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back to article Ubuntu? Fedora? Mint? Debian? We'll find you the right Linux to swallow

Linux, it is said, is all about choice. Indeed, the ability to choose, well, pretty much everything, is probably the best thing about Linux. But the huge variety from which you can choose - ranging from distro and desktop to window manager - can also be overwhelming for newcomers. If you've ever thought about abandoning Windows …

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Mint is great but ...

... backup / wipe / install new version / restore instead of in-place major version upgrades?

No ta.

Lubuntu for me these days.

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Terminator

Re: Mint is great but ...

Linux Mint Debian Edition was created to solve that issue.

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Re: Mint is great but ...

Gentoo has always had rolling updates. Why Ubuntu went down the road it did I don't know but the "major version" problem was a killer for me and the wife. One failed major update is one too many and recovering from that is a nightmare. The Unity fiasco is a side-show compared to that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mint is great but ...

I was wondering why LXDE didn't get a mention. Especially with so much verbiage devoted to making Windows exiles feel at home. Odd.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mint is great but ...

I see that SUSE 10 is now on over 3800 security vulnerabilities. Is there actually a commercially supported Linux version that has better security than Windows? Most of the distributions seem to suck for security.

Security seems to be such an afterthought in Linux with add-ons like SEL and having to run specific file systems to get proper ACLs, instead of having security built in from the ground up like in Windows.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mint is great but ...

3800 vulns across the entire distro.

The standard for comparison is the number of vulnerabilities across the entire universe of Windows-based software from Microsoft and its partners. Anyone with a number?

Windows doesn't have an equivalent to SEL, although I guess you can buy something in from one of the big security vendors. And ACLs can be added to an existing ext filesystem if you need them, no need for special file system types.

In my opinion (as one who has been called a MS shill when challenging that funny little Weedon man about the Linux desktop chaos), a fresh install of Linux is more secure than a fresh Windows installation. It doesn't mean Windows can't be made as secure, just that it takes more work to get it there and keep it that way (and a lot of us are grateful for the living that provides).

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Thumb Up

Re: Mint is great but ...

Would you really give a brand new Linux user Gentoo? Its a sink or swim distro and most people who have never had contact with any of the commercial UNIXes or any other Linux distribution are not going to be able to handle being thrown in the deep end coming straight from Windows or MacOS.

Hell, honestly Im surprised noone's suggested to Mac users (out of the comments Ive read so far anyway) to try one of the other BSD derivatives like PC-BSD or even FreeBSD since its pretty much what they're already using anyway, just a locked down and mentally challenged version of BSD called Darwin.

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Re: Mint is great but ...

Why Ubuntu went down the road it did I don't know

When you create your distro by taking a snapshot of Debian's unstable branch every six months and then tweaking the hell out of it upgrade problems are a given. Even Debian users using the unstable branch straight have problems with upgrades from time to time. One particularly nightmarish upgrade when they were switching from hotplug to udev prompted me back to the relative sanity of the testing branch despite having to settle for slightly more out of date versions of most software that way.

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Re: Mint is great but ...

"Security seems to be such an afterthought in Linux with add-ons like SEL and having to run specific file systems to get proper ACLs, instead of having security built in from the ground up like in Windows."

Well you stick with Windows if you are so confident - I know what OS is feel most confident with.

(Are you related to RICHTO because there is an AC whose been posting a lot of funny stuff recently who seem to write just like him ?)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mint is great but ...

exactly. Many more Linux distros better more beginner friendly than those mentioned, Mageia (successor to the most user-friendly of all Mandrake/Mandriva). Real in-depth article, not.

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Re: Mint is great but ...

I see that SUSE 10 is now on over 3800 security vulnerabilities.

If you don't understand how meaningless that number is then you have no business talking about security.

Is there actually a commercially supported Linux version that has better security than Windows?

I'm tempted to say 'all of them', but the fact of the matter is that Windows has gotten a lot better in that regard. Still, they are all at least on par with Windows and some are better than Windows.

Most of the distributions seem to suck for security.

Again, if you take the raw number of security vulnerabilities as your indicator and think it actually means anything then you've proven you're not qualified to comment on security.

