Mmmm mmm, Mate
Man, I don’t even drink the stuff.
MATE, the desktop environment for Linux, now sits prettily atop both Linux Mint 13 and Linux Mint Debian Edition, as well as Salix 13.37 and, I’m sure, others.
And let me just say that it is pretty great.
On my Asus 1201t, with its single core AMD processor and 2 GB of RAM, MATE still runs very responsively. I have yet to really test it on another system. I will say that I prefer it to Cinnamon, though both desktop environments seem to share a design philosophy geared more toward usability than form.
I’m currently running the Mint 13 MATE edition and, after searching a good while for a desktop Linux distribution that was 1) fully-featured (with extensive repositories), 2) quick to setup (since I do a lot of installing and reinstalling), and 3) resource-light, (and 4)) compatible with my Radeon HD3200, I think this edition really is what I’ve been looking for.
Ubuntu 12.04 is a great base for this, but Unity is still decidedly clunky in comparison to desktop environments like MATE, XFCE, and LXDE.
Thanks to Perberos and his team for developing this. And thanks to all the distribution designers who saw its merit and decided to incorporate it.
A Good Ol’ Time with Linux
is about to come to an end.
I said, maybe a month after I started digging in to the different distributions, that I’d tested enough OSs and would set a couple up for work and be done with it.
What I meant by that is I would test a plethora more and delve into infamous timesinks Arch and Slackware. It’s been rewarding, but after trying just about every desktop Linux distribution out there (not really, haha. holy shit, that’d be a lot), and after a lot of sloppy writing, I’m going to rein this in a little bit — mostly because I’m out of interesting candidates — but not before I do quick reviews of the ones I have tried recently or have tried to try (lookin’ at you, CentOS).
A quick primer for myself: Salix, Slackware, Archbang, Arch. Then CentOS spin Stella and CentOS (neither of which’s live CDs would boot), Scientific Linux 6, followed by Fedora, Debian Wheezy/Sid, a short (less than 1 hour) run of Mageia 1, and, finally, Semplice.
Damn, I have a compulsive disorder. No. Really.
My favorites? Mint 12 has stayed strong throughout. Fuduntu, as well. Salix and Slackware are lovely distros.
Ubuntu 11.1 and Fedora 16 both fell short of being all-around “good” for me because of their shortcomings. Ubuntu was unresponsive on the little lappy and still slow on the monster big head lappy. Kind of unacceptable, considering the specs. Fedora, while fast, felt unpolished. Being spoiled by Mint’s highly tweaked Gnome 3, Fedora’s vanilla presentation of it, complete without right clicks and touchpad tap clicks, seemed unpolished.
—- Edit: Fedora was quite solid, despite feeling rough. If the support period were longer, we might see more really good derivatives, since it seems to run quite light, especially for such a full-featured system. As it is, Fuduntu’s kind of the one. (I didn’t enjoy Kororaa (but then again, Slackware and Porteus had about the only KDE environments I liked. Man, that logo, with the sharp looking gears, annoys me.)) As it stands, I think oppenSuSE, of the big distributions, has about the best release cycle for derivatives, being stable and powerful. But whatever bad mojo it has with Novell backing it probably keeps developers away. —-
Uncexpectedly good: Semplice. Most of the above was written in that environment. Semplice feels like Crunchbang done right. While I said previously that Archbang did Crunchbang better than Crunchbang, well Semplice is a take on the Crunchbang theme that comes together much more elegantly because the developers put a lot of thought into making things semplice. The menu updates automatically, the tint2 configurations — if indeed that’s what it uses — are more unobtrusive, the kernel firmware is more up to date (read: didn’t have to waste time installing Realtek crap), etc. I liked it a lot and will be keeping it around for rescue operations and just to tinker with Debian repositories.
Even more unexpectedly good: Ubuntu 12.04 Beta! This thing was a pain in the ass to install, but as I type in it now, it is a good experience. I actually like it more than Mint 12, though I’m sure Mint 13 will have something to say about that. A couple of things like the menu scroll sensitivity haven’t been worked out, and booting stalled the first couple of times, but it is a good revamp of Ubuntu. I am probably going to use this instead of Mint LTS, provided my small lappy runs it.
Expectedly good: Scientific Linux. CentOS and Stella just would not boot for me. I downloaded different iterations of SL and CentOS and only the SL Live DVD booted for me, and then only on the large laptop. I get a kernel panic on the 1201t, which I think comes from unsupported hardware. (Someone on the CentOS forums had similar problems with the 1215b.) I’ll chalk that up as a lost cause for now.
But SL booted! And the Gnome 2 desktop is great. Smooth and snappy. Click tap will have to be edited into the auto start, but it’s hard the beat the combination of stability, power, and low system requirements.
High hopes — dashed: Scrambled, really. I was waiting for Mageia 2, but figured I ought to try 1. It just doesn’t seem very up to date. The Live CDs are only available in 32 bit and my wireless card wasn’t picked up. The installer also had a somewhat cramped and difficult to decipher design. 2 has been getting rave reviews, though I doubt I’ll give it more than a quick look when it’s released, because Ubuntu Precise is just that good. Again, system requirements will make the difference.
Salix and Slackware, Salix and Slackware…. How do I say, despite their rather idiosyncratic design philosophies, I am impressed by the results. I think the reason I like them is similar to the reason I like Fuduntu. Small projects with lots of personality with the pieces held together in the mind of one subgenius (I’ll allow myself that usage) benevolent dictator for life. In Fuduntu’s case: Fewt and his oddball humor, and Patrick Volkerding. (If he’s half as charismatic as his name…. (Why do I want to make a German joke here? Something about half as long as Das Kapital and only twice as funny….)
