The time has come.
Mepis to download it. There are several downloading options available. I used the most “community-oriented” one, i.e. torrent.
Actually, what I downloaded was named SimplyMEPIS 11.0. This version was released in May 2011. The ISO image size is about 1.3 Gb, which makes it impossible to run it from CD. You need to either burn the ISO image onto a DVD or use a USB drive.
Mepis is actually quite an old distribution. It was initially based on Debian, briefly flirted with Ubuntu, then finally settled on a combination of its own source code, a combination of Ubuntu and Debian, and enhanced by using the standard Debian Stable repositories.
With its history and roots, it was not a surprise that Mepis was supported by Unetbootin utility. I successfully created a Live USB using Unetbootin.
So, USB stick is in the port of my Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1505 laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let’s go!
Booting upThe boot process of Mepis is more or less standard for anything you run via Unetbootin. The first screen shows the boot options, and Live run was the default. The boot process itself was actually quite quick. What distinguishes Mepis from the majority of other Live USB distribution is that you need to manually login into a Live session. There are 2 users available: demo with password demo, and root/root. There is a note about usernames and passwords at the top of the login screen, so no difficulties should be encountered at this stage. It is good idea to login as demo, but keep root's password in mind. You may need it later for configuration purposes.
What does SimplyMEPIS 11.0 use as the platform for Live run? It is Linux kernel 2.6.31 with KDE 4.5.3 on top. I was surprised to see the results of command uname –r, because the official web page promises Linux kernel version 2.6.36. I guess it is still possible to upgrade the kernel version after the installation, but Live run has 2.6.31.
DesktopThe SimplyMEPIS desktop layout has no rude surprises. I would say that it is boringly standard.
The desktop has a blue-themed “Underwater” wallpaper. It somehow reminded me of the wallpaper from the latest Fedora 16 Verne release. Of course, you can change the wallpaper to your taste. There are many wallpapers in the default distribution. But, except for a couple, they are all KDE-generic.
The panel is in the usual place: at the bottom of the desktop.
The menu button with the Mepis logo on it is in the bottom-left corner. By default, the menu has the classic layout. Of course, you can easily switch to Advanced layout in just 2 clicks.
The switcher for 4 virtual desktops is next to the menu button.
Quick launch icons are next to the desktop switch. There are shortcuts for System Settings, Dophin file manager, Firefox and KMail.
As usual, the Taskbar is in the middle of the panel.
Notifications area is to the right. It includes the usual items like USB devices monitor, volume control, network manager and clocks.
There are a few icons on the desktop, including 2 Mepis manuals. One of them is more like “KDE introduction” while another is proper documentation for system settings.
Network configurationI could not configure the network in SimplyMEPIS 11.0. I tried different options, but none of them worked.
Neither Network Manager, nor Mepis Network Assistant were able to enable the connection on my Intel 3945 ABG. Command dmesg only showed messages like
[ 494.495423] ADDRCONF(NETDEV_UP): wlan0: link is not readyThe absence of a network connection meant I could not check the package management tool of SimplyMEPIS 11.0 (Synaptic) in a working state, mounting of network partitions or playback of multimedia files from remote network drives.
[ 494.499707] eth0: link down
[ 494.500020] ADDRCONF(NETDEV_UP): eth0: link is not ready
[ 498.100210] iwl3945 0000:05:00.0: Failed to get channel info for channel 140 
MultimediaAlthough I could not check playback of multimedia files from a remote drive in Mepis, I still was able to check the same using files on my local drive.
Both audio and video files opened OK in VLC, which is the default player in SimplyMEPIS 11.0. It means that video and audio codecs are included by default. It would be strange to see it otherwise, because VLC is famous for its ability to switch everything on in one go.
|Video playback in VLC|
in SimplyMEPIS 11.0
As I said, VLC started playback of the files straight away. But it does not mean I could hear the results immediately. There was an issue with volume control. The mixer settings for speakers are set up to very low level. Yes, you can hear the sounds, but you need to increase the volume to listen to them properly.
What is in the boxSimplyMEPIS 11.0 is based on KDE. As in many other KDE-centric distributions, you should expect to see mostly KDE-centric applications included. And you’re almost right, except for some obvious cases.
