SimplyMepis 6.0 has been around for a bit now, but in my effort to
review the most popular and easiest distros marketed today, there
simply is no way to skip over this product. Mepis itself is not too
new, having been around in one form or another for a couple of years.
Recently, Warren Woodford moved his product to be based on Ubuntu which
is a really strong distro and extremely popular. Warren's story
is similar to that of many people who create their own distros; he just
wanted one that worked the way he wanted it too. I myself gave the
distro a run in its beta stages and was very impressed with the extras
that Mepis added to an already great package. For clarity sake, it
would technically be closer to Kubuntu, but that is neither here nor
there as switching from Ubuntu to K is as simple as one right click and
Having already been there once, my goal was to check out
what it would be like to run the install as a newbie and focus on
getting my eMachines up and running, rather on checking on the
performance which has been well documented for Mepis and Ubuntu alike.
Lets check it out, shall we???
Kernel - Kernel 2.6.15-26 Based on Ubuntu
Desktop - KDE 3.5.3
FAQs - http://www.mepislovers-wiki.org/index.php/Main_Page
Cost - FREE!!!
Special Features - Live installer, nice add ons and decent packages in small installNitty Gritty:
Installation ( )
you first run the Live CD, there are the basic options for running in
Normal, Vesa, Minimum, and Small, which is a great idea for people with
older machines or no clue on what level of video support they might
the Live CD boots up, you find yourself in a nice looking desktop full
of great features and wonderful little add ons. My favorite is the
Kaquarium in the toolbar along with the sysmonitor. Both of these allow
you to see how you machine is functioning while using the Live version
and stick around after install. The weather function is alright, but
set up for Mepis home base in West Virginia. Myself being in the
Pacific NW really could care less, but I like the drop for the
I clicked on the Mepis Help icon and was directed via the internet to the start page at mepis.org
which unless you know where to go there, really doesn't help. Please
don't get me wrong, I find that once you look around the web site you
find that there is a vast amount of excellent HowTos and links to
places such as http://www.mepislovers.com/
which is just plain awesome at pulling together one of the best
communities outside of Ubuntu, which also works since the distro is
based on it.
My main concern about this link is back to previous
reviews in how I don't like people needing to be on the internet in
order to get install help. This assumes too much, especially for
newbies who will likely have no clue on setting up network cards if the
Live disk has a problem.
However my worries were quickly
squashed when I clicked on the icon for Documents. Inside this folder
are two great resources.: A quick start guide and a Tips sheet. I would
like to see the icon a bit more directive than just documents, but the
fact that it is there wins my trust back in Mepis for caring about
those about to plunge into installing their distro.
I got done playing around with the wireless to see how well it wasn't
working (I hate the bcm43xx module being plugged into the kernel) I
decided to give this a go. I wasn't able to install on my VMWare
machine, so I decided I would replace my secondary Linux to give this a
thorough hardware shakedown, as one of its review told me how this
handled all hardware period. (not quite, but they did say it was on
steroids). I know most test these on desktops, so my trying on a laptop
usually tests these claims to the 10th degree.
on the Mepis Install icon prompted me for a password that I just didn't
know. But looking in the getting started page promptly informed me that
they defaulted this to 'root' (my favorite so far has been 'toor' or
root backwards) and got into the install process. This very clean and
informative window directed me to press next. I didn't like that I had
no clue where I was headed, nor an idea of where I had been, but so far
only Xandros has succeeded well in that for me.
next step prompted me to determine where I was intending on installing
this distro and also provided me QTParted which would allow me to set
up any new or modify old partitions. I like that this is organized with
multiple steps associated with each other together rather than in
serial. I always feel more in control when things are grouped like
this. Knowing I was replacing a partition on my /dev/hda3 partitions I
the screen shot below was on my failed attempt to install within
VMWare, but for some reason it wasn't able to read the sda drive. But
once I chose the proper distro, the installer copied over the necessary
files and then prompted me for the boot loader.
boot loader option basically only offered up grub, but I am fine with
that. I am not much of a Lilo fan myself. One thing I do like is that
in the information bar on the left, it goes ahead and instructs you how
Mepis will not find other distros on your machine and that you will
need to modify the menu.lst file if you wish to add these. Most just
don't even bother letting you know that they cannot handle this, so I
am happy that Mepis knew to at least let people know upfront.
was next directed to a window offering up some common services that I
might be interested in, with a couple already checked. I again like
that the install allows me some customization on items that really only
affect me and that no decisions non-critical were made by someone else.
I let these stick in and didn't select the bluetooth as I don't have
any adapter for that installed.
was next prompted for the PC and network names that would be needed for
Linux as well as MSFilesystem (Samba) worgroup. I know most people just
leave this to workgroup, but I like to advertise whenever possible.
