Linux Mint 13 MATE

Edit: I’ve done a separate review of Cinnamon, for those who prefer that desktop.

Woohoo! It’s Linux Mint time again! Linux Mint 13 (wow, not exactly a lucky number!) has just been released, so I hopped right on it. Linux Mint has long been one of my favorite distros. We’ll find out in this review if the latest version measures up to its previous incarnations.

Linux Mint 13 comes with two different desktop options: MATE or Cinnamon. For this review, I picked the MATE version. You can download either of them. See the install section of the review for download details.

The Linux Mint 13 Welcome Menu
The welcome menu contains link to useful information and help for Linux Mint 13.

Which one should you pick? Well, the Linux Mint developers have come up with a helpful list of the pros and cons of each. If you still aren’t sure after reading them, try running them as Live DVDs to get a taste of each. Just burn each to its own DVD, then boot into that DVD to run Linux Mint without doing an install.

MATE:

Pros:

  • MATE is stable and it works on all computers
  • MATE is among the most productive and easy to use desktops available.
  • MATE continues where Gnome 2 left off and introduces its own incremental improvements.
  • MATE comes with support for mintMenu, mintDesktop, Compiz and everything that made Gnome 2 the most popular Linux desktop.
  • MATE is built with GTK2, it features more themes and integrates with more applications than any other desktop.

Cons:

  • Some parts of Gnome 2 were not migrated to MATE yet and a few aspects such as Bluetooth support might not work as well as they did with Gnome 2.

Cinnamon:

Pros:

  • Cinnamon is among the sleekest and most modern looking environments
  • Cinnamon features innovative features and emphasis on productivity with traditional desktop metaphors
  • Cinnamon is built on rapid technologies and its development pace is really fast
  • The Cinnamon community is very active, and produces a lot of new themes and applets

Cons:

  • Cinnamon requires 3D acceleration and might not work well for you, depending on your graphics card and/or drivers.
  • Cinnamon is brand new and unfortunately not yet as stable as more mature and established desktops such as MATE, KDE or Xfce.
  • Cinnamon relies on Gnome 3 and Clutter, which are also both brand new and going through rapid transformations.
The Home Folder in Linux Mint 13
The home folder in Linux Mint 13.

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Ubuntu 12.04
Linux 3.2
MATE 1.2
Cinnamon 1.4
Yahoo as the default search engine
Latest Mint-X and Mint-Z themes
Additional art work for backgrounds from artist masterbutler
MDM Display Manager

Linux Mint 13 is based on Ubuntu 12.04. If you aren’t familiar with it, please see my earlier review here on DLR.

You can check out a list of Linux 3.2 changes over on Kernel Newbies.

Yahoo is now the default search engine in Linux Mint. There is apparently a revenue sharing arrangement between Yahoo and the Linux Mint developers. Here’s some info about that from the Linux Mint site:

Linux Mint switches to Yahoo as the default search engine for the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Yahoo is the 2nd biggest search engine in the World, and the first major search engine to share revenue with Linux Mint. The results page is full of features, it comes with a nice layout, images, videos and blogs search, points of interest, time filters and cached results. Underneath the interface, Yahoo comes with a strong network of advertisers and its addition represents a huge opportunity and an additional source of income for Linux Mint.

Yahoo in Linux Mint 13
Yahoo is now the default search engine in Linux Mint 13.

The MDM display manager is based on GDM 2.0. It offers quite a bit including event scripting, language selection, graphical config tools, themeability, and language selection.

You can choose some gorgeous backgrounds, if the default Linux Mint wallpaper starts to bore you after a while. They were done by an artist named masterbutler. Just right-click your desktop and choose Change Desktop Background to see them. Click the one you want and your background will change to the new wallpaper.

Linux Mint 13 Backgrounds
Check out the gorgeous wallpaper in Linux Mint 13.

The latest Mint-Z and Mint-X themes are included in this release, along with superior support for GTK3.

Mint-X is the default theme, but you can easily switch to Mint-Z in the Appearance Preferences menu. Just click on the Appearance icon in Control Center to make start making the change. Either theme is attractive. You can also click the Customize button to change any theme to your liking.

Linux Mint 13 Themes
The latest Mint-Z and Mint-X themes are included in Linux Mint 13.
Customize Themes in Linux Mint 13
You can easily customize any theme in Linux Mint 13.

System Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

  • x86 processor (Linux Mint 64-bit requires a 64-bit processor. Linux Mint 32-bit works on both 32-bit and 64-bit processors).
  • 512 MB RAM (1GB recommended for a comfortable usage).
  • 5 GB of disk space
  • Graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution
  • CD/DVD drive or USB port

Linux Mint 13 Download
You can download Linux Mint 13 from this page. The file I downloaded weighed in at 941.6 MB. You can also buy Linux Mint on disc from Amazon.com. There are also helpful books about Linux Mint available from Amazon (the discs and books are listed on that link).

As I noted earlier, you can download a MATE version or a Cinnamon version. Both desktops come in 32 or 64 bit. You also have the option of downloading Linux Mint 13 with or without codecs installed.

If you’re a distrohopper then you might want to try it in VirtualBox before running it on real hardware. VirtualBox is free and open source software that will let you run distros on your Linux, OS X or Windows desktop.

Installation
The Linux Mint 13 install is about as easy as it gets. The install took about 15 minutes, and I didn’t run into any problems.

Prepare for Linux Mint 13 Install
Linux Mint 13 requires at least a 5.7GB hard disk.
Erase Disk for Insall
Getting ready to install Linux Mint.
Slide Show During Linux Mint 13 Install
Watch a slide show while Linux Mint 13 finishes installing on your system.
The Linux Mint 13 Login
The Linux Mint 13 login menu.

The Desktop
The MATE desktop is almost totally uncluttered with icons. The only icons you’ll find are one for Computer, and one for the Home folder.

When your desktop first loads, you’ll see the Linux Mint Welcome Screen (there’s a screenshot of it on the first page of this review). If you’re new to Linux Mint then I highly recommend taking a careful peek at it. The Welcome Menu contains links to documentation, support, community resources and project information. If you closed the Welcome Menu too soon and want to see it again, just open the Control Center and click on the Welcome Screen icon listed under Personal.

If you click the Menu button, you’ll find the Mint Menu is there in all its glory. You can easily access important places, system functionality, favorite applications, or all applications if you prefer. Once you switch the view to All Applications, you’ll see the usual breakdown of app categories. It’s very easy to find your way around, even if you’re totally new to Linux Mint and the MATE desktop.

If you want to tweak your system, click the Control Center option that’s listed under System on the Mint Menu. From there, you can change tons of things in your Linux Mint computer. It’s all broken down for you into the following categories:

Personal
Internet and Network
Hardware
System
Other

It’s very easy to find the tool you need to adjust your system to your liking.

I really like the MATE desktop. I find it extremely comfortable to use, and it behaves just the way I want it to when I use it. The screenshots below will give you a taste of what it’s like to use MATE.

The Linux Mint 13 MATE Desktop
The Linux Mint 13 MATE desktop.
The Linux Mint 13 MATE Menu
The Linux Mint menu on the MATE desktop.
The Linux Mint 13 Control Center
The Linux Mint 13 control center.
The Linux Mint 13 Computer Folder
The Linux Mint 13 computer folder.

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Available in the Software Manager

Graphics
Document Viewer
GIMP
gThumb
Image Viewer
LibreOffice Draw
Simple Scan

Internet
Desktop Sharing
Firefox
Pidgin IM
Thunderbird Mail
Transmission
XChat IRC

Multimedia
Banshee
Brasero
GNOME MPlayer
Movie Player
Sound Recorder
VLC Media Player

Office
LibreOffice

Software Management
The Linux Mint Software Manager has more than 38,000 packages available for download. Applications are broken down into the usual categories, and you can search for them if you prefer that instead of browsing.

Each application contains user reviews, an overall score, a screenshot, and details such as the version and size. You can also see what installing it or removing it will do in terms of packages. You can also rate applications, and submit your own user reviews.

The Linux Mint 13 Software Manager
Applications are broken down into categories in the Software Manager.
Featured Applications in the Linux Mint 13 Software Manager
The featured applications category in the Software Manager.
VLC in the Linux Mint 13 Software Manager
VLC comes preinstalled in Linux Mint 13.

Adding & Removing Software
To add an application, just find it in the Software Manager and click the Install button. Then type in your password, and the install will begin. To remove an application, click the Remove button.

Next, I’ll share some of the problems I encountered, show you where to get help, and I’ll share my final thoughts.

Problems & Headaches
I didn’t notice any overt issues with Linux Mint 13. It ran very well for me. One thing I do recommend doing though is to run update manager right after you boot into your MATE desktop. It’s always a good idea to make sure your system software is up to date before you start using a new version of a distro.

