A Quick Look At Ubuntu MATE 14.10 In VirtualBox

📅 November 13, 2014

ubmate05Those with fond memories of the simplicity offered by GNOME 2 during the Ubuntu 10.10 glory days should feel somewhat comfortable with the MATE desktop environment. There is much to like about GNOME 2 before Ubuntu switched to Unity and GNOME 3, and MATE attempts to preserve the traditional GNOME 2 experience on today’s Linux distributions.

While MATE can be installed separately in practically any Linux distribution, Ubuntu MATE is an Ubuntu distribution that offers MATE out of the box.

With 14.10 now available, I tried Ubuntu MATE 14.10 in VirtualBox to see how it would perform. How does it install? What does it look like? Here are a few thoughts.


Ubuntu MATE 14.10 installed in VirtualBox 4.3.18 perfectly. No problems detected. The installation process is the same familiar Ubuntu installation with a few modifications for MATE, so everything is easy. Ubuntu-based distributions have to be the easiest and most pain-free operating systems to install and use, and Ubuntu MATE retains that simplicity.


Ubuntu MATE 14.10 installation in VirtualBox 4.3.18.

VirtualBox Guest Additions

Like every other operating system, Ubuntu MATE requires the VirtualBox Guest Additions in order to be fully functional. Ubuntu MATE runs fine as-is, but those who have used VirtualBox know that any virtual machine is practically useless without the guest additions. However, this is where I encountered problems.

I tried to install them as usual, but they refused to install due to two errors:

1) GCC not installed

2) Linux headers not found


Running VBoxLinuxAdditions.run lists the errors. Even though the guest additions install fine following a fresh installation with other Linux distributions, the guest additions would not install after a fresh installation of Ubuntu MATE.


This error dialog appears when attempting to perform guest addition functions after a failed guest addition installation.

Ubuntu MATE 14.10 installs with Linux kernel 3.16.0-23, but not headers. After installing Synaptic, I verified that this was the problem. So, I manually installed the latest stable kernel (3.16.7) with dpkg, rebooted the virtual machine, and then installed GCC from Synaptic.

Problem solved. Now, the VirtualBox Linux Guest Additions installed. After another reboot, I could resize the virtual desktop and perform other virtual features that are only possible with the guest additions.


The default Ubuntu MATE 14.10 login screen after reboot. Guest additions function perfectly now.


Fast? Slow? Somewhere in-between? From my everyday usage in a virtual machine, Ubuntu MATE performs just like Ubuntu. MATE menus were fast and snappy, and it felt usable in its entirety. MATE might seem to have a few rough edges compared with the newer polish of GNOME 3 and Cinnamon, but this is due to the traditional look and feel of MATE rather than design flaws.


The default Ubuntu MATE 14.10 desktop. Four workspaces are available from the start, and more can be added. Ubuntu MATE runs well in VirtualBox 4.3.18 once the guest additions have been installed.

In short, Ubuntu MATE running in VirtualBox is completely usable. I encountered no stutters, slowdown, system crashes, or error report notifications. Occasionally, a few distributions might present problems or quirks when running inside VirtualBox, but not Ubuntu MATE. It ran well, and I was pleased to see the traditional GNOME 2 GUI.


MATE 1.8.1 is as close to traditional GNOME 2 as we can get with today’s Linux distributions. Some things have changed during the past few years, but much remains familiar.


Many familiar programs from today’s Ubuntu are available. Shown here is the Ubuntu Software Center.


Caja 1.8.2 is the default file manager.


The Control Center allows changes to the system from a central location.


Ubuntu MATE 14.10 includes a number of wallpapers. Some are familiar, and some are new.


Remember the GNOME 2 Appearance Preferences where it was possible to easily fine-tweak the themes and colors? MATE preserves that simplicity. Shown here is the GreenLaguna theme. I find this to be the simplest theme management system out of all desktop environments that I have used recently.


MATE preserves the menu-driven GUI. In the top panel, there are three menu items: Application, Places, and System. Shown here is another theme along with the familiar System Monitor program. Ubuntu MATE also includes the LibreOffice suite.


Like MATE? Try Ubuntu MATE, mate! Users nostalgic for GNOME 2 will no doubt enjoy it, and those who find GNOME 3 too abstract might discover a new friend. It runs smoothly in VirtualBox 4.3.18 once the guest additions have been installed, so give it a try in a virtual machine before committing it to real hardware.

Ubuntu and its derivatives become progressively easier to install and use with each new release, and Ubuntu MATE proves this true again. “Why another Ubuntu-based distribution?” you might ask? One of the benefits of Linux is that it offers a sparkling selection of choices, and Ubuntu MATE is another choice available from the Linux distribution buffet.

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