Linux Mint 13 Maya - MATE editon review

Linux Mint 13 Maya just got released and as expected, it has captured a lot of attention. Since Linux Mint is the biggest rival of Ubuntu to be the most popular Linux distro, I am very curious and excited to see what Linux Mint offers in this release to compete with the recent success of Ubuntu 12.04. In this release, Linux Mint comes with 2 desktop options, Cinnamon  and MATE. I chose the MATE edition to download and install since Linux Mint 11 Katya was my favorite distro and the MATE edition of Maya looks really like Katya. I want to know if this release of Linux Mint can gain my love once again.

Linux Mint 13 Maya Mate review

Linux Mint 13 - MATE Edition Review: First Impression

The ISO image of Linux Mint no longer fits a CD, the size is nearly 900MB so you need a USB or a DVD to boot and install it. Besides, if you are a Windows user and want to try Linux Mint inside Windows, you have to download the 64 bit ISO file because Wubi installer is not supported in the 32 bit version. There is no change in the live desktop, you have the installer icon in the desktop, just click it and follow the instruction to install Linux Mint 12. The installer is still the popular and well-explained Ubiquity so it just requires a basic understanding about Linux partitions to be able to install Linux Mint. The installation process was fast, took me around 15 minutes to finish.

review Linux Mint 13 MATE
The live desktop of Linux Mint 13 - MATE edition
 After finishing the installation and rebooting, I was greeted by  a new  login manager, MDM. I dont know much about MDM but according to the official site of Linux Mint, MDM has more features than any other login manager currently available.

Linux Mint 13 review
New login manager - MDM

The MATE Desktop

The first thing to see after logging in was the welcome menu of Linux Mint. I've seen it many times before so I closed it and unchecked the "Show this dialog at startup"  immediately.

Linux Mint 13 MATE review
The welcome menu of Linux Mint

The default Mate desktop of Linux Mint is nearly identical to that of Linux Mint 11. It looks clean with only 2 shortcut icons on the desktop and one gnome panel at the bottom. On left of the panel are the Mint menu and the show desktop icon, on the right are the notification indicator for volume, network, update, date and time, in the middle is the window list applet. You can add new applets into the panel by right-clicking on the panel and choose the option "Add to panel ..." and the Add to panel window will open for you to choose new applets to add. You can add as many applets as you want on the gnome panel and you can lock or drag these applets around on the panel. You can also drag applications into the panel to make a quick launcher as well.

Mint 13 Maya MATE review
The applets you can add to the gnome panel
Since MATE behaves just like Gnome2, when you right-clicking on the desktop to customize the desktop appearance, you will have the old Appearance Preferences instead of the Gnome-Tweak-Tool of Linux Mint 12. In the Appearance Preferences window, you can change the wallpaper, gtk theme, font and icons ... just like how you do it in Linux Mint 11 (Katya).

The old menu to customize desktop when right-clicking on the desktop
In comparison with Katya, Maya comes with many more beautiful wallpapers. However, there are only 2 gtk themes ( Mint X and Mint Z) pre-installed in Linux Mint 13 when there were 9 in Katya.

review Linux Mint 13 MATE
Maya comes with a lot of beautiful wallpapers ...
distro review Linux Mint 13 MATE
... but only 2 themes

Applications

In MATE, Nautilus file manager is called Caja and its look is also different from Nautilus of Ubuntu. By default, there are no shortcuts for the common folders of Music, Download ... on the side pane but you can create them by dragging the folder icons into there. One thing I really like about Caja in Linux Mint is that it still has the ability to do preview for audio files, which means when you hover the mouse on a music file the song will be played in the background. Nautilus in Ubuntu no longer supports this feature.

Caja file manager
Besides the file manager, everything is nearly the same as in Linux Mint 11. Gedit text editor is now called Pluma but the look and features are still the same.

Firefox is still the web browser in Linux Mint 13 and it already has Adobe Flash pre-installed. The default search engine in the search box is Yahoo now but if you use the address box to search, it will switch back to DuckDuckGo like in Linux Mint 12.

It is still DuckDuckGo if you use the address box to search
Over all, there seem to be no changes about the default applications in Linux Mint 13. For internet use, you have Firefox, Pidgin, Xchat, Thunderbird and Transmission. For office use, you have the bunch of LibreOffice and the online gnome dictionary. For multimedia, you have Banshee, VLC, Gnome Player and Movie player. If you chose to download the standard ISO file, all the necessary multimedia codecs are pre-installed by default. If you are a Ubuntu user looking to switch to Linux Mint, one thing to notice is that Banshee isnt integrated into the sound menu like in Ubuntu so you cannot control Banshee from the sound menu in Linux Mint 13.

Banshee is not integrated into the sound menu
If these default applications of Maya dont satisfy you, you can install new applications easily. Since Linux Mint 13 is based on Ubuntu 12.04, you can get everything that is offered in Ubuntu 12.04 into your Linux Mint box. The easiest way to install new packages is via the Software Center. The Software Center of Linux Mint looks cleaner and more simple than that of Ubuntu. You can search for new packages by names or categories ( although Ubuntu Software Center takes less time to search for applications by names). On each application page, you will see the rating of users and their reviews for this application.

Software Manager
Besides the applications in the Software Center, you can also get other applications from the Personal Package Archives (PPAs) of Ubuntu. These packages are usually software that are not included in the Ubuntu repository by default but still can be used without any problem.

Performance

The very first thing I did after installing Linux Mint 13 was to install the proprietary driver for my ATI graphic card.  When I opened the Additional Drivers configuration window, Linux Mint offered me two choices for the proprietary driver.

2 drivers for my card, one leads to hell, one to heaven
I picked the first option (the post release update driver) but it resulted to an error. I then picked the second option to install, it seemed to run well but after the reboot, everything turned to a catastrophe. It seemed the two drivers I just tried to install conflicted with each other and caused X to crash. The desktop turned into a blank blue screen and nothing was working:

Blue Screen of Death on Linux Mint 13 :D
Another screenshot of BSOD on Linux Mint 13
I then reinstalled Linux Mint 13, and this time, I chose only the second option for the additional driver and everything was fine afterward. In my opinion, this error is not a fault of Linux Mint but of AMD instead since ATI graphic cards are known to be the trouble makers in the Linux world. I personally have experienced a lot of problems with my ATI card in other distros before.

Another problem I faced in Linux Mint 13 was the sound. After I installed Maya, I tried to play a song with Banshee but there was no sound at all. It turned out that something was wrong with the sound output hardware. I found a solution to fix it myself but I hope the Linux Mint team will offer an official fix soon.

Except these above problems, everything has been working very well for me. All the laptop function keys work out of the box. There are absolutely no network nor temperature issues at all. All the applications run perfectly. Here is how Linux Mint 13 performs in my laptop at idle:


Conclusion

Although Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, I always prefer Mint over Ubuntu. I love how the developers of Linux Mint do care about the opinion of the users and offer the what the users really want. All in all, Linux Mint 13 Maya MATE edition is a great distro. It meets the need of those who want the good things of Ubuntu and still prefer the look and feel of the good old Gnome2 desktop.
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