Nothing is as stable as Slackware. It’s the only system I used that didn’t glitch in some way. Most of these systems had outright bugs or performance hiccups. Mint has occasional graphical glitches, Fuduntu’s default repos give me trouble, Debian’s installer is overly rigid in demanding a CD, but Slackware just does its thing. Even Salix had kernel crashes from plugging in USB keys (before an update).
And for that, I’ll keep using it.
I don’t want to get head of myself, but I would like to appreciate that I’m in a good place as far as using and learning different distributions right now.
With my chosen OSs, Salix, Slackware, Mint, and Fuduntu, I’m getting more and more comfortable configuring and installing and updating. Basic tasks. I’m picking up new knowledge more quickly.
A week ago, it was all frustration. Now, the process is decidedly more stress-free and methodical. Things like editing text files, sorting through mirrors, configuring wireless connections through the command line are becoming less difficult. I even learned some basic vi usage. Man, that’s a weird little program.
The only OSs that are giving me some pain right now are Arch and Archbang, but that’s because they make my little lappy overheat and freeze up. Right now, tinkering with those two is postponed. But, I’m deeply appreciative of Arch, because setting it up made me comfortable with some basic things like visudo and wpa_supplicant commands. Now, if I could only get Gnome to start up properly at “startx”…. I can’t get too angry at Arch, though, because I figure success with Arch is directly correlated to time spent reading the Arch Wiki (which is great!).
I feel like a small breakthrough came when I successfully compiled, installed, and booted into a 3.3.1 kernel in Slackware 64, then activated my wireless card using the command interface.
I’m sure more challenges are coming, but my brain is starting to wrap itself around fundamentals — and I’m very grateful.
One more note. This has to do with the “You use Ubuntu, you learn Ubuntu, you use Red Hat, you learn Red Hat, you use Slackware….” quote.
Well, I feel, after revisiting Mint, Fuduntu, and Salix, and exploring even more distributions, that if you learn any decent, mainstream distribution, then you can port those skills easily to any other distribution. You just have to try. Some, like Arch, force you to do just that. But it returns me to that old adage: You get what you put in to it.
(I’m also beginning to understand the spirit of community that keeps these OSs going. Fuduntu, in particularly has a community with quite some character (subtly hidden by its goofy personality). Salix’s forum is a nice one, too, very calm and helpful. The only other forum I find myself going to for help is Linuxquestions, mainly because I find the mystique of Slackware quite funny and intriguing. And because they have lots of peopos, of course.
If I had to choose one distribution to contribute to (obviously 2 or so years down the road or whenever), it would be Fuduntu. I like Salix equally, but they seem to be thoroughly on the ball. Not to say that the Fuduntu team aren’t — in fact, they seem extremely capable (with flair, too!) — but the Fuduntu design philosophy requires a lot of interaction with users and on-the-fly modification to repositories. Plus, I dig their light touch and slightly trollish humor.)
Re-bonded with Windows 7; Fiddling with Salix and Archbang
I’ve mentioned before I have two laptops at my disposal. One, a behemoth for engineering applications that could crush the system requirements of cutting edge games, and the other, a two year old Asus 1201t with 2 GB of RAM.
The little one is the one I travel with and I guess part of the reason I’m messing with so many Linux OSs is that I’m trying to find one that will perform as well on the small compy as most of them seem to on the big.
Currently on the small lappy: Win7, Fat32 data partition, Fuduntu. I previously had Mint 12 Gnome on there, followed by Mint LXDE. LXDE was the best performance-wise, but configuring LXDE is a little clunky. The approximately 100 MB usage of RAM at idle was nice, though. Fuduntu uses about 300 MB, but it’s not slow and I feel the feel of it is worth the slight speed tradeoff.
Which brings us to Windows 7. That thing used to be slow. I wanted to create some new partitions, so I went in there and pared it down. Symantec Endpoint Protection? Gone. Skype? Gone. Flash (and anything Adobe)? Gone. Old game files? Etc.
After I killed SEP, Windows became a lot of fun to use. Much snappier and more fluid in response time. I’m keeping it around for iTunes, but probably won’t log into it much. I like it now, though, without the resource hogging antivirus. It just feels very unsafe using an unprotected Windows installation.
With all Linux’s flavors, really the most often touted features of its OSs are A) their stability, and B) their ability to run well on old machines because of superior coding and implementation. That’s what I want for myself on the little laptop, and I think Salix, based on Slackware, is one of the best ways I can set that up.
I am going to install one or two editions of Salix 13.37 on the computer and see how they perform. My wireless doesn’t work out of the box, which is a disappointment, but the Salix forumgoers are a very friendly and cheery bunch.
Somehow, today, I ended up back at the Archbang download page and was like: “might as well” (in lower caps), (probably didn’t actually), and downloaded it.
Unlike with Salix, wireless works out of the box. Whoa. This is a big deal for me because I don’t have ethernet ports close to where I use my computers. I have two, you say? Well, running a computer without wireless means it’s basically just sitting there while I use the other computer to browse wikis and how-tos. Inconvenient, and a time drain.
So, I’m going to install Archbang, too. If anything, I think Archbang does Crunchbang better than Crunchbang does. Where #! sometimes felt clunky and unpolished, Archbang not only runs faster, but shows attention to small detail. Also, I think I prefer the aesthetic tastes of Archbang’s designers to #!’s. For a small project, #! certainly does get a lot of use, and I think that’s because it’s creators have done a great job of situating it in a good niche, one of minimalism, functionality, minimal setup, and speed. The thing is, Archbang does more of those things, and with a little more flair.
Style counts, which is why I keep Mint, Fuduntu, Chakra around, have SliTaz bookmarked (in my brains), and will keep plugging away at Salix, even though Archbang suits my needs, too!