Mepis Linux is a liveCD, debian based distro, with some additional features, which makes it an excellent introduction to debian. A recent review provided a good overview of the background and basis of Mepis, my review aims to focus more on the day to day use for a desktop user.
Having tried a variety of easy to install versions of debian, including Knoppix, Bonzai and Morphix I was keen to give Mepis a try after hearing some excellent reports about it. The test machine was an Athlon 900Mhz, with 256MB ram, onboard AC97 audio, a flyvideo98 TV Card and a TNT2 graphics card (Yes I know its time to upgrade that). Version 2003.10 of Mepis was used. Mepis comes with two cds, only the first is needed though, with the second disk having additional software you can install once you have a hard drive installation.
I’ve been using linux on and off for 3 or 4 years now and so am fairly adept at using linux, but might struggle if left with nothing but a command line. I’ve used linux as my sole home desktop for the last two years, for basic desktop purposes, and that is the perspective that this review is based on.
Having had some dubious experiences with hard drive installs of liveCDs I was interested to see how Mepis would go. The CD booted and provided clear instructions about how to use additional boot arguments if you need to, I just hit enter. The CD booted and detected my graphics card and monitor with no problems. I logged in as demo and conveniently place on the desktop is the hard drive install icon.
This brings up a simple set of install dialogues which allow you to partition your hard drive, setup the boot loader, add users and setup services. Mepis offers qtparted to partition your hard drive, while its good to have a gui partition tool, qtparted is, in my opinion, hideously anti-intuitive and severely lacking in easily accessed documentation. I certainly felt a bit apprehensive using it, and pity anyone less experienced who tries to use it to partition their hard drive, as it comes with virtually no explanation. Alternatively there is an option to automatically install to your entire hard drive.
A second issue with the install is that it only allows installation on one hard drive, so I couldn’t use my already existing swap partition on my second hard drive, but had to create a new swap partition It also only lets you chose your /root, swap and /home partitions, while this didn’t bother me others may find this lack of flexibility in creating partitions annoying. There is an option to automatically preserve your /home if you are upgrading.
Mepis auto detected all of my hardware perfectly, with sound, tv card and graphics working well. One particularly nice feature about Mepis is that it automatically installs the Nvidia driver so that 3D acceleration works out of the box. In my case it was installed but not enabled as Mepis does not automatically enable it for older video cards, including my TNT2 (due to the poorer performance the Nvidia drivers can have with older cards), but a quick edit of my XFree config file and I was playing tuxracer.
Lilo is installed as the bootloader and installed fine, including automatically adding my windows partition. Upon booting from the hard drive the first thing I noticed was the lack of bootsplash, not a major point I’ll admit, but having one does add a touch of professionalism and polish, and is easily disabled by those who get satisfaction seeing the kernel messages zooming by.
Mepis is primarily a KDE based distro (although it does come with IceWM) and booted straight to KDM, the KDE login manager, which was set to an ugly default scheme, which is odd as the desktop uses Keramik, so you’d think that KDM would use the same theme. However there is a special Mepis login splash for KDE, which is a nice touch (even though the actual splash screen is rather ugly).
Upon booting to KDE the first thing that you notice is how ugly the desktop looks, the fonts are ugly and the menus are a terrible mess. As we already know KDE’s menus can be a bit confusing,and Mepis does nothing to improve that, as you can see from the screenshot, in fact it seems to make it even worse. Not only are there so many entries, but they are very confusingly organised with most menus having at least two sub menus, called additional programs and more programs . If you can tell the difference between those menu categories you’re doing better than me.
This lack of care over KDE is even more disappointing when you discover that booting into Icewm you have a lovely clean desktop, with nicely organised menus, with the key programs in clear headings and the less often used items hidden away. The Icewm desktop also includes dfm (the desktop file manager) to provide icons on the desktop, which is another good touch.