Linux Mint 13 Update Manager
Run the Update Manager to update Linux Mint 13.

One thing that some would consider a problem is how both desktops, MATE and Cinnamon, aren’t included by default the way they are with Linux Mint Debian Edition. There’s a way to fix this, if you want to have the option of switching between them on the login screen.

Here’s how you can do it:

1. Click the Menu button.
2. Click the Package Manager button to start Synaptic.
3. Do a search for “Cinnamon” without the quotes.
4. You’ll see a list of packages that can be installed.
5. After installing these packages, log out of your MATE desktop.
6. Click the session icon.
7. Click the Cinnamon option.
8. Click the Change Session button.
9. Type in your user ID and password to login.
10. A menu will pop up giving you the option to use Cinnamon as the default desktop, or to use it just for this session.

Obviously, if you installed Cinnamon and you want MATE then you’d have to follow these instructions but just substitute MATE for Cinnamon when you search in Synaptic.

I don’t really consider having to install the other desktop like this to be much of a problem. But I’m including it here for those who might want to do it. See the screenshots below.

Install the Linux Mint 13 Cinnamon Desktop in Synaptic
Use Synaptic to install Cinnamon (or MATE) in Linux Mint 13.
Change Linux Mint 13 Desktops in Sessions Menu
You can switch between desktops in the Sessions menu on the login screen.
The Linux Mint 13 Cinnamon Desktop
The Cinnamon desktop in Linux Mint 13.

Known Problems
There are some issues that have been noted by the Linux Mint developers. Here’s a list of those from the Linux Mint site:

Boot hangs on systems using b43 wireless cards

An upstream issue in the kernel prevents Linux Mint 13 from booting on computers with b43 wireless cards. If you’re in this situation, try the following:

To boot the live DVD, choose the “Compatibility mode” or add the following kernel argument to the boot options: b43.blacklist=yes
Install Linux Mint on the hard drive
If not present already, in Grub, modify the boot options to add: b43.blacklist=yes
Install the b43 firmware on the system

For more information on this problem, please read this bug report.
64-bit only for Mint4win

If you’re planning to use Mint4win, please choose either MATE 64-bit or Cinnamon 64-bit. Although Mint4win is present on all images, it is only functional with the 64-bit ISOs.
Window popping behind installer in MATE Edition

One or two windows might open during the installation of the MATE edition while the installer is mounting partitions and copying files. This is a cosmetic issue. Feel free to dismiss any error message and to close these windows during the installation process.
Moonlight

Moonlight was removed from Linux Mint because of a bug that made Firefox crash. The bug was fixed upstream and you can install the Moonlight plugin from the project’s website.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

You might also want to check out the Linux Mint forums, and community page.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Linux Mint 13 MATE is an excellent addition to the Linux Mint tradition.

The MATE version of Linux mint is a great choice for those who don’t have the hardware to run the Cinnamon version, or who simply prefer the MATE desktop environment. Linux is all about choice, and being able to choose MATE instead of Cinnamon adds real value to Linux Mint. Kudos to the developers for giving users the option to pick which one they prefer to run.

Linux Mint 13 MATE is suitable for beginners, intermediate or advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Linux Mint 13 MATE
Web Site: http://www.linuxmint.com
Price: Free
Pros: Works well for those who don’t have the hardware for Cinnamon. Easy install; excellent software manager, and selection of software. Also offers a version without codecs installed.
Cons: You won’t get the cool features of Cinnamon, such as the Mac-like Expo and Scale overviews.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Rating: 4.5/5


Comments

  1. Paul says

    Desde que descubrí Linuxmint -ya más de dos años- me ha encantado, pero al instalar y trabajar con Linuxmint 13 Maya tuve problemas con la transferencia del panel y de contenido que se ve en pantalla como del libreoffice a un proyector, es decir, se veía el fondo de la pantalla o algún video que ponía pero tanto el panel como otras cosas no aparecieron nunca, al grado de tener que re-instalar Linuxmint 10, ese nunca me ha fallado, yo supongo que fue un problema directo con Mate, ojala y en posteriores entregas lo corrijan, gracias.

  2. senci says

    Linux mint 13 (MATE) (both Debian and Ubuntu) has some serious issues with USB. Locking USB and loosing data is what I got used to. Never before I had to worry about it, but now – good bye Minty.

    • Amadeus128 says

      I have been using Linus Mint MATE for a while now and I have never experienced any problem with USB keys or hard drives.

