Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Linux Mint 201303 "Debian" Mate: Very good semi-rolling Mate distro from Debian testing

Last week I reviewed Linux Mint 201303 Debian Cinnamon and was extremely pleased with the smoothness, refinement and performance it offered. Further, LMDE offers a semi-rolling distro with little requirement of reinstalling it again (if everything works properly after each update though!). Next I thought of reviewing the Mate version to make an assessment. Honestly, I haven't used much of Mate on a regular basis - I rather preferred distros with Gnome 2 desktop (like Fuduntu, CentOS or GhostBSD).
From Linux Mint Debian 201303 Mate http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in

Linux Mint 201303 Debian Mate comes with Mate 1.4 and Linux kernel 3.2.0. Mate is forked from the now unsupported Gnome 2 and is supposed to be lighter than Gnome 3 and its derivatives. I downloaded the 32-bit ISO (about 1.3 GB in size) for this review. I did a live boot on my Asus K54C with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor and 2 GB RAM. Post live boot with correct resolution and proper detection of hardware, I installed Linux Mint Mate on the same laptop. For those with Windows 8 laptop, LMDE doesn't yet support UEFI firmware and may not install as dual boot.
Aesthetically, LMDE Mate looks quite pleasing, if not as good as the Cinnamon version. For Cinnamon version the black panel actually provides a good contrast to the LM default wallpaper. However, the white panel doesn't work that well. Still it is Linux Mint and it comes with all the refinement typical to Linux Mint. Starting from system font to application interface, everything is well synced to the default theme and looks extremely professional, if not catchy. Caja 1.4.0 is the default file manager and is quite lightweight to use.

From Linux Mint Debian 201303 Mate http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From Linux Mint Debian 201303 Mate http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
I added some elements of catchy-ness like a docky, a conky-lua and an attractive wallpaper. Unlike Cinnamon, in Mate conky works really well. However, I could not find the required compiz packages in the Debian repo to make desktop cube and other special effects work.

From Linux Mint Debian 201303 Mate http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in

Hardware Recognition
LMDE Mate works quite well to automatically pick up wifi, resolution and sound. For touchpad, the settings had to be manually changed to make it work. It is kind of minor and in overall, I would rate LMDE's hardware recognition to be really good.

Like all Linux Mint releases, LMDE Mate comes with a complete set of commonly required applications, viz.
From Linux Mint Debian 201303 Mate http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
  • Office: LibreOffice Base, Calc, Draw, Impress and Writer along with Document viewer and Dictionary
  • Internet: Firefox 19, Thunderbird 19, Pidgin chat client, Transmission bit torrent client, XChat IRC, Desktop sharing
  • Graphics: GIMP 2.8.2, Eye of Mate Image viewer, gthumb, ImageMagick, Simple scan
  • Multimedia: Banshee music player, Totem Movie Player 3.0.1, Brasero CD/DVD writer
  • Accessories: Archive manager, Calculator, Pluma notes, Root terminal, Screenshot, Terminal, Tomboy notes, USB Image writer
Adobe flashplugin is provided by default along with multimedia codes. It means that I could watch my favorite youtube videos online and listen to music/watch movies without requiring to install any additional programs.

From Linux Mint Debian 201303 Mate http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From Linux Mint Debian 201303 Mate http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in

As I mentioned in my Cinnamon review, application list is a mixed bag as far as recency is concerned. LibreOffice 4 is already out and I expected at least LibreOffice 3.6 in 2013 releases. Possibly the old version is due to Debian Wheezy freeze; latest updates will be available once the Debian 7 is released and freeze is over. However, GIMP 2.8 is there which is good. Firefox and Thunderbird updates are provided by the Mozilla developers and doesn't depend on the distro you are using.

From Linux Mint Debian 201303 Mate http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From Linux Mint Debian 201303 Mate http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in

Installation is definitely easier than Debian and it takes much lesser time than Ubuntu based distros. It is essentially same as LMDE 201303 Cinnamon and has been covered elaborately in my previous review. In nutshell, it requires location, keyboard language and type, specifying location to install and UserID creation. Even Linux novices will be at ease with most of the steps except modifying installation location with gparted. Otherwise, it is pretty easy and definitely easier than Debian. Also, LMDE installation takes hardly 10 minutes of time and takes much lesser time than installing Ubuntu based distros.

LMDE sources apps from Debian testing repository and applications can be installed via the Linux Mint Software Center and the Synaptic package manager. LMDE has provisions to add Debian backport and remeo repositories as well if you wish to try out the latest applications. About 38k applications are available in the LMDE repo and I could locate most of the apps that I commonly require. Nvidia drivers are present in the repo as well.

