The solution to my dilemma with Ubuntu 12.04 and the Radeon HD6450 video card seems to be Mint. Having used Linux Mint previously (see: Aspiring to a new distro) to work around an issue with the wireless card on a netbook computer, I thought I would give it a try in the current situation with my production desktop machine.
In this case, I installed Linux Mint 13 (Maya) with the Mate user interface. Mint 13 is a long-term support (LTS) version of Linux and so will be supported until May, 2017. It is also a derivative of Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) and so it should be a reasonably familiar operating system to use (and troubleshoot?) Mate is interesting because it can be configured to look very much like Gnome. This is perhaps not surprising since Mate is a fork of Gnome2.
Despite nominally being based on Precise, Mint 13 installed and ran flawlessly on my desktop machine. Ah! – hints of the good old days – when successful use of a live-CD preceded an uncomplicated installation to the hard drive.
By default, Mate’s main menu is on a panel along the bottom of the screen. Right-clicking on this panel and selecting “New Panel” creates a blank panel along the top of the screen.
Right-clicking on this top panel and selecting “Add to Panel” allows the addition of a menu bar (the Applications, Places and System menu items) that can be moved to the left side of the top panel. Similarly, a “Clock” (date and time display) and a a “Shut Down” control button can be located on the right side of the top panel.
Right-click on the screen, select “Change Desktop Background” and select (or add using the plus sign) a favourite wallpaper, and Mate almost looks like my previous Ubuntu 12.04 installation using the Gnome Classic user interface.
So far, so good. The computer boots normally, and there are no dancing lines on the screen.
However, while I can add a sound control to the top-right side of the panel, I can’t (yet) find a way to remove this control from the bottom panel. Similarly, I can’t remove the network manager control from the bottom panel, but I also can’t locate an instance of this control to add it to the top panel so this particular issue may be moot.
Overall, I can live with the system as currently developed. If I can tweak the display setup a little more at some point then all well and good. But, a more-pressing requirement for the near term is to install a number of my favourite applications that are not part of the current Mint distribution.
New features in Linux Mint 13
MATE – The traditional Desktop Environment