It looks like part of my anxiety is over. Somebody has worked out a way of bending Ubuntu 11.10 in a way that allows me to install MATE as an option on log-in. The process involves adding in the Mint 12 (Lisa) repository alongside the existing Ubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric) repositories, which then gives access to both MATE and the Mint Gnome Shell Extension (Gnome 3, as tailored for Mint). I tested it out, and it seems to work better as a Gnome 2 replacement than it did on a virgin Mint install. Why that should be, I am not exactly clear. The method is describes in a number of places, but I will copy it here for reference, and then link to those places.
Run Update Manager to make sure that your system is up-to-date.
Install MGSE (Mint Gnome Shell Extension) in Ubuntu 11.10
Edit the sources by issuing one of the following commands in a terminal emulator:
sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list
sudo vim /etc/apt/sources.list
This will either pop-up a gedit window session, or a vim session within the terminal emulator.
Append the following line at the end:
deb http://packages.linuxmint.com/ lisa main upstream import
Save the file, and close
Then enter these commands in the terminal emulator:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install linuxmint-keyring
sudo apt-get update
I had no problems, but apparently, if the installation fails, the advice is to fix broken packages using Synaptic Package Manager, locating broken packages using a custom filter, marking and removing broken packages to fix the installation issues. Noting that Synaptic Package Manager is not pre-installed in Ubuntu 11.10, but be installed via the command-line or in Ubuntu Software Center.
Also, if there is an error while running sudo add-apt-repository, and cannot launch Ubuntu Software Center after installing MGSE and MATE, it is advised to run this command in the terminal emulator:
sudo gedit /etc/lsb-release
Then, in a text editor, replace the existing text with this:
While Mate still has some way to go, it is a remarkable achievement, started by a lone individual within the Arch Linux community as soon as he saw the problems inherent in Gnome 3. Only time will tell whether somebody builds a distribution that features Mate as the default interface. I cannot see how it can’t happen.
What I appear to have ended up with on my netbook is a hybrid, part Ubuntu 11.10, part Mint 12. But, as long as it works, I am not too concerned. Only the future will tell what happens when I want to upgrade beyond Ubuntu 11.10 past 12.4, or future Mint releases. In terms of future installations, I see no reason to stay with Ubuntu if they continue with Unity as a default; however, I hope it is only a matter of time before compatibility issues between Gnome 3 and Mate are ironed out, and Mate can become an option that is available within repositories generally, including Ubuntu.
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