Friday, February 12, 2010

Simply Mepis 8.5 beta4 review

Despite being a self-confessed distro-hopper, I have dwelled for a long time with Sidux. As a hardcore KDE fan, the obvious choice was to test Simply Mepis 8.5 beta 4. I carry a high opinion about Simply Mepis since I have used it some 5 years ago. It was a perfect desktop and the reason for my liking towards KDE. Later I have hopped to Kubuntu, Debian testing and finally to Sidux.

Sidux, though a wonderful distro, has its own minor irks. Firstly, the font rendering is very bad in Iceweasel. Secondly, though they claim that Iceweasel is just a renamed Firefox, I don't like its ugly looks in terms of the skin, progress bar etc. (probably a problem of Debian's tendency of having attractive looks). I am using a 64 bit install and I can't find a suitable 64 bit Firefox binary in Mozilla's website. Since the browser is inevitably the most important program in an OS, I ventured to lookout for solutions.

Mepis was particularly attractive because it has Firefox inspite of being very Debian underneath. I tested out the 32 bit version of Simply Mepis 8.5 beta 4 on a virtual machine giving it a mere 512 MB of RAM.

After upgrading all the packages to the latest ones, Mepis proved to be a real winner. KDE was at version 4.3.4 and Firefox, the default browser in Mepis was at 3.5.6. As expected with Mepis, flash worked out of the box but it was not the latest version available in Adobe's site. After tweaking the fontconfig-config and enabling antialiasing from the KDE control centre, fonts were rendered beautifully well. I installed Skype from the repos, and Google Chrome from Google's website. Both worked flawlessly. OpenOffice was at version 3.1.1, packaged by Debian developers. Okular was missing so I could not open PDFs in the default install.

Support for Google gadgets was installed by default and I could easily add my favourite feeds and read the full articles in Firefox. Even Konqueror worked fine and had the best font rendering as expected of a browser well integrated into KDE. When I set the brower identification to Firefox 2 for, Gmail also worked well.

Overall Simply Mepis 8.5 is a joy to use. The choice of fonts, window decorations and wallpaper, though not jazzy, is professional and elegant. The maturity and stabilty of the OS is contradictory to the beta tag. Anyway, I wish to see the latest KDE SC 4.4 and Firefox 3.6 enter into the isos before the final release. Simply Mepis is feature-rich distro that can be totally trusted to accomplish to your day to day computing tasks with pleasure.

Though I would love to install Simply Mepis on my work desktop, I wish to try out another contender Mandriva 2010 before I come to any conclusion. Here's a couple of screenshots of my Simply Mepis experience.


Minni said...

Excellent explanation!! Will try out soon.

lefty.crupps said...

SM is a great distro, especially for new users of GNU/Linux. Basing it on Debian Lenny (Stable) wasn't the best move however, since that will be replaced by Squeeze in a year or less. They should have gone with Squeeze right away IMHO.

I couldn't get SM 8.5b4, nor Sidux, to boot on an HP Pavilion DV2000 recently. Very frustrating and I ended up installing Mint KDE for that friend. I wasn't thrilled about that, as I feel that the *buntus have too many bugs that aren't present in real Debian. So it goes.

roger said...

Nice review! I also have issues with how Iceweasel renders fonts and faint and fuzzy fonts are a real show stopper for me with many distros. Could you please post the font config settings that you used in Firefox or any tips that you might have for improving font rendering in Linux?

I know this is probably highly subjective but I think that Gnome tends to render fonts a bit clearer than KDE but I prefer the KDE interface.

roger said...
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Ed said...

You say you are dissatisfied with sidux in part because you don't like the default Iceweasel looks but you like Mepis? Mepis is one of the most relentlessly ugly distros out of the box that I've ever used and from your screen shots it looks like Mr. Woodford has extended that special magic from KDE 3 to 4. Mind you, I'm typing this from a Mepis 8 install (there is no /etc/mepis file just debian-version, which says 5.0.4). I've changed the default themes, ksplash & KDM.

Iceweasel look pretty much identical to Firefox to me except for the icons, which I admit are dismal, but they are quite easy to change (I also routinely change my icedove/Thunderbird & iceape/Seamonkey icons). Just find or make icons that you like, rename them appropriately, and overwrite the ones in your /usr/lib/PROGRAM/chrome/icons/default directory. I use some simple aliases in my root .bashrc file so I can do it with a simple command every time I upgrade mozilla versions.

root@xpmep:~# grep icon /mnt/sidux/root/.bashrc

alias foxicon='cp /usr/share/pixmaps/ico/default16.png /usr/share/pixmaps/ico/default32.png /usr/share/pixmaps/ico/default48.png /usr/lib/iceweasel/chrome/icons/default'

alias seaicon='cp /usr/share/pixmaps/ico/main-window.png /usr/share/pixmaps/ico/main-window16.png /usr/share/pixmaps/ico/main-window48.png /usr/lib/iceape/chrome/icons/default'

alias thudicon='cp /usr/share/pixmaps/messengerWindow.png /usr/share/pixmaps/messengerWindow16.png /usr/lib/icedove/chrome/icons/default'

Robin said...

Mepis is always the distro I introduce newcomers to Linux with, because it contains none of the buggy, experimental Beta software that most of its biggest rivals insist upon including by default. I think it's unconscionable to do that in any distro that claims to be "newbie-friendly." Mepis has none of that Beta stuff that turns unsuspecting newbies into laboratory rats without their knowledge or consent.

Risk is fun (I like Sidux for that very reason)! But I'm glad Mepis is around for newbies and people who absolutely need a solid, stable desktop. Ubuntu and it's offspring are becoming too high-risk for newcomers in my opinion. Mepis is the best Debian-based distro for beginners - and long-time users for whom stability is the main thing.

Doug said...

I'm downloading Mepis right now. I'm looking for simpler OS that I can use to work with videos and not tie up my main computer. This is my third different OS in two days. Graphics card, Monitor issues. We'll see . ...