Saturday, January 7, 2017

Ubuntu MATE 16.04

I was a solid Ubuntu guy from about 2008-2011.  I walked away mostly due to the decision to replace my beloved Gnome 2 with Unity as the default desktop.  I played around with Xubuntu, Lubuntu, even Kubuntu; I tried Gnome 3, nothing satisfied.  I wound up following the same path as a lot of other disgruntled Ubuntu users by switching to Linux Mint whose MATE desktop offers an experience very like Gnome 2.

I've been happily using Mint MATE for about 4 years.  The last Mint 17 upgrade 'Rosa' (17.3) was having some issues on my laptop, though.  The display would lock up once in a while, a condition I could clear by switching to another virtual desktop and back (CTRL-ALT-F1, ALT-F8).  But it was still a nuisance.  Another little thing that was going wrong is this release didn't seem able to support an external HDMI-connected display (worked fine on the same hardware with Windows 8.1).

I heard that Ubuntu 16 was supporting MATE so I decided to give that a try.  I've been running Ubuntu MATE 16.04 for about a month now.
The 2 display issues I was having went away, screen locking up and external display not working
Weirdly, I can change my wallpaper, but user-supplied desktop backgrounds seem to be forgotten as soon as you switch away from them, so adding a bunch of my own backgrounds to the system-supplied ones and having them all available from then on as I am used to doesn't seem to work any more.  (Update: edit wallpapers from Control Center: Appearance: Background and the changes stick).
My laptop has hybrid graphics.  The way this is intended to work is a slower Intel GPU is used most of the time, saving battery life, but for graphics-intensive applications, a faster nVidia GPU is used instead.  After some considerable effort to understand and use this new thing back in 2013, I got Bumblebee configured and learned to use optirun or primusrun for games and graphical apps.

The bumblebee packages are available from the Ubuntu repos, but as far as I can tell the distro just uses the nVidia device for everything by default.  I found that I didn't care that much about the energy savings as I rarely run on the battery for more than an hour or so, so I wound up just leaving it this way.  There is a setting in NVIDIA X Server Settings (PRIME Profiles) that allows switching GPUs on a global basis that seems adequate for controlling power consumption if I needed to.

Overall I'm pretty happy with this distro, but at some point I'll probably give Mint 18 MATE a try, also.

See: Linux Mint MATE 18 Or Ubuntu MATE 16.04