Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Jun 01, 2013 1:10 pm

Raspbian Mate - Complete Setup

Tue Apr 19, 2016 2:23 pm

One of thing outstanding things about the Pi is it's speed - or rather lack of it. Thing is that the processor on the 2 and 3 is actually pretty nippy and what holds the whole thing back is the bottleneck from the microSD which makes using an GUI like Mate (or Ubuntu Mate) absolutely excruciating.

The solution is to put the OS on an the fastest external drive you can get your hands on and preferably - I've found the Sandisk Extreme 32Gb and 64Gb thumb drives exceptional in this regard.

While it might seem unbelievable, I've found (with a good quality broadband) it's possible to turn this little educational computer into a fully-functioning desktop PC in under an hour with Mate (Gnome 2+), Libreoffice, WiFi and working Bluetooth stack.

EDIT: (In the last speed test, the main installation took less than 30 mins from start to finish from a blank thumbdrive to a working desktop. YMMV.)

Rather than take down Raspbian, it's easier to take Raspbian Lite and build that into a fully working Mate Desktop - and the whole process can be done with very little fuss! I was planning on releasing this build as an image (and I might still do) but the steps are like this.

1. Put a Raspbian Jessie Lite image on any old MicroSD. This is only for the boot so you don't need a fast nor a large one.
2. Put the same image on an external HDD or Thumbdrive like the Sandisk Extreme.
3. Resize the root partition to fill the drive. I find GParted the fastest way to do this. It's on the Ubuntu Live DVD at a pinch. ;)
4. On the MicroSD edit the root on COMMANDLINE.TXT so root = /dev/sda2

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dwc_otg.lpm_enable=0 console=serial0,115200 console=tty1 root=/dev/sda2 rootfstype=ext4 elevator=deadline rootwait
This allows you to boot the Pi into Jessie from the external. That should be very fast indeed.

5. Use "df" to make sure the partition size is correct. You're going to need 8Gb to make this worthwhile and more is better.
6. With the Ethernet cable connected you're going to get everything up to date:

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sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
7. Now for the magic - this is the bit that's going to take time because we're going to put everything on in one go.

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sudo apt-get install xorg lightdm lightdm-gtk-greeter mate-desktop-environment libreoffice blueman iceweasel evolution network-manager-gnome vlc pulseaudio pulseaudio-module-bluetooth pavucontrol bluez-firmware
or without Bluetooth support:

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sudo apt-get install xorg lightdm lightdm-gtk-greeter mate-desktop-environment libreoffice  iceweasel evolution network-manager-gnome vlc
How long this takes depends on a number of factors, not least, the speed of your broadband connection. However, on a superspeed connect with an Extreme the entire job can be done in about an hour. Slower connections will probably be best left overnight.

This is a full office suite, including a web browser (essentially Firefox) and Evolution for mail and VideoLan for video. You might want to add in a few extras like but these are optional and easily added later.

One last thing is to make sure your WiFi works with the Mate/Gnome network manager, edit your network control like this:

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sudo nano /etc/network/interfaces
and delete all but the first three lines so it looks like this:

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# interfaces(5) file used by ifup(8) and ifdown(8)
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback
Assuming everything goes according to plan (cough) when you reboot you'll find yourself presented with a graphical login and after that, the Mate Desktop ready to go.

For final flair, the Ubuntu fonts ( are clearer than the ones supplied by XOrg and add that last bit of polish.

Although this work was inspired by Martin Wimpress and the Unbuntu Mate team (I could not have done it without them) it's really about turning a Pi 3 (it should work with the Pi 2 also) into an Office/Desktop PC. I hope this will inspire others to extend this and perhaps add automatic updating, etc or perhaps make this into a distro of its own right.

Although the Pi is aimed at kids and experimenters, it's also surprisingly useful, efficient and cheap as a second personal computer for mainstream use. This is why I've eschewed the usual programming language support etc. for the build.

I've added Samba to mine, for example, so it can be used in my SOHO setup.

Posts: 84
Joined: Sun Aug 04, 2013 2:20 pm

Re: Raspbian Mate - Complete Setup

Sat Oct 01, 2016 8:39 pm

Bluetooth does not seem to be working properly.
I can see my bluetooth mouse, but the pi won't connect to it... don't have this issue with any other distro.
are there firmware updates or something I need to install to make it work? rpi-update no longer seems to be installed on the newest raspbian distros so I don't know how to get the latest firmware.

I really wish someone would build an official Raspbian-MATE distro... I'm so tired of having to use LXDE as a desktop on the Pi... especially my new Pi3 which is more than capable of running a real DE like MATE.

And don't get me started on that PIXEL update to Raspbian LXDE... they've broken things and added more bugs... just to make it look pretty instead of trying to make it function better.... what a disappointing fail.

But so far, none of the instructionals I've found (including this one) leave you with a fully functioning MATE DE :-( There's always something critical that is broken (bluetooth, wifi) or packages that don't update (browser) when running apt-get update.

I'd use Ubuntu MATE for the Pi, but it still can't run KODI or other GL apps. And no hardware acceleration yet :-(

Posts: 720
Joined: Sun Apr 17, 2016 4:00 am

Re: Raspbian Mate - Complete Setup

Sun Oct 02, 2016 7:04 am

Can you measure something like application startup time for a comparison? When you boot from your second disk and everything is stable, how long does your system take to start the file browser and some other common applications?

For MATE versus ..., I find Cinnamon way better than MATE for completeness and reliability. LXDE is second and MATE always appears a distant third. LXDE works on my Pi 3 and my Pi Zero. MATE struggles on my Pi 3. Moving MATE to a USB stick does not help because I am using very fast microSD cards. A really fast SSD might help but then the cost is too high.

Given the high cost of really fast USB sticks, I would be looking for a measurable speed improvement to justify the change. The speed increase would have to be more than the slow down caused by switching from LXDE to MATE.

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