I have had a lightweight “nettop” computer on my desk running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS for quite some time. I use this almost exclusively for accessing the web with Chrome, and doing some admin tasks that are just more simple to do on a Linux machine. Unfortunately Ubuntu 10.04 LTS has not been fully supported since earlier in the year, and more recently Google stopped updating Chrome for it so I decided it was time to move on to something more modern.
One reason I have not updated yet is that the desktop has changed from Gnome 2 to Unity that is like moving from Windows XP to Windows 7. I don’t dislike the new interface like many, but it does take up more memory and processing power, and this little machine does not have much of either. I was originally intending to migrate it to Linux Mint using the MATE desktop but decided to give Ubuntu 12.04 LTS a try first as it was a simple auto upgrade. Granted it took a few hours in the end but did mention this machine is low on processing power.
The update went smoothly but needed a lot of confirmations over the process so needed checking on frequently. Unfortunately it was a little laggy as predicted and used a large percentage of the small machine’s memory.
I then had the mad idea of trying to install the MATE desktop on top of the Ubuntu installation I already had instead of a complete reinstall. I followed the install instructions on the MATE web site and it all went very smoothly. My exact script is below but I would recommend checking back to the original web site in case the distribution changes.
sudo add-apt-repository "deb http://repo.mate-desktop.org/ubuntu precise main"
sudo apt-get update
# Ignore the error. We were expecting it.
# The following line will fix it but we needed to do the update first.
sudo apt-get --yes --quiet --allow-unauthenticated install mate-archive-keyring
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install mate-core
sudo apt-get install mate-desktop-environment
After logging out I needed to select MATE from the cog icon by my name before logging in again, and then I was up and running with MATE. I did need to change almost all the desktop colour settings to be able to read all the text, but most of the other menu setup has been brought across from the old setup. I still need to tweak the font settings to improve the general look and feel further, and some of the apps still have colour settings so there is some tweaking to be done, but all this is a lot less hassle than a complete reinstall.
Also most importantly it did the trick with only 230MB RAM being used (approximately the same as before give or take a few meg) and the boot time is only a little slower at 100 seconds. Shutdown is about the same at 15 seconds. Chrome also works as well as it did and that is what I was after.
Granted it is annoying to have to do this at all, but to keep the security patches coming I needed to do something, and I would find it tricky to argue that it would have been sensible for anyone to support such old systems. If you are in the same position then give it some thought and I hope this proves useful.