2012-06-11

Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" MATE

Ah yes. I've been wanting to do this review for quite a while now. And now I can! So I will do just that.

Main Screen + Linux Mint Menu
Linux Mint has been my OS of choice for the last 3 years now. For the last 2 years, I have been using Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora" GNOME. That will be supported for another year from now, but that also means that I need to start looking into replacements for when the old version loses its official support. I've played around with Cinnamon, but it's still a bit immature and unstable and doesn't quite fit my needs; given that MATE is supposed to be GNOME 2 with the essential components simply renamed, it seems like this would be the best candidate for remaining on my computer's hard drive for the next few years.

I tested the live session of the 64-bit version using a live USB made with MultiSystem. Follow the jump to see if this is a worthy successor to what I have been using thus far.

After the boot menu, I was greeted by a blank screen for the boot splash, as has become standard for Linux Mint. After that came the desktop, which really hasn't changed from previous versions, so I won't discuss it much. That statement alone is a testament to how well MATE replicates every aspect of GNOME 2. The only difference is that the nice indicator applet menus pioneered by Ubuntu around 2009 are not present, and in their place are the old, click-on-individual-icon applets from GNOME 2. This means that I cannot click on one applet and simply move the mouse to activate another; I must click on the other applet to gain its focus. That's a little too much of a throwback for me; I personally prefer the smooth operation of the indicator applets, and I hope they will be properly ported to MATE.

Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla Firefox is the default browser, and it works well as usual. As expected, Linux Mint comes with the usual set of proprietary codecs; my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts worked out-of-the-box, as did YouTube and Hulu, although Adobe Flash playback on Hulu was a bit jumpy. (Also, my ethernet connection does work now from a live system; it just doesn't work from my installed system.)

Other installed programs include LibreOffice, Mozilla Thunderbird, and others. Furthermore, some of the desktop configuration tools made by Linux Mint for GNOME 2 have been ported over to MATE.

Compiz is included, but there is no apparent way to start it (other than by adding "compiz --replace" to the list of startup applications) or configure it. I had to install things like the CompizConfig Settings Manager, and after doing so I found out that the desktop cube problem still has not been fixed. Furthermore, Emerald is nowhere to be found in the repositories, so the only other window decorator is the GTK Window Decorator which looks pretty bad (if you ask me) and is not really customizable.
LibreOffice Writer + Caja + Desktop Cube
What worked better was following the instructions from a previous post about installing Compiz 0.8.6; using that I was able to get the effects and decorations that I wanted. The only problem I have about that is that I am using an older version of Compiz and I anticipate dependency conflicts down the road because of that.

Skype could not be installed properly due to a particular repository not loading correctly. That's a major issue in my book, although I suppose if I had tried at a different time, it might have installed correctly. That said, I did try to rectify the issue by manually downloading the DEB files of the dependencies that failed to download correctly, and while those installed OK, Skype refused to install afterwards due to a different dependency issue.
Thankfully, Google Talk had no such issue. I was able to install and use that just fine.

I know now that Mupen64Plus after version 1.5 no longer has a working GUI. In fact, I apparently knew that many months ago as well because on my installed system, I have pinned Mupen64Plus to be at version 1.5. Anyway, for this, I went to its website, downloaded the TAR package, and followed the instructions to extract and install it. That worked well.
F.lux also does not start properly anymore. Since then, even on my installed system, I have switched to Redshift, which offers even more customization options, though those are through the CLI. That worked well here too.

The MATE System Monitor reported that at idle, with Compiz as the WM in the background, Linux Mint used 580 MB of RAM. That is quite a bit, and surprisingly the memory hog is the GTK Window Decorator for Compiz, much more so than Compiz itself.

That is where my time with Linux Mint ended. Maybe I picked the wrong day to try it, but in my mind, the lack of a working Skype is a deal-breaker. I suppose I can give it a good recommendation but not my highest; this sadly was not exactly the happy ending that I was expecting, so I am also hesitant to make it my new OS. Thankfully, though, I have options, and I have another year to consider said options. The two options into which I am looking the most are Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE and SolusOS 2. The first is because it will come with all the goodness of Linux Mint combined with the power of KDE; furthermore, KDE 4.9 looks pretty awesome with the improvements to the interface of Dolphin and the release of the KLook file previewer integrated with Dolphin, and I can use KWin and its effects natively instead of using a kludge to get Compiz 0.8.6 to work. The second is because it will ship with a heavily modified GNOME 3 that should work with both GNOME 2 applets and Compiz, so using those along with Nautilus and GNOME Sushi means I will be able to carry over my desktop essentially unchanged. I now eagerly await the release of the KDE edition of Linux Mint!