From Linux Mint Debian 201303 Mate http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in
From Linux Mint Debian 201303 Mate http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in

Unlike Cinnamon version, where I could not run a conky, in Mate I could install and it worked as expected. However, compiz settings are not there in Mate and no luck for me to create amazing effects in LMDE!

LMDE Mate is quite smooth to use and performs well. If I compare it with the other Mate distros that I have used, LMDE outperforms most of the Ubuntu Mate derivatives in performance but is behind Snowlinux Glacier. Incidentally for LMDE, the Cinnamon version actually performs slightly better or almost similar to the Mate version.
Parameters Base Desktop Linux kernel CPU Usage RAM usage
Snowlinux 4 Glacier Mate Debian Mate 1.4 '3.5.0 1-5% 147 MB
Sabayon 11 Mate Gentoo Mate 1.4.1 3.7.0 1-5% 174 MB
Mint 201303 Mate Debian Mate 1.4 3.2.0 1-5% 175 MB
Mint 14 Mate Ubuntu Mate 1.4 '3.5.0 1-5% 200 MB
Mint 13 Mate Ubuntu Mate 1.2 3.2.0 1-5% 207 MB
Snowlinux 3 White Mate Ubuntu Mate 1.4 '3.5.0 1-5% 240 MB

In overall, I found the Mate version to be good and a bit more customizable than the Cinnamon version. Performance for both are almost close, Cinnamon may be marginally ahead. However, in past given Cinnamon having encountered quite a few bugs, my recommendation would be to use LMDE Mate as a long term safer option.

To me, LMDE achieves couple of things - creating a Debian based distro with installation easier than Debian itself and requires lesser time to install than Ubuntu. Add to it, the USP of any Linux Mint distro - it just works

LMDE Mate is highly recommended for anyone looking for a good Mate distro. It actually works faster than any Ubuntu derivative I have seen. Definitely recommended in my opinion.

You can download the 32 and 64 bit versions from here.


  1. I installed this a few days ago to replace Ubuntu. It works very well and I have had no problems with it at all. LMDE Mate is excellent.

    1. Yes, I agree. LMDE performs really well.

    2. what desktop widget do you use and the theme too if installed manually

    3. I used a conky along with a cairo dock. You can get the details to customize Linux from here: http://mylinuxexplore.blogspot.in/2013/02/simple-steps-to-decorate-linux-desktop.html

  2. if do not mind. why are you using 32 bit version for 64 bit processor?

    newer computers have uefi/gpt firmware interface. is it valid for your notebook (asus as you said)? are there any problems with installing mint/debian distro? all computers I have are with bios/mbr firmware. considering the change I wonder what distro might be installable without problem in modern (uefi/gpt) laptop.

    and last. libreoffice. in newer (from 3.6) versions default fonts has been changed. using older and newer software for writing documents causes some problems - documents do not look this same. of course it is problem for larger documents. some fonts might be added from debian repo to have exactly this same layout. a you told above there are new versions of some software and very old for office suite. maybe mint should have metapackage or repository to install some important software from there. in ubuntu-based distros you can add ppa to get software/version important for you. from this point I prefare ubuntu-based mint. but on the other hand debian is semi released version. aren't you a bit tired of installing every half a year newer distro version?

    cheers, M

    1. Hi Marek:

      I have only 2 GB RAM in the 64 bit machine and based on my experience, I have seen 32-bit OS to be more resource efficient. The system on which I tested has the BIOS/MBR firmware and I guess, LMDE still doesn't support UEFI firmware in modern Windows 8 laptops.

      Definitely I agree with you on installing a distro every 6 months. I guess there the LTS Ubuntu versions actually come as savior :). Anyway, talks are on that from 13.04 onwards, Ubuntu would reduce support to 9 months for non-LTS releases. Also, there are plans for a semi-rolling release as well. Lets see!


  3. Tried it and although it looks impressive I still quickly returned to Debian Wheezy XFCE.
    Same reliability, same configurability, less cpu-usage, faster, same apps and rolling.
    Whichever distro I try after reading positive reviews, I always return to this rock solid and lean mother of so many forks.

    1. hmmm ... I am downloading Debian wheezy LXDE and XFCE. Will keep you posted on this and try to come up with a comparison between Debian/Linux Mint/Ubuntu. It will be interesting, I guess.

  4. Well I will keep it simple here. I have 4 computers, 2 with I7's and 3 now have Mint and one to go. Our family is soooo done with Windows. I rate Linux Mint 120%. Thank you Linux Mint for providing me and my family with a great OS.

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