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SimplyMepis 6.5 - Simply Wonderful

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After an interesting development cycle, SimplyMepis 6.5 was delivered to the anxiously awaiting community yesterday. Having started out as an update to the 6.0 release, it soon grew to encompass several highly desired features. As a result, it was given a bump in version number and delivers one of the most enjoyable computing experiences available at this time.

As you may know, SimplyMepis started out as one of the first livecds available. Based on Debian, it offered the user a very stable yet user-friendly alternative to the install-before-you-try distros of the time. Just about its only rivals were Knoppix and Damn Small Linux. Knoppix was nice, but Mepis (as it was known then) was prettier, offered more boot/run-time flexibility and included a hard drive installer. It evolved and improved over the years until its most dramatic change last fall when Warren announced that SimplyMepis would no longer be based on Debian but Ubuntu. Reasons for this were mainly the faster developmental cycle of Ubuntu and newer underlying/base code.

I for one was a bit apprehensive of this decision, fearing another Ubuntu clone. Afterall, there already existed Kubuntu. Fortunately on the surface SimplyMepis remained true to its legacy and one can hardly tell the difference. The most significant visual change has been the incorporation of the Kubuntu settings:/ application. However, the KDE Control Center is still available, even if it's not in the menu.

The boot screen has looked very much the same for quite some time. This release we find the proprietary NVIDIA graphical drivers available as an option. If one has an NVIDIA chip and wishes to use the new 3D desktop, they should choose this option. This was my choice and I was whisked away by means of a lovely revamped boot splash. The splash is part of the overall new theme found in this release featuring a more tasteful blue background with an update Mepis pyramid logo in the lower right corner. In the splash, this logo is centered over a small progress bar. Hitting escape will take one to the verbose boot output that can be useful if any issues with your hardware appear.

    


I had no problems with the boot and all of my hardware was detected and configured properly. I was taken to a (my desired) 1280x800 resolution gui, a nice KDE startup sound greeted me, and my touchpad worked out of the box smoothly, responsively, and accurately.

I was quite impressed with SimplyMepis' ability to automagically configure my wireless connection last test, but this time it encountered a new wpa option enabled on my router. So, it wasn't able to connect without my input. However, SimplyMepis ships with a version of the needed windows driver for my Broadcom 4311 (later v4) wireless chipset. I exclaimed in a short blog entry when testing release candidate 3 that this was the only distro I've ever tested on that HP laptop that could offer the connection enabled out-of-the-box. It still would have yesterday had I not enabled wpa. With other distros, in which it works at all, I must install the windows driver myself.

As it was, all I had to do was open the MEPIS Network Assistant from the menu and input my wpa key/passphrase and it connected then and from then on at boot. It is still one of the easiest set ups I've experienced. This is a major leap forward in hardware support.

I'm afraid I didn't have as good of luck with suspend. Neither the suspend to ram or suspend to disk would work here. ...out-of-the-box. Both went to sleep rather quickly, but neither would wake completely up. It tried, but it seemed to get stuck trying to turn the graphics back on. The backlight came on, but no graphics appeared. I heard a little "something's happening" KDE notification, but I couldn't see anything but a black screen. To be honest, I don't use that feature much at this time anyway, but I understand it's of major importance to other people. Perhaps this is hardware specific and it would work fine on your laptop.

The area of applications is another of SimplyMepis' strong points. They seem to be able to deliver an amazing amount of applications in a regular cdrom-sized iso. Some other distros can barely ship KDE and the KDE apps in 700mb, but SimplyMepis manages to squeeze in so much more. Another remarkable thing is the choice of applications included. They ship some applications not seen in the majority of systems and a few I've seen no where else. These encompass a large variety as well. From security applications like Guarddog and KlamAV, to communications with Skype and Gaim. Connectivity includes NX, Groupware, and different samba tools. Surf the web with Firefox and Konqueror and email with Thunderbird or Kmail. Multimedia includes RealPlayer, Kmplayer, K3b, and Amarok. Gaming includes Patience, KSudoku, Mahjongg, Ksirtet, and Planet Penguin Racer. Graphics are handled by Gimp, showFoto, digiKam, Kooka, and Xara Xtreme. And your office needs can be amply serviced by OpenOffice.org. There are also many graphical applications for system configuration and monitoring, including Mepis' own Assistants. These include the MEPIS Network Assistant, MEPIS System Assistant, MEPIS User Assistant, and MEPIS X-Windows Assistant. There is a full package list here.

