Ubuntu MATE first impressions

ubuntumateLubuntu has been my “go to” GNU/Linux distro of late for computers running on somewhat older hardware.    I generally like lighter weight desktop user interfaces and prefer to stay away from Gnome, KDE, Unity and the new Cinammon desktop.  For the last few years I’ve been mostly using XFCE or LXDE desktops.

The type of computer I’ve been installing Lubuntu on for friends and family members has typically been either a later Pentium IV or a Core 2 Duo vintage machine with one or two gigabytes of RAM.   These are usually computers that used to run Windows XP or Microsoft’s horrible excuse for an operating system…Windows Vista.

The “MATE” desktop was forked some years ago from the old Gnome 2.x desktop by the Linux Mint project, but recently a community based version of Ubuntu was released that also makes use of MATE.

I’d heard some great reviews of Ubuntu MATE, particularly from the “Linux Action Show” (one of my favourite Linux related podcasts) and decided to give it a shot on a recently purchased used off-lease HP ProBook.   This laptop is about four years old and has an Intel i5 processor with four gigabytes of RAM.  It cost me $299 from a neighbourhood used computer re-seller.   (That’s about US$230, 150 UK pounds or about 210 euros).

As I usually do, I downloaded the ISO image file and then created a bootable USB stick using the Unetbootin tool.    I then went into the BIOS settings and changed the settings so that the computer would boot from the stick instead of the hard drive.

In a couple of minutes, I was up and running in “live” mode, running Ubuntu MATE from the USB stick instead of the hard drive.     Everything worked!   Video, wifi, audio etc.   Lucky for me there was no oddball hardware in this laptop that required proprietary device drivers.

In fact, even when running from the USB stick the machine was running faster than a fresh Windows 7 install.

So, time to blow Windows 7 away!    I just clicked the install icon on the desktop, accepted the default hard drive partitioning, set the keyboard to U.S., entered the time zone and created a user name and password.    With a few mouse clicks it was Goodbye Windows 7 and Hello Ubuntu MATE 14.04.

Twenty minutes and one reboot later I was up and running!   Firefox and Libre Office along with a number of other useful programmes were already installed.   I immediately ran some updates (about 250 MB worth) which perhaps took another half hour on my not exactly speedy DSL internet connection.

I don’t much like the Ubuntu Software Centre and so the first thing I installed was the Synaptic Package Manager.    The Ubuntu Software Centre certainly is “prettier” and less geeky for new users,  but I find it kind of slow.   Also, I’m not a new GNU/Linux user.

So with Synaptic installed I just checked off all of the extra software I wanted to grab, hit “apply” and then let Synaptic pound away grabbing about 600 MB of software applications that I wanted.

Then, after about 45 minutes I was done!

There are a few programmes that aren’t the absolutely latest version, and no doubt I’ll be adding on some PPA‘s (Personal Package Archives) over the next week or so, but for now I’m quite happy.

Ubuntu MATE is quick and snappy on this particular machine and I really don’t have any complaints.   It just works!     I have no problem recommending Ubuntu MATE to someone who is new to GNU/Linux, providing the hardware is not too old.   For P4’s and Core 2 Duo’s with only one or two gigs of RAM, I’d stick with Lubuntu.


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