Ubuntu 20.04 MATE (Not a “review”)

I eagerly awaited the release of Ubuntu 20.04. Ubuntu 19.10 was buggy for me on a couple of machines. I seems likely that it’s something Canonical did wrong, rather than a specific hardware quirk. This forced me to install a previous version of Ubuntu. The only one I had available was 18.10.

18.10 worked OK, but the problem is that it stopped support, and I couldn’t upload the new software that I wanted. So I switched to Absolute Linux, which is derived from Slackware Current.

Although Absolute/Slackware is a nice distro, dependency management can be a chore. Sometimes the dependency “cascade” can be overwhelming; video editors, for example. I decided that the best way forward in some of those instances was to use AppImages.

I’d say that AppImages work fine half the time. For the other half, some kind of library needs to be installed in order to get them to work properly. Even then, I had some hard problems with QT5 or some GNOME dependencies.

I decided that the best thing to do was just stick to what worked, ignored what didn’t, and wait it out until Ubuntu arrived. I concluded that AppImages are worth a try as a method of last resort, but they are not a panacea. At the end of the day, dependency management is hard.

Absolute uses the Icewm WM. I like it, although it was a bit of a chore to smooth out some of the rough edges and tweak it how I wanted it.

Alas, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recommend Slackware given that it’s last stable release was in 2016. Whilst it’s true that “newer doesn’t necessarily better”, it’s also try that “newer doesn’t necessarily mean worse, either”. As software projects mature, they generally file down their flesh-ripping jagged edges.

My honest opinion is that the latest stable version of Slackware (14.2) is too old for typical desktop usage. Maybe it’s fine for server usage where you don’t want to install any fancy extra software. The standard response is “just use Slackware Current.” I think you’d be better off using Arch Linux in that case, or use a compromise like Absolute.

Ubuntu is a distro that I always return to. I opted for the MATE desktop version. GNOME is too bloated and unorthodox for my liking. I’m increasingly being able to tolerate GNOME, but it’s not my ideal choice, so why bother?

MATE is a good choice. I also like LXDE and Icewm. At a pinch, Fluxbox is a reasonable choice. I don’t really like Xfce. It always seemed buggy, ugly and finnicky to me.

At the moment, I’m flitting between using MATE and Icewm as my choice of WM. Icewm needs effort to make it do what I want it to do. Fortunately, I have pretty much done that through my tinkering with Absolute.

Icewm definitely has that 1995 aesthetic. You kinda get used to it, though, and even grow to prefer it. Fancier DE’s (Desktop Environments) can look “too” beautiful, if you can believe such a thing. Pretty, for sure, but in another sense, “overproduced.”

I have system restoration down to a fine art now, so I only have to clone my git repo and run a few installation scripts. That’s actually the neat thing about a distro like Ubuntu: I can just run a script that will install that I find crucial to my needs. I can’t do that with Slackware.

An LTS version of Ubuntu has come at an opportune time for me, too.  Windows 7 is acting all flakey now on my dad’s machine, so a system refresh is in order. So it’s good to be able to install a version of Ubuntu that has longevity.

I think it’s been over a year now since I last used Windows. Linux definitely makes for a better development environment, which is what’s important to me. Crucially, it covers internet browsing, email, Youtube and Skype. I’ve been using Skype more these days, and I’m glad Microsoft has a port. Thanks, Microsoft.

Zoom is something I’m also beginning to use and like now that COVID is here. I have used it to attend a “virtual pub” with my old university chums. It’s great, really, because we don’t all have to meet up in the same place. I’ve even been able to chat with my old professor who lives in Spain.

I have also attended a meeting with a discussion group in the US, and plan to continue that. So I’m really happy that Zoom is available on Linux.

It seems to me that Linux has all my bases covered now, so I hope never to hanker after the days of Windows.

About mcturra2000

Computer programmer living in Scotland.
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