing is neither stable nor newbie friendly. Just have quick look at lmde forums, i was shocked to find so many people with limited linux knowledge stuck at command line after an upgrade. LMDE might be easy to install but maintaining the system is a different thing. Things break often, upgrades are daily - nothing what a stable, user friendly distro should be. It's an admirable goal to be a stable rolling distro but lmde is still far away from that.
I think one problem with questions like "what is the simplest Linux" is that simplest has many interpretations. Simple to me implies a working keyboard, mouse, sound, display; printing, wireless, and webcams should be, to borrow a phrase formerly used by Microsoft, plug-and-play. To some users, simple requires the ability to play mp3s and DVDs without any tweaks (Fedora fails here, but adding the rpmfusion repositories is an easy fix).
Should a newbie start with a stable but conservative, slow-moving distro (Debian, CentOS) or go for a fast-moving, bleeding-edge distro (Fedora, Ubuntu, Arch, etc...)? My personal approach to learning Linux was something on the order of fix it until it breaks, but I realize not everyone would like to go that route.
Could you clarify a bit on what you mean with 'not true anymore'?
I just meant you statement that all versions, except LMDE, are based on Ubuntu. As you can see from the link I provided the Fluxbox edition will also change to Debian Testing as base, and the other community editions may eventually follow. I just wanted to correct that.