        


I found each application tested to be stable, functional, and fast. I had no problems with any of them. My video files played out of the box with Kmplayer and I could even watch steaming trailers from apple.com. Youtube and Google videos were no problem with the included browser plugins. There wasn't java support included as I assume there are still issues with java and 64-bit systems. I've found java included and operative in the 32-bit systems previously.

        


All this runs wonderfully responsive from a livecd, but if you'd like to install this system to hard drive, SimplyMepis has a really nice and user-friendly installer. Its basic steps didn't change much this release. In a few steps one configures the install to their wishes and it installs in little time. System settings and configurations from the livecd are retained for the hard drive install. I had no problems here. These steps include:

  1. Accepting the Terms of Use

  2. Selecting harddrive and optionally configuring partitions
  3. Choosing install partitions and filesystem (reiserfs or ext3)
  4. Confirming
  5. Waiting
  6. Installing Grub
  7. (Dis)Enabling some services
  8. Setting Host & Domain Name and Samba workgroup name
  9. Localization
  10. User account & root password
  11. Reboot

Once on the hard drive, one can use Synaptic to install other applications or upgrade their current packages or system. Synaptic is the package manager and it's being used by more and more distros. It's safe and reliable, easy and efficient. The SimplyMepis team have provided some preconfigured repositories for us including mepis and ubuntu mirrors. It works really well.

        


I found SimplyMepis 6.0 lacking in functionality and showing some negative results of the then recent migration and underlying code change. But now with 6.5 most all the kinks have been straightened and nearly all the wrinkles have been smoothed. The only problems I had were the 3D desktop black windows and the laptop suspend issues. For the most part, the system worked like the Mepis I remember from the 3.x days while being modern with an updated appearance.

Some folks say SimplyMepis is just a remaster, a psuedo-distro not worthy of being included in DistroWatch's Top 10 distro list. This is a fairly uninformed opinion I think. Surely they've never tested SimplyMepis. This is like saying Mandriva is simply a remastered Red Hat or openSUSE is a remastered Slackware. SimplyMepis has always been an original system design to which few could even come close. When it arrived on the scene, it was the newcomer's answer to "can I run Debian?" It was a pioneer in the area of user-friendly and it continues to improve and offer one of the best systems available today.

Previous coverage:

StumbleUpon

Good Candidate for My Next O/S

The reviews from SJVN and TriedIt truly makes it seem like it's as capable as Kubuntu, but to tell you the truth, Novell has left me a SuSE 'orphan'.

A great release

I'm using this version since the day it came out, and I'm really impressed. Everything just works on my system. One feature I found very useful is the option to fix the Grub or video display from Live cd if one screws it up on installed system, like I did Smile

Excellent!

This is my primary OS. I am using a Mitac 8355H laptop and this is the only distro that seems to works well. The one thing... a constant problem with any distro, is the lack ease of getting wireless working with WEP. Perhaps WPA will work better?

Absolutely love this distro....

David

re: Excellent!

