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 google.com, 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.