Monday, March 26, 2012

I have found my MATE and I am happy.

I have to wonder why MATE has not had more press?

As the three followers of my blog may have noticed, I am unhappy with the direction both Gnome and KDE have taken. The tablet is a great portable media consumption tool, and minimal productivity tool, also a game machine, but really limiting for all around computing.

Moving desktop interfaces in the direction of the pinch/swipe/poke/prod tablet interface LIMITS their usability. Point Of Fact. Limit is the key word here. The major desktops have fewer customization options, far fewer gadgets, so to speak.

One example was the excellent range of panel applets available for gnome. I routinely depend on two in particular, the system monitor and the weather report applets. Having my system load available in a small out-of-the-way graphic with a full system monitor a click away is perfect. Have a small icon showing the termperature and weather, with a full forecast and radar map just a click away, perfect.

Yes, I know, there's widgets to do this. Great big graphic icons living on your desktop, usually covered up by a window, requiring you to move things around to see them... It's not the same, it's not efficient, it's less of a utility.

Another example with gnome3, unity, or even enlightenment. Where are the scroll bars? What about column titles that let you sort things? I opened the software center in gonme3 on debian testing, and search for a keyword to find the package I'm looking for and there's NO way to sort the list. Why remove something so useful? It makes no sense.

These are just a couple of examples, but I see the same loss of useful things throughout each of the 'modern' desktops I've looked at. Gnome2 was very close to perfect in providing many ways to tuck away useful information that was easily available. These are the things that bring power to a desktop, flexibility and utility.

Dumbing down the desktop may help in reducing confusion for the general consumer market that snaps up ipads so they can *check their facebook while watching Two and a Half Men on the idiot box.* That's fine, but why force those of us still in possession of a full mental faculty to give up on the power of a desktop?

Well, a few bright fellows have seen this problem and forked gnome2 in the form of MATE. And I for one, am thrilled. My hat's off to them. If I were a programmer, I would help as much as I could. I am not a programmer, so I will do what little I can and try to spread the word about MATE.

They have instructions for adding their repo to debian, mint, or ubuntu here:

It works great. Brings back all of the flexibility I was comfortable with in pre-V11 ubuntu. I hope more distros will start adding MATE to their repositories and giving people this choice. Don't settle for the "post PC era" limitations. Demand that you have a choice to remain on a "classic" and powerful, flexible desktop environment. Spread the word, there is a choice again.


  1. I totally agree with you. Certain LINUX distributions and popular desktop environments are in danger of falling down the Microsoft trap and dumbing the whole thing down to the lowest common denominator.

    As you mentioned gnome 2 was great. I personally like Enlightenment and LXDE but I am using MATE on my laptop that runs MINT 12.

    I think that other distributions have a real chance to move forward now because UBUNTU is clearly heading in a direction that is geared towards disillusioned Windows users whereas the people that have been using LINUX for a while are probably quite happy with the balance between ease of use and the power to get things done.

    By the way am I the only person in the world that doesn't like tablets. They do everything but they do nothing.

    For instance you can play games on an IPAD/Android tablet but the games are nothing like the games on an XBOX.

    You can watch Youtube but its far easier to search and do things on youtube using a laptop or netbook.

    You can watch TV but I think the wide screened tv I have in the corner is good for that.

    It can take photos but I have a camera that is far better at the same job.

    You can do general computing but my laptop has a keyboard and I don't have to hold it with one hand whilst typing with another.

    Good post by the way

  2. I couldn't agree more. I use Trinity-DE, the fork of KDE3.5 for exactly the reasons you state. Why did the developers remove functionality?


    1. couldn't disagree more. I use kde 4.8 and have no less functionality then I did using kde 3.5. Choice is fine and if you want to use an old DE that is up to you but please don't posture like the new kde is somehow functionally inferior to the old kde because it no longer is. I'm sure there were people in the early 1900's that absolutely refused to ride in one of those new-fangled motor cars and rode their horse and buggies til the day they died. I just prefer motor cars and you are more than welcome to ride your horse and buggy until the day you die.

    2. I would agree with the 1900's analogy, but I also utilize the phrase, "If it's not broke, don't fix it." KDE 4.8 is beautiful. However, it also consumes quite a few resources. I have at last one system that would barely be able to run it.

    3. KDE 4.8.1 running on Gentoo 64 uses around 280k of memory for me - WITH desktop effects enabled! Not much more on other distros. Less than Unity, Gnome-shell, Mate or even Enlightenment (on my hardware). I run KDE even on older 1G netbooks with no issues at all. TRY it before making such claims.

    4. >However, it also consumes quite a few >resources.

      Wow, if youre going to bring up old Myths, then dont forget "Linux desktop is too hard for mom and dad".
      This is one area where KDE has made great strides but no, its not like XCFE or some others. But then Im sure you know that.