Mepis is based on debian unstable and the software included is generally the newest version. As previously mentioned Mepis is primarily KDE based and does
not include Gnome. The Mepis website contains a full list of the included packages. All the expected
KDE programs were installed as was OpenOffice.org (but unfortunately not spellchecking for OpenOffice.org, a strange omission). One potential downside of the liveCD approach is that there is no choice in the software installed so you end up with a lot of software that you will never use being installed.
Mepis has some nice polish around the software installation, Java, Realplayer and Flash work straight out of the box and are setup for Mozilla and Konqueror (unfortunately firebird is not installed). Mepis also comes with Kmail setup for use with spamassassin and an easy tool to manage spamassassin. Having these automatically installed is great for your average user.
Multimedia support is also excellent, with xmms playing mp3s and having some nice plugins already to go. Xine also worked great for my videos, with most codecs already installed, it played my xvid encoded videos without a hitch and played the quicktime Lord of the Rings trailer perfectly. It’s nice to see a distro getting the multimedia right.
Mepis comes with a set of system and user utilities which make system management easier than vanilla debian. The system centre includes localisation tools, which sets up localisations for KDE, Mozilla, OpenOffice.org, ispell and aspell. It also includes tools to change your monitor settings, tweak nvidia video cards, setup your network (including wireless options) and some system tweaks (which allow you to setup your computer and samba domain names).
There is also a user utilities panel which allows you to clean your user space by clearing your browser history and cache (Mozilla and Konqueror only) and clear your bash history. It also allows you to easily set whitelists and blacklists for spamassassin to keep spam at bay. These are very useful tools and a good start to making managing debian easy, but they are still (not surprisingly) very immature compared to SUSE’s YAST or Mandrake’s Control Centre. One particular feature I missed was a service management tool as Mepis
automatically setup a number of services I don’t want to use.
The liveCD also doubles as a repair tool for your hard drive installation. If you break your installation you can boot off the liveCD and access the repair functions. These include reinstalling lilo, reconfiguring Xfree and testing and repairing you partitions. These are very useful tools and a great addition.
There is a package management tool that makes using apt even easier that it already is, all you have to do is tick a box and the second cd is added as an apt source, choose your local area and tick a few more boxes and debian sources including non-US sources are added. This worked perfectly for me a few ticks and I was away apt-getting. Both synaptic and kpackage are installed for easy package management. There is no easy way to add custom sources, but the sources.list file is very clearly set out and tells you where to add any custom sources so they won’t mess with the package management tool. This worked fine; I added some custom sources to install a few KDE themes without any problems. It’s
hard to make software installation easier than Mepis does!
The liveCD also comes with a really cool USB travel disk feature, if you format the USB disk using the system centre it creates two partitions, a fat32 for exchanging files with windows and an ext3 partition that lets you sync your files across two computers. The Mepis website contains a full explanation. This is a really cool feature and worked perfectly for me, I have no doubt there will be a rush of distros following in Mepis’s footsteps.
The support section of the Mepis website is extremely good, with most posts responded to quickly and with useful advice. The main developer of Mepis also seems very responsive to questions and suggestions.
Overall Mepis is an excellent distro, it lacks polish in some areas but shows real potential. In particular it would be good to see some more polish around the KDE desktop, including rearranging the menus and having nicer default fonts. Mepis is undoubtedly the best liveCD installation I’ve used and I would not hesitate to recommend Mepis to anyone looking for an easy introduction to debian. I won’t be using it as my main desktop as I prefer the ease of use provided by the tools of Mandrake and SUSE, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Mepis. Mepis seems to be improving in leaps and bounds and I’m looking
forward to checking out future versions.
About the Author
Andrew is a researcher who uses linux as his sole desktop OS.
I had d/l-ed a Mepis ISO a couple weeks ago. For what it wants to be — a Live-CD — it is quite OK. After all, the “live” in Live-CD gives you an idea what these things are generally/ultimately aimed at. What I will not grasp however, and this is true for all Live-CDs, why people always try to draw a line of some sorts to distros like SuSE. Hell, there are like 100-200 (?) full-time employed people working on SuSE for years now and this Mepis-guy is tampering along for a couple month all on his own — so don’t even dare mentioning projects like that in one sentence with RH, Madrake, Suse… What’s next..?! Give these people one more week and they’ll be bought out by Novell? Offer servers with HP? — These Live-CDs are a totally different matter…
Amazing what he has accomplished as basically a one man distro. Can’t wait to see what he can come up with over some more time.