Here's the thing: that 3800 security vulnerabilities is the number of vulnerabilities in the OS plus all the software in the repository. To get an equivalent number for Windows you'd have to count the vulnerabilities in Windows itself, which you can't do outside of Redmond -- I'm not slamming proprietary software here, just pointing out that Windows could easily have that many known vulnerabilities and we'd never know until they were fixed. Then you'd need to count the vulnerabilities in every single Windows application out there. And then you'd end up with an equally meaningless number.

Here's the thing: the vast majority of those vulnerabilities are things along the same severity of a legitimate user being able to change another user's default font with physical access to the machine. In other words, they are minor annoyances rather than true security concerns. Real security problems like remote execution and privilege escalation bugs tend to get squashed very quickly in Linux (or, for that matter, any other major OSS project). Usually those kind of bugs are patched in hours as opposed to days at the bare minimum with similar bugs in Windows.

Don't get me wrong: Redmond's a hell of a lot better with security than they used to be. We don't often see major security bugs for which the official answer to 'when will it be patched' is 'never' anymore (there were a TON of those back in the IE6 days). They've almost caught up to Linux security wise. I personally don't like the way ACLs are handled in Windows, but it works.

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Re: Mint is great but ...

I've done in-place upgrades before now, but it does involve a bit of hacking that might unsettle a newcomer. I assume Fedora has improved since I last used it then, that was regular upgrades, whereas with something giving long-term support, such upgrades are minimised (Mint 9, 13, and also a bit of Centos 6 here).

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Re: Mint is great but ...

Mint dropped support for LXDE as a direct-install option, unfortunately. It was my solution of choice for family machines and netbooks.

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Anonymous Coward

Security seems to be such an afterthought in Linux

Killer man,

best laugh I had all day

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Re: Mint is great but ...

I'd say standard distributions "out of the box" (Say Suse and Win8, RedHead and Windows Server 2012) are about equal in security except the one problem Windows has (mostly on the client side):

Default User has too much permissions

Easy to fix in theorie. Easy to fix if the software you use is written as it should be since XP. If not you might end up with "local admin" running as the main user. In a company net with proper firewalls, proxies etc. this is doable and done for older commercial stuff that has no alternative. On privat units this is the single weak point in an otherwise very secure workstation os.

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Re: Mint is great but ...

"Would you really give a brand new Linux user Gentoo?"

Sort of. I would not give a brand new user of any system something I expect them to maintain themselves. So, a brand new user is someone I expect to help out from time to time as they're learning what's what. in that sense, Gentoo is no worse a choice for a newbie than any other, including OS/X, Ubuntu, or Windows. I expect to set the machine up for them whatever it runs.

If all they're new to is Linux then the same applies but I'd expect to take the stabilizers off more quickly.

Most people, IMO, make a dog's dinner out of maintaining their computer's OS because they just don't want to know the details they need to know to do it well. That's why they have sysadmins and/or friends.

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Windows

Re: Mint is great but ...

"...instead of having security ground up like in Windows."

There, fixed that for you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mint is great but ...

I'd have to agree on Mint for Linux newcomers.

Once upon a time, before Unity happened, I always pointed n00bs toward Ubuntu.

Now Ubuntu has gone off on a desktop Tangent, there's no way in hell I would recommend it for someone coming from windows - complete and utter confusion awaits them.

Simple things, like "How do I make a desktop shortcut" - erm, you can't - yep, that's the step forward Canonical took.

Mint, on the other hand, is very easy for windows users to pick up on.

However, one big caveat in all this recommendation, I would never recommend Linux to anyone who isn't at least approaching a power user. By that, I mean someone capable of installing software on windows, locating files, creating shortcuts.

You'd be suprised - hmm, actually you wouldn't - that a *large* percentage of people who use computers struggle with even these basic concepts.

Heck, booting a Live CD would prove difficult for them - why? Well, usually, complete and utter lack of interest in computers. They want to switch on, do stuff, switch off.

*never* recommend Linux to someone like this, a world of pain awaits...

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Flame

Re: Mint is great but ...

