A new version of MEPIS Linux, one of my favorite KDE-based distributions, is nearing final release. Roughly a year after the arrival of version 7.0, distribution founder and maintainer Warren Woodford has just issued MEPIS 8.0 beta 2, based on a Debian Lenny core.
I last tested MEPIS at version 6.0 two years ago, and found it to be a nearly perfect Linux desktop. That version was based on Ubuntu packages, whereas version 7.0, which emerged late last year, marked a move back to a Debian core.
In addition to its Debian Lenny core, MEPIS 8.0 comes with the latest, up-to-date application packages, according to Woodford. Thankfully, it’s still based on KDE 3.5.9 — see my comments on KDE 4.1 here.
“Important package changes in this beta include 184.108.40.206 kernel, ntfs-3g34,
OpenOffice 3.0rc2, and OpenJDK 6,” Woodford says in the release announcement. Additionally, its kernel supports VirtualBox-OSE 2.0.2, which can be installed from the MEPIS 8.0 repository.
“Plugable ntfs devices are once again handled automatically with ntfs-3g,” the distribution founder continues. However, he notes, “At this time, permanent ntfs devices must be mounted manually with ntfs-3g. An automatic solution is being investigated.”
The 8.0 beta 2 release also “introduces a striking new desktop theme developed by MEPIS community members Brooko, Ljogerst, Utopia, and Julzzz,” Woodford adds.
Quick look at the Live CD
MEPIS 8.0 beta 2 is usable as both a live CD and as a tool for permanently installing the distribution on your system’s hard drive.
Below are some screenshots of how the live CD looks on my Thinkpad testbed. The system is an old model 2662-35U, featuring a 600 MHz Pentium III CPU, 192 MB SDRAM, a 20 GB hard drive, and a CD-only optical drive.
Click each of these thumbnail images for a larger view:
Following the above preview of MEPIS 8.0, I went ahead and installed it on the Thinkpad’s hard drive. Installation via the automatic wizard (click the installation icon on the KDE desktop after booting from the live CD) was quick, clear, easy-to-use. The default username is demo, and demo’s password is “demo” — but when prompted for a root password, that one is “root.”
MEPIS 8.0′s log-in screen
I don’t particularly like the theming choices in MEPIS 8.0 — naturally everyone’s tastes vary! Consequently, I reconfigured just about everything using the Control Center tool.
Then, I added a bunch of my favorite applications, as follows:
- First, I edited the repository sources file (/etc/apt/sources.list), removing the “#” characters at the start of all repository lines (e.g. all lines that begin with “deb.”
- Then, from a Konsole shell, logged in as root, I ran the following commands to update all system packages:
- apt-get update;apt-get upgrade
- Next I installed a bunch of packages using this command:
- apt-get install d3lphin gaim gimp bluefish dillo xine-ui ntfsprogs imagemagick realplayer skype dmz-cursor-theme
- Now, I used the Synaptic package manager (KDE menu > System > Synaptic Package Manager) and selected/installed “sun-java6-plugin” (it resulted in the installation of several packages), which installs the java plugin for Firefox.
- Next, I went to http://opera.com/download, selected the “Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron” version of Opera, and downloaded it; after that, I ran the command (as root, from a Konsole shell):
- dpkg -i opera_9.52.2091.gcc4.qt3_i386.deb
- Finally, using Firefox, I went to mozilla.com and downloaded and installed thunderbird. Note: before doing that, I tried installing it using apt-get, but there appeared to be a dependency problem. After downloading the thunderbird tar.gz file, move it to /usr/lib (as root), untar it (tar -zxvf …), and then create a symlink in /usr/bin for running the program as follows:
ln -s /usr/lib/thunderbird/thunderbird /usr/bin/thunderbird
Following all the above, I ran a bunch of tests, to verify that java and flash plugins were working, sound worked, I could make a skype phone call, YouTube videos worked, etc.
Below are some screenshots of various applications running on the Thinkpad’s MEPIS 8.0 desktop, after I had tuned the system’s KDE configuration to suit my needs and added my favorite software.
Click each of these thumbnail images for a larger view:
All in all, based on this quick first look at MEPIS 8.0, I’d have to say that for a beta it’s looking quite good! My main quibbles are the lack of the popular Mozilla Thunderbird email client out-of-the-box, and the need to install the Sun Java plugin.
The main advantage of MEPIS 8.0 relative to Kubuntu 8.04, is that it’s somewhat more complete by default. Also, its kernel and packages are more up-to-date, although the upcoming release of Ubuntu/Kubuntu 8.10 will mitigate that factor. An important advantage of Ubuntu/Kubuntu, on the other hand, is its broad acceptance and popularity, with the result that applications increasingly support — or exclusively target — the Ubuntu family distros.
In comparison to Debian, too, MEPIS 8.0 provides more of the tools and applications I tend to use — not that I can’t add them to Debian myself. Plus, MEPIS is based on a Debian Lenny kernel and packages from the Debian Lenny repositories, so it’s basically a Debian KDE remix.
Those interested in trying out the SimplyMEPIS 8.0 beta can obtain ISO images for 32- and 64-bit versions from the “testing” subdirectory of the MEPIS Subscriber’s Site, or from MEPIS public mirrors. (They’re named SimplyMEPIS-CD_7.9.80-beta_32.iso and _64.iso, respectively.)
Warren Woodford founded the MEPIS Linux project in 2002. In addition to developing and maintaining MEPIS Linux, he provides various software-related consulting services to high-tech companies.
Woodford urges MEPIS users to support ongoing development of the distribution by becoming MEPIS subscribers.
For further details and free MEPIS downloads visit the MEPIS website.