Ubuntu MATE 19.10 Release Notes

Ubuntu MATE 19.10 is a significant improvement over Ubuntu MATE 18.04 and 19.04. The theme of this release is to address as many “paper-cut” issues as possible. Every new feature in Ubuntu MATE 19.10 has been added to address bugs or poor user experience. Many long standing paper-cuts are finally resolved. Make yourself a cup of tea β˜• and get a slice of cake 🍰 before reading on to find out what we’ve been working on for the last 25 weeks.

Ubuntu MATE 19.10
Ubuntu MATE 19.10 - Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Ubuntu MATE 19.10 - paper 🧻 cut ️πŸ”ͺ release

I have not been completely happy 😞 with the quality of recent Ubuntu MATE releases. All the important stuff works but there have been niggly issues that by themselves are not deal breakers, but in aggregate are frustrating 😠 and spoil the experience. I’ve been focused on resolving these issues during the 19.10 development cycle and you’ll see that every new feature in Ubuntu MATE 19.10 addresses one of these paper-cuts. We’ve achieved this by expanding our QA team significantly and Ubuntu MATE 19.10 has been subject to weekly testing throughout this cycle. I can’t thank our QA team enough for highlighting the issues that need attention.

Most of the paper-cut effort has been focused around the window manager, the panel and the indicators as these are the main touching points of the desktop environment that users interact with.

MATE Desktop 1.22.2

Upstream MATE Desktop recently released 1.22.2. All the updates are present in Ubuntu MATE 19.10 plus I’ve cherry πŸ’ picked a good deal of fixes from MATE Desktop development snapshots. In total, 67 additional patches have been applied to the MATE Desktop packages in Ubuntu MATE 19.10 to finesse this release prior to launch day πŸš€ Included in those patches are fixes for locking the screen on resume from suspend, adding a Media Information extension to the file manager, performance improvements for the window manager and cycling external displays using Super + p. All this work has also been submitted to Debian.

Since the final beta we worked on the following:

  • Added experimental ZFS πŸ—„ install option.
  • Fixed rendering window controls on HiDPI πŸ” displays.
  • Fixed irregular icon sizes πŸ“ in MATE Control Center and made them render nicely on HiDPI displays.
  • Fixed Caja πŸ“‚ extensions not loading.
  • Fixed mate-power-manager πŸ”Œ so it uses upower-glib get_devices2().
  • Fixed Pluma πŸ—’ plugins not loading.
  • Fixed a crasher πŸ’£ in MATE Dock Applet due to an Attribute error in adjust_minimise_pos().
  • Fixed a gnome-keyring timeout ⏱ in mate-session-manager.
  • Fixed Codec 🎞 updates in Software Boutique.
  • Updated Advanced MATE Menu βš™ to use the start-here icon, so all menus are consistent.
  • Updated the Ubuntu MATE Guide β“
  • Updated the Ubiquity Slideshow πŸŽ­

Window Manager improvements

Marco is the Window Manager for MATE Desktop and in Ubuntu MATE 19.10 it brings a number of new features and fixes.

XPresent support is properly fixed which means that screen tearing is now a thing of the past and invisible window corners are finally here! Invisible window corners mean that windows can be easily resized πŸ“ without having to precisely grab the window corners. HiDPI rendering improvements fix a number of rendering problems that were present in various themes and components, most notably windows controls are now HIDPI aware.

Before 😒
Windows Controls Before
After πŸ˜€
Windows Controls After

Alt+Tab navigation makes it possible to traverse the application switcher via keyboard and mouse. We’ve also cleaned up the window controls by removing the menu button. The menu is still available either by right clicking the window title bar or pressing Alt + Space.