Mepis is based on Debian, which has hundreds of developers, and has been in development for more than a decade.
I use mepis at work for workstation (since 2003.12) (I develop PHP/MYSQL apps). Surely mepis will not do for server job. But for workstation this distro is really worth giving a try!!
Re: Testers often too euphoric for my taste…
Please remeber that Mepis is based on Debian so you have to give credit to whole lot of people. I use RH at home (dont have time to get rid of it), i tried recently Mandrake and my experience is that RH and Mandrake are much overrated.
This was a bit confusing..For a moment I thought you meant lack of a Polish locale…ie for country called Poland.
I installed Mepis about 2 weeks ago and have finally found a GNU/Linux distribution I’m going to stick with. Previously I’ve tried Corel Linux, Slackware, Red Hat, Lindows, Suse and Mandrake. Installation was simple and everything except for sound worked without any tinkering. I installed ALSA and had sound in no time. Being based on Debian you have a vast library of software that’s simple to update.
Is this to say Suse can fire 199 of the 200? Are they doing something wrong maybe?! You need not point out to me what Debian is + you probably figured that out already by what I said… I am not even aware whether there is a distro not giving credit to Debian upon booting, if one hadn’t figured that one out by that time.
MEPIS is actually a pretty neat distro. However, I merely used it to get a Debian setup up and running. When I installed MEPIS, I immediately did a dist-upgrade and then grabbed the gnome 2.4 apt source and went to installing that. I then tweaked gnome out and compiled a custom 2.6.2 kernel. All in all, I don’t use anything MEPIS related anymore and would say that MEPIS only aided me in the installation of Debian. Perhaps one day MEPIS as a distro will get to be really good and then maybe more of us would use the defaults.
Well said Anonymous. I never understood why these one man Linux projects are even rated on the same scale as the major distros. I am willing to bet there have been over a thousand Linux distros at some point. The sad part is it is still a pain in the ass to find packages that work for even the most popular distros (I am not counting the software that comes on the disks). Almost all distros are just reinventions of the wheel.
Innovation is doing the same thing, incompatibly over and over again. Like GPL redefined the common usage of Free, I’m redefining innovation. Please notice the upper case “Innovation” is different from “innovation.”
Interesting fact: Polish/polish is the only word in the English language that changes pronounciation when capitalized. Also interesting is that you DO capitalize it in a title. So, it’s all about the context.
I never understood why these one man Linux projects are even rated on the same scale as the major distros.
Because that’s what they are competing against. When people try several linux distros they do not group them into “one man operations” and “coorporations”. They try a selction — “linux”.
Having tried a LOT of distros, including Mepis, I have now settled on SUSE. It just works the way it should. Everything is easy to install and admin. The interface is pretty enough not to inflict pain on my eyes. It’s like a fresh install of windows. Most defaults make sense, and it is easy to beat it into shape. I just love it!
that all version of Linux supported Polish?
Ok, mod me down…
Bitter aren’t we? Did we forget that Linux started off as a one man operation? What does it matter if it is as one man operation or a slew of people, if in the end it accomplishes what it sets out to do. Your arguments are alot like those of a MS fanboys who knocks linux for one reason or another.
Back on topic, Mepis does look like a neat GNU/Linux Distribution. Just give it time.