Good Lord! A polite, well reasoned response in a (potential) flame war.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mint is great but ...

I installed Linux Mint XFCE on my parents computer a couple of years ago, installed all the applications they would need, setup shortcuts on the desktop and set the system to auto update.

I've had no complaints so far, in fact the only calls I've had is from my Dad asking about this terminal thingy and how to use it. Not bad for an octogenarian :)

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Unhappy

Linux is great ... But.

If it were not for the fact that I'm not willing to let go of my Matrox AGP twin LCD board (never been able to get Ubuntu to work with the card) or get an organizer to work with my vintage Palm IIIxe or Motorola cellphone, I would have left XP SP3 for Ubuntu long ago ...

Cheers,

.

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Unity

At first, I thought I'd hate it. Then I started to get it. In particular, it makes finding commands faster, and on a small screen (I use a Thinkpad X61) putting menus on the wide menu bar at the top and not on the windows makes sense.

Personally, though, I kind of like having a different way of working-it takes extra time to start with, but it's a lot better than thinking 'I'm looking at a bad reimplementation of Windows 95', which is what I always thought whenever I used GNOME 2.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mint is great but ...

Windows has a better version of SEL built into the core OS - via the Windows kernel and App Locker, cand can be fully managed in a distributed fashion in an enterprise using Group Policies. Windows doesnt have the shortcomings of SEL and similar products like App Armour. e.g. SEL can only lockdown by inode, App armour only by file path, etc, etc. Windows is fundamentally more secure and more powerful in these areas, with features like compound identity, constrained kerberos delegation and dynamic access control, that Linux simply doesnt have equivalents of.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mint is great but ...

Uhm, ok, if you want to play it that way, then I make it ~ known 947 vulnerabilities JUST in the Linux kernel. Thats over twice as many as any complete distribution of Windows desktop or server....

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Facepalm

Re: Mint is great but ...

I switched from Windows 7, and after much researching choose Mint 12 Cinnamon. When Mint 13 came out, I upgraded to that. My biggest complaints pre Mint 14 is twofold. It is a b*tch installing a printer. For some reason, the Add Printer function is broken in Ubuntu, therefore it is also broken in Mint 12. It is also broken in Mint 13, and I found out in Mint 14. In order to install a printer, you have to do a search for how to use CUPS, and install the printer via the CUPS html interface.

My other complaint pre Mint 14, is the lack of simulated 5.1 surround sound using 5.1 surround speakrs and a on board sound card. In Windows 7, when I play Dark Side of the Moon, it sounds like a different instrument from each speaker with the voice coming from the middle speaker. In Mint, using the same setup, the sound is all combined and comes from all surround sound speakers.

Another big issue that has come up in Mint 14, and a lot of the newer Linux distros, including Ubuntu, OpenSuse, Mageia etc., is that they have all gone to X.Org 1.13 or greater, which does not work with an AMD/ATI HD Radeon graphics card 4XXX or earlier, which both my laptop (which is just a couple of years old) and my desktop both have. The proprietry AMD drivers for that chipset only work with X.Org 1.12 or earlier, and has AMD has made those legacy drivers, there is little chance of there being an update. Yes, there are solutions to roll back X.Org to 1.12, but they do not always work (didn't for me). I need the proprietry drivers on my laptop in order to get sound to work over HDMI to my sound system and HDTV which I have connected to it.

However, contrary to what I said above regarding 5.1 surround sound, when I play a 2 channel song from my laptop to my sound system over HDMI, it does play in simulated 5.1 surround sound, which I like.

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Bronze badge

Re: Mint is great but ...

I don't know why, but I've got past the whole "bleeding edge" obsession. I don't feel a need to upgrade my OS to the latest version as soon as it comes out. When I was using Ubuntu, I stuck to LTS editions, for example.

I want to use my computer, not to have to constantly be setting it up or updating it. So, having to do a full reinstall every couple of years is not a problem to me. I'm more likely to be replacing the computer anyway!

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Silver badge

Re: Mint is great but ...