Still diggin those fish, they are fun to watch swim around, but I digress...
next screen allows me to choose my locale for keyboard function, time
zone and an excellent blurb again, this time letting me know that there
are proprietary video drivers on the other side of my install. This
keeps me going even though this process has not been too long or
next step was user and admin name/passwords. I like how they are both
on the same screen, allow people to know that they have a user account
and then the admin password being right there, instead of seperating
them out on two screens. We all know that 99% of us are the only users,
so this makes so much more sense to me than breaking them up.
I pass up the screen on passwords, I am finally rewarded with the
knowledge I am done. It is nice to keep things so informative during
this entire process and I really enjoy the split window. It allows for
a tight control window for the user experience on the right, while
passing along vital information on the left such as what I might need
to do when I get into the real OS and off the Live CD to really enjoy
I would have to rate this as a really solid install that does the job
very well, with only a couple of minor issues with password knowledge
being a bit hidden and only allowing Grub is a decent assumption but
there are the Lilo fans are out there and might be a bit upset at not
having that option. Linux should be just that, flexibility and ease,
but I do understand keeping things easy and sometimes while doing so
one takes away the flexibility. A good process here, and I wouldn't
think many would run into issue with the excellent dialog and built in
start up guide.
Now that we have installed our distro, it is
time to reboot and see if there are any steroids to this distro or are
we dealing with some fluff with no function...onward we go.Starting ( )
a Ubuntu package and having run Mepis before I was pretty knowledgable
about what was about to happen, and this time I was not let down.
Several things were broken when I go to the start page, which still had
my fish thank god.
First, my wireless was not working, even
though the light was on. It seems that the kernel with the BCM43xx
module compiled runs the hardware and it will respond to an 'iwlist'
command, but for some unknown reason just won't lock on when you try to
get an IP address with 'dhclient'. So there are a couple of steps to
remedy this for us laptop people with Broadcom (which is by far the
most common PCI card out there it seems. Here are the steps
- Blacklist bcm43xx in the /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist file
- rmmod bcm43xx
- ndiswrapper -l to see what cards are already installed
- for me 'ndiswrapper -e bcmwl5' to remove the existing driver
- copy the drivers from my windows partition (can be googled pretty easily if you don't have them)
- from the directory with the windows drivers 'ndiswrapper -i bcmwl5.inf'
- 'depmod -a'
- 'modprobe ndiswrapper'
- 'ndiswrapper -m'
- reboot (don't know why, but it is required)
and my wireless came to life.
my video woes, which seems to happen all too often, all I had to do was
search mepislovers and found that to add ATI card support all I had to
do was use synaptic and install the package 'xorg-driver-fglrx' and
restart the KDE with a ctrl-alt-backspace. Very nice there.
sound didn't work, so I went to the old standby which is to click on
the mixer client and de-select the External Amplifier option. Tada!!!!
I was cooking with gas in about 10 minutes. Not too bad I might say,
but definitely not a distro on steroids. Yes, it is pretty rock solid,
but to be honest any based on Ubuntu will have that capability.
The control panel is pretty generic, nothing special but all the key packages.
Now that my internet works I am able to use the Mepis Help link on the desktop.
at the end of the day, with very little extra effort I have a decent
looking distro with rock solid support running on my laptop with
wireless, video and sound functioning. Media supports audio codecs, but
a download of libdvdcss is required for the video. Not bad, but really
when one would compare this to other like packages, I really don't see
much seperating this from Kubuntu.Bonus Stuff ( )
One new addition to the Mepis lineup is the advent of Extras CDs
which are designed for those people who can download ISO's but have
slow internet access, or as they state "for users who can't rely on
having a continuous fast Internet connection". For me, if you got the
ability to download a 600 meg plus ISO images, downloading smaller
packages should be easier, but hey, they are a nice added benefity.
They would make the most sense being part of a package that is sold in
solid form rather than a download to me, so I am sure that is the true
intention. I give them credit for keeping those in mind who still rely
on dial-up and make these available in the first place. 4 Pennies for
your effort all, great job!!!!Overall ( )
I will have to put this pretty clear, as I know there are a ton of
Mepis lovers out there who are probably ready to bash my lack of
Pennies, however there is a reason: Mepis is rock solid, works well,
and offers a true desktop Linux, BUT really is not that unique. To me,
this is like someone who like a Mercury over a Ford. The chasis is the
same, only the packaging is different. For Mepis, this is true with
Kubuntu. I am a big fan of Kubuntu and equally a big fan of Mepis. They
both offer what anyone would want and that is a distro that works and
Is there anything in here that stands out as unique
beyond the fact that it works so well? Not really. Yes, you can take
this extremely stable package and work within the community to add nice
things like XGL, but it would be nice to also have that as a base
feature. XGL is something that really will keep Linux on par with Apple
and Vista, and should be more common. I know there are a ton of
hardware issues, but with about 4 really solid packages available today
with this running, then I would hope that would be the next step with
distros like Mepis. I will be back for the 64 bit when available
however, as I am still waiting on a distro that will uncork my boat
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed my opinions. Good
luck with your personal Linux quests and I just hope I have shed some
light on this package for you. Cheers!!!!