Looks like Wimpy has been hard at work, because Ubuntu MATE 15.10 Beta 1 is OUT! So here’s a quick overview of the Beta 1 release from boot to shutdown…
I booted the 32-bit edition from USB on two old test laptops with spinning rust drives. Two quick observations:
- I’ve never seen similar boot graphics behavior– After selecting the default boot entry, it doesn’t completely erase the GRUB screen, but instead shows a large black box in the middle leaving just fringes of the GRUB menu. Screenshot This is where it spends the majority of the time while booting, presumably loading the initrd. After a while it briefly shows the actual Plymouth boot splash, followed by the login screen. On fast systems with an SSD this wouldn’t appear to be an issue, but with a slow spinning disk it could give the impression that the boot process is hanging. Boot speed is actually quite good, faster than most distros on this old laptop.
- I don’t really like the new Plymouth bootsplash with its large Ubuntu Mate logo and no text. I preferred the previous style with its larger Ubuntu MATE stylized text and a small superscript logo placed as though it were a ® symbol. (This one) In addition to being more visually pleasing and professional looking to my eye, it also improves brand recognition for users who don’t recognize the logo, and won’t see the name of their OS in any other screens after that from day-to-day.
As usual, very good, with the exception of one trip-up that I’d like to mention here because Wimpy tends to handle bug reports better than Ubuntu does. 🙂
- My other old laptop has Broadcom BCM4312 WiFI, which used to require proprietary firmware to be installed. Ubuntu has never supported this chip out of the box since the beginning of time (9 years ago when I bought the laptop). But apparently some kind of open source firmware must have come out in past years, because recent versions of Fedora now support the WiFI automatically out of the box. Would it be possible to take a look at my bug report and see about adding this open source support for BCM43xx to Ubuntu? Edit: The source of the free firmware in Fedora appears to be this: https://apps.fedoraproject.org/packages/b43-openfwwf
Ubuntu MATE Welcome screen
Very well done! This is a great innovation. The new Software button allows installation of a Software Center and also a number of common recommended packages, organized by category. Again, very well done!
- My only suggestion for the welcome screen design would be to maybe make the Software button a different color (green) to make it stand out, since it actually has important functionality instead of just fluff introductory information.
- I installed Ubuntu MATE without setting up an internet connection first, and later configured WiFI after first boot. But since the APT lists had never been updated, it threw a bunch of unresolvable dependency errors when I tried to install something from the welcome screen. It worked correctly after running
apt-get update. So hopefully this bug can be fixed.
- Under the “Office” category it might be good to offer WPS Office as an alternative to LibreOffice, as it looks uncannily similar to Microsoft Office and offers almost perfect compatibility.
- Under the “Sound and Video” category there is a “Codecs” quick-install. But I think it would be best to have another main category for “Proprietary Software” with a quick-install button for
ubuntu-restricted-extras. The advantage of this package is that it installs Microsoft fonts, which are extremely important for MS Office file import fidelity in LibreOffice, as well as the need of Arial for the interface of some Wine programs. Also the
ubuntu-restricted-extraspackage pulls in Flash, which new users will probably need at some point. My observation has been that users almost always try to go to adobe.com and download the flash plugin, not realizing that it’s available from the repos. Commendably, it is available as a quick-install under the Internet category in the Ubuntu Mate Welcome, but I think it would be best to install the whole kit and kaboodle with one meta package directly from the Welcome screen.
- I opted to try the AppGrid software center. A few comments:
- Incredibly fast and snappy
- Very good organization and search
- Generally works well, but for some reason it won’t allow me to install the
ubuntu-restricted-extraspackage, and it hangs and has to be force closed.
- As for alternative software centers, I think it’s really commendable that we are offered choice! In addition to AppGrid and Ubuntu Software, what about Lubuntu Software, Deepin Software, and Mint Software? Again, I think the importance of a software center for new users can not be overemphasized, so it’s great to see that Wimpy actually cares about this aspect.
- After installing a Software Center from the Welcome screen, I think it would be good to put it as a shortcut on the desktop and in the Mate Menu favorites, if in use.
Look and Feel
Superb. Mate Tweak is quite possibly the biggest innovation to Gnome2/Mate since its beginning. I have seen users immediately reject Mate with its foreign two-panel design and triple menu with no search. But Mate Tweak gives the incredibly intuitive option of a Redmond-esque layout with the searchable Mate Menu. For 15.10 the Mate Tweak tool has been improved and streamlined. I also really love the fast option of enabling Compiz for quarter-tiling windows in Aero fashion.
- The first time I tried to switch to Redmond, all panels disappeared, and even after a re-boot it didn’t come back. Fortunately I could open
mate-tweakfrom the terminal and select another layout and then switch back again to Redmond, at which point it worked again.
- Another small bug after I enabled Ubuntu indicators is that it didn’t remove the Mate volume applet, so I had two volume indicators.
There appears to be some sort of bug delaying the shutdown process. I hit ESC on the shutdown splash, it it only shows “[OK] Started Show Plymouth Power Off Screen” and then hangs for well over a minute. Ubuntu 15.04 on this same machine shuts down almost instantly.
All in all, looks like Ubuntu MATE 15.10 is shaping up to be an incredible release. My intention with this long post isn’t to nitpick, but rather to hopefully improve a little bit more on Wimpy’s brainchild. If you haven’t tried Ubuntu MATE yet, do yourself a favor and give it a test run. I think we can safely say that Ubuntu MATE is a better Ubuntu than Ubuntu itself. Unlike its parent, Ubuntu MATE is meticulously crafted to very high standards that put familiarity, aesthetics, simplicity, and ease of use in first place. Most importantly, Wimpy actually listens to users and tries to accommodate their varying preferences instead of predilecting his own. Many thanks, and congrats to Wimpy and his team for this valuable contribution to the open source community!
* source here