I am still running Fedora 14 on some machines, and I have been holding off on upgrading to a newer version of Fedora ever since, all because this was the last version of Fedora to have Gnome 2. I've deployed some PCs since, with Fedora 16 and Gnome 3 and have enabled Fallback Mode for those users to retain the familiar menu system and desktop of Gnome 2. I still find Gnome 2 to have more information on the screen and less clicking to navigate around than Gnome 3. Fallback Mode has worked up to this point, but now with Fedora 17 which includes Gnome 3.4, some themes that I had used to better simulate Gnome 2 no longer work. It appears that Gnome 3 is still rapidly being developed, and things are changing from release to release.
Recently I decided to take a closer look at the MATE desktop environment. It intrigued me because it is a fork of Gnome 2. It is using the code from Gnome 2 so that it's practically identical. And even better, it is actively being developed and is available for many distributions including Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Salix OS/Slackware, Fedora and Archlinux. Could it be possible that we can have Gnome 2 (or MATE) running on newer versions of Fedora, and other Linux distributions? The answer to that is yes, we can!
I installed Fedora 17 in a VirtualBox virtual machine to test this out, and during the install selected "Graphical Workstation" which will install most of the common software. But, what I did was uncheck "Gnome" under the Desktops catagory, so that no desktop environments were installed. You can still look through and install whatever applications you wish and let everything install (by clicking on "Customize Now"). The installer is extremely flexible and is all based on transactions with the highly efficient RPM software packaging system so it goes very smoothly.
After Fedora 17 is installed as above, you will notice that a text prompt appears instead of the regular graphical logon screen when it boots the first time. This is because there are no graphical desktop environments yet. Log in as root at the text prompt, it's time to install the MATE desktop environment.This might sound difficult, but it is not. I prefer to use the "yum" application which makes the process easy. So, in your root terminal, run the commands below:
1. Run "yum install http://dl.dropbox.com/u/49862637/Mate-desktop/fedora_17/mate-desktop-fedora/noarch/mate-desktop-release-17-1.fc17.noarch.rpm" to install the MATE repository.
2. Run "yum groupinstall MATE-Desktop" to install the MATE desktop packages. Total download size is about 100 MB.
3. Run "yum install mdm" to enable the graphical greeting (logon screen)
4. Run "systemctl enable graphical.target" to enable the graphical logon screen.
5. Create a regular user with: useradd username -c "firstname" where "username" is the new username and "firstname" is the real name of the account. Then run passwd username to set the password.
Once that is done, reboot and if everything worked you should see the familiar Gnome 2 login screen. Log in with the account you created above, and away we go, with Gnome 2 once again!
There is a thread on the Fedoraforum.org website that has a good discussion on installing MATE for a minimal Fedora 17 installation. There seems to be a good following with using MATE, rather than using Gnome 3 or XFCE for those that are looking for a more standard desktop.
The more I started to mess with MATE, the more I found a couple of caveats. First, it cannot import your old Gnome 2 settings as the application names are different in MATE than they were with Gnome 2. For instance, Nautilus is known as Caja in MATE. So, if you are using a profile that you once used with Gnome 2, not all settings will carry through to MATE. Not a big deal, they can be set again and you will be good moving forward.
There are a couple of menu items missing, such as "System / About This Computer", or "System / Help", and "Places / Bookmarks". But those are minor. There may be a way to get these added back, but so far I have not found out how.
Overall, I'm happy enough for now. Getting the main components of Gnome 2 back while running all of the newer applications of Fedora 17 is a nice combination. Being that Fedora is very good at listening to feedback, I would not be surprised to eventually see MATE integrated in to Fedora at some point, which would bring back Gnome 2 to Fedora just like the good ol days.
An alternative to using MATE is using Fallback Mode with Gnome 3. I'll be doing that in the next post.