I find the simplest way to install Ubuntu with MATE as the desktop with the minimum I can get away with is to start with the server ISO. Yes, I know there are smaller initial downloads when using the netboot image but that means you need to set up the whole net booting server system. That seems to be over kill and involves a lot more downloading and work. Especially when you are only going to use it once.
The resulting Ubuntu server installation takes about 1G of disk space. With MATE and Firefox installed it is a little over 2G.
Having downloaded the server install, either burn the iso to a CD or attach it to your virtual machine. You may need to tweak your BIOS setting or press the appropriate key to open up the boot menu.
During the install there is a menu for services you wish to install I select openssh only. for the majority of the setting you can use the defaults unless you specifically want a different configuration.
After the install and the first reboot which will take you to a NON GUI login prompt. Remember you haven’t installed X or any desktop managers yet.
To install MATE Desktop is the same as if you had a full desktop install, This is detailed very nicely on the MATE download page https://wiki.mate-desktop.org/download
The steps I used are below, adjust the release name in this case precise, to be for the Ubuntu you are currently using.
Start off by installing python-software-properties this installs add-apt-repository, forgot that one.
sudo apt-get install python-software-properties
Add the mate repos to your sources list.
sudo add-apt-repository "deb https://packages.mate-desktop.org/repo/ubuntu precise main"
sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get --yes --quiet --allow-unauthenticated install mate-archive-keyring sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install mate-core mate-desktop-environment
You will also need a greeter, or an initial GUI to let you login. I use lightdm. This can be tagged onto the end of the install line above it you like.
sudo apt-get install lightdm lightdm-gtk-greeter
You will need to install some icons or the GUI login will look a little weird. Install the package ubuntu-artwork this adds the necessary icons. As with lightdm you can tag this onto the install line for the mate packages.
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-artwork
One last package, needed if this is to be a virtual machine. In order to install the guest tools for VirtualBox you will need the build tools and yes it can be tagged onto the Mate install line above.
sudo apt-get install build-essential add-apt-repository
Almost finished. One last tweak and we can reboot. Edit the lightdm config /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf file with the following two lines under the heading [SeatDefaults]
The last install line could therefore look like this
sudo apt-get install mate-core mate-desktop-environment lightdm-gtk-greeter ubuntu-artwork build-essential
sudo nano /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf
[SeatDefaults] greeter-session=lightdm-gtk-greeter user-session=mate
If you want to enable automatic logs for a user you can also add the lines that start auto login, adjust the
[SeatDefaults] greeter-session=lightdm-gtk-greeter user-session=mate autologin-user=<USER NAME> autologin-user-timeout=0
Once that is finished you can reboot and you will be presented with a graphical login prompt or automatically logged in depending on what you setup.
This was a minimal install so you will have very few tools, not even a browser, but that is what we were going for.