  3. Alfonso says

    I have a stupid SIS671 onboard video on my laptop.
    And this laptop has something against Ubuntu. Can’t use it since 9.10.
    So, I was happilly running LMDE for a long time.

    After a lot of internet search, hard work and several different tests, I was able to have a working driver to have the 1280×800 resolution on the SIS671 with LMDE.

    And LMDE was working great until the Update Pack 4.
    After this update, there was no way to get back the 1280×800 resolution, no matter what I do.

    Tried Mageia 2, but I can’t get used to it’s package management.

    So, I decided to give Maya MATE a try, after finding a SIS671 driver on a simple deb package built for Precise Pangolin.
    And, for my surprise, worked in Maya.
    With a simple #dpkg -i package.deb and a system restart, 1280×800 was back again.

    Mint is great. Just works. Thanks!

  4. Torin says

    LM 13 MATE is solid as a rock and very light on resources. I wish it had better looking themes. I give it 8/10.

    Cinnamon is too unstable at the moment.

  5. dada says

    IL serait bon que ces commentaires soient en français;

    Concernant mint cinnamon, le problème de bluetooth est général sur toutes les distributions, il est configuré par défaut pour fonctionner sur le réseau, quand aux transfert des photos d’ un téléphone ,il faut bidouiller dans le gestionnaire pour chercher les paquets.

    Je ne trouve plus l’utilitaire de disque, très pratique pour voir ce qui est monté, ou démonter un périphérique

    Pour quelle raison les modules, ICED TEA . WEBCONTROL et INPUT
    METHOD SWITCHER (dans système préférence) n’est t-il pas en français;

    Pour le reste c’est une bonne distribution que j’ai adopté;

    Merci aux contributeurs.
    @

  6. Linuts says

    I like what Mint is “trying” to do, but for serious work this didn’t cut it for me. Mate does okay, but the new Cinnamon is what I was hoping to use. I do like it, but it’s no where near stable enough at this point, locks up, crashes and burns within an hour. You have to use that restart cinnamon button more than it’s worth.

    Reinstalled good Ole Deb Squeeze and xfce4. So far, the best for stability and getting work done has been either slackware or debian’s stable branch.

    JuS2CenTz, worth maybe one.

  7. angga says

    Compiz on GNOME-3 ?? …….. just try precise pangolin with compiz full functioned, it’s really rocks :-) ….. but after 2 weeks I used ubuntu 12.04 with compiz, on my dell inspiron with my daily office job…. after I update “some” kernel or graphic driver on May 27th, I cannot login to use dekstop gnome anymore. just stuck. So, I decided to reinstall Linux Mint 11 with Gnome-2 and Compiz … hehehe :-))

  8. ml says

    What you wrote about Compiz is not true. Compiz doe not really work with MATE. After replaceing marco with compiz all windows are missing titlebars. Without Compiz there is no sense to use MATE, better is to stay with GNOME 2 with Compiz.

    Have you instelled Compiz on MATE? Have you managed to it to work? I doubt it. But if you succeeded, could you please share your experience and put here a description, step by step?

    • Marshall Neill says

      Open up Startup Applications and Add
      Name Compiz
      Command compiz –replace
      Comment add what you want.

      This got compiz working for me. Changing marco to compiz failed for me as well.

      This works for me just fine.

  9. michael says

    i am not new to linux or linux mint, i only said that this is the only time i have to patch linux mint before using. while other linux distros are equally good you have to find a distro that gives you everything you want in a linux distro.
    However, linux mint is good in so many way. one has to stop testing , but start using it to find out how and where it outperforms others

  10. angga says

    It’s seems like trying to go back gnome-2 with some pollished thing :-) …….. better use the new de, the modern one, the next desktop computing :-) precise pangolin with unity, very stable,usable and looks very preety.

  11. Eddie Wilson says

    Good review. Some of the problems people are having with the display are caused by closed source propitiatory drivers. Not much you can do in that case except to wait. I have not had any problems with wireless so I can’t comment on that. Mint is a very good distro but Cinnamon still needs to mature somewhat. Mate is good for people still stuck in the Gnome 2 world. Both worked very well for me and I really have no complaints what so ever, but being somewhat of a power user Ubuntu 12.04 with Unity is a lot easier and faster to get around in. All in all I would say that 4.5 out of 5 is a fair score for Linux Mint. I’m looking forward to your next review.

  12. Michael says

    I tried Unity but i realised that its good only for screenshots. Imo Mint is a very good distro and definetely the best for newcomers.

