The DistRogue

Friday, December 07, 2007

MEPIS 7.0-rc2: See Fedora

I tried MEPIS 6.0 and 6.5 a while back because it seemed like a good distribution. The best of Ubuntu, Debian, and Knoppix all rolled into one with some extra goodies a la Mint- who wouldn't want it? It turned out to be a decent distribution, but a solid one at best.
All this is (hopefully- it's the last RC, but it's still just an RC) going to change with version 7.0.
Here's a brief list of the stuff bundled with MEPIS 7.0:
-a full KDE desktop
-MP3 playback
-a bunch of in-house system-configuration utilities
-PulseAudio (via the repositories)
-Synaptic on crack (noticeably faster than the one Ubuntu has)
Put all of this on a Debian base and you can tell it's going to be good.
After trying out Sidux 7.04 (trust me, it's nothing to get excited about, and when they say "Lite edition", they mean "SLAX, but twice as big and based on Debian"), I had installed it onto my USB key, which set up the MBR the way I needed it. Since Sidux and MEPIS (not to mention Knoppix and Kanotix) use the same live system (and bootloader- GRUB instead of syslinux/isolinux), I copied the files off of the MEPIS ISO onto the key and ran it as a live USB.
The install hasn't changed at all. You still have to go through an 8-page wizard which covers the usual areas (plus a scary license at the beginning, but it's no big deal), but the install itself whizzed by from the USB. (Fun fact: Sidux- LITE- took 38 minutes to install from a CD, and I have a screenshot to prove it.)
MEPIS has nice, calm artwork, and the included Nuvola icon theme (most KDE distros [ab]use the default Crystal SVG) is fun and cute.

But I don't really like that sort of thing.

(And yes, I know I have too many desktop icons.)
Most people do, though, and I don't blame them. Neither do a lot of people in charge of distro artwork. I see light blue color schemes everywhere, although colors seem to be gradually darkening (see PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu Gutsy, and KDE 4's default wallpaper, all of which are darker than their predecessors).
Installed Software
MEPIS comes with a huge selection of pre-installed software. Okay, maybe "good" isn't the right word so much as "smart". It runs a KDE desktop, but has the GIMP for image editing (smart choice). It also has something most distros neglect because of Linux's inherited security- firewall and AV programs.
Under multimedia, the selection is sparse but good. RealPlayer (!) and amaroK are both included (along with MP3 codecs for amaroK), along with K3B for CD burning. amaroK also covers iPod management. Add in MPlayer and Kino (for DV editing, an area often neglected by other distros), and all your multimedia needs are covered.
Office apps are basic- OpenOffice, KMail, Kontact, a PDF viewer, and organizational software- but it's still a complete office suite. Remember you're getting this all for free.
Internet options look basic at first. MEPIS comes with the standard KDE browser suite (Firefox and Konqueror), along with KTorrent and Kopete (IMing) but wait- what's this? Java? Skype? GuardDog Firewall? All included. You can guess that MEPIS's main goal isn't to play by the GPL...
MEPIS might be KDE-based, but it has its share of GTK apps where necessary. Image editing is covered by the GIMP (which, IMO, still beats Krita), and Synaptic, rather than the misnamed Adept, does package management. gFTP is bundled as an FTP client. And... wait, GAMES? This thing has games? Other than the normal KDE game suite, MEPIS comes with Tux Racer to keep you from doing what you're supposed to be doing occupied. It's not the Orange Box, but it'll have to do. Besides, most general-purpose distros don't ship with any games other than the defaults.
Hardware Support
MEPIS has historically good hardware support, but now, it's even better. I was pleased to learn about the MEPIS Network Assistant, which I used to get my wireless card running with no additional software (but with some support from the MEPISLovers forums- thanks, guys!). My screen resolution was detected flawlessly.
Tremulous wouldn't connect to other servers because of the firewall, so I had to disable it for gaming.
The MEPIS Assistants cover a wide range of tasks, from setting up a network connection to repairing a broken MBR (with one click). There are four total, for users, networking, system tasks, and X. Of course, there are also the usual KDE adminning apps, like KInfoCenter and KControl.
-Extensive software selection on one CD
-Custom control center
-AV and firewall included
-Plays restricted A/V formats
-Good hardware support
-Firewall blocks most online gaming by default
-Artwork isn't anything to brag to Fedora 8 users about
Friendliness: 4.5/5
- Wireless was annoying. Everything else was fine.
Performance: 4.5/5- Entirely too fast to be based on Ubuntu.
Features: 4.5/5- A complete desktop and a half. RMS would not approve.
Packaging: 5/5- Synaptic, but faster than I'm used to.
Artwork: 2/2.5- Meh. Not outstanding, but the icons are cute, and it's calming overall.
Community: 2/2.5- [relatively] Helpful and quick. Plus, they're used to dealing with newbies.

Overall: 4.4/5- DistroWatch and other sites definitely don't give MEPIS its share of time in the spotlight.
From MEPIS 7.0-rc2,
The Distrogue.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice article about Mepis, one of my fav distro.

My additional comment:
Menu in Mepis can be arranged better, especially the "System" which is a little bit confusing (it is scattered in several sub-menus).

Also when I open a picture with Showfoto (default image viewer), I have to click the details tab on the right pane, otherwise the picture will not show up.

5:47 PM  
Blogger DJ Gentoo said...

Thanks, but ShowFoto works fine out of the box for me... I agree about the submenus, but that's the way KDE works on a lot of distros. It can be a bit neater that way, too. For instance, most people organize their music folders by artist, then album because it would take forever to load otherwise.

6:13 PM  
Anonymous MD said...

I like Mepis a lot, however I have a Westinghouse 19 inch LCD monitor with 1440 x 900 native resolution and an intel graphics board. Ubuntu, Debian, Suse and Fedora have no problem setting the screen resolution, but it just never works with Mepis. When set for 1440 x 900 it winds up with 1600 x 1200, or 1280 x 1024. This is the one problem that keeps Mepis from being my main desktop.

8:02 PM  
Blogger DJ Gentoo said...

Try 915resolution. That should help.

8:08 PM  
Anonymous mepnoob2005 said...

MEPIS is my favorite too. However 7.0 is not based on ubuntu. It was 6.0 and 6.5 that shared ubuntu build and repositories. All the versions of MEPIS prior to 6.0 and after 6.5 are using debian repositories. I'm using 7.0 rc2 and it is really quick.

7:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have tried twice to inform Ladislav of Distrowatch to include this review in the review list. And I have been ignored twice as well.... Maybe someone else can give it a try?

1:26 PM  

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