The Linux operating system has progressed quite a long way since the early days of the Linux distribution, those days were very different indeed. Nowadays we have the Gnome 3 and Unity desktops as well as KDE and Xfce. All vying for the attention of the potential user. KDE is very different these days compared to the early days with the KDE 2.2 desktop. And the same is true for the Gnome desktop, which originally had an interface that looked rather like Windows, with the one panel on the bottom of the screen, or at least that is how Red Hat would organise the desktop in their Red Hat Linux distributions. Then Gnome switched to having two panels and that seemed to be the default until Linux Mint changed it and went back to the one panel on the bottom of the screen with the Mint menu on the left hand end of the panel, just like a Windows start menu. The Linux Mint 12 distribution has kept this style even though the top Gnome 3 panel is present, this does not detract from the fact that the Gnome Shell desktop in Linux Mint is the best example of a Gnome Shell desktop and that other people packaging the Gnome Shell interface for other distributions could learn from this example and make something just as good.
The Xfce desktop interface is the best desktop, coming closest to the Gnome 2 interface, I have tried to install MATE on Ubuntu 12.04, but it conflicted with other packages I had installed. I think I need to uninstall Gnome 3 to get this to install, but that could be easily resolved with a little fiddling. The information is here on how to achieve this with Ubuntu 11.10, as I said I need to uninstall Gnome Shell, which I have done and now the MATE packages are conflicting with the gnome-theme-gilouche package which was already installed by Ubuntu. I could uninstall that, but then it conflicted with other packages already installed on my Ubuntu system. I guess I will have to wait until this is released for Ubuntu 12.04. In other news, the final release of Ubuntu 12.04 will drop Mono, this means that the Rhythmbox music player will replace the Banshee application. Ubuntu will be moving to a 64bit architecture by default, whilst retaining the ability to download a 32bit ISO image for older computers lacking a 64Bit compatible CPU. The ISO image will move to a 750MiB size, requiring a DVD disk to fit the image for burning. This is a waste of a DVD disk, better to use those little 1GiB disks to burn the image, then you only waste 50MiB.
Or if you have a previously installed version of Ubuntu, then you may use the Startup Disk Creator and write the image to a 1GIB thumb drive and install it that way. Just make sure that if the image is a 64Bit version of Ubuntu, that you use a 64Bit version of Startup Disk Creator to write the disk image to the thumb drive, otherwise it will not boot. I have learned that the hard way. The installed Ubuntu files are 64Bit, but the boot code written to the thumb drive is 32Bit and it will not work. Someone should make a Linux Mint styled Ubuntu distribution with all the codecs already installed, that would be very popular for sure. Ubuntu sucks due to the Unity desktop, which has dragged it down the ranks at Distrowatch. Linux Mint has the Gnome Shell desktop and MATE Gnome 2 desktops that are very popular these days. And you may still install the DWM, Fluxbox or Windowmaker desktops if you wish. The Enlightenment E17 desktop is also available on Ubuntu 12.04, but is quite crash prone. The Enlightenment E16 desktop packages do not seem to be available on Ubuntu Precise, only the E17 packages.
The Unity desktop will improve in the final 12.04 Precise Pangolin release, but this will not save this desktop unless they scrap it and move to Gnome Shell or build a whole new desktop that is more useful for day to day use than a stupid abomination that copies the Mac OSX interface, with a stupid vertical dock.