I like Mepis, its easy. I want debian, but I DONT want KDE by default, if KDE had a good look I would enjoy it but it makes me feel like im a little kid. Gnome/KDE options would be good. I run Fedora 2 TEST 1 right now, my opinion is that its the best distro yet… also with 2.6 running… which is schweet…
I am not an MS fanboy, I just don’t have a political agenda so I call it like I see it. Sometimes my opinions are even 8gasp* anti-Linux. All that emperors new clothing stuff is for the other autistic retards. Linux has flaws, pointing them out does not make me anti-Linux, just objective (I swing both ways
I had a terrible time with fedora myself…good to hear it’s working out for you tho. On my machines, where just about every other distro has failed Mepis has shone. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for folks with older systems, but it’s really quite adaptable since it’ll do anything Debian you want it to…
Warren sounds like just the kind of guy I want backing the distro on my machines. Figure I’ll register soon, I owe him for getting me to where I can run the ut2k4 demo perfectly
Andrew Hubbard wrote:
Overall Mepis is an excellent distro, it lacks polish in some areas but shows real potential. In particular it would be good to see some more polish around the KDE desktop, including rearranging the menus and having nicer default fonts. Mepis is undoubtedly the best liveCD installation I’ve used and I would not hesitate to recommend Mepis to anyone looking for an easy introduction to debian.
I think Andrew summed Mepis up nicely. I first tried Mepis with no great enthusiasm, then started to like this distribution more and more as time went on. Surface polish is lacking, yes, but what’s underneath is surprisingly solid for a relatively young distro. Yes, I know it’s built on Debian which is very mature, but Mepis often “just works” where other Debian-based distros falter. For instance, Mepis found and auto-configured my wife’s Wacom Intuos USB graphics tablet, while the pricy and much-praised Xandros 2 Deluxe failed to do the same (it’s partially configured, but doesn’t work).
Recently I was setting up the PC I use for a desktop and small intranet server at work. Mandrake 9.2 failed to create a working install in three tries, booting up into a black screen each time with no keyboard and no console prompt, never mind a GUI. I then installed JAMD 0.0.6b, which worked well in initial testing, but eventually broke as I installed various bits of software I need (apache, various Perl modules, tetex/latex, etc, etc). Third up was Mepis, which worked flawlessly, as it has on every PC I’ve tried it on to date..which is to say, 3 desktops and one laptop so far. I’m typing this from the PC in question right now.
One thing the reviewer omitted to mention was that by default Mepis sets up a firewall (using Guarddog) and closes off most ports. Running the command “guarddog” as root brings up a fairly intuitive GUI which lets you tweak the firewall as needed, opening new ports or closing existing open ones.
Mepis also does an excellent job of locating shared printers on the network. It auto-detected the printer on my other PC, which is shared over the network with CUPS.
IMHO, Mepis is already one of the best distros out there, which is why it’s on three of my PC’s. The fourth runs Gentoo, showing my masochistic side!
What are some people talking here, and don’t they read what they are commenting on? Mepis is not just a one man project. It is basically just plain Debian with some small enhancements and those enhancements may be mostly based on other projects too. So there is a very large developer community behind Mepis too. The very small parts that are specific only to Mepis are not too difficult to maintain even for a very small team.
“The sad part is it is still a pain in the ass to find packages that work for even the most popular distros”
Mepis is Debian, so one can easily install and use all those thousands of official Debian packages via APT or Synaptic, plus the unofficial packages…
Though, I could understand that some people might not like Mepis because it does what it does quite well, is relatively easy to use and install even for a beginner, but it costs nothing unlike some commercial distributions…
NOTE: the current release of MEPIS has no SCSI support in its kernel. Worse yet, there is absolutely no mention of this on their website – the HW compat specifically says that Adaptec is supported – outside of their forums, and then only if you happen to dig for it.
Nor is it mentioned on the CD itself, in either the install routines or even a lousy README – the Live CD will mount & access your SCSI disks, but the installed kernel will not. I found this out after going through the d/l & burning what are now 3 coasters, going through the whole install procedure, only to have it find no boot volume – and then, while searching for a solution, I found out that the solution is “wait for the next release”.
Apparently there is some sort of conflict with SCSI & ATA living together nicely, so they opted to remove SCSI. Now I understand the choice, but not saying so up front is lame – I don’t care if it is a 1-man project, it wouldn’t take all day to add something to the frickin’ download page that says that SCSI support had to be removed.
MAYBE I’ll try the next release – it still looked real good, but not being up-front about something so basic was a pisser that I really didn’t need.
