Experimenting with the MATE desktop

Logo of the Mate Desktop Environment
Logo of the Mate Desktop Environment

Some bug bite me and, as a result, I did the unthinkable. 😉

In fact, you might know that I have been a GNU/Linux user since 2000 (fully migrated since 2002). Now, Linux is just a kernel, GNU is just a set of utilities, and usually the operating system leaves you at the text console. If you want anything graphical, you have a choice of graphical desktop environments which differ in their underlying development philosophies and choices and also in their degree of sophistication/customizability.

Well, for almost the same number of years that I was a GNU/Linux user I have been user of the graphical environment known as KDE (now Plasma). Hey, I even was an official KDE Spanish translator for 10 straight years! However, since Slackware also includes Xfce, it has been my second-choice desktop environment.

Now, if you are acquainted with a minimum of the history of Linux desktop environments, you might be aware of the fact that there was at a certain point a reaction against the KDE environment which gave rise to another desktop known as GNOME. It used to be a good desktop, but I deeply disagreed with most of its choices and the disagreement grew over time; so I’m not interested in using it. For many years there used to be a rivalry and even an all out flamewar among KDE and GNOME adherents (it’s all over now; everyone is OK with other people’s choices and to each its own).

Meanwhile, within the GNOME camp there was growing dissatisfaction with choices made by their developers. Thus, in 2011 some folks began a nice fork of the GNOME desktop, preserving what many users perceived as good parts of the desktop environment that were discarded in newer GNOME versions. This fork was called MATE Desktop in honor of the Paraguayan Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis), a Paraguayan plant which we consume in prodigious amounts as a refreshing beverage and also as a tea.

Thankfully, Slackware has available a great implementation of Mate thanks to Willy Sudiarto Raharjo and Chess Griffin. Due to their efforts, we have a nice set of packages in MATE SlackBuild.

Well, I got curious; even more, how could I pass an oportunity to try a desktop named after my beloved Yerba Mate? Therefore downloaded the Mate packages to give them a spin. I was offered a choice between the stable 1.14 version and the development 1.15 version. In turn, it was possible to choose 1.15 builds against the GTK+2 or GTK+3 libraries. Since GTK+3 seemed to be the way of the future, I chose that.

After some inquiries on whether Mate software and its dependencies would conflict with my Plasma setup, and being answered that it wouldn’t, I installed the desktop. Upon loading, I was pleasantly surprised.

So, here’s the unthinkable: a KDE/Plasma user for 10+ years installing and using a GNOME-derived desktop!

There are many good things to write about Mate, but there are also some shortcomings. I plan to write my impressions in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

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