From MATE to Ubuntu to Peppermint to Lite to Mint to Ubuntu again and back to Mint

by Evil Roda

Originally posted September 4, 2016

So quite a while ago, I switched from Ubuntu MATE to straight Ubuntu. It was a good choice, I think. In MATE, I had massive amounts of screen tearing, and in Ubuntu, that issue was just completely gone, and I have no idea why. MATE is supposed to be more lightweight than Unity, yet in MATE, videos would screen tear at the drop of a hat; literally, someone would drop a hat, and the top of the hat would be in the middle of the screen, and the rest of the hat would be at the bottom. It was absolutely terrible. That’s not even going into the fact that the Mutiny layout preset for MATE wasn’t very good. For those of you that don’t know, Mutiny is a preset layout for MATE that mimics the look and feel of the Unity desktop, and one that didn’t work all that well. One very important feature of Unity, something that makes Unity what it is, is that along the top panel, it shows the name of the program currently running, and, if you hover over that name, it’ll show the File, Edit, et cetera menus. In MATE, it did that, too, sorta. It only really worked on a few programs that came with the system, like the terminal and Shotwell. In Unity, this works with every program, out of the box.

Unfortunately, Ubuntu shared another problem with Ubuntu MATE. You see, sometimes, when I would reboot, my laptop’s monitor wouldn’t work. It would work for the BIOS, then the screen would turn purple, and the monitor would shut off. If it were a reboot where my screen worked, the little LED on the mute button would turn on, and, at the same time (or, like, a second after), the backlight would turn on. If not, then the backlight would not turn on. At least Ubuntu gave me some audio feedback for when that happened. When you get to the login screen in Ubuntu, it makes a noise, and if the screen wasn’t working when it made that noise, I knew I had to reboot again. Ubuntu MATE had no such noise; I was completely blind.

Fast forward to Wednesday night. One of my favorite artists, @rtilrtil, was streaming on Picarto. Several times during that stream, my computer froze, completely, in such a way that required rebooting. This is a major issue, because I love Picarto, even if it does have a fuckton of technical issues. About the second or third time this happened, the screen issue popped up. Like, four or five fucking times. It was at this point that I thought Ubuntu had failed me for the last time.

So the next morning, I just went ahead and saved any data I wanted to keep and nuked and paved it with Peppermint OS 7. “Ah,” I thought, “I should have been running this all along! It’s glorious!” Then I ran a YouTube video. Guess what? Screen tearing. Fucking screen tearing, on another lightweight distro. The next two distros I thought about trying were Linux Lite, which is another distro I love, and Linux Mint, which I have never used extensively. Since I already had a thumb drive with Lite on it, I plugged it in and booted into the live CD. The audio worked, it played the startup music, but the monitor wouldn’t work, and this was in the live CD! Needless to say, I didn’t even try installing it.

Next up was Linux Mint 18. I flashed a thumb drive with it, booted it into the live CD, and not only did the monitor work, so did videos, no screen tearing in sight! So I installed it, rebooted, aaaaaand… the wireless card wouldn’t work. Fuck.

After that, I was like, “Fuck it, back to Ubuntu!” So I installed Ubuntu again, and on the first boot, the monitor wouldn’t work. Yeah, no. I had just run an ethernet cable up to an ethernet switch in my room for something unrelated, so I figured I would just live with an extra cable getting in my way. Reinstalled Linux Mint 18, and the wireless card was working that time. Fucking what? Whatever.

Now, I’m running Mint with the Cinnamon desktop, which, unfortunately, is kinda slow and lacking in customization options (inb4 LOL UNITY CUSTOMIZATION; the difference is I like Unity out of the box, and I find the default Cinnamon layout boring). I’d use the XFCE edition, but screen tearing issue. I think there’s something in the GNOME 3 code base that’s preventing screen tearing, because that’s the only common thread I can see between Cinnamon and Unity, but who the fuck knows? I do honestly wish I could’ve stuck with Peppermint, though. Love that little distro, even though I haven’t been able to run it extensively. :( At least Picarto works. Tested it several times the past few days, no lockups. Also, I still ended up using an ethernet cable anyway because I think the wireless card in this laptop is going bad; even in Windows, it would stop working at seemingly random.

So, my little journey comes to a close. Maybe not, though. If I ever figure out what the fuck is up with the screen tearing, I might still switch to Peppermint. For right now, I’m fairly happy.