I should add that this is bootable SCSI support. Secondary SCSI stuff might just work fine, I’m not sure.
Go back and *reread* my most. I never called you a MS-Fanboy, not that there’s anything wrong with that. And please stay on topic, and spare us your high and mighty attitude.
PS: Please feel free to mod down this posts.
No, my point is *not* that SuSE can fire all those developers, and I never said anything of the sort! My point is that the sum of the total effort put into MEPIS (because of its Debian core) is much more significant than would be suggested by the fact that it is a “one man project.” Further, note that a lot of the code written by RH, SuSE, etc, gets returned upstream to the original projects, and thus filters into Debian as well.
Your original comment was:
“so don’t even dare mentioning projects like that in one sentence with RH, Madrake, Suse…”
That statement is profoundly absurd. MEPIS is a superset of Debian. If Debian is worth mentioning “in one sentence with RH, Mandrake, Suse…”, and I think everyone would agree that it is, then surely so is MEPIS!
I noticed mepis doesn’t use initrd. Initrd is used by almost every distro out there to be able to mount the root partition on a large variety of hardware and setups with the same kernel. These kind of headaches (no scsi boot support) could’ve been prevented if the mepis team realised why every other distro out there uses initrd.
> Innovation is doing the same thing, incompatibly
> over and over again. Like GPL redefined the common
> usage of Free, I’m redefining innovation. Please
> notice the upper case “Innovation” is different
> from “innovation.”
So you must be the founder of Microsoft?
Yes. Microsoft Windows, is famous for being incompatible with itself. Linux on the other hand, can install any binary package on any distribution with the help of autopackage. This is quite a feat considering there are 500+ linux distributions of varying quality. Wake me up when you can download a single binary of Winamp and install it on Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows 95 OSR2, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003. This is truly how Linux will win the desktop market.
From | System Hardware | page
When installing MEPIS on a hard drive, at least 2.5GB of space is required but 4GB is preferred.
A hard drive or CDROM drive may be IDE, SCSI, or USB but when MEPIS is installed, <strong>the root partition must be on an IDE drive</strong>. The next major release of MEPIS, due in April 2004, will include SCSI and USB support in a special kernel.</em></p>
And in response to many posts, a good distribution is much more than just put packages together, and no, I don’t use MEPIS, I use Slackware and FreeBSD.
1) isn’t there actually a problem with the mixed repositories mepis uses (unstable/testing/stable)? I thought that I read elsewhere that this means that it can actually be broken quite easily. I must admit that that scared me off a little bit, although as soon as I get some time I will be giving MEPIS a good look over.
2) as regards praising the one man distribution, remember that it *is* a one-man distro. Just like a DJ’s remix is as much his own work as the work of the original artist, a distribution “mixed” by one man is a one-man distro, even if the kernel, DE etc were made by hundreds of people. It’s this guy’s mix: his distro. By saying it’s a one man distro we can impliedly acknowledge the work of the many and the craft of the one. Good luck to him and all credit.
>> Wake me up when you can download a single binary of
>> Winamp and install it on Windows 98, Windows 98 SE,
>> Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows 95 OSR2, Windows XP,
>> and Windows Server 2003. This is truly how Linux will win
>> the desktop market.
Well on winamp’s website there’s only one installation. and at least it works on Win98/ME/NT4/Win2K/XP. I do not know about 95 or 2003…
For days I have incorrectly read the title “Mepis Linux: Despite Lack of Polish, a Worthwhile Distro”. I until recently thought it meant that despite the lack of the localization to the Polish lanugage it was a good distro. Hmm… I might give it a try I honestly don’t care if it has Polish localization.
Yesterday I tried MEPIS and ineed, the menus don’t look good. But that’s my problem with every distro I tried. I seems to be a Linux thing. I don’t like antialiased fonts in my menu. By the way: same thing with MacOS. I don’t like the looks of a Mac menu.
A very important thing of an OS is the way it looks. An that is the point Windows where Windows wins.
Just strait pixelfonts in the menu. Must be easy to read.
I don’t know how fonts work in Linux.
