MATE for Raspbian


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by mpthompson » Fri Jun 15, 2012 3:03 am
I've always been a fan of the Gnome 2 desktop and I'm working on a side project to port MATE, a fork of Gnome 2, to Raspbian. I also like what Linux Mint has done with MATE. More about MATE can be found here:

http://mate-desktop.org/

I realize it will almost certainly be heavier weight than LXDE or Xfce, but I'm hoping that it will still run decently under Raspbian on the Raspberry Pi. Of course, it will run much better if and when an X server that implements GPU acceleration is available.

So far, I've built about a half dozen source packages with only a few glitches. Hopefully, the other 40 or so will build as easily over the next two or three days. I'll post back here when I have a repository available that others can install and test out the MATE.

I hope there are other fans of MATE that would like to see this classic Linux desktop environment available on the Raspberry Pi.
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by john.mills » Fri Jun 15, 2012 3:51 am
Hi Mike,

That sounds really great, choice is a wonderful thing after all. I can't wait to get my Pi hardware and start supporting more. Out of interest are you compiling most of the Mint packages now? Perhaps you might consider releasing an updated image with Mate on soon to solicit some feedback and get be support from the Raspbian community?

Best regards and thanks,

John
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by mpthompson » Fri Jun 15, 2012 6:42 am
Right now, I'm just going after the MATE packages, which is just a part of Linux Mint and managed in a separate repository. As you know, I've traded some emails with Clem and he indicated that the Linux Mint packages may not port easily to ARM as they haven't yet been tested on anything other than i386/amd64 platforms. Supporting Linux Mint on ARM would very likely involve more than a rebuild with a few patches as I'm doing with MATE. Also, its seems most, if not all the Linux Mint packages are hand built and may or may not be suitable for the autobuild environment that were using to build all the Debian packages.

I really wouldn't know how difficult a port of Linux Mint Debian Edition to the Raspberry Pi would be until it was actually tried. However, getting MATE running will be a good first step. If things go well, I would certainly be interested in a complete port of Linux Mint Debian Edition to the Raspberry Pi based on Raspbian, but I don't have any specific plans for this right now. Raspbian is still very immature and our efforts best spent towards ironing out the wrinkles left from the porting blitz over the last two months. Getting a solid Debian-like kernel and "official" Raspbian image will be two steps in that direction.

I'm moving forward with MATE right now as it seemed like low hanging fruit (ie. Gnome 2 is known to work on ARM hardware) and I have an interest in providing a more polished GUI environment than Debian provides out of the box. Time will tell what that means with regards to a possible full port of Linux Mint.
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by john.mills » Fri Jun 15, 2012 7:36 am
Hi Mike,

Thanks for the update. I can completely understand to make Raspbian as stable as possible. I think you are certainly heading in the right direction. It is my opinion that we should not be just aiming to port every Mint feature but look what packages make sense with respect of the Raspbian project goals. Having a nice GUI like MATE will certainly make a difference to the look and feel of the images produced for the Pi.

It would also be worth considering some unique customisations like themes, icons, colours etc. Something not too complicated but gives Raspbian a more than 'generic' look. I think within limits MATE running on the Pi using Raspbian could look very beautiful and be extremely functional and be the first and best choice for a desktop experience.

Once again Mike, thank you for all this effort you are putting in to this project. You will make a difference to a lot of people. I hope the Raspberry Pi foundation are taking notice! I believe ASB will be looking at producing his one semi official image based on Raspbian quite soon.

Regards,
John
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by john.mills » Fri Jun 15, 2012 8:01 am
Hi Mike,

One other quick question, I take it that you are also compiling the mate applications?

http://mate-desktop.org/applications/

John
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by mard0 » Fri Jun 15, 2012 1:19 pm
Verry cool that your trying to get MATE working on raspbian!
I'm a big fan of the old gnome2 look and feel, and tried MATE once before on ubuntu when it was just released. Back then there where a lot of problems with missing applications and MATE depending on "old" gnome packages in ubuntu. Lets hope everything will run smoothly on the pi (still waiting on mine :cry: )

Greetz
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by mpthompson » Fri Jun 15, 2012 4:52 pm
john.mills wrote:One other quick question, I take it that you are also compiling the mate applications


Yes. These are being built as they are part of the MATE repository that I'm building from.
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by mpthompson » Fri Jun 15, 2012 4:54 pm
mard0 wrote:Back then there where a lot of problems with missing applications and MATE depending on "old" gnome packages in ubuntu.