(UPDATE: Indeed, yesterday was a bad day. Today, I tried out the Skype thing again because I hadn't done anything to the live USB and I needed it so it could recognize my ethernet connection because the wireless connection on my installed system was very flaky today. It worked just fine. This makes my opinion of this version of Linux Mint much higher, and the other issues are essentially just minor details. That said, I do still eagerly await the KDE edition of Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya", which is incidentally officially in testing now.)

21 comments:

  1. Did I read that right? SKYPE? Check out Jitsi... it's open source and does everything Skype does, but with open protocols, and it's open source too.

    www.jitsi.org

    FC

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Nerd Progre: That's nice if everyone you know already uses SIP for communication. However, a significant number of people close to me only use Skype for audio/video calling purposes, and those people have a significant number of other close people to them who do the same, meaning the chance of me switching to Jitsi and getting said people to do the same is essentially zero. That's why I need Skype. Anyway, you should check the updated post. Thanks for the comment!

      Delete
  2. skype needs these 32 bit libs to work on a 64 bit mint
    worked for me:

    echo foreign-architecture i386 | sudo tee /etc/dpkg/dpkg.cfg.d/multiarch
    sudo apt-get install libxss1:i386 libqtcore4:i386 libqt4-dbus:i386
    sudo apt-get install libqtgui4:i386

    then sudo apt-get install skype

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have Linux Mint 13 - 64 bit Mate edition running on 2 machines.
    Skype installed on both OK via synaptic. Laptop worked OOTB without tweaks, desktop needed microphone tweaking in alsamixer.
    Desktop has new ATI graphics and I had to add proprietary drivers via command line after fails with Jockey and Synaptic. I followed the simple instructions in a post on the Mint forum.
    I am very happy with both machines now.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've tested 1½ weeks both MATE and Cinnamon and found MATE as much more stable. However i won't try too much new themes from websites because i found them eating memory and making system shaking. Last weekend i totally messed MATE and so i have to re-install it on Monday. I really worked fine, it's stable.

    One interesting thing: after updating Firefox from 12.0 to 13.0 Ubuntu could not bring language packages but Linux Mint Cinnamon and MATE did it. And that was another plus for this great OS named Linux Mint - my favorite.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There IS an Indicator Applet available for Mate. The problem is that it just loads the basic, included indicators. Any 3rd-party indicators that I've tried to load (such as My-Weather-Indicator) either refuse to show up, or are placed in the Notification Area instead, with limited functionality. That's a major drawback for me, since there are a lot of 3rd party indicators I enjoy and rely on. I'm not sure if there's a tweak that needs to be done somewhere. But at least it does have an Indicator Applet. Cinnamon has none (although a lot of nice Cinnamon applets replace most of that functionality - minus the nice sliding mouse activation you mentioned, sadly).

    For me, Cinnamon's issues with ATI drivers make it unusable. ATI's proprietary drivers cause problems with an unusably flickering screen on some full-screen graphics heavy programs, such as games, and the Open Source drivers are terribly slow and heat up my laptop like a furnace.

    So, since Cinnamon is basically crippled on my system, and Mate has a few integration issues (like, but not limited to my example above), I've been forced to use another desktop for now. I've settled on Gnome Classic/Fallback for the time being. It's actually quite good if you get it configured right. It's missing the Mint menu and some functional settings tools (have to go through gconf-editor for some tweaks), but aside from that it has everything that the Gnome 2 desktop had. And the Indicator Applet works better than the older Gnome 2 Indicator Applet did. It even puts the Skype icon on a nice indicator.

    ReplyDelete
  6. When trying new distro, especially the *buntus, I do full-install on my 8 GB USB flash dongle.
    The only thing I should remember, on the Grub installation part, I have to choose to install the Grub on the USB flash dongle.This way the hard disk of my laptop remain untouched. When I need to boot to Windows, I just shut down the laptop, take out the USB flash and turn on the laptop.