Uhm, ok, if you want to play it that way, then I make it ~ known 947 vulnerabilities JUST in the Linux kernel. Thats over twice as many as any complete distribution of Windows desktop or server....

And that is just as meaningless as the 3800 you quoted before. The raw number of vulnerabilities in a system is nowhere near as important as the severity and access required to exploit them. Looking at the raw number by itself means that you're giving a vulnerability that allows someone sitting at your desk to change the default desktop environment for another user the same weight as one that allows someone sitting in Hong Kong to gain root access and execute the command of their choice on your system.

As for it being twice as many as Windows, unless you work for Microsoft in the division responsible for patching them, you have no way of knowing that. Unlike OSS projects like Linux Microsoft doesn't tell us about their known vulnerabilities until they have a fix. Also, due to the nature of OSS a vulnerability is more likely to be known by virtue of the fact that outside security experts can examine the source code rather than simply trying things until they find something that works.

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Re: Mint is great but ...

Agreed! In fact, I would say that for anyone who wants to switch on and switch off and has no real interest in learning anything about computers should just stick to his/her Nintendo DS or Smartphone and leave it at that. WAY too many people stepping up from Windows XP to Windows 7 and (perish the thought) Windows 8 are just absolutely lost because it isn't blue and green anymore. For many people we have sold a Windows 7 machine to who had Windows XP....a whole world of pain and hair pulling "OH MY GOD can you be that dumb???" has been visited upon us.

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Re: Mint is great but ...

Regarding XFCE......it's simpler, cleaner and faster than GNOME. If anyone plans to start out on Fedora (my distro of choice), install XFCE.

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Re: A polite, well reasoned response

Agreed. I would have said that Ubuntu isn't even worth using as a dogs suppository.

But I'm an a$$hole.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mint is great but ...

@sisk

"As for it being twice as many as Windows, unless you work for Microsoft in the division responsible for patching them, you have no way of knowing that."

Quite. I'm getting the distinct impression that that particular AC probably does work at Microsoft... and is either lying about the numbers, or their bug tracker was designed by Billy there'll never be more than 640 bugs Gates ;o)

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Happy

Re: Linux is great ... But.

I would give of the Microsoft world for Kubuntu in a heartbeat if I could find a way to run iTunes(have an iPhone), Skyrim & Thumbsplus(No acceptable replacement found yet).

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Windows

Re: Mint is great but ...

Agreed, stay with the stable LTS Ubuntu version..... although Fedora and Redhat are pretty solid releases as well. I'm also a Mint fan.

A good sub note to this article would have been to talk about Linuxes for really small hardware like Puppy, Lubuntu and Debian squeeze. Some people like to install Linux to keep old under-powered boxes that can't run Windows as viable desktop units (Guilty...) A lot of people also don't know that it is remarkably easy to boot and run a working *nix right off a USB stick or CD, (try that with Windows).

Good article, most impressed by the number of commentards.... and the so-far non fanatical discussions.

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Linux

CentOS for me

It does everything I want from a Linux Distro. Still with Gnome 2 as its primary GUI.

Tux Naturally.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: CentOS for me

CentOS is my favoured distro, but I do find that Gnome2 is much more a GUI for a server than a GUI for a desktop (that said, it's what's on my netbook, because I just didn't get on with Gnome 3, and I really wanted to.) If you're going to have a GUI on your server and let's face it only the purist doesn't want one for occasional use, you can't do better than Gnome 2.

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Pirate

Re: CentOS for me

I'm not a purist, but I don't have X on my CenOS servers. Two primary reasons for that:

1. Takes up a lot of space (yeah, I know, disks are huge now) and adds unnecessary cluttering services

2. Keeps me from using a production server as a "one-off" desktop

3. Only a LAMER runs a GUI on a server.

Heh, ok, #3 is old-fashioned troll bait.

But, I do run X on my SLES boxes, since they are eDirectory servers and in a worst-case scenario, I COULD take some pills and run ConsoleOne directly on the server if I needed to. In fact, IIRC, it's a bit of a PITA to get the SLES boxes to NOT run a gui. DAMN YOU NOVELL!!!!