      >"If it's not broke, don't fix it."

      problem is you HAD to redo a lot of things to move forwards. staying on ancient paradigms and infrastructure would have condemned the desktop.

      And dont even agree with the main article.
      KDE does it the right way as opposed to Unity or Win8 or others that are dumbing down the desktop (if 80 year olds can use Kubuntu with no problem, i really dont think we need to worry about too hard).
      If you want to use the desktop you can, if you want to use the netbook version dummified look, all you do is click a button.
      THATS how you should do it: let the user decide.
      And throw in the KDE Plasma Active interface we have seen on the Vivaldi tablet and you see how its suited for THAT paradigm.
      Desktop, netbook, touch but its ALL KDE. Your choice.

  3. The reality is something else :

    MATE/Trinity/Razor-qt may don't be keep up-to-date.

    Kde4/Gnome3/Unity are bloated and against user friendliness.

    Xfce is now the best alternative but it need some corrections like a DPMS configuration tool and a better wallpaper support.

    Lxde is the prefered and should be, sadly it fail as a DE/DM because the desktop applications sucks and most peoples pick thoses that they like, so it fail for the out-of-the-box experience.

    Others DE/DM than Kde4 and Trinity need a somewhat synergy between applications that Kde has ...

    On the other hand, Razor-qt is a great idea because Qt seem more efficient than GTK, it give to Trinity lovers what Kde4 lack, being lightweight, it just need a way to block GTK apps to slow this Qt system like Chakra does ...

    So Xfce is the more usable now but Lxde and Razor-qt need to be watched closely ...

    For Windows managers, Openbox combined with Pytyle seem seem enough to don't need a tilling manager, Enlightenment is to watch closely, if it get friendly(including an easy theme maker) with a better tilling support with something like Pytyle, it could get more used than Openbox ...

  4. In Ubuntu 12.04 all you have to do is install gnome-panel and you get a Gnome Classic desktop that functions exactly like Gnome 2 in 11.04(except Alt+right click to edit the panel) You can even enable Compiz effects if you want. I haven't used the current Gnome classic on any other distro but if the experience is similar I don't really see the point of MATE.

    1. Hello Jason, I have tried Gnome classic with gnome-panel, and it was close, but there were lots of little things that annoyed me. I think it was a lot heavier on resources too. I can't recall the exact details at this point, I've been through many combinations in my search.

      Right now, I'm on an old Dell GX270, P4@2Ghz, 1.5G ram, 32G SSD, and nvidea 5200 based graphics card. Running mint 12 with the 1.2 version of MATE, and it's snappy. I was just doing some image work in GIMP and this feels like a much more modern machine than it really is.

      I think the problem with gnome classic and panel, was there is still so little that can be changed. I would hit a wall trying to customize something that should be simple. Wish I could remember the details.

    2. I agree that Gnome Classic in Ubuntu 11.10/Mint 12 is horrible but Classic in Ubuntu 12.04 is a 100% improvement. I'm running it on a Cr-48 netbook and it's no more memory hungry or less snappy then Xubuntu 12.04 which I had installed on it previously. It functions the same as Gnome 2.3 did and all the old applets are there. Try Ubuntu 12.04 Classic and you'll see that there is no real point to MATE anymore.

    3. Jason, you make a good sell. When 12 gets released, I'll take a look.

  5. I prototype on an old Dell P4 based system. Currently I've built up a debian testing install with MATE as the desktop. I'm in a happy place with this setup, I think I'll stay awhile. It's clean and fast, with as much or little functionality as I decide, and the flexibility to change and tweak it. No bugs that get in my way in daily use, unlike ubuntu 12, ugh.

  6. I've tried KDE 4.5 and didn't like it. It has no 'human' feeling', the desktop is bloated and not very intuitive.
    I've tried Unity and i found it to be nice for Linux beginners.
    GNOME 2 seems to be end-of-life, KDE 3.x is end on life, but there exist some good QT3 applications that were not ported with the same functionality for KDE 4.
    So, i went on and tried Enlightment. Nice. But too experimental and with no own application framework, i think (GTK however). XFCE was mentioned. I followed its development for some years, every now and then trying a release. It looks better and better and it was always fast. But GNOME 2 was better, and MATE is a 100% compatible fork of GNOME 2 which is under development and GNOME 2 is not. There are many applications out there which are compatible with the GTK interface.
    At the end of the day, every DE is just an user interface to start programs, organize things etc.
    Till now, GNOME 2 and Compiz gave me the most efficient and comfortable desktop expirience i had with Linux since 15 years.
    It is important that users can choose their favorite Desktop Environment AND applications.
    What's the use of a nice looking, accelerated Desktop Environment with more or less functionality but no applications made for it?
    Fortunately OSS gives the free choice of support and / or use just any applications that you like.
    There is no point in giving up a mature and user-freandly DE.