Updated: October 5, 2012
I promised another review of openSUSE 12.2 Mantis, and here it is. This time, we will see how well openSUSE copes when flavored with the MATE desktop environment, a complete refork of the good, ole Gnome 2.
Last time, things were not completely rosy. There were tons of problems, and although they lessened to some degree with the installation of the alternative desktop over the Gnome 3 crapola, they did not resolve some of the fundamental issues I have seen. But it's like Fedora. I was somewhat lukewarm about what the distribution could offer me, but slowly transitioning from Xfce through KDE to the greatness of Cinnamon, I finally polished out the bugs and warmed up to the distro. Let is see whether openSUSE can offer the same level of comfort. Second chance, MATE desktop, follow me.
You can install MATE using a one-click installer file from the semi-official repository, which is slowly making its way into the official build, yet another indication that people do not like Gnome 3. Install, log out, change your session to MATE. Note: All of what you see below happens on a system with some extra customization, so the experience may vary.
All right, it's immediately apparent that this is how openSUSE should have looked from the start, without the Gnome 3 menace to make things worse than they are. So much more natural, so much in line with what it was. Looks quite similar to Mint, too. And you also get Faenza icons, which I was already using from the Cinnamon test.
You can also opt for Sonar and MATE sets, too, if you want.
Beside that, things are looking quite lovely.
You also get a big, sweet terminal window:
And the final product:
The one huge advantage of the MATE desktop environment that comes to bear is the low resource usage, both memory and CPU. Now, with Linux Mint, MATE actually used more, but here, it's half the figure we saw. High five!
There we go. Now, does MATE fundamentally change anything on openSUSE? The answer is yes, very much so. First of all, Cinnamon does use the underlying Gnome 3 libraries, so whatever did not work was the fault of this unholy framework. On the other hand, MATE lives in its own world, and therefore you will see fewer bugs and issues, like printing, for instance.
System responsiveness is also greatly improved. With much better, more elegant looks, you are more likely to forgive various little issues and focus on pimping up the distro to your needs. Mind, this will not resolve the bland default program collection, the missing codecs or other basic problems that openSUSE must resolve. But it might be the critical point that will convince you to stay and pay rather than walk away.
With MATE, openSUSE 12.2 Mantis gets the necessary boost of good, much like what Cinnamon did to Fedora. And strangely, you also get different results based on where you test these desktops. Really crazy. But fun. Anyhow, MATE ups the barely passable 5/10 grade for Mantis all the way up to 7.5/10, which is quite commendable. Really great to see how alternative desktop systems can made so much difference, much like a pair of boots and sunglasses do to the ladies of the opposite sex. Truth. Ahem. Yes. If you like openSUSE and do not feel like giving up on it, test it with MATE. You will like it.
I think I'll give openSUSE with MATE one more shot; on my Nvidia-ed laptops.