If I open a document in Linux…yes..I know… Linux is the kernel, if I use the word Linux I mean the distros I tried, Mandrake, Vector, Mepis, Peanut, Knoppix, …
So when I open a doc in Linux … in OpenOffice or KOffice or Abiword it never looks as smooth as it looks in Windows.
Most of the time I’m reading from my monitor.. websites, mails, documents… so the most important thing is if fonts looks good. Mandrake did look best from all, but still not perfect.
Mepis works good, everything works…anyone knows how make it look good?
Why are the looks that unimportant with Linux?
Any desktopdistro must look good. Is it that hard?
And if it’s possible somebody should write a tutorial: ‘How to make the fonts look at least as good in Linux as they do in MS Windows. Polish your distro.’ That would be great.
Should be a biiiig step to make Linux more popular.
If Mepis fixes this it’s realy a winner. It seems to be an innovating distro. Easy for windows users as me, but including the right fonts and rendering them good is a realy really really important thing. I don’t care how fancy buttons look. I want nice looking fonts!
A readibley pixelfont in the menus and a nice working antialiased font rendering in my wordprocessor please…
.. that’s essential for beating Windows. For me it is.
Mmm… I found something here
I will try to polish MEPIS this weekend. First I’ve to install MEPIS. Just tried it live.
Those who like Mepis should give PCLinuxOS 2K4 a try. It tries to follow Mepis’ good points: easy hard drive install, automatic Nvidia configuration, useful apps… with more polish. The desktop is more beautiful too, and better hardware compatibility.. at least for my case. In Mepis, I have problems with the modem configuration (using Linuxant’s driver) and network browsing — can’t get Komba to work. With PCLinux, everything is smooth. PCLinuxOS is based on Mandrake and is created by texstar which I’ve seen on Mepis’ forums. Probably he got quite a few tips from Warren, but he sure does does give his version better polish and better sense of desktop aesthetics, IMHO.
My primary Distro is Slackware and always will be. I tried Mepis on my desktop and laptop. I think it is a very good distro for someone that just wants to install it and not have to do alot of configuration of their system. Both my systems it set up fine and gave a good workable system.
My problems were:
1) For most people doing a dist-upgrade may break several things in the system. This was my experience and from comments on their forums it is common and they recommend not doing it. So you have to be careful with some software installations you do and what gets upgraded.
2) The last time I checked, the kernel source was not available for the kernel being used. Not sure if it is totally a stock kernel or what patches are included. This became an issue for me when I wanted to get my wireless card working.
Oh and by the way. Windows really does suck. Most of the a criticisms above about linux are because people do not want to take the time and effort to learn how to tweak/configure their system. Linux allows you to make your system look however you want it to, if you take the time to do it. M$ will not give near that flexibility.
Interesting fact: Polish/polish is the only word in the English language that changes pronounciation when capitalized. Also interesting is that you DO capitalize it in a title. So, it’s all about the context.
Polish my Polish shoes, please.
I have to agree with you. Mepis is easily the finest Live CD around. It begins with a very nice Knoppix core, adds a very easy hard disk installation, and requires very little out of you to get it up and running. There certainly could be more polish, but I find it amazing that Warren has been this successful in turning out a great system.
For those who know what they’re doing, it doesn’t take much to add additional Debian packages they want and remove what they don’t want.
Personally, I view this project as a great way to jump start my own customized, personal system. I applaud the work that Warren has done!
i just recently went through a bunch of dists trying to find one that suited my needs, i was determind to find a debian based dist that i liked.. and mepis came out on top.. even above the extremely nice xandros 2.0…
i am a proud mepis user and will continue to use it as my desktop OS
if you want to improve the look of kde you might want to just update to the latest version.. or at least 3.1.5.. i did.. KPackage and/or Synaptic are your friend! lol
سلام من هم خيلي دوست دارم Mepis کار کنم
I tried Mepis…. it could not not even find my microsoft wheelmouse USB… it if can’t find and install something that simple, I cannot trust it with the rest of my system. I will stick to Mandrake or SUSE.