Compiz & Compton

The main reason we’ve been shipping shipping Compton and Compiz in Ubuntu MATE was to offer a solution to screen tearing or improve game performance. Compiz has invisible window borders and also has a great screen magnifier suitable for visually impaired users. However, now that…

  • Magnus (see below) provides screen magnification
  • Marco supports invisible windows borders
  • Marco has improved Alt+Tab behaviour
  • Marco is free from screen tearing
  • Marco frame performance when gaming is further improved
  • Using Compton and Compiz with MATE Desktop introduces other bugs and integration issues

…it is time to remove Compiz and Compton from the default Ubuntu MATE install. The fundamental reasons for including them no longer exist.

If you love 😍 Compiz, it can be installed by opening a terminal and running the following command:

sudo apt install compiz compiz-core compiz-mate compiz-plugins compiz-plugins-default

Only having one window manager to target means we can promptly deliver new features and minimise development effort. Which brings us to…

New Key-bindings

The key-bindings for window tiling have only worked on full keyboards ⌨️ with a 10-key pad. Few laptops πŸ’» have a 10-key pad and not all keyboards have a 10-key either. There are some well known key-bindings from other platforms that were not recognised in Ubuntu MATE. So, we’ve had a think πŸ€” and come up with this:

  • Maximise Window: Super + Up
  • Restore Window: Super + Down
  • Title Window right: Super + Right
  • Title Window left: Super + Left
  • Center Window: Alt + Super + c
  • Title Window to upper right corner: Alt + Super + Right
  • Title Window to upper left corner: Alt + Super + Left
  • Title Window to lower right corner: Shift + Alt + Super + Right
  • Title Window to lower left Corner: Shift + Alt + Super + Left
  • Shade Window: Control + Alt + s

I’m happy πŸ˜€ with these key-bindings as it is now possible to tile a window to all screen quadrants πŸ“ using any keyboard form factor.

We updated the application launcher key-bindings, some of these have existed in Ubuntu MATE for a while:

  • Cycle external displays: Super + p
  • Lock Screen: Super + L
  • Screenshot a rectangle: Shift + PrintScr
  • Open File Manager: Super + e
  • Open Terminal: Super + t
  • Open Control Center: Super + i
  • Open Search: Super + s
  • Open Task Manager: Control + Shift + Escape
  • Open System Information: Super + Pause

The key-bindings compliment existing well established alternatives. So if Ctrl + Alt + t (Terminal) and Ctrl + Alt + L (Lock Screen) are ingrained in your muscle πŸ’ͺ memory 🧠 they are still available too. You can find all the keyboard shortcuts documented in the Getting Started section of Ubuntu MATE Welcome.

Panel & Indicator improvements

This is where a good deal of effort has been invested. Let’s break it down.

Brisk Menu and MATE Dock Applet

Brisk Menu is under the Solus GitHub organisation, but it’s been a couple of years since it had a new release. The Solus Project gave me administrative access πŸ”± to the Brisk Menu repo and I’ve made a new release. Thanks to the efforts of a couple of Ubuntu MATE contributors several bug 🐞 fixes have landed too, which includes resolving frequent crashers in Brisk Menu, preventing a scrollbar always appearing in the category column of the menu and silencing sounds firing as you rollover menu entries.

The previous maintainer of MATE Dock Applet announced that he no longer had the time βŒ›οΈ to develop the project. Ubuntu MATE has taken on ownership and we’ve already published a couple of new releases 🀘 which include fixes for frequent crashes.

MATE Panel

MATE Panel has had a long standing bug fixed that caused it to crash πŸ’₯ when the panel was reset or replaced. This was most noticeable when switching panel layouts via MATE Tweak and could result in the panel layout being left incomplete or entirely absent. This bug is now fixed! MATE Tweak has been updated to neatly integrate with with fixed MATE Panel behaviour so that layout switching is now 100% reliable.

Indicators

A bug which resulted in oversized icons in indicators is finally resolved.

Before πŸ’©
Before


After 🀩
After

However, it turned out some of the bugs were due to the icons 🎨 themselves. Over πŸ’― icons have been refactored πŸ–ŒοΈοΈ to correct their resolutions or aspect ratio; as a result the panel and indicators both scale correctly.