    ReplyDelete
  7. @cirrus: The update [to this post] says that I was able to get it to work the next day. Anyway, those weren't the dependencies I was looking for (Star Wars reference most definitely intended).

    @Fudger: It's great that it has worked for you.

    @Erno: It certainly is cool how Linux Mint is able to fix a significant number of bugs from Ubuntu.

    @Michael Freedman: I know there is an indicator applet for MATE because I was able to see it in action using the (unofficial) Ubuntu MATE Remix (based on Ubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot"). It's just that I have not been able to use it on Linux Mint with MATE.

    @Anonymous: That actually doesn't sound like a bad idea.

    Thanks for the comments!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have downloaded and tried both LinuxMint distros. LinuxMint Mate was not made for low powered computers but for the Gnome2 crowd living in the past. It is good that people have found a use for it besides it looking like Gnome2 which is a dead horse. I tried Cinnamon and just had too many problems with the distro. It was slow and had several glitches in the operations which I haven’t really seen with a L.M. distro before. With a little refining this could be a very good distro. I would like to see it do well. I’m afraid that Clem and staff are now looking more at profit then at a top quality distro. Yahoo as a search engine? Please say it ain’t so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Eddie: Just because you say that GNOME 2 is "the past" or a "dead horse" does not make it so. There are plenty of good reasons why people would choose GNOME 2/MATE over another DE, and that's the beauty of choice in a free software ecosystem. Also, it's fairly easy to change the search engine in Mozilla Firefox; wouldn't you agree that the Linux Mint developers have a right to earn revenue to be able to support what they are doing for us?

      Delete
  9. I like it very much. I like Mint since Ubuntu seems to have lost direction. They develop a desktop to be different, not usable. In Mint there is what a pc is built for.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm sure you have heard by now that Skype has received a major update, and they have brought the Linux version up to par (version 4). There's a .deb file that refers to Ubuntu 10.04, but I'm certain you can install it on more recent Linux Mint and Ubuntu editions.
    - Duskfire

    ReplyDelete
  11. @Stress and Anxiety: Many others like myself agree too!

    @duskfire: I did try that out yesterday actually. The new Skype looks quite nice. I do hope it makes it into the repositories though.

    Thanks for the comments!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think that if a person wants to talk about a linux setup as being in the past, the question why are you even using mint? go back to ubuntu 12.04.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Anonymous: I do agree with that sentiment. Thanks for the comment!

      Delete
  13. Geez Louise I have been looking at various Linux offerings because I thoroughly reject Microsoft's Metro. Everyone has told me Linux Mint with KDE is the way to go if you are going to migrate, but this is nothing more than total chaos. Has Linux always been so under powered and yet so complicated to install and use? No wonder it hasn't ever replaced Windows or the Apple OSs. I guess I will buy a new powerful gaming desktop and the most powerful laptop offering from HP and stick with Widows 7 64. Its not perfect, but it's light years more powerful and user friendly than what I see in here.
    I hear that the Unix folks are coming up with something new and very powerful and easy to install and configure. I'll go and check out their offerings, but they are as fragmented and diverse as you Linux folks are. My kingdom for a powerful, software rich OS that works with everything and isn't Microsoft or Apple. Is that too much to ask for? Apparently so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Anonymous: I can't tell if you're trolling or not, but you're assertion that Linux Mint is difficult to install is one of the more laughable ones I've seen, considering that it is far easier to install than even Microsoft Windows (which is only helped by its presence preinstalled on so many computers) by any objective measure. If you're concerned about the lack of gaming options on Linux, I won't point you to the existing options which frankly aren't the same, but I will say that you should stick around a bit considering that Steam and the Unity game engine are coming to Linux soon. And what exactly have you looked at in "UNIX" that is not Linux or Apple's Mac OS X? Are you saying you've checked out BSD?

      Delete
  14. thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Anonymous: Thanks for the support!

      Delete
  15. Where i do download LTS distro ISO ...?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Anonymous: I usually include a link to the download, but it looks like that slipped my mind this time around, and for that I apologize. Just search for "download Linux Mint 13 LTS" using your favorite search engine and navigate to the official Linux Mint website. Thanks for the comment!

      Delete