It's my impression that a lot of those issues have been sorted out over the last year. I guess we'll find out soon.
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by masterluke » Fri Jun 15, 2012 5:12 pm
Great idea - I'm using MATE on Mint 13 on the desktop and its great. I feel very much at home having a gnome2 background. I just hope it runs reasonably on the Pi - It flies on my PC. The only annoying thing is that they have changed the names of the default apps like gedit is now pluma.

Cant wait to try this. Mike you are a king amongst men. Ever read C.S. Lewis? I'm going to nickname you Prince Raspbian :D
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by mpthompson » Sat Jun 16, 2012 6:04 am
OK, I got all of MATE built and running under Raspbian. Here is a screen shot I took after a few minutes of playing with it:

Image
Click here for large image

However, saying it's "running" is a bit of a stretch. Probably a "fast crawl" would be a little better description. The unfortunate reality is the default configuration of MATE is a tad slow on the Raspberry Pi.

My hope is that with some work on the settings the performance of MATE can be improved significantly. Links such as the two below indicate it should be possible to get decent performance out of MATE (Gnome 2.32) on Raspberry Pi hardware:

http://penguininside.blogspot.com/2009/ ... weaks.html
http://pclosmag.com/html/Issues/201205/page08.html

It would be a great project for someone to help me document configuration settings and tweaks that will make MATE useable on the Raspberry Pi. If successful, I think MATE could stand a chance of being the most approachable GUI for kids an Linux newbies on the Pi.

Unfortunately, I can't post the MATE repository just yet. We're switching the Raspbian.org servers this weekend and I won't get a chance to upload and document how others can install MATE until after the switch is made. Probably Sunday or Monday at the earliest. At that time I'll put a Wiki page with instructions on installing MATE under Raspbian and useful links that may help us tweak the performance of MATE.

This posting is just a teaser until then.
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by john.mills » Sat Jun 16, 2012 10:13 am
Hi Mike,

That is a great start! It looks really awesome, I hope that you can improve the speed. I really need my Pi to show up soon as it is becoming quite frustrating. When it does I will help out if I can do. Speaking about nice looking desktop focused distributions Zorin OS looks really nice in the light 'LXDE' variant. Creating something like this might be an option too, although MATE does give you more. Do you have more than 32MB allocated to video RAM?

Projects like MATE show just what a great educational tool the Pi is and even though it is limited hardware, it is static, and so can be improved and hence be the same for everyone.

Best regards,

John
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by john.mills » Sat Jun 16, 2012 11:45 am
Some information about Zorin OS LXDE:

http://zoringroup.com/blog/2012/03/08/z ... e-is-here/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj2ezvp0 ... ure=relmfu


Just an idea for possible interface designs considering the hardware available
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by mpthompson » Sat Jun 16, 2012 4:35 pm
John, thanks for the links to Zorin OS. I think there is a reasonable chance the performance issues with MATE won't be able to be ironed out, but we'll give it a good try. It's good to know that there are other alternatives that could provide a good GUI experience.
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by mpthompson » Mon Jun 18, 2012 2:12 am
The information needed to install MATE under Raspbian is now on the Wiki:

http://www.raspbian.org/RaspbianMate

Using the Pisces R2 Raspbian image and with just MATE installed and running, about 172MB of memory is consumed. On a 256MB system (actually less because of at least 32MB devoted to the GPU). This doesn't leave a whole lot of memory for whatever other applications are running.

It would be terrific if configuration changes and replacing some MATE applications could dramatically reduce the memory footprint leaving some memory for application use.
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by john.mills » Mon Jun 18, 2012 5:31 am
Hello MIke,

Have you thought about providing a 'testing' Pisces image that comes pre-configured with MATE and some of the fixes listed from the previous image? It will get more support and testing I am sure that apt-getting the desktop by your self. Besides this will be really the first 'fully fledged' desktop focused release for the Pi. Once people have something like this to tinker with the progress will be made more quickly.