A race condition that could result in two network status icons being displayed is fixed, and when connected via VPN, lock icons are now overlayed on the Network Indicator. The battery πŸ”‹ indicator is improved and now has a larger charging symbol while charging.

We’ve added the Date/Time Indicator and integrated it with MATE Desktop and it now replaces the MATE clock applet which corrects the placement of the clock and session indicators.

We’ve finally addressed a long standing issue which has been around since Ubuntu MATE 14.10 πŸ•ΈοΈ Some of the monochrome symbolic icons used in the indicators were also used in applications. The presented a couple of issues:

  • In some cases you couldn’t easily see the icons against the window base colour.
  • The mix of monochrome and full colour icons in applications looked inconsistent.

This issue is now resolved, monochrome symbolic icons are only used for indicators and full colour icons are used in the Control Center, Sound Preferences, Bluetooth, OSD, etc.

MATE Window Applets

MATE Window Applets have received a number a bug fixes and new features from a community contributor. Window control icons now dynamically load from the currently selected theme, rather than requiring manual user configuration, and a number of bugs (including significant memory leaks) have also been resolved.

Notification Center

Ubuntu MATE 19.10 includes a new Indicator that provides a “notification center” πŸ”” We worked with the upstream developer to add new features to indicator-notifications and integrate it with MATE Notifications Daemon.

Notification Settings

We now have a notification center which also offers a “do not disturb” πŸ›‘ feature. When do not disturb is enabled, notifications will not be displayed but will be captured in the notification center for review. It’s also possible to blacklist some notifications, so they are never stored by the notification center. I’ve created an icon theme for the notification center so it fits the look and feel of the default Ubuntu MATE theme. Notification hints are also fixed so any notifications supplying additional media, such as sounds or icons, now work.

Personally, I love ❀️ this feature! No more will I have awkward messages from my Mum flash up while I’m presenting πŸ˜œ

Evolution replaces Thunderbird

The Ubuntu MATE development team discussed the pros and cons of switching the default mail βœ‰οΈ client in Ubuntu MATE to Evolution. Here is a summary of our assessment:

  • Thunderbird does not integrate as well with the desktop.
    • For example, theme integration, font integration, compatibility with HUD (which is increasingly difficult to support in Thunderbird), notifications with action buttons, locale and spell checking.
  • Thunderbird & Lightning occupies 171MB on the ISO image, while Evolution uses 46MB.
  • Evolution integrates well with MATE Desktop given that both use GTK3.
  • Evolution includes interoperability with LibreOffice, for which Ubuntu MATE is already shipping the required components.
  • Evolution has superior integration with Google Mail and Exchange, including calendar, contacts, tasks, and memos.

Indicator Date/Time also integrates with Evolution. It is fully functional, all the features of creating new events or opening upcoming events from the indicator work. Clicking on a day in the month displays the events for the selected day etc.

Indicator Date/Time

For the many people who use web-mail exclusively this change will have no impact, but for those who use desktop mail we feel these productivity πŸ“ˆ improvements are significant.

For those of you who love πŸ’• Thunderbird and wish to continue using it: we will continue to offer Thunderbird in the Software Boutique for a one-click install. Likewise, Evolution is now in the Software Boutique so can be installed/removed with one-click too.

GNOME MPV replaces VLC

We have switched from VLC to GNOME MPV, soon be renamed to Celluloid, for the default media player 🎬 The reasons for switching to GNOME MPV are similar to swapping out Thunderbird for Evolution; better desktop integration.

GNOME MPV

We’ve changed GNOME MPV’s default UI to better fit in with MATE Desktop by not using client side decorations (CSD). GNOME MPV has an MPRIS implementation that completely integrates with the Sound Indicator. GNOME MPV uses less space on the ISO image compared to VLC and we’ll get on to why that is important later.

