Installing MATE

MATE is a fork of the original GNOME 2 desktop environment that retains the familiar GNOME 2 look and feel and provides an alternative to GNOME 3, particularly on older or less powerful machines, and with a little patience you can even use it on the Raspberry Pi.

Note – This post describes how to install the MATE desktop on Debian 7.0 (wheezy), to install MATE on Debian/Raspbian 8.0 (jessie) you should use these instructions.

Once you have configured ‘apt’ then the process of installing MATE on either an Intel machine or a Raspberry Pi is the same (but just takes a longer on the Raspberry Pi!).

Obviously on an older or less powerful system you only want to install the software you need so this post is all about showing you how to get MATE up and running with the minimum number of packages. Once you have installed the basic system then to install a minimal MATE desktop you need to start by logging in root.

$ su


$ sudo -i

Adding MATE to the package sources

If you are already using Debian ‘jessie’ then the MATE desktop packages are already included in the main repositories (so you can skip to the installation instructions), but if you are using Debian ‘wheezy’ or Raspbian ‘wheezy’ you will need to add some additional entries to ‘/etc/apt/sources.list’ to tell the system where to find the additional packages you need.

# vi /etc/apt/sources.list

Note – The additional entries you need depend on which distribution you are using.

– Debian ‘wheezy’

Installing the current version of MATE on Debian ‘wheezy’ requires you to add the ‘wheezy-backports’ repository to the package sources.

deb wheezy main
deb-src wheezy main

deb wheezy/updates main
deb-src wheezy/updates main

# wheezy-updates, previously known as 'volatile'
deb wheezy-updates main
deb-src wheezy-updates main

# wheezy-backports
deb wheezy-backports main
deb-src wheezy-backports main

Alternatively if you want to install an older version of MATE (in this case version 1.4) you need to get the packages directly from the MATE archive.

Updated : 08 Oct 14 – Archived MATE packages have moved and version 1.4 has been superceded by version 1.6.

deb wheezy main contrib
# deb-src wheezy main
deb wheezy/updates main contrib
# deb-src wheezy/updates main
deb wheezy-updates main contrib
# deb-src wheezy-updates main
deb wheezy main

Having modified the package source you will need to update the list of available packages – check that this retrieves the lists of available packages from the backports repository (shown in italics).

# apt-get update
Hit wheezy Release.gpg
Hit wheezy-updates Release.gpg
Hit wheezy/updates Release.gpg
Hit wheezy Release
Hit wheezy/updates Release
Hit wheezy-updates Release
Hit wheezy/main Sources
Hit wheezy/main i386 Packages
Get:1 wheezy-backports Release.gpg [836 B]
Hit wheezy/updates/main Sources
Hit wheezy/main Translation-en
Hit wheezy-updates/main Sources
Hit wheezy/updates/main i386 Packages
Hit wheezy-updates/main i386 Packages/DiffIndex
Hit wheezy-updates/main Translation-en/DiffIndex
Hit wheezy/updates/main Translation-en
Get:2 wheezy-backports Release [147 kB]
Get:3 wheezy-backports/main Sources [370 kB]
Get:4 wheezy-backports/main i386 Packages [487 kB]
Get:5 wheezy-backports/main Translation-en [305 kB]
Fetched 1,310 kB in 5s (234 kB/s)                              
Reading package lists... Done

If you are using the MATE archive to install an older version you will also need to update the keyring used to sign the packages.

# apt-get install mate-archive-keyring

– Raspbian ‘wheezy’

If you have a Raspberry Pi then to install the current version of MATE on Raspbian you need the entry shown below.

deb wheezy main
deb-src wheezy main
deb wheezy main

When you have updated the list of sources you need to update your system and load the keys for the MATE repository.

# apt-get update
# apt-get install mate-archive-keyring

Then you can start by installing the core components.

Installing MATE

Since MATE depends requires an X Window server you will need to install this first – be warned that there are a large number of dependencies so this is going to take a while!

# apt-get install xserver-xorg xserver-xorg-core xfonts-base xinit

Then we can install the core desktop applications, including the desktop, file manager, text editor, image viewer, volume control and sound recorder.

# apt-get install x11-xserver-utils mate-core mozo pluma

That will give you a very minimal desktop but if we want a graphical login screen and desktop themes you need to install some additional packages.

# apt-get install mate-themes gnome-icon-theme lightdm

You probably also want to be able to mount removable drives automatically on the desktop so should also install the following packages.

# apt-get install gvfs gvfs-backends policykit-1

This should give you a reasonably functional installation.

Configuring the desktop

By default the display manager will use the GTK greeter – if you want to change the background colour to match the MATE desktop you need to edit the configuration file and change it so that it uses a plain background (specified just as a hex number). Alternativly you can use one of the MATE desktop wallpapers this will use more system resources but looks better, and if you use the same wallpaper on your desktop the logon process looks much smoother too.

# vi /etc/lightdm/lightdm-gtk-greeter.conf


Configuring the Display Manager

If you are connecting using a remote desktop then you will also need to enable the shutdown and reboot icons on the login screen by creating two new policy files.

# vi /var/lib/polkit-1/localauthority/50-local.d/\
> enable-lightdm-shutdown.pkla

[Enable Shutdown]

# vi /var/lib/polkit-1/localauthority/50-local.d/\
> enable-lightdm-reboot.pkla

[Enable Reboot]

That should hopefully be enough to get you started…

Raspberry Pi is a trademark of the Raspberry Pi Foundation

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