back to article Linux homes for Ubuntu Unity orphans: Minty Cinnamon, GNOME or Ubuntu, mate?

Canonical is killing its Unity convergence play and Mir display, but fans of Ubuntu need not panic. You can continue to employ familiar Unity 7 interface for as long as you like, though you'll have to install it after you install Ubuntu by enabling the Universe repos. A community is also forming around the idea of continuing …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    KDE Rocks

    1. moiety

      The integrated personal information manager integrated with everything just makes me twitch.

    2. Jonathan 27 Bronze badge

      For anyone coming off Unity who wants to switch to KDE, I'd recommend Kubuntu, which you can switch to just be installng (and removing) a few packages from your Ubuntu install. Even if you eventually decide to switch distros it's a good way to try it out.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        This entire article is about desktop land it seems and I haven't found a single one that plays nicely with multiple monitors and AMD hardware. IMO, right now KDE is the worst with AMD hardware and multiple monitors... absolutely terrible. I think the kids took over and are only worried about KDE+mobile (if that exists). KDE is my favorite (or was). GNOME smells of Windows98, which was O.K. in 1998. The lighter distros I like, but can't run seriously, at least not yet. Although the lighter ones are broken with multiple monitors as well (I have honestly tried them all with AMD+Monitors).

        The whole reinvent of AMD's driver is going horribly. I can't help to wonder why everyone is so worried about how fast it inits. I assume because they want it to crash faster... great. I guess DisplayPort and ThunderBolt aren't helping matters much for driver development, especially in Wayland (currently wrecked on AMD+Monitors).

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Mint Cinnamon security defaults?

    Scott, could you elaborate on this please? Perhaps in a different article?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mint Cinnamon security defaults?

  3. dajames Silver badge


    Why suggest one desktop with one distro and a different desktop with a different distro. This is Linux, and there is choice.

    If Xfce is your choice for Debian there's no reason not to use in on (say) Mint or SuSe as well, if you like Cinnamon in Mint you can use that in (say) Debian or Arch ...

    Pick a distro because it supports the packages you want to use and the hardware you have. Pick a desktop because you like it. Run the two together -- it'll generally just work. You may find that non-Ubuntu distros don't have Unity in their repos, though.

    Personally I use Mate on both Ubuntu and Debian systems, as well as Unity on some Ubuntu boxes where the desktop experience isn't important (because they spend most of their time in a single application). Mate is a fork of Gnome 2, and has the earlier Gnome's clean UI and small footprint -- I wouldn't call it Windows-like (it's certainly not like post-Metro Windows at all), there are other desktops that deliberately mimic Windows, for those who want that sort of thing.

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      Another characteristic of a distro that might influence the choice, especially for a newcomer, would be software install/update managers and driver managers. Mint tends to be very supportive and hand holding in this area whereas Debian is a bit barebones.

    2. revilo

      windows manager choice

      i also never understood the fixture on windows managers. For me, having ubuntu change the default windows managers has no effect. It is trivial to change it. Just install an other one, then chose the one you like on the login screen. I for myself consider the windows manager problem solved and use many years blackbox There are many others. What I need is stability, simplicity, low footprint, no gimmicks and unexpected stuff or paradigm changes triggered by an ego trip of a developer or distributer. The fact that blackbox (or openbox or fluxbox) are not developed further is actually a feature. Like TeX written by Knuth, they are "finished software". Additionally, since I use OSX on my laptops the look and feel and workflow can be configured to be almost identical. (just that the doc is a menu in blackbox).

      1. Ramazan

        Re: I for myself consider the windows manager problem solved

        "just that the dock is a menu in blackbox"

        BTW, some packages like "firefox" don't install "menu" files into /usr/share/menu/ directory, so you need to manually add them to /etc/menu/:

        ?package(local.firefox):needs="X11" \

        section="Applications/Network/Web Browsing" \

        title="firefox" \

        command="/usr/bin/firefox" \

        hints="Web browsers" \


      2. LionelB

        Re: windows manager choice

        FWIW, Fluxbox (which has been my WM of choice for a decade) is still under development - albeit at a somewhat leisurely pace. It knows what it is, and is comfortable to stay that way - which suits me fine.

      3. Chronos Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: windows manager choice

        I wish I could upvote this more. The WM's job is to manage windows and then stay the hell out of the way. For me, Openbox, Tint2, Cairo Dock and Feh scripted to rotate a directory of images as wallpaper has been my desktop for ages. I set it up as I wanted it and just left it alone. It hasn't changed unless I wanted it to, for example, span two monitors.

