2012-04-12

FOLLOW-UP: How-To: Get My Desktop with MATE in Ubuntu

Desktop Cube + Chromium + Marlin + Gloobus-Preview
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post here about how to replicate my current desktop setup (Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora" GNOME) with MATE in Ubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot". The two things I complained about were the malfunctioning Compiz desktop cube effect and the ugly dark panel using the Zukitwo GTK+ theme. Well, I am happy to report that both of those issues are fixed. As before, I did this by using an Ubuntu MATE Remix live USB session made with MultiSystem, and before I did any of the other things I installed the necessary packages to allow for the use of other GTK+ themes as mentioned in the previous post about this.

I was able to fix the first issue by following the instructions set out comment #32 on this article. There were just two changes to these instructions that I needed to make. The first was to insert "sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install libgnome-menu2" just before the line "sudo dpkg install *.deb". The second was to change that line "sudo dpkg install *.deb" to "sudo dpkg -i *.deb" (because "dpkg install" did not work for me but "dpkg -i" did for some reason). After following the rest of the instructions, I was able to install and use Compiz and Emerald as I do on a daily basis on my installed system with no issues of the desktop cube flashing or anything like that, and I was able to use all the other important things that worked even in the newer version discussed before too (like the ability of Compiz to open certain applications on specific workspaces by default). This is all thanks to using Compiz 0.8.6 rather than the latest version. Yay!

Marlin + Linux Mint Menu + Pluma
I was able to fix the second issue by not using the Zukitwo GTK+ theme but instead using the Greybird GTK+ theme that is the default in Xubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot". Because I would use that version of Xubuntu frequently as a live USB in order to run VirtualBox to install other distributions in a VM, I had to interact with that theme a lot, and I happen to like it quite a bit. It is a modified version of the Elementary GTK+ theme, and it retains the smooth, slick, gray, inoffensive look of the original while making the scrollbars normal (instead of ultra-thin). Plus, the panel is dark, yet there is no part of the panel that looks ugly like it did with Zukitwo. I was able to install this theme by issuing the commands "sudo add-apt-repository ppa:shimmerproject/ppa" and "sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install greybird-themes" into the terminal in that order. I was then able to change the theme settings to use that theme, and because Greybird has GTK2 and GTK3 themes both native MATE applications as well as Marlin (which I installed on the side as discussed in the previous post about this) looked quite good. Plus, because the dark panel actually looks nice, it did not require any further modification, so I didn't have to edit the gtkrc or create a "~/.config/gtk-3.0/settings.ini" file as before, which is comforting. The only thing that the PPA seemed to lack (which was weird, because this was promised as being part of the full package too) was the Greybird window decoration theme for Emerald, so I went to the website of the project that created the Greybird theme, downloaded and opened the TAR.GZ archive and extracted only the Emerald theme package to a different folder. I then used the Emerald Theme Manager to locate and use that theme, and the desktop became complete.

And now, I truly do have my old desktop back. The only remaining problem is that Gloobus-Preview claims to be crashing a lot, but I haven't seen an actual crash yet, so I will just ignore those crash dialogs just as with Marlin or the Linux Mint Menu. Other than that, I do not have much else to say besides the fact that I am in all probability just going to install Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" GNOME/MATE (yes, apparently "Maya" is the official codename now) and follow these instructions. Also, given that I am using an older version of Compiz, I would probably have to use the Synaptic Package Manager to lock the installed versions of Compiz and Emerald to prevent any upgrades. This should not be an issue because I already have a few packages locked on my installed system, and that was easy to do and I haven't had any troubles with those packages since then. Awesome!

15 comments:

  1. I'm curious why you chose Ubuntu over Mint? Did you ever give LMDE a try? Or consider Arch, where Mate began?

    I'm also trying to decide how to best reproduce my current Gnome 2 + Compiz setup (in Arch--which I just haven't updated in a long time).