Actually, I've found that if wireless works, wep is no extra problem. It's usually wpa that gives distros and its users a bit more of a challenge. Most have gui configurations for it, but if it don't (and even if it does) you can easily set it by issuing the command:

iwconfig wlan0 <or your interface> essid <your essid> key <the wep key>

then dhcpcd or dhclient <your interface>. Sometimes, if the original config is "stuck" you might need to rmmod ndiswrapper and modprobe ndiswrapper, or your module, before issuing the iwconfig command.

wpa is a bit more complicated at the commandline, requiring wpa_supplicant. I don't have that one memorized just yet. Smile

KNetworkmanager

I installed Linux for the first time ever a few days ago. I selected Mepis 6.5 final for a dual boot configuration with XP on a T43p. (Thinkpad) All went exceptionally well, until I tried to configure wireless. Being a complete noobie, I googled around for about 20 minutes before I found a reference to WPA configuration here: http://www.mepis.org/node/12412

Upon discovering KNetworkmanager, I found WPA configuration to be very simple indeed - including WPA-AES configuration.

No command line tweaking required at all.

I am now well on my way to abandoning MS; I love Mepis!

Excellent!

I'm real pleased with SimplyMEPIS 32 Release 6.5

SimplyMEPIS has always worked well for me. Even Alpha and Beta versions generally work. I did have an issue with RC 2, if I remember correctly. I am writing that off to a bad download or a bad burn, because it wouldn't even boot up properly for me, instead looping with numerous messages. That is the only issue I've ever seen.

I downloaded RC 3, a few weeks prior to release and tried it out and liked it very much. When the release came out, I downloaded that, too, but I am appreciative of Warren Woodford's work, so I ordered and have received the DVD of SimplyMEPIS 32. I am awaiting different hardware and I will install it there, but meanwhile I have a pretty up to date version of SimplyMEPIS 6.0 that I am running right now that works perfectly well.

I heartily recommend SimplyMEPIS for those who want an immediately usable desktop system - you can start running it from Live CD, even as you install it to your hard drive, if your system has sufficient resources.

Being based on Ubuntu (and the underlying Debian repositories) it is easy to use a different window manager or desktop manager with SimplyMEPIS, though the default one is probably easiest to use for the novice. I've had good results grabbing IceWM and XFCE when I want something even more snappy, but the K Desktop Environment (KDE) that comes with SimplyMEPIS runs about as smoothly as any implementation I've seen. Only plain Debian and Slackware rival it as far as responsiveness, but the MEPIS version has a clean selection of applications that work nicely together, whereas the other versions, though also useful, tend to have a larger, but less cohesive, selection and grouping of applications.

Some people really like PCLinuxOS. I've had good results with it, too, but I've grown accustomed to SimplyMEPIS for every day, basic desktop needs. I run plain Debian when I want to test out tons of software, but I've been sticking with SimplyMEPIS when all I'm doing is reading Email, browsing the Web, and listening to streaming audio. It has all of those features and is set up to work immediately with no tweaking required.

Brian Masinick
masinick AT yahoo DOT com

SimplyMEPIS 32 Release 6.5

SimplyMepis 6.5 is a really good release. Im so happy for Warren and crew and wish them much success. Thank you guys for giving such a wonderful gift to the Linux community.

Tex

SimplyMEPIS

MEPIS is a quality distro. I used it daily for more than a year. It's easy to install and runs very stable. It's also attractive, especially for the KDE fan. I have been away from it for awhile, so I downloaded the latest release and installed it on a spare partition. No problems whatsoever. It's an easy recommendation.

SimplyMepis

I've been using SM for about 3 years now on my main PC. I have tried others but always come back. Why? Like Ronseal, it does what it says on the tin. i.e. it just works. OK so I should like the option of being able to choose the apps I load etc, but it always sets up the hardware correctly; I usually keep my /home directory between updates as it gives that option unless I want a grand clearout; it takes 20 minutes to load to HD compared to 3 hours for Win XP. And this is on a modest machine (1100Mhz;640M Ram). I haven't loaded the latest and greatest yet but will be doing so in the next few days. I take my hat off to Warren and the crew for producing a consistently good distro that I use big time on my home system for the last 3 years. Long may they prosper.

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