        These bloated meta-packages are not window managers. They're desktop environments, with all the Other People's Assumptions™ that entails.

        The big advantage of rolling your own is that, coupled with remote mounted /home, your desktop can follow you across distros. Actually, across operating systems as this setup started off on FreeBSD and is currently running on Debian Jessie.

  4. wolfetone Silver badge

    "One word of caution, though: Debian does not support .deb files the way Ubuntu does. You can often install them, but in my experience nothing will break your Debian system faster."

    My 5 year old Debian installation says you're doing something wrong.

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      I wonder what '.deb' means. Does anyone know?

      1. InNY

        I wonder what '.deb' means

        Debian. That's what it means. Which, in turn, stands for Debian.

        For those who want to know. Debian is an amalgamation of two names, Debra Lynn, the then girlfriend of Ian Murdock. They broke up after Ian Murdock created the Debian package manager, but by then it was way too late to change it.

        Ian Murdock died in 2015, but as far as I know Debra Lynn is still around.

      2. davidp231

        Basically a downloadable package, either installed via dpkg -i <package name> or can be double clicked. Or via apt-get if the repository is known to the system.

        Akin to Redhat's .rpm - or a Windows .msi

    2. davidp231

      Agreed - it's the weird PPA things that Ubuntu uses, that Debian doesn't support. And things only get broken if you force install a package without its dependancies that breaks things, which a normal install won't let you do - either via double clicking, or dpkg -i

  5. nematoad Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    And all of them with the added goodness of systemd.

    PCLinuxOS may rate a try if you are up for a rolling release distro and the Mate desktop works well for me at least.

    Texstar has said the PCLOS will *never* use systemd so it might be an option if you are like me resistant to systemd's Borg-like tendencies.

    1. Kurt Meyer

      Re: Oh!

      @ nematoad

      "And all of them with the added goodness of systemd."

      Have an upvote for mentioning what the article would not. I've switched most of my household, and my recommendation, to PCLinuxOS with the Mate desktop.

      I've tried Devuan, and it seems to be very promising, but I cannot stand the Xfce environment, and I have grown lazy extremely lazy with regard to tweaking my distro.

      1. Martijn Otto

        I don't understand Devuan

        It's fairly trivial to switch back to good ole sysvinit. There is even a wiki page about it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh!

        Try Salix with Mate

    2. Alan1kiwi

      Re: Oh!

      +1 for PCLOS. It goes and updates easily.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh!


      Happy user of systemd here.

      I'm sorry you've been dragged out of the 70s.

  6. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    CentOS + Cinnamon

    Stability and a great Desktop. And if you really hate SystemD then CentOS 6 has support until 2020.

    I prefer CentOS over Fedora which although it has improved over the years is still a bit fragile at times. That's what you get for using a test bed for RHEL/CentOS.

    1. Jay 2

      Re: CentOS + Cinnamon

      Yes, if you want bleeding edge (and potentially re-installing a new release every 9 months or so) then you could do worse than Fedora. But for something a lot more stable (and behind the times), then you could go with CentOS. Both assuming you're happy with the RadHat (RPM) branch of things.

      As a sys admin I spend most of my day on the command line of RHEL/CentOS, fending off devs who want the latest and greatest version of something or other that invariably isn't in our repos and will probably cause some dependancy nightmare.

      Every so often at home I usually download the latest Ubuntu, Linux Mint and Fedora into VMs to have a quick play and see what's going on. The last time out I preferred Linux Mint, but now that Ubuntu has dropped Unity I'll have to take another look.

  7. getHandle

    +1 for the Arch wiki

    Never actually used Arch but the wiki has saved my arse more times than I care to remember.

  8. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    At the end-of-life of XP we moved to Mint/XFCE...

    ... not a moments regret. It has been a truly superb experience. I'd recommend it to anyone. Especially if you're coming from Windows.

  9. Richard Lloyd

    MATE is for GNOME 2 refugees

    Like an earlier commenter, I wouldn't say MATE is very close to Windows (especially Windows 8+). It does, though, provide a functional desktop with "traditional" task bar(s), icons and a Start-style menu - for me, this gives it a leg up on Unity already, especially if you dual boot into Windows 10 with Classic Shell set to use an old-style Windows Start menu.