    • Eddie Wilson says

      I’m not really sure what you mean by “good only for screenshots”. It’s okay to just try something but there is a learning curve and a person need to put a little time into testing to have a valid opinion.

  13. michael says

    slightly disappointed this time. after installing some recommended updates and installing cinnamon my login windows became unreadable. found out DPI was messed up.
    cannot say for sure if it was due to these updates or cinnamon desktop or even nvidia driver installation that brought about this problem. it was easily fixed though, but i was under the impression that linux mint will do none no harm.

    however, it is one of the best, if not the best when it comes to stability and usability. i will agree with the whole review wholeheartedly

  14. Aaron says

    I’ve tried both Mate and Cinnamon with LMDE and found that Mate was very solid and was an easy transition from Gnome 2. The one criticism is that it looks very dated in a Windows XP kind of way. So stability is great but cosmetically it is lacking compared to Unity, KDE, and Cinnamon. Cinnamon today feels like Unity from 11.04, promising but full of bugs. It seemed to crash hourly so being able to restart from the desktop was its only saving grace. Frankly I’m finding that I prefer Unity with 12.04 as it now is mature and working solidly. Its layout is great for wide screens such as laptops. So for the first time since Linux Mint 6, I prefer Ubuntu over Mint. However for a desktop environment, such as in the business world, Mint 13 with Mate would be a solid choice.

  15. Brian Masinick says

    Sounds like it would be a great distro for many people. Unfortunately, for me, though there are work arounds, that b43 firmware issue squarely affects the system I work with the most, so as a result, I doubt that I’ll be doing much serious work with this system. Otherwise, nothing wrong with it, and I’ve used several Mint releases in the past, and in fact, when I first got my Lenovo Y410 laptop with Windows Vista installed on it, the first thing I did was repartition the disk drive and install Linux Mint 9 (I think it was 9, it was a long time ago now). Mint worked well, but I’m just a bit more of a “hands on” guy, so over time, I used it less and less. However, for those who just want to install something and use it, hard to beat Mint (though I personally prefer SimplyMEPIS; it just works without being fancy, no Cinnamon or MATE to worry about, just an antique version of KDE). Anyway, not many others will go that way, so I’d say for most considering a distro, Mint with MATE would be a wise choice.

  16. Scott Moore says

    I have found that my AMD A8 APU system hates the latest Ubuntu and its bedfellows. The proprietary graphics driver makes it clunky and rather cheap feeling. The free driver works better.

    I’ll boot Mint again and doa manual install of the AMD driver to see if things get better.

    Sabayon and other KDE distros work great.

    • Kevin leBlanc says

      I could never get certain codecs working for me with LMDE, plus I was annoyed that I had to install a new kernel right off the bat that would recognize my dual core processor with the latest one.

      I’m back to using PCLinuxOS, KDE edition. The quibbles I’ve had with that distro have been extremely minor, namely having to install Synaptiks to recognize my touchpad, the lack of an actual Software Center like LM’s and Ubuntu’s, and having to install an automated Update Manager. I’ll gladly trade these creature comforts for PCLOS’s stability and reliability any day of the week.

  17. Kevin leBlanc says

    I’ve been having problems with distros based off Ubuntu 12.04, including Linux Mint 13. My system keeps freezing completely, forcing me to do a hard reboot. A lot of people seem to be having the same problem, unfortunately.

    • says

      I used to have the same with OSes based off Ubuntu 11.04 and 11.10. 12.04 seems to be stable on my system. Even a switch to LMDE didn’t really cure it. Which was kind of sad, because I was a long-time Mint user who had switched to LMDE as soon as it came out.
      I’m running Arch with Mate now. Rock-solid, fast, certainly not as unstable as people would have others believe, and best of all, my sensible GNOME 2.3x-style interface is back!

      • Kevin leBlanc says

        I switched back to PCLinuxOS, myself, for exactly the same reasons. Rock-solid, snappy (with KDE!!), and stable.

        My only other problem with it that I didn’t mention to Jim is that it’s homely as sin at first. Thankfully, since it IS KDE, it’s pretty easy to get it looking sweet.

  18. says

    Hi Bernie, glad you found the review helpful. I may do a review of SolusOS at some point, I haven’t had time to get to a number of distros. 

  19. Bernie Victor says

    Nice review. Have you tried SolusOs, very good new debian based distro. Runs like a dream, good alternative to Mint, if you have an older machine.

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