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    1. @cb474: I'm going to be using Linux Mint for my installed system in all probability. I was just using Ubuntu for this because this particular live system is the only one that I know of that allows users to use MATE from within the live session itself. I also do intend to try the newest version of Debian-based Linux Mint when it gets released (hopefully soon). Thanks for the comment!

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  2. I look forward to your thoughts on LMDE, if you feel like writing them up. The live version of LMDE now boots into Mate. The previous live image was still on Gnome 2. I did notice some differences. System fonts seemed different. The background in the MintMenu I think was a little different. Disk Utility was not installed by default (and perhaps some other applications?--I didn't make a thorough check). And applications to me seemed a little slower to open, which surprised me. What's the difference? Aren't these just the Gnome 2 apps renamed? Overall it seemed a little less polished and snappy than the previous version of Gnome 2 in LMDE. Since I was happy with Gnome 2 as it was, this was a bit disappointing. I'm hoping Mate in LMDE catches back up soon to what was Gnome 2 in LMDE.

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    1. @cb474: According to the Linux Mint community website, the MATE and Xfce editions of Debian-based Linux Mint have been approved for a stable release, so those should be out either today or tomorrow, so I'll probably review that this week whenever it comes out. I'll also mention stuff about perceived stability and snappiness in MATE versus GNOME 2 in Debian-based Linux Mint. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. I look forward to your review.

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  4. Another question. Do you have any sense between LMDE and Fuduntu, which has more development going on? I'm wondering which one going forward is more likely to be kept up to date, refined, etc.

    I know Mint in general is a big project, with lots of users. But somewhere I read that LMDE and especially Mate does not have that many developers working on it right now. Since Fuduntu dervies from Fedora, I assume there is a strong emphasis on staying up to date. And on DistroWatch interest in Fuduntu seems to be growing fast. It's already at position 20 in the rankings, which is a pretty fast rise for a new small distro. It's a real testimony to the desire to maintain Gnome 2.

    Anyway, I'm just thinking in terms of going forward, which one of these distros might be more likely to continue to be developed and supported. I've never used Fedora (started on Debian, then went to Arch), so I'm not that excited about learning a new spin on Linux (I'm getting to the point where I just want things to work). But I like that Fuduntu is just keep Gnome 2 itself, rather than renaming everything like Mate.

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    1. @cb474: There's one point that you made that isn't entirely correct. Fuduntu is not based on Fedora anymore — although it uses RPM packages with the YUM package manager, it now has its own independent software sources (although there is still some residual compatibility with other software like Skype for Fedora). I would say that Fuduntu is certainly growing quickly as it is accumulating more developers by the month, but it is still a bit smaller than Linux Mint in terms of development power. Also note that the reason why MATE renames everything from GNOME 2 is because the original GNOME names have been retained for GNOME 3, and the goal for MATE is to remain compatible with GNOME 3 when the two are installed side-by-side, as in Linux Mint. Such a thing is now impossible for GNOME 2. Furthermore, I would say that Linux Mint has more development going on because it benefits from all the development going into both MATE and Cinnamon, which are both developed largely by Linux Mint but also receive contributions from other large developers. Fuduntu, by contrast, will have to maintain GNOME 2 essentially on its own, and for a smaller development team like that, I don't know how feasible/sustainable that will be in the long-run. Thanks for the comment!

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    2. PV, thanks for the clarifications. I am aware of why Mate renames everything. I just like having all the Gnome 2 names that I'm familiar with, as is the case with Fuduntu. I have zero desire to use Gnome 3, so I don't really care about have Gnome 2 and 3 side-by-side. But I can see that in the long run this may create complications for the development of Fuduntu.

      I guess I'm confused now about the nature of Fuduntu. I knew they were now maintaining their own repositories. But I thought Fuduntu is still a derivative of Fedora, in the way that Ubuntu is a derivative of Debian. Ubuntu bases each of its versions on the current state of Debian, although it has its own modifications and development and need to maintain separate repositories to make this work. Isn't Fuduntu still building off of Fedora (including futures development of Fedora) but adopting Fedora to it's own purposes?