    MATE is a good way to move GNOME 2 users (e.g. CentOS 6) to a more recent distro whilst not changing much for the end-user. I use it on CentOS 7 (yum groupinstall "MATE Desktop" and then select MATE from the pre-login cogwheel icon) and my desktop looks almost identical to the one I had on CentOS 6.

    I do like using CentOS 7 with its 10 years of support for the desktop - it means I can take my sweet time deciding exactly when I upgrade to a future release (it was around 5-6 years for CentOS 6 before I jumped to 7). Note that the latest Firefox on (not the "well behind" ESR version that Red Hat have backported) and the next release (59) of Google Chrome will *not* work on CentOS 6 - that's the two big Linux browsers dead in the water and probably the final push for most CentOS 6 desktop users to move to 7.

  10. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    MX-16 > Debian XFCE

    If you want something friendlier than Debian XFCE with all the extras pre-configured and backports easily available, MX-16 is well worth a look.

    Bonus - it doesn't use systemd by default.

    1. Schultz

      Re: MX-16 > Debian XFCE

      I fully endorse your recommendation. Running MX-16 on several Thinkpads and things just work. Closest to zero-lag that I have ever experienced.

  11. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Arch & Progeny

    Some of the Arch progeny are have graphical installers. But with all of them you will learn more about your system and particularly how dependencies work. The Arch wiki is excellent.

    Also, if you use the AUR many packages are available that you normally do not seen in other distro's repositories.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back off, GnoSatan!

    Ubuntu Budgie. You'll NEVER catch me wasting precious CPU cycles in GNOME.

    1. Paul Chambers

      Re: Back off, GnoSatan!

      Budgie for me too. low resource, not intimidating for windows users, looks nice. Works.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OpenSUSE with KDE

    Running this on my old Lenovo Thinkpad at the moment. It worked out of the box, supported the somewhat arcane Wifi chip and comes with a stable and easy to use KDE desktop with the many KDE tools which come with that.

    Although I'd like to experiement with new flavours of Linux and desktops, I needed something which would 'just work', and the venerable OpenSUSE did the trick.

    (I remember trying out SUSE and RedHat floppy disks back in the day when they were the new kid on the block, stil rough around the edges)

    1. Marshalltown

      Re: OpenSUSE with KDE

      These days I prefer OpenSUSE with KDE. I switched from Ubuntu when it began to be aggravating to install and use and somewhat dictatorial (yes, that is what I think). Opensuse has its own aggravations that need work-arounds, but those are limited to using the computer for entertainment. But ... the KDE interface - or rather the interface coders - has been becoming more difficult and pushy about what's "right" or "too hard" to code for. For years now I have split the desktop into virtual desktops. I open the browser and email on one, work on another, solitaire on a third, etc. I use different wall papers to identify which desktop I am on without having to peer at a miniscule icon. This capacity became aggravating unavailable for a awhile then reappeared, and is now once more unavailable. Apparently the Plasma pushers find it "too hard." KDE is beginning to be as bad as GNOME.

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: OpenSUSE with KDE

        I use different wall papers to identify which desktop I am on without having to peer at a miniscule icon. This capacity became aggravating unavailable for a awhile then reappeared, and is now once more unavailable.

        I understood it was only available due to a bug or somesuch anyway.

        Why not try using the activities as desktops? I can think of not much more use for them and they can have varying wallpapers (and different widgets).

  14. Mage Silver badge

    Mate High DPI

    The setting you need to change is rather hidden, but it's there and support for 300dpi is fine.

    System -> Control Panel -> Appearance Preferences -> Fonts -> Details

    Then change DPI. A bigger number makes EVERYTHING bigger, so even if display is 90 dpi, but your eyes are bad (or screen further away), you can set it to say 200 dpi and everything, not just fonts is larger.

    Similarly if your display is "really" 133 dpi and you are happy with your reading glasses, or have the screen closer, you can lie and set it to say 96 dpi, or what ever lets you read an A4 page on 1080 lines comfortably.

    LibreOffice has a setting to to use smaller or larger everything, so as a compromise I set desktop to a lie to fit more in, LibreOffice Writer to smaller GUI and then set View to 125% or 133% !

  15. Palpy

    Ubuntu for 5 years, but Pulseaudio...

    ...well, dammit. Sometimes I just want something to work, just work, and lately Pulseaudio hasn't. It goes mute, requires fiddling about and sometimes a full reboot.

