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Nov 27

The November Ubuntu Mate Review


Hello reader,

I've been known to do comparative reviews if and when I thought they might illustrate a point. Initially I was going to review Elementary OS Juno and in fact installed it and tinkered for about 3 hours when I decided that I should just follow a hunch and see if it was any closer to Ubuntu Mate than I expected. 

Here's how that Elementary OS review would have gone:

After feeling my way through drivers, Chrome, etc etc it would have been much much easier to use Linux Mint 19 or maybe even Ubuntu Mate. Not that I minded revisiting Elementary but alas the polish that made it originally so impressive to me has yet to return. - My main beef with the OS is the lack of simplicity where it comes to adding back in the proprietary stuff that arguably most of their core fans probably care about. I have Nvidia on this laptop so I had to add Ubuntu's software center just to get drivers. I use Google Chrome so I had to actually add Gdebi and run it as super user to put that on - though certainly it is possible to do it other ways. All of this is moot though as within 15 minutes of loading Ubuntu Mate I was comparing it to Mint 19 and that's a compliment. (Elementary users can still Cntrl + Right Click on Dock to change preferences = great feature.)

Someone Once Yelled "Mint Is For Noobs!"   

Not at all, after years of being marginally unimpressed with Debian variants requiring additional steps to load drivers and even remembering fondly when we all got excited at the notion of compositing KDE for those zany desktop effects I'd like to think that my expectations have matured to where Linux Mint is just about perfect Linux. Yes it's easier out of the box, but that doesn't detract from it's capabilities and I have yet to see any advantage in running anything with a less capable desktop than Cinnamon or Mate with the exception of particularly well crafted openbox sessions courtesy of Crunchbang/Bunsenlabs. In a nutshell if you are looking at server management the least of your worries is a GUI eating resources, especially if you know how to switch to cli only and of course I do. 

Another Guy Yells "But Arch Linux..!"

Arch is arguably overrated to most non Arch users. In fact all of the current Linux variants are pretty similar as far as capabilities with the right ppa. There are not exceptions, just workarounds so the question becomes: "How many workarounds does it take to deploy what you want from a fresh install?"

So Now Ubuntu Mate

Very few workarounds required here & I love it. I'm not really a fan of "Vanilla Ubuntu," I have flashbacks of heavy side paneled gui crashes on lower power systems reverting to fallback mode and that sickening feeling of crawling through Unity trying to reach driver panels as screens flickered. It was horrible. Mate was however, always less power hungry, and far less... (deranged?) once we knew how to prevent screen blanking with that little power manager inhibiter applet. (Any wonder why I love Cinnamon?) Ubuntu does Mate as well or better than Mint did back on 16-17 and with far more focus on rapid deployment. I've deployed it on single board computers and was really shocked at how well it worked, but always shrugged it off as novelty and went back to Mint on my laptop or Windows on my whatever else I was using.

Ubuntu Mate On Laptop

Fast, pretty after one changes the hideous wallpaper, and everything is pretty close to what you want post install. Closing the lid results in suspend unlike on Elementary OS: (yes on some people's it probably worked but this is my review) The hideous green wallpaper changes nicely as indicated by the article pic above and after changing ssh keys and using chattr to lockdown password, shadow, groups, etc I'm looking at a clock and can scarcely believe how much quicker it was.

Performance 5

Looks 4

Ease Of Use 5

Stability 4

Security 4

Overall 4.4 out of 5

What if anything can be improved? Perhaps more included options for wider use cases - a server manager ssh tool in software boutique like putty. More lockdown tools and maybe a few more IDE options. I'd be thrilled to see Ninja IDE included out of the box but that's just crazy right?

Privacy Tools On The Bar

Canonical has always set a good example and in spite of questions arising about how user data is used by Canonical, no tools for private browsing have made their way to the forefront. You can disable tracking, but still no VPN setup on welcome screen or TOR because lets face it, that would raise a few eyebrows. But consider the vast number of users who search for ways to improve privacy and it seems like an obvious thing to consider. Post install end to end encryption might be a plus as well - the during install option asks the user to tinker with LVM which can be daunting for the new users. 

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