GNOME MPV doesn’t offer the extensive array of preferences and options to users that VLC does, and instead ships sane defaults; only surfacing options where they make sense. GNOME MPV is a GTK3 application whereas VLC uses Qt5. GNOME MPV looks right at home in Ubuntu MATE which uses GTK3 throughout. While we’ve done our best to coerce VLC to take hints from the GTK theme, it has never been perfect. Most importantly, GNOME MPV is an excellent media player with the same broad media format support that VLC offers. Ubuntu MATE 20.04 will ship Celluloid 🎞️, the new name for GNOME MPV. VLC will remain in the Software Boutique as a single click install for anyone who wants it.

Magnus

Most desktop environments are lacking a screen magnifier, which is an essential application for visually impaired πŸ‘“ computer users and also useful for accurate graphical design or detail work. One of the reasons we ship Compiz in Ubuntu MATE is because it has an excellent screen magnifier and was our solution for people who need magnification πŸ”

Magnus

I collaborated with my friend Stuart Langridge to create Magnus; a very simple desktop magnifier, showing the area around the mouse pointer in a separate window magnified two, three, four, or five times. Magnus is now shipped 🚒 by default in Ubuntu MATE 19.10, Ubuntu Budgie 19.10 and other distros are already picking up it too πŸ’ͺ

Ubuntu MATE Themes

Dozens of theme related bugs have been fixed and the Ubuntu MATE themes have been added to the gtk-common-themes used by snaps, so snapped applications are themed correctly for Ubuntu MATE users now. This change is already available all the way back to Ubuntu MATE 16.04.

The most noticeable theme issues that have been resolved are expanders in tree view are now a sensible size (they were so tiny) so you can easily click them, window controls are correctly proportioned on CSD windows and we’ve add a splash of Chelsea Cucumber πŸ₯’ to the Ubuntu MATE logo on the menu. Everything the QA team highlighted has been fixed πŸ”¨

MATE Tweak and Ubuntu MATE Welcome

MATE Tweak now preserves user preferences when switching between custom layouts thanks to a community contribution.

If you’re familiar with MATE Tweak you’ll know it can switch panel layouts to somewhat mimic other platforms and distros 🐧 We have now integrated a graphical layout switcher in Ubuntu MATE Welcome to better promote the feature and make it more accessible. We have actually had this feature since 18.04 but the bugs in MATE Panel I mentioned earlier meant it didn’t work. With all the associated panel bugs fixed πŸ”§ we now have this:

Desktop Layout Switcher

NVIDIA drivers

If you’ve been following the news surrounding Ubuntu you’ll know that Ubuntu will be shipping 🚒 the NVIDIA proprietary drivers on the ISO images. Anyone selecting the additional 3rd party hardware drivers during installation without an Internet connection will have the drivers available in offline scenarios.

This comes at the cost of increasing the ISO size by ~115MB, but I think this trade-off is worth it. The drivers are not active by default, just present in the apt repository provided on the ISO image to facilitate installation should they be requested. But, if your computer has an NVIDIA GPU, you can now have the drivers installed and operational immediately following install πŸŒŸ

Post-install, Ubuntu MATE users with computers that support hybrid graphics will see the MATE Optimus hybrid graphics applet displaying the NVIDIA logo.

MATE Optimus

Now the NVIDIA 435 drivers are in Ubuntu 19.10, I have given MATE Optimus an update. MATE Optimus adds support for NVIDIA On-Demand and will now prompt users to log out when switching the GPU’s profile. MATE, XFCE, Budgie, Cinnamon, GNOME, KDE and LXQt are all supported. Wrappers, called offload-glx & offload-vulkan can be used to easily offload games/apps to the PRIME renderer. I’m also delighted to see Ubuntu Budgie 19.10 are shipping MATE Optimus too!

The NVIDIA drivers are now going to receive updates via the official Ubuntu software repository. So no need to add a PPA to get updates and more importantly, the NVIDIA drivers are signed (which is not supported for drivers distributed via PPA) so you can keep Secure Boot enabled.