    I already run KDE on KXStudio as an audio playground -- works great, no glitches -- and I use (mostly) Fedora when booted to Qubes, so probably I'll plump for Fedora 25 / KDE.

    Lots of good choices, though. OpenSUSE was the first Linux I really used; Manjaro is an old fave (offspring of Arch, with, as yank_lurker wrote, a graphical installer); Q4OS (Trinity desktop) is a fast and friendly ride on my 32-bit Toshiba laptop. (Will it that machine die?) And there's Salix, clean and fast Son of Slack.

    In the past, doing things like finding the repos for the newest version of an application and working out a flaky package like Pulseaudio was a challenge and kind of fun. But lately I find I have other things I want to do, and time spent doing system/package config is time lost to other projects.

  16. keithpeter

    Slackware default install with KDE

    I personally would recommend some careful reading, experimentation on a test machine, and adoption of Slackware full install with KDE as desktop environment. This is assuming that readers of this particular forum have problem-solving abilities, a general background of IT skills, and curiosity. You can add package management, compile from source, and/or download binaries. It is remarkably difficult to break Slackware. I've tried.

    What you get is what upstream pushed out. With choices, e.g. OpenOffice and LibreOffice installed and functional along with the default Calligra.

    Some other observations on the OA follow...

    "If you're going to use GNOME, right now, not having seen what Ubuntu is going to end up doing, I suggest trying it via Fedora."

    Fedora Workstation is very nice, but the Korora Project makes it nicer with the Arc theme, a 'traditional' overlay on Gnome (Windows 7 work-alike), multimedia codecs/software installed, and a range of applications. Chapeau Linux is another 'batteries included' Fedora flavour that has less radical tweaking of the Gnome desktop.

    "If you just click your way through the Debian installer you'll end up with a GNOME desktop, which offers a decent experience, but I find Xfce more suited to Debian."

    Debian installer tasksel will provide a choice of desktops at the 'select software' stage. You can select more than one. Debian is also the only distro to allow offline installation of a YUGEtm range of software.

    Finally OpenBSD. Just saying.

    PINT: to all those involved with this outrageous, distributed, self organising, wonderful, argumentative, opinionated mud-ball of a project of totally free and unencumbered software. I clearly recollect the day I downloaded a live Ubuntu iso, burned it, and tried it out. Amazing. Thanks Mark, Pat and all.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I personally like...

    I think Ubuntu budgie is a great version of buntu line of distro's. Gives the same great desktop experience and massive repos library. I use steam client on Linux and I hate messing around with desktop to get all things working correctly... I guess my only grip with Unity has been the alt key issues (in gaming I use that key for some things and well that is a hotkey in Unity).

    Although Arch is fun to play with my personal experience is that it blows up often(ish). I spend all day TS Linux issues don't feel like coming how just to find my desktop broked. When it works it works great but it does come with a few zingers. Seriously this is not a diss on Arch it is great, maybe one day when I no longer do what I am currently doing I might feel more adventurous.

  18. TVU Silver badge

    I think this article is premature because we don't yet know what Canonical will do with the Gnome desktop environment.

    In the meantime, Ubuntu Mate with the Mutiny theme does a pretty fair imitation of Unity.

  19. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Not sure about Ubuntus new direction

    Seems to be a backing away from User 'Desktop' space altogether.

    I wouldn't expect tweaks to the Gnome Shell they'll be presenting in the future, all the language suggests vanilla out of the box.

    This is a great pity, but not a tragedy. Gnome can be tweaked to give an imitation of Unty, KDE also (and perhaps moreso).

    I find myself logging into i3 more often than a DE these days...

  20. batfastad


    After being a long-term Mint user (Cinnamon -> MATE -> XFCE I've been using Xubuntu as my primary laptop OS for a few years now. XFCE is fast and customiseable and hardware support in *buntu is great with my weird devices.

    1. Fibbles

      Re: XFCE

      Another happy XFCE user here. Switched to Xubuntu when unity was released and haven't looked back.

  21. Chas E. Erath

    Ixnay on systemd-nay

    Xfce running on compiz is the bomb (I mean, c'mon - wobbly windows, and flame?! What more do you need?!). What blows though, is systemd. Damn that init to the deepest pits of hell. Gentoo (I think) is the only release (and a rolling release, too) that offers something non-systemd, which is grand.

  22. jMcPhee

    All I'm looking for is...

    ...a fine virtual window manager, too.

  23. 4d3fect

    Lazy yank here.

