The DistRogue

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Review: Mepis 6

My review for Kate OS has been cancelled. Yell at me all you want, it's not going to change anything. It installed fine on my laptop, but as far as actual usability, it wouldn't even start X, and crashed about 1-2 minutes into the boot-up. The live CD worked fine on my gaming machine, though, and GLXGears ran 300FPS, without 3D acceleration. I set up 3 songs to play in XMMS in one desktop, left SuperTux's title screen running in another, and launched FireFox with 7 tabs (big sites) in another, while putting GLXGears in a fourth. The 300FPS never dipped below 200, except when I refreshed all 7 tabs at once. Then, it dropped to about 100. The developers aren't kidding when they say Kate can multitask. I'm also pretty annoyed that Kate happens to be a mute (Zenwalk, too, and probably Slackware)- you're not going to be headbanging to Wolfmother while you're gaming. openSuSE 10.1 will be next, followed (maybe) by Xubuntu 6.06 with Compiz, Novell's famous 3D desktop. Cool stuff ahead, expect screenshots.
Mepis 6 sounded like a cool OS when I heard about it. I'd had good experiences with Ubuntu, and the idea of having an OS that was basically Kubuntu with some new features, better software, and different graphics sounded great to me. Unfortunately, I missed one major thing: performance.
Mepis uses KDE as its desktop, which I prefer to GNOME. That was a winning point. The install was a piece of cake, and I had a few fun games of TuxKart (included) on the live CD while the installer did what it does best. With a live CD running and no 3D accelerator, it wasn't the fastest game of TuxKart I'd ever played, but it helped pass time.
Then, I rebooted into the system and did some browsing. A few windows opened, closed, and changed completely later, my machine was almost completely unusable. I got about 45-35FPS in SuperTux at the start, which dipped to less than 20 after 10 minutes of light web browsing and level editing. And this was after installing XFCE. In KDE, the starting rates were well below 40 for levels that went light on the tiles.
The good news is that Mepis can do some other cool stuff. Long-time Ubuntu users will have heard of Automatix, an automatic package installer. Since Mepis is based on Ubuntu's package archives, Automatix works on it too, and comes with a Mepis version that's easy to set up and use. Then, there's the built-in firewall, Guarddog. It has a huge configuration window full of options, none of which let me run my ThinkTanks server. I added the ports to the list, enabled traffic in both directions, but it didn't show up on the server list. But you can't blame the Mepis team for trying. Finally, the live CD has something all good live CDs should have: a graphical partition editor, QtParted in Mepis's case. I personally prefer GParted because you don't have to restart your computer every time you use it, but QtParted's better than nothing, and it makes a vital rescue tool.
Even though I didn't try it, you can install the Compiz 3D desktop and turn your workspace into a cube, since it's been done with Ubuntu. Be sure to install the xserver-xgl, libxcomposite1, libglitz1, libcm7, compiz, and compiz-kde packages (or compiz-gnome if you use GNOME) if you're going to do this.
All in all, Mepis sounds like a nice idea to most people, but if you want bleeding-edge performance, stay away. It's newbie-friendly, but not gamer-friendly. It makes a nice home desktop, overall, and can pull some neat tricks.

Mepis 6 (until I install openSuSE),
The DistRogue aka DJ Gentoo


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