On MATE

Switched the Chromebook and workstation at home to MATE (pronounced “Mah-Tay”) on Fedora 20 yesterday. So far, so good.

Gnome 3 Shell is more attractive, at least to my tastes, particularly the holo look icons. But from a functionality standpoint Gnome 2 fork MATE is hands-down more stable and quite a bit faster. I really don’t like the look of the Tango icons, but I’ve been in uglier company before (like the time I spent on XFCE…).

There are things that don’t work as expected, but some of that almost certainly has to do with the way MATE was packaged by those who ported it to Fedora. I’m in the process of reworking my desktop at work with CentOS 7 and MATE from EPEL today, which should give me a better perspective on things by the end of the day.

I also replaced gdm with lightdm for login management. In my experience gdm is almost hopelessly broken at this point, regularly crashing on one machine and requiring time-consuming (and nerve-wracking) voodoo to configure. For example, turning off the user list in the greeter — an operation not supported by the Gnome team and actively discouraged by them through frequent changes in the hooks to do so. I expect the next version of gdm to completely eliminate this capability, making gdm no more suitable for enterprise logins than any of the other juvenile toy operating environments out there. In sharp contrast, lightdm lets you do the needful by uncommenting and changing the values in 3 lines of its master configuration file /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf. How refreshing.

1. Make MATE your default desktop by installing the “MATE Desktop” group (“yum groupinstall”), and then selecting it using desktop switcher on logging in (it will be the gear icon alongside the password window).

2. Switch to lightdm as the login manager after installing lightdm-gtk:

systemctl disable gdm.service

systemctl enable lightdm.service

Reboot to make effective.

3. Turn off the user list in lightdm greeter (and disallow guest logins — who in their right mind would want that?):

# /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf

* * *

greeter-hide-users=true
greeter-allow-guest=false
greeter-show-manual-login=true

You can try combining all 3 steps in one shot, but I took a more cautious approach.

These are first impressions scribbled down ten minutes before a serious corporate network test, but I thought it would be helpful to at least a few people to see them.

Random Notes:

Chosen theme: The default “BlueMenta” is fine for me. It’s got blue in it, well at least it does once I’ve customized it to use the standard Fedora icons (see a later post on how I stumbled on how to customize things).

Personal Background: Personal photo of a storm coming up on Carolina Beach.

Working backwards from Gnome to MATE was a lot of work. Things should be a bit easier on a fresh install (there’s a Fedora 20 MATE-Compiz Spin you might want to check out). I prefer doing a minimal install and then building out from there (using the Netinstall CD when bandwidth is available).

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About phil

My name is Phil Lembo. In my day job I’m an enterprise IT architect for a leading distribution and services company. The rest of my time I try to maintain a semi-normal family life in the suburbs of Raleigh, NC. E-mail me at philipATlembobrothersDOTcom. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own and not those of my employers, past, present or future (except where I quote others, who will need to accept responsibility for their own rants).