Ubuntu MATE 17.04 – Fast Forward to the Past

Linux notes from DarkDuck has recently published reviews of two of the most popular flavours of the Ubuntu 17.04 family: Lubuntu and Kubuntu got most of the orders from BuyLinuxCDs.co.uk site, on par with Ubuntu 17.04 itself. Another flavour with a popular demand is Ubuntu MATE. And again, I used the opportunity to write a review of Ubuntu MATE 17.04 Live using the customer disk before posting it.

You can download Ubuntu MATE from the official web site https://ubuntu-mate.org/. Both torrent and direct downloads from many mirrors are supported.

The ISO image of Ubuntu MATE 17.04 32-bit is 1.7 GB in size. I burnt it onto the DVD-R disk.

The disk is in the drive of my Dell Inspirion 17 laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from DVD. Fasten your seatbelts! Let’s go!



Booting up

The boot process of Ubuntu MATE 17.04 is not any different from most of the Ubuntu-based Linux operating systems. You don’t have any questions at all, apart from a choice between the Live run and Install. The build up for that initial screen was rather long. My choice was for the Live run, and soon after that I landed onto the default desktop.

First impressions

The default desktop of Ubuntu MATE 17.04 is in starry green and blue tones.

Ubuntu MATE 17.04 Welcome

If you don’t like that image, Ubuntu MATE features several dozen alternatives available immediately from the disk.

There is a welcome window available with a quick tour. Only two icons are on the desktop: Install Ubuntu MATE 17.04 and Home folder.

You can find two panels at the top and at the bottom parts of the screen.

On the left of the bottom panel there is a “Show desktop” button. The right part is taken by the bin icon and a switch between 4 virtual desktops. The rest of the bottom panel is a taskbar with current applications.

The top panel contains the GNOME 2 / MATE standard set of menu items: Applications, Places and System, each with its own drop-down. There is also a quick shortcut to the Firefox browser. The right part of the top panel contains the notification area. Bluetooth, Network, Volume, Battery indicators are there along with clocks, Switch Off button and the Keyboard icon. I am not sure about the use of the latter, except for the ability to hang my system for few (dozen) seconds.

There is no menu search facility in this version of Linux operating system.

The freshly booted Ubuntu MATE 17.04 32-bit Live took a staggering 1.1 GB of memory. Wow! That’s an anti-record!

Ubuntu MATE 17.04 resources

Just to remind you, Ubuntu MATE 16.10 took just under 800 Mb of memory and Ubuntu MATE 16.04 only took 362 Mb. Of course, those two tests ran on a different laptop with 4 GB of RAM whereas now I have a laptop with 8 GB of RAM. But my gosh! 1.1 GB just to boot is way-way-way too much.

Network connectivity

No wonders here. My laptop has an Intel 3160 WiFi card. Intel has very good relationships with the Linux world. It means that there are no issues with the drivers.

I was able to connect to my home wireless network in a matter of seconds just by selecting the network and typing in the password.

Remote Network Drive

Caja 1.18.1, the default file manager in Ubuntu MATE 17.04, has the network browsing facility. I was able to navigate to my shared network drive.

The drive mounted like this was accessible in LibreOffice for file saving. However, the GMail attachment function still did not work.

Keyboard layout

English US is the default layout in Ubuntu MATE 17.04.
I wrote a guide and a video about the configuration of alternative keyboard layouts in MATE some time ago, and it is still applicable in Ubuntu MATE 17.04.

However, there is a small bug. Even if you remove the English US layout from the configuration list, it will still remain among the active layouts.

Ubuntu MATE 17.04 keyboard layouts bug

Multimedia

Ubuntu MATE 17.04 is well-equipped for multimedia playback tasks.

VLC is included there. It means what it means: you have no issues with playback of the majority of multimedia files.
YouTube videos also played well.

Ubuntu 17.04 MATE multimedia

Other sites like BBC iPlayer, CNN and 1tv.ru gave me no issues either.

Applications

The set of applications available in Ubuntu MATE 17.04 out of the box is relatively good.

Firefox 52.0.1 is the default and the only Internet browser available out of the box. Other Internet tools include HexChat, Thunderbird Mail and Transmission torrent client.

Graphics tools in Ubuntu MATE 17.04 include Eye of MATE image viewer, LibreOffice Draw, Shotwell image library, SimpleScan and MATE Colour Selection.

LibreOffice 5.3.1.2 applications make the core of Office tools in this operating system. There are Draw and Math components in addition to “Core” Writer and Calc, but no Base.

The same LibreOffice Math is the only part of the Education part of the menu.

VLC and Rhythmbox are two multimedia players available in the Sound & Video part of the distribution menu. Brasero is the disk burning utility. There is also a Cheese webcam management utility.

Of course, there are various accessories and small utilities: Calculator, Search tool, Terminal, Disk usage analytics and so on.

If you want to add or remove applications, the Software Boutique is the name of the software management tool in MATE. It is available in the System – Administration part of the top panel menu. I tried to use it and found some issues. For example, search for “chess” did not bring any result. Even “tuxcart” search result was empty although I saw SuperTuxCart in the list of the Games section. Just to test the installation process, I installed the GNote application, and the installation process was easy and smooth… if you find the application you need!

Conclusion

Ubuntu MATE 17.04 32-bit Live left an ambiguous impression on me.

It was fast and responsive on a high-spec laptop. Felt relatively solid. Set of default applications was good. Multimedia playback caused no issues.

However, small bugs here and there were quite annoying: frozen screen after the Keyboard icon click, no search in the menu, issues with the search in the default software management tool, issues with keyboard layout setup. And the memory usage is simply frightening.

All these are not something you would expect from a newly-released distribution in 2017.

Back to the future? Fast forward to the past?

Video used on the screenshot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5LYy-PhnSA

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