Many menu sections in SimplyMEPIS have sub-sections. They are named “More” in most cases, and you can find less often used applications in these sub-sections. I think this is a useful approach. You get an uncluttered list of application you are more likely to use, right under your fingertips, while the others are just a mouse movement away.
There are about half a dozen simple games included in SimplyMEPIS, like K-Patiance and Frozen Bubble.
Productivity suite is the full LibreOffice set, including Math and Draw. I was able to start Calc and Write without any problem. Moreover, I drafted this blog post in LibreOffice Writer.
Graphics section of SimplyMEPIS menu includes Okular, Inkscape, digikam, KSnapshot, GIMP and a few others. Quite a big choice, you see. While KSnapshot exists in the menu, it is not linked to the PrintScreen keyboard shortcut. I had to call it up from the menu to make screenshot of SimpleMEPIS 11.0.
There are 2 browsers in Mepis: Firefox 4.0.1 and Konqueror. Other than browsers, the Internet menu contains KMail, KFTPgrabber, Kopete, KPPP, KNetAttach and some other KDE-specific applications. Unfortunately, I noticed no KTorrent or any other torrent client.
Multimedia section is represented by VLC, which I have already mentioned, Amarok, K3B disk burner, KMix, Kdenlive, KsCD player. As I have written above, VLC is the default player for MP3 and video files. I like this choice of the Mepis developers, because it allows quick-starting application to run for users who only need to play back the files, leaving a powerful tool like Amarok available for those who actually need it.
There is a whole section called Settings. It includes KDE standard System Settings panel, enhanced with Mepis's own tools like Network Assistant, System Assistant and User Assistant. In the same section, you can also find OpenJDK policy configuration, Nvidia driver settings and ADSL/PPPOE configuration. I have not tried other Mepis Assistants, but Network Assistant did not work for me, as I mentioned above.
System tools are more or less standard. They include KDE Partition Manager, Konsole, Dolphin, Synaptic, KUser and some more mostly KDE-specific applications.
Utilities include KWrite, Klipper, Ark, KCalc and other usual suspects. I have not found Kate among the menu items. From the applications, which are not in the usual list, I'd like to mention luckyBackup (backup utility) and Sweeper (system cleaner).
As you can see from the above, SimplyMEPIS comes fully packed with the usual set of software you might need.
What about additional applications? There is Synaptic package manager for this.
Unfortunately, I was not able to start Synaptic in Live mode in Mepis, because it generated an error about inability to write into some file in /var. What I was able to do was check the file /etc/apt/sources.list. It shows that, by default, SimplyMEPIS 11.0 uses Debian Stable repository in addition to its own. The Mepis repository, if I correctly understand the Wikipedia page, contains packages based on Ubuntu and Debian source codes slightly reworked by the Mepis team. The sources.list file contains links to additional repositories: Debian Multimedia, Mepis restricted, non-free and so on. These links are commented out, although it should be quite easy to uncomment and to start using them.
Because of issues with the wireless connection, I could not check for presence of applications in the repositories. But as long as Debian repositories are listed, it should not be a problem to find almost any tool you like.
General thoughtsSimlyMEPIS 11.0 run from Live USB was very responsive. Most applications started up in a reasonable time. For example, GIMP took 11 seconds to launch, Inkscape – 8 seconds, Amarok – 12 seconds until the first question was asked about its configuration.
But actual system resource usage was rather high, taking into consideration that SimplyMEPIS uses almost the same base as Debian KDE Live. When all the windows were closed, SimplyMEPIS 11.0 took just below 300 Mb of memory, compared to about 180 Mb for Debian.
The general impression which SimplyMEPIS 11.0 left on me during Live USB run was it is rather boring. Yes, from my personal point of view, it is “just another Debian spin”. As you can expect from any Debian-stable spins, it is very stable, functional and reliable. There is nothing wrong with using SimplyMEPIS as your permanent Linux distribution. But it lacks some salt, some spice, something unique which would make me switch from anything else to SimplyMEPIS. There are many more distributions equally approachable.
As for Live-USB run and its specifics, I'd say that Mepis is a good system which you can actually enjoy... but not in Live mode. There are too many restrictions which left me unsatisfied: issues with network connection and the inability to start the package manager are just a couple to mention once again.
If you are using Mepis now, or have used it in the past, I would be more than happy to see your arguments pro (or maybe even contra) regarding this Linux distribution.
|This post was edited by djohnston.|