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    3. @cb474: I don't think they build off of new Fedora releases anymore; I think their codebases are their own now, so they are even more split from Fedora than Ubuntu is from Debian. Thanks for the comment!

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    4. Yeah, I was looking at their available packages and it does seem like Fuduntu is relatively limited compared to Fedora, reflecting the split you describe.

      I'm sure there are good technical reasons for this. But it is too bad to miss out of having access to one of the largest repositories out there. I can already see packages in Fedora that are available, that are not in the Fuduntu repos, amongst the limited few packages I'm interested in. This definitely seems like an advantage to LMDE/Mate, with its access to the massive Debian repos.

      On the other hand, at least from comparing the live .iso systems, I do think that Fuduntu offers a more polished, snappy version of Gnome 2. Mate is a little buggy and missing things (it is not playing nicely with Compiz for me--it works, but it's a bit slow and clunky). Mate does not seem to have entirely survived the translation yet.

      So there's definitely pluses and minuses to both systems, if one is looking for a Gnome 2 experience.

      I did read your new review of LMDE with Mate. It sounds like Ubuntu based Mint with Mate is a smoother experience right now. Perhaps I should do that. I'm just not a fan of Ubuntu, perhaps for no good reason.

      In the end, it's frustrating all this trouble just to get back to what I already had with my old Gnome 2 system on Arch.

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    5. @cb474: In Linux Mint MATE, Compiz worked fine. It's just that for some reason the whole system reported using way more RAM than it should have been. Also, it is really unfortunate that GNOME 2, which for me was the "holy grail" of DEs, was scrapped in favor of other DEs that are in their own ways slightly less than satisfactory replacements. But I think MATE is basically there, and I think it would be worth your time to just give Ubuntu with MATE a shot. You can even install the minimal edition of Ubuntu (sort of like an Arch installation, I guess) and then customize it to your liking with MATE, Compiz, et cetera. Just make sure to use Compiz 0.8.6 from the PPA I mentioned and make sure that never gets upgraded to the latest available in the main repositories. Thanks for the comment!

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    6. I guess I should give the Ubuntu version a look.

      For what it's worth, playing around more, with LMDE/Mate + Compiz, I haven't had the issue of a lot of RAM being used. I just find that everything happens a little slow (programs opening, those little tool tip boxes popping up slowly, and right now there's a bug where the keyboard shortcut to call up the MintMenu does not work--though I read it's been fixed upstream). So it LMDE+Mate worked fine, it just felt a bit clunky.

      In comparison, Fuduntu really is much more snappier. Everything, including Compiz (default install has Compiz running), works fine. It even has the new version of Compiz and I have not noticed the problems you were experiencing. And the installer will set up an encrypted system for you automatically (either LVM or regular partitions, I believe). It's pretty slick. Better than my Gnome setup in Arch was, I think. Really the only limitation is the lack of packages. Although I already requested one fairly obscure package (hellanzb) and in a few days it was packaged.

      The only issue I'm seeing with Fuduntu right now is that I get a little better battery life with LMDE, which is odd given that Fuduntu is supposed to be designed for laptops and good battery life.

      So to me the advantage of Ubuntu+Mate or Mint+Mate is number of packages and possibly better chance these projects will survive. That advantage of Fuduntu is a better out of the box complete Gnome 2 experience.

      Anyway, they're both good options. I think I'm going to run with Fuduntu for now, because I like that it's just plain old Gnome 2, it has the best snappiest out of the box experience, on my system, and I like rolling releases. But I am a bit torn about the relatively limited package options. When Mate matures more, I may switch to LMDE.

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    7. @cb474: I would probably agree with your overall assessments, especially those regarding the futures of the projects. Thanks for the comment!

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  5. Does MATE rely on Gnome3 GTK? Awesome write-ups by the way.

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    1. @sell cell phones online: MATE does not rely on GTK3, but it is fully compatible with GTK3 applications. This is why, for example, Marlin works fine in MATE as long as a GTK+ theme that has both GTK2 and GTK3 versions is used. That said, I think the MATE developers intend to eventually port MATE to GTK3. Thanks for the support!

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