MATE Desktop's failure in Fedora 18
For those of you who haven't heard, MATE Desktop promises to be the Gnome 2 desktop reborn. I very much like the Gnome 2 desktop for my midlevel machines and specifically for my laptop, which has been stuck at Fedora 14 for going on two years now precisely because I refuse to abandon a productive Gnome 2 environment. Since MATE is included in Fedora 18 I had high hopes of being able to upgrade at last. When Fedora 18 was initially released I eagerly spun it up on a virtual machine and installed MATE to try it out.
I don't know of a good way to put this: MATE Desktop in its current state in Fedora 18 is an abject failure because the MATE developers made an understandable but catastrophically bad decision.
You see, when the MATE Desktop describes itself as a fork of Gnome 2,
it really means that. The developers did not take Gnome 2 and rebuild
it; they took Gnome 2 and more or less changed everything that called
itself 'gnome'. In particular they completely renamed the preferences
system. MATE doesn't use Gnome 2 preferences; it uses MATE preferences,
complete with a MATE preferences daemon. One immediate consequence of
this is that you cannot use the very useful and important
to edit MATE preferences. After all,
gconf-editor edits Gnome
preferences, not MATE preferences (perhaps you are starting to see the
(People who migrate to MATE may not immediately see the problem because MATE runs a one-time preferences cloning operation. That they need to do this should have been a big warning sign to the MATE developers.)
There are a whole lot of tools and programs that have been developed
for Gnome 2 and now run under it (or Gnome 3). It is unlikely that many
of them will be recompiled for MATE and the MATE libraries. How well
any individual one is going to work in MATE is uncertain; at the least
it's clear that there are going to be frictions, where you wind up with
things like two preference systems running alongside each other. At the
worst, some of the tools that I really want may simply not work because
they have not been rebuilt and/or 'ported' to MATE (by running the
equivalent of a
sed pass over them to rename functions or whatever).
This practical issue is one part of why I abandoned MATE on the spot when I found this out. Another part is the mere existence of this issue demonstrates that the MATE people's priorities have nothing to do with mine. I want to continue using my perfectly functional Gnome 2 desktop environment. The MATE people apparently want to make a statement about how they are not Gnome. Well, congratulations. Consider it made and heard.
(Now I need a replacement laptop environment that I can stand, one that runs all of the magic programs necessary for a modern laptop that uses varied wireless, wired, and VPN connections, suspends itself at appropriate times, handles battery and power management, and all that jazz.)