Best regards,

John
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by mpthompson » Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:25 am
John, I've got some other things that I need to work on, but I'll see if I find time later this week to create a Raspbian image with MATE instead of LXDE. Unfortunately, it takes a non-trivial amount of time to put together, verify and release an image.

I've been playing around with MATE for a few hours this evening. I would really like to figure out how to minimize the memory footprint to the point it's useable on the Raspberry Pi. The interface just seems so much cleaner and usable than LXDE and Xfce in their default state. Although, as your link to Zorin OS proves, even those can be refined with enough work.
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by john.mills » Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:09 am
Hello again Mike,

I understand your schedule is very busy. Apologies if I come across as sounding impatient, it is not my intention. I agree, I think MATE does look very clean. I was running Ubuntu 10.10 with a Pentium 3 500 and 256 MB of RAM and it was acceptable to me. Not the fastest but usable, I think with enough tweaking we could get half decent performance. At the moment would you be opposed to overclocking the CPU a little, perhaps to 900 MHZ? Reading around on the forums it appears that quite a few people are doing this.

On the latest ASB Debian image a few people there have reported their LXDE sessions are very usable at this speed. If MATE is just too intensive then the LXDE option akin to Zorin OS might be a good option. I can try speak to some of the developers there and see if there is any support that they might be able to give. The same goes for the MATE team when you release the updated image. Again thanks for the hard work you are putting in.

John
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by mpthompson » Mon Jun 18, 2012 5:31 pm
john.mills wrote:I was running Ubuntu 10.10 with a Pentium 3 500 and 256 MB of RAM and it was acceptable to me. Not the fastest but usable, I think with enough tweaking we could get half decent performance.


The issue isn't so much performance. I keep my RPi clocked at 700MHz and MATE runs reasonably snappy on that. The issue is that if memory consumption causes swap to be hit on the SD card then performance takes a huge hit. Or worse, if no swap is configured, then processes will simply start dying. On your Pentium 3 500 with 256MB of RAM, you probably had another 128MB to 256MB swap on a reasonably fast hard drive. That would make a big difference.

Aside from memory issues with MATE, I am still battling USB issues on my RPI. My USB ports seem to reset every 1 to 3 minutes causing me to lose keyboard/mouse input for 5 to 10 seconds while all USB devices are rediscovered. This gets annoying very quickly. In addition, keyboard input is not very reliable and I do see a fair number of dropped keys. These issues are not MATE's fault, but they are irritating problems for MATE nonetheless. I can only hope that the USB issues will be resolved with further kernel driver development before the RPi is released to masses. If not, I believe it will severely limit the adoption of the Raspberry Pi by the masses and the device will be a niche product for hobbyists.

On the memory side, the Raspbian Pisces image is a bit piggish and I need to clean that up. It's default Debian installation and 52MB of memory is consumed just running all the standard Debian services. This can probably be cleaned up quite a bit. On the MATE side of things, caja is a major source of memory consumption and is probably overkill for the RPi. Using something like pcmanfm would be more appropriate. Also, just running the clock applet consumes 5% of memory. That is way too much.

Anyway, I think lots of progress can be made. It's just going to take some time to wade through all things things to come up with a reasonable Raspbian and MATE configuration that maximizes the precious memory.
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by Steep » Mon Jun 18, 2012 5:45 pm
You've probably read this already Mike but the usb and keyboard issues you describe are often associated with a lack of power, it could be your psu that's at fault.
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by jui-feng » Mon Jun 18, 2012 7:25 pm
It's default Debian installation and 52MB of memory is consumed just running all the standard Debian services.


I'm not sure what those standard debian services are, though this is from my Pi:
Code: Select all
$ free
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:        220616      78712     141904          0       8732      41220
-/+ buffers/cache:      28760     191856
Swap:       262140          0     262140
So my setup, which is based on pisces, appears to use a total of 28MB, including sshd with 1 login shell, a web server software written by me (~6MB RSS), and a DAAP music streaming service (spydaap, 7MB RSS). That's not even close to 52MB for the "base system", or am I reading the "free" output incorrectly?

