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.