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Linux

Re: CentOS for me

CentOS and Debian are good idea for Servers and Appliances. But for an ordinary user with no Linux experience Mint or OpenSuse are maybe better. I used to recommend Ubuntu, but what on earth are they smoking and drinking? What ever it is need a Mental Health warning.

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Boffin

Re: CentOS for me

"CentOS and Debian are good idea for Servers and Appliances. But for an ordinary user with no Linux experience Mint or OpenSuse are maybe better."

@Mage and the original article's author.

About Debian...

1) Download DVD1 from the (RC1) Wheezy install set and burn it to an actual optical disk

2) Get that old PC off the shelf/out of the attic, the one you don't need the old OS on

3) Boot off the DVD

4) Stumble through the install by selecting defaults (see http://www.sohcahtoa.org.uk/pages/linux_debian-wheezy-install-from-dvd1.html ) Just make sure you type the WPA2 pass phrase in correctly or be prepared to restart the installation

5) Boot into a nice useful desktop with a decent range of apps. Jogs along ok on an Atom based netbook.

6) Click a couple of checkboxes in Synaptic so it forgets about the DVD and adds in the contributed packages

Any different to Ubuntu before 10.04 really? I reckon anyone who has installed Windows+drivers on anything in the last decade would cope with this ok.

And I say this as one who runs CentOS on his main laptop and Ubuntu/Unity on the desktop.

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too many words

i need a diagram.

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Re: too many words

http://www.eexploria.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/lix-distros-2011.jpg

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Coat

Who remembers ...

Stob's take on this ?

The conscientious would-be Linux user should take time to mull over the pros and cons of the Red Hat versus SUSE, and Debian versus Gentoo. He will want to evaluate the various package installation schemes - comparing .deb with .rpm - and will spend many hours on the web absorbing great quantities of freely offered advice over whether to go for Gnome or risk post-Trolltech takeover KDE, or just run the whole thing in text mode, like a Real Beard.

After he has done all this, he will install Ubuntu, because that's what everybody does.

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Mushroom

Re: Who remembers ...

...thus he will end up with the Windoze of the Linux world.

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Mushroom

Re: Who remembers ...

Personally I don't think Windows was ever as bad as Ubuntu. I really wish that turd of a distro would stop getting so much press. As much headache as using Debian, as many bugs as pre-SP1 Windows XP, and all the ugliness of my color blind grandfather's desktop all in one neat package.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: the Windoze of the Linux world

Admitted I installed Ubuntu pre Unity, but Ubuntu was straightforward to install, supported all my hardware straight out of the box. I had no issues upgrading from version to version, and I just can't imagine why anyone needs Windows these days.

Stable and with an SSD, makes my aged laptop perform like a new machine.

When Unity came along, I my initial reaction was to jump ship into another distro but although I didn't like Unity at first, like beer, I got used to it.

Anyhow, there is plenty of similar choice out there.

I'm not quite clear who the article is aimed at - windows IT professionals or home users, but I'm not sure I'd encourage people to experiment in virtual box unless they already knew how to use it - why not make a booting memory stick or live cd and see how you get on.

And I don't think I use the command line in ubuntu any more than I used dos-box in windows.

One of the reasons windows is popular is it is easy to use, and the same is true of ubuntu

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Linux

Re: the Windoze of the Linux world

As a user of multiple virtual boxes and OSs on Ubuntu, I can assure you they typically run at near-native speed (AMD 1100T X6 & 16 Gb RAM). Running any OS on a memory stick or optical disk is so slooooooooooooow, it would drive a normal person insane. It's certainly a very poor way to assess an OS.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who remembers ...

It's a Linux hipster out in the open hating on Ubuntu. That's such a rare and unique site.

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WTF?

http://mate-desktop.org/

Why does MATE look like a 4x3 TV feed stretched on to a 16:9 screen?

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WTF?

> Why does MATE look like a 4x3 TV feed stretched on to a 16:9 screen?

Not sure what you mean: it doesn't on my Macbook Pro.

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err... look at the website. it just looks stretched.

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Err, it's very obvious that the images across the top of the Mate site are cropped sections. Just look at the images for more than half a second.

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