ISO optimisations

In order to squeeze those ~115MB of NVIDIA drivers on the ISO while keeping the ISO at ~2.0GB required some optimisation. Certainly switching to Evolution helped a bit. We’ve also dropped Brasero from the default installed applications because optical media burning is not a widespread use case these days. Brasero is still in Software Boutique should you need it.

The main gains came from analysing the data we have about our user distribution across countries and changing what language packs we make available on the ISO. We get the data from snap metrics and the Ubuntu Report.

We dropped Chinese, Japanese and Indic language packs from the ISO and added Russian. This dropped the ISO size considerably and the savings gained were just about equivalent to what the NVIDIA drivers require.

We are currently shipping English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Italian and Russian language packs on the iso, with each language including all regional dialect variations. Anyone in other parts of the world will get the language packs providing they have an Internet connection during the install.

Other gains were made by:

  • Changing to format of the weather station database which saved 15MB πŸ˜±
  • Removing Qt4 components. Qt4 is being removed from Debian and Ubuntu.
  • Removing fcitx from the Live environment.
  • Removing obsolete software from the ship-live seed.
  • Removed usb-creator-gtk from the default install. GNOME Disks provides image writing capabilities.
  • Reducing the size of Ubuntu MATE Welcome and Software Boutique snaps.
  • Using image optimisation tools on every graphic asset in the default themes, icon themes and wallpaper back-catalog.

Had we not optimised the ISO image it would have been 2.5GB, but instead it remains just a hair over 2.0GB while now hosting the NVIDIA drivers and 7 language packs. So, while the Ubuntu MATE ISO image is larger than some, a good chunk of that size is hosting drivers and language packs that will probably never end up getting installed on your computer. The language packs and drivers are there to best service our diverse community of users from across the world πŸ—ΊοΈ running a variety of hardware πŸ’»

ZFS on root

ZFS on Linux

Support for ZFS as the root filesystem is added as an experimental feature in 19.10. The ZFS file system and partitioning layout is handled automatically directly via the installer.

You can read more details on Didier Roche’s blogs:

GPD MicroPC & other UMPCs

Alongside the generic image for 64-bit Intel PCs, we’re also releasing a bespoke image for the GPD MicroPC which includes hardware specific tweaks to get this device working “out of the box” without any faffing about. See our UMPC page for more details.

Major Applications

Accompanying MATE Desktop 1.22.2 and Linux 5.3.0 are Firefox 69.0.1, GNOME MPV 0.16, LibreOffice 6.3.1.2 and Evolution 3.34.0.

Major Applications

See the Ubuntu 19.10 Release Notes for details of all the changes and improvements in Ubuntu that Ubuntu MATE benefits from.

Download Ubuntu MATE 19.10

Our download page makes it easy to acquire the most suitable build for your hardware.

Download

Upgrading from Ubuntu MATE 19.04

  • Open the “Software & Updates” from the Control Center.
  • Select the 3rd Tab called “Updates”.
  • Set the “Notify me of a new Ubuntu version” dropdown menu to “For any new version”.
  • Press Alt+F2 and type in update-manager -c into the command box.
  • Update Manager should open up and tell you: New distribution release ‘19.10’ is available.
    • If not, you can use /usr/lib/ubuntu-release-upgrader/check-new-release-gtk
  • Click “Upgrade” and follow the on-screen instructions.

Known Issues

Here are the known issues.

Ubuntu MATE

sudo chmod a+rx /var/lib/dropbox/.dropbox-dist/dropbox-lnx.x86_64-*/libdropbox_apex.so

Ubuntu family issues

This is our known list of bugs that affects all flavours.

You’ll also want to check the Ubuntu MATE bug tracker to see what has already been reported. These issues will be addressed in due course.

Feedback

Is there anything you can help with or want to be involved in? Maybe you just want to discuss your experiences or ask the maintainers some questions. Please come and talk to us.

Comments

Comments powered by Disqus