When Ubuntu first adopted the Unity theme, despite several honest efforts to “get used to it,” I was thankful that we still had the option of using the traditional Gnome desktop. Over the years, as Gnu/Linux evolved, the various distributions evolved along with it. And the beauty of open source was that developers were free to design their own versions of desktop environments.
Mate, Xfce, Cinnamon, and others were conceived mostly as a result of Gnome's decision to completely redesign Gnome 3, abandoning the traditional Gnome 2.xx look and feel.
With “Natty” being the last Ubuntu release with Gnome 2.32, over the past two years I dabbled a bit with various other desktop environments, including Mate. Although I was quite impressed with the accomplishments of Mate developers, I resisted converting to anything else. I decided that unless and until I found something that was at least as attractive and functional in my subjective opinion as Gnome 2.32, I would continue to use “Natty.” Several times, I returned to Mate to try it, but always thought that it just wasn't quite ready.
As rapidly as the kernel has evolved over the past two years, Linux 3.5 kernel was the last one that I could compile and use with “Natty.” So my search for a suitable distribution intensified. Two weeks ago, I thought I'd download the latest offering from Mint. As I was reading the release notes for Mint, and the announcement of the release of Mate 1.6, with all its many improvements, I thought that this time it just might fill my needs and tastes.
Wow! I don't know what the developers have done, but Mint 14, “Nadia,” is noticeably faster and more responsive than “Maya!” And Mate 1.6 is, in my opinion, the closest to the aesthetics of Gnome 2.32 I've seen.
Everything just worked, right out of the box. The installer correctly identified all my hardware and peripherals and installed the appropriate drivers. Even my HP Officejet Pro 8600 installed perfectly on the first attempt. Crossover Office from Code Weavers, the commercially developed Wine program, always installs and works well for me, but I was still grateful that I didn't have to wrestle with it. And Virtual Box from Oracle installed and my virtual Windows 7 machine works. Although it will probably just sit there, unused, until next year when the IRS expects their annual filing.
All-in-all, this was one of the easiest installations from start to finish I've experienced. And, my wife had been using the computer for several days before she noticed the Mint logo for the Start Menu. She asked, “Why is this Start Menu button so different?” That's when I told her that we were now running on Mint 14 instead of Ubuntu 11.04. “Really!” she said. “How long has this been installed?” If it hadn't been for the Mint logo, she might never have known that anything was different.
Good job, folks! Kudos to all the developers and everyone involved in bringing this release to us!