I won't ever use the MATE desktop on my raspi, but still think that it would be great to have it available. (Though I do also like gnome3 / unity and actually use unity every day.)
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by mpthompson » Mon Jun 18, 2012 7:36 pm
I've been using top to monitor memory usage. It's possible that 53MB used below includes 27MB cached which actually is available for use if needed. I guess I better learn more about properly diagnosing memory usage...

Code: Select all
top - 12:30:33 up 1 min,  1 user,  load average: 1.27, 0.47, 0.17
Tasks:  55 total,   1 running,  54 sleeping,   0 stopped,   0 zombie
%Cpu(s):  1.3 us,  0.3 sy,  0.0 ni, 98.4 id,  0.0 wa,  0.0 hi,  0.0 si,  0.0 st
Kb Mem:    220616 total,    53144 used,   167472 free,     6732 buffers
Kb Swap:   262140 total,        0 used,   262140 free,    27168 cached
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by mpthompson » Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:33 am
Well, this is a little embarrassing. I guess I was misinterpreting the memory statistics. Using 'free', below are the memory status for running MATE idle without any applications open.
Code: Select all
# free -h
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:          215M       173M        41M         0B        12M        70M
-/+ buffers/cache:        90M       125M
Swap:         255M       2.3M       253M

This would indicate that about 90M are consumed. Not too shabby. This is with many of the MATE services disabled and a few configuration changes to increase performance at the expense of some animation effects.

Overall, I think it's a pretty good starting point and with some effort it can be made much more usable.
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by mpthompson » Tue Jun 19, 2012 7:04 am
John, I'm working on an image of Raspbian with MATE that others can use and experiment with. I probably need to do this as it takes several hundred packages to install MATE with all its dependencies. I can use my local repository to speed up the process, but it still takes many, many hours to install. I'll should have the image ready in the next day or two that I'll post it to the Raspbian.org server.
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by john.mills » Tue Jun 19, 2012 7:21 am
Hi Mike,

I follow the Raspbian thread at least 10 times a day and am still in awe of all the progress that has been achieved in the last few months. The work you have put in to this is stellar. If you are using about 90MB now then there is around 132MB available more or less I guess. I was reading your post on the MATE forum and I hope those guys get back with something. I posted a couple of things also on the Zorin forum... we will see what happens.

I know that perhaps this is a little early to think about theming, but having something like this installed by default (of course, dependent upon resources and performance) would make Raspbian look stellar.

http://www.bisigi-project.org/?page_id=6&lang=en

As I mentioned earlier, when I was running Ubuntu 10.10 I had these themes installed and I think Gnome 2 never looked better. Everyone I showed the laptop too was very impressed. This is something I would love to see happen when a user sees Raspbian for the first time. :D

I don't know what we need to do to reach the goal but if we can get Raspbian picked up as the default 'blessed' Raspberry Pi distribution then that would be perfect. I guess the educational release of the hardware is about 3 -4 months away. The foundation must be looking at their default images about now. I wonder how ASB is coming along with his Raspbian build? Maybe a little lobbying is in order me thinks. ;)

Is Midori going to be the default browser you choose for your new testing MATE image?

Take care Mike
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by mpthompson » Tue Jun 19, 2012 8:55 pm
A Raspbian "Pisces+MATE" image is now available here:

http://www.raspbian.org/PiscesMATEImages

This image contains a minimal Raspbian install with MATE as the default desktop when the user executes 'startx'. This is the default MATE configuration, warts and all, after installation of the MATE packages from the Raspbian repository.

Quite frankly, I believe MATE is VERY useable and looks very clean and friendly. Memory use by of the desktop without running any applications running is:

Code: Select all
# free -h
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:          215M       201M        14M         0B       9.9M       115M
-/+ buffers/cache:        75M       139M
Swap:         243M       6.3M       237M


At 75M, this isn't very bad at all and this can probably be improved significantly with tweaking of the configuration and replacing some of the applications (ie. nautilus/caja) that consume a lot of memory and CPU time.

If other people want to give this image a try, I would be very interested to hear feedback. Also, I would like to start collecting in the wiki all the various settings that can be used to help MATE run better on the Rasberry Pi.
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