    (that doesn't sound obscene, does it?)

    I just use the latest stable Ubuntu and log in with gnome-compiz selected. Easy.

    Only reason I keep windows around --not that anybody asked-- (dual-boot on our home box) is for the software for our harmony remote.

  24. Scubaman66

    Confused Newbbie

    As per the title of my post I'm somewhat confused over this whole thing.

    I'm a recent convert to Ubuntu (in fact to Linux of whatever flavour although I did have the job of supporting a Ti System V based two site network back in the early 90's which means I have at least a vague idea of Unix based OS) due to the fact that my current laptop (a Dell M6500 Precision) won't run Windows of any number when plugged into the charger (works just fine under battery but as I use it for music production that does leave one a tad restricted in terms of battery life.)

    I installed Ubuntu Studio about a year ago as it was recommended and (other than the ongoing nightmare of getting my Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 interface to talk to my DAW using Jack and/or Alsa:

    Windows method = install driver and mixer software = operational system in 3 minutes

    Linux Method = Actually I'm really not at all sure as I got it all talking to each other a couple of times but mostly reverting to legacy analogue gear out of frustration)

    It works fine and does everything else I need from a laptop.

    Anyway, that's an aside (and a whole different bag of worms)

    My questions is - I've just upgraded to the latest version of Ubuntu Studio which I understand is built using the latest 17.04 Zesty Zapus build and hence no longer has Unity. Why does it still look and function exactly the same as before? I assumed that it would be similar to going from say Win 7 to Win 10 in that everything under the skin worked pretty much the same way but the look and feel would be different.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm using Arch with KDE plasma happy enough but the multi monitor support is a bit rocky which is a pain as I have 3 monitors on the desk 2 of which are shared between two machines.

    Always a headache.

  26. SomeOldGuy

    The Linux Journey

    I've been "messing" with one flavor or another for the last 16 years. I stared, after extensive reading, with Mandrake Linux, (now Mandriva) and went through several upgrades but finally moved on to SuSE. That proved to not be working out for me so then back to now Mandriva. Became unhappy with what I was getting. (I'm not a Linux Geek and was just looking for something that worked and I could understand.) Finally it tossed my hands up in the air and went back to M$ as I needed to have more support for my web work but wasn't happy)

    The final straw was my last blue screen of death. I told myself I had had it with the "Evil Empire", (I live in M$'s back yard and learned that term from employees) I researched hard for a bit and seeing the Linux world had been keeping moving on, I was pleased to find Ububtu and ordered up a copy for install (dual boot). I used this until I began seeing some limitations and the Unity Desktop drove me away. I had already learned about Mint and happily ordered up Mint 11 and installed that and have never turned back. I'm with 18.1 now.

    I still like to keep up with what is going on and have found this article and the comments very informative and entertaining Thanks to everyone.

  27. BooniesBob

    Old reasons against KDE and Unity

    Much of what's mentioned here I need to catch up on (Budgie?), but I do know why I dropped Ubuntu - Unity and KDE.

    Unity I first experienced on a netbook (1024x600). It didn't bother me until I realized the menu did not go with the window. I don't run MacOS X for that very reason, plus a few more. On the netbook I ran every App (er, program) full screen. I don't do that on bigger screens. When I ran an Atari ST, a Mac clone including the menu bar, it didn't bother me, as it was the age of single tasking and small screens - 640 x 400. I don't remember who introduced windows with their own menus, but kudos to the inventor whoever it is. If it was Microsoft, it's the only thing I truly thank them for.

    I experienced KDE on PCLOS. I made the mistake of installing the "everything including the kitchen sink" version of that year. Never did get to testing out all the wonderful features, it was always misbehaving and breaking down in one or more features. I did a few PCLOS upgrades but the full KDE install did not improve much at all.

    My pet peeve in windowing systems is simple: I want the system to never hang when the foreground program has. Often enough, the mouse moves just fine (running at a very high priority) but no keystrokes register. We are no longer single tasking! Let's stick all programs in their own threads, starting with the window manager itself. Our machines are fast enough for us to not notice the overhead. Let's have a well known way to get out of the frozen program and deal with the problem. The signal might be CAD or some other system reserved key combo or to click the mouse in a special way or at a particular well known place. It should work immediately, unlike the current CTL ALT DEL. Has anybody done this and if so, where in the system program stack? Do any other things need fixing / bulletproofing? All the system calls have to be reentrant and thread safe, but aren't they already?

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019