Moving To a New Site

I have just decided that it's time to move on and have my own domain. All the posts in this blog will be moved to:

www.pinoygeek.org

Personal posts will be transferred to: raldz.pinoygeek.org

Sunday, March 19, 2006

SimplyMEPIS: Linux Ready for the Desktop

By: Gerald Cortez

I made this article in order to encourage those who haven't tried any Linux Distribution yet to get out of their comfort zone and experience the best, easy, and secure life with Linux.

The latest release of SimplyMEPIS is 3.4-3 released last February 9, 2006. MEPIS ranks number five at Distrowatch.com and is one of the most overlooked Linux distribution. Why overlooked? Well, from my arsenal of different Linux flavors, this distribution is yet the easiest that I found. From installation to its actual use, I never saw such distribution with so much versatility and it didn't let my fingers touch the command line. Well.. almost, because I did execute one command to update the packages using apt-get. But overall, this distro didn't make me sweat.

It was one lazy Saturday evening and I have nothing to do, so I tried visiting my favorite Linux websites, and MEPIS caught my eye at Distrowatch's ranks. It made me thought for a while, and since I have computers to spare and some extra time, I guess I should give MEPIS a little spin, and besides the next day is Sunday and I have a lot of time to play around with my new Linux flavor.

After a few oohhhs and ahhhhs while playing around with MEPIS, I just couldn't help myself but write an article about it's latest release.. and here is what I found:

The LiveCD

The CD-ISO which can be downloaded here, is consisted of a Live CD, an Install CD, and a Rescue CD all in one Disc. The Live CD functionality is great for demonstration purposes or to test for hardware compatibility before a user may install the system to their hard disk. If, after testing the Live CD and you would like to install MEPIS in your hard disk, you will find an INSTALL icon on the desktop. The MEPIS CD may also function as a Rescue CD, if, after a system crashes or your hard disk crashes (Windows or Linux), and you wish to rescue your files or the whole system itself, you may just boot to the CD to access your system or files. Not all Linux distro has this functionality, and it is great to have this all in one CD.

The default LiveCD interface


Installation

The installation took just 18 minutes on my machine running AMD Duron 850MHz with 128MB of RAM. When I reached the partition section, MEPIS launched Qparted, a program similar to Partition Magic in Windows in order to allocate partitions for the Linux installation. It is important to remember to allocate a swap partition for your MEPIS and have it formatted, because the installation procedure won't warn you if there is no swap partition allocated. After installation, I just removed the aquarium which is in the task panel by default. The default icon size in Konqueror (the file explorer) is a little bit too small, so I have to resize this to my preference. Overall customization just took me 5 minutes and the desktop is all set to go.

Using Qparted to partition the hard disk for MEPIS is easy.

The installation took around 18 minutes

The new clean look

Hardware Support

All my hardware where detected properly including the option to install nVidia and ATI graphics drivers. External drives and DVD drives were detected and mounted properly on the default installation. I tried installing MEPIS on different machines and the only trouble that I encounter is that the display won't work when you run the MEPIS LiveCD on a 14 inch monitor. My printer which is HP Laserjet 1020 was finally detected. Earlier Linux distribution like Ubuntu 5.10 and SUSE 10.0 could not install my printer drivers properly. And lastly, I could now use my webcam with MEPIS 3.4-3. My webcam doesn't work on distributions that I've tried previously.

Finally, a distro that recognizes my A4Tech Webcam


Networking

Connectivity is a must these days, even homes with multiple computers have their own local network. This is also important for me, and to find this very easy in MEPIS just made me shook my head. Everything I need including file sharing and Internet connection was configured properly by MEPIS. Wireless LAN detection was also properly configured, however, this may vary depending on your Wireless LAN card. So far, networking is a breeze in MEPIS.

Multimedia

MEPIS is known for having legacy multimedia codecs installed by default, which makes this features MEPIS' strong points when it comes to desktop computing. After installation, I opened my multimedia files from my Windows machine across the network, and MEPIS' default players just played my multimedia files without a glitch. This feature is what I was looking for from earlier Linux distributions, and MEPIS just answered my request.

Synaptic Package Manager
My mp3s playing from a Windows shared folder.


Productivity Apps

Most of the commonly needed applications for productivity is already installed by default. Things you will need for documents, finances, Internet, communications, email, instant messengers, notes, photo editing, fax, scanning, and almost anything you think of as a common user is already there at default installation. This choices of applications makes MEPIS ready out of the box for home and small office usage.

Running Firefox

Additional Packages

One thing that makes MEPIS as one of the most flexible distribution is the fact that it's Debian. After installation, I decided to add a few more extra packages. I opened synaptic package manager and found that there is 1000+ available packages on the MEPIS default repository. As a power user, I want to add more repositories and found two unselected Debian repositories. By selecting this two and updating the cache of synaptic, I was able to access 17,000+ packages ready for download and installation. I installed my usual stuffs for webpage/site editing, Apache, MySQL, PHP, and other power user stuffs. This showed how flexible MEPIS is starting as just a plain Desktop computer, to an Enterprise like environment.


Synaptic Package Manager
Synaptic downloading additional apps.

Maintenance

Since the repositories point to “etch” or the Debian package collection for testing, you could always upgrade your default packages to your liking. However, since the packages are in testing or beta mode, you can expect instability and may crash your system. So, to make sure that you have the latest stable package, you could always change “etch” to “sarge” or the stable Debian repository.

Going Further

As most common people new to Linux would want to do, you could play with your MEPIS box, upgrade a few packages like KDE 3.5, and discover how this would work for you. If there is any trouble that you might encounter, you could always consult forums like MEPISLOVERS.org and ask questions. Linux is supported by the community, and you could get instant support if you would just visit different forums dedicated to Linux.

Overall, I can say that MEPIS is a distribution of choice for the new Linux Desktop users. However, Linux distros continously improves and there are new releases waiting this April of 2006.


28 comments:

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Yeah, SimplyMEPIS seems like an awesome distro. I must still err on the side of PCLinuxOS as my preferred LiveCD OS, even if it's an rpm based distro.

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