Swaroop C H

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It finally hit me why Mepis - Debian rocks

09 Feb 2005

I switched to Mepis GNU/Linux on my office system today. Just one word - Beauuuu---ti---ful!

I had earlier tried Mepis at home but had to switch back to Fedora Linux because of a stupid program provided by Sify Broadband, without which I cannot use the internet.

Ironically, I just had to switch from Fedora because of its numerous problems. For example, yum is a real PITA. Also, using the CDROM drive has become problematic - I have to actually change permissions of /dev/cdrom before I can play Audio CDs! Another issue is that Fedora startup is real slow.

So, I had to switch and I chose Mepis. MEPIS is an acronym for Managerial, Educational and Personal Information Systems.

First, I backed up the existing stuff on my Fedora box - my mail, my code and all other important stuff on to a CD as well as a remote system. I then downloaded the single-CD SimplyMepis 2004.06 and burnt it to a CD.

I rebooted the system, popped in the CD, the LiveCD system started running. Imagine using a complete operating system and all the software without even installing it on your hard disk! I was shocked to see that I was able to access internet already (it had used DHCP to set up the network). Really slick. Everything's running so good and pretty fast, I could easily just boot off the CD for daily work! But it would be boring to do that everytime. Also, all my settings can be saved on a hard disk installation.

I clicked on Menu -> System -> MEPIS Utilities -> MEPIS Installation Center. Click on 'Install MEPIS on Hard Drive', asked MEPIS to use the hard disk any way it wants, clicked on Next and installation was done in 4-5 minutes! Yikes. The tips displayed during the installation are extremely useful, even for a long-time Linux user like me.

Once the installation was done, I configured the network to have my proper static IP address, etc. Then, I see that only the Mozilla suite comes with Mepis, not Firefox and Thunderbird. Okay, time to read up on apt-get, the package management system that comes with Mepis. It allows you to download and install software with a single command. No fuss, no muss. The manual was really simple and remarkably up-to-date as well, but then I then noticed the 'Package Management' tab in the MEPIS System Center - so I chose to use the Japan mirrors for packages and then tried KPackage to install Firefox. Didn't work. It gave me some error 300 or something like that.

So, had to go back to apt-get on the command line. First, I used apt-cache search thunderbird, it seems 'mozilla-firefox' is what I need. Next comes apt-get install mozilla-firefox and apt-get install mozilla-thunderbird. Bam! 10 minutes later, I copied over my old mails and I had my mail and browser ready to go. After some more customization, my system was totally ready and that too within an hour!

What amazed me most of all is how easy MEPIS really is. If anybody says that Linux is tough, point them to Mepis and give a big grin. Yep, that's how easy it is. Even Windows asks more questions during installation! MEPIS comes with all the multimedia stuff ready as well - RealPlayer, Xine, MPlayer are all there. The browser plugins are properly configured as well. Even Java is installed. It has one of the fastest startup times that I've come across. This is truly Linux for the desktop.

I have mentioned all the pluses, so here come the minuses. First off, the default theme sucks. Yes, I plan to change it later on. Second, how do I enable services (specifically ssh daemon) ? Fedora had a GUI for that. Oh well, a symlink in the current run level directory did the trick. Another question is why are Firefox and Thunderbird not part of the standard install ?! It definitely should be. Another gripe is Synaptic should be part of the standard install as well.

Also, the Mepis website is simply confusing. It doesn't have a 'Start Here' section like it should. Also, what's the difference between SimplyMEPIS and ProMEPIS? I still haven't found out the answer to that one.

Synaptic

Synaptic and apt-get as a system totally rocks. I needed to install my beloved VIM on my system. So click on Start -> System -> Synaptic Package Manager. Enter the root password. Click on 'Search', enter 'VIM' and press Enter. It shows up a list of packages that are related to VIM. Double-click on vim and click 'Apply' . DONE. Its that easy.

I am really wondering why the Fedora community still hasn't brought yum to the same level of polish as apt-get.

To finish off, I am really surprised why I haven't tried Debian before. I guess, old (Red Hat) habits die hard. Mepis, which is based on Debian, is so user-friendly that I had to switch. I accept, I am a convert.

Sidenote : Yes, I know about Ubuntu Linux but I am a KDE user. So, MEPIS is the one for me.

Update : Advice to Mepis users in India : Use the 'au' i.e. Australian mirror, I find it to be the fastest for me.

Comments

Swaroop C H says:

Anand: If you install it on your system, it *is* on your hard disk!

Chirag Gupta says:

I've been juggling between variuos Linux distros since 2-3 years but Ubuntu is likely to stay
for some time, It rocks man!!.
Anyone who has tried Ubuntu n MEPIS plz compare them for me. And yes, I prefer GNOME to KDE
bcoz of its simple (read uncluttered) interface.

Carthik says:

Hi Swaroop, I was actually looking into making you a CD with all the KDE stuff on it. I can still do that. As for the size of the packages, I stepped through completely removing all the kde related packages I have installed (warning: this inlcudes a lot of packages that may be required for non-kde apps too) and that would free up 374 MB on my HDD. So I should think that the download for installing KDE would be a max of 200MB, since the .debs are smaller than the installed files, and you don't need to download some stuff that might already be there.

There is already a project in progress to have a KDE version of Ubuntu - I'll be watching that too.
If you need a CD image with the KDE only packages, then let me know and I can put it up on a server for you.

Carthik says:

I use Ubuntu and KDE. Never had a problem. Ubuntu is far superior in many respects, and so is KDE :)
All I had to do was login to gnome once and enable "universe" among other repositories (through Synaptic), and then install KDE. Everything just works.
OTOH, Mepis' live cd did not boot me into a graphical interface, despite my trying earnestly.

Pradeep says:

Hah! at last you saw the light.
One more MEPIS convert in my pocket :)

Swaroop C H says:

Pradeep: Dude, there's no way I can fit in your pocket! :P

Swaroop C H says:

Pramod: The eye has turned towards you. Beware! (Think LOTR.... :P )

Anand says:

If you like MEPIS, try Yoper. It is highly optimized for x86 systems and gives you
best performance. MEPIS is good, but I don't use Live CD systems as a rule ;-). If it
ain't on your hard disk, I feel it ain't on my computer!

Pramod says:

Thanks for a brilliant review..You are tempting me to ditch RH/Fedora too! :)

Carthik says:

I forgot to say what I liked in Ubuntu, in particular : First off, the community is great, and very helpful, and the tolerance towards newbies is high.
Second, most of the apps and preferences are set in such a way as to make life easier, and the OS more intuitive and immediately useful. The Ubuntu devs seem to be putting some time into adapting the programs for usability. For example, i have never seen better fonts in a Linux system, and the defaults make sense.
Third, I don't want to switch on a later day, when Warren Woodford decides or is forced to call it quits. I am suspicious of one-person projects.
Fourth, Ubuntu is totally free and will remain so, but is still backed by a company, Canonical, with lots of money being invested into improving it. Debian and Gnome developers are on a payroll, and that means a lot to me, since I know it is their job to improve Ubuntu - it is not a past time activity for them.
Fifth, Ubuntu just worked on my laptop and desktop. I can't say the same for MEPIS which could not boot me into a graphical UI, or setup my wireless card "out of the box". That is important to me, since I can learn more, only if I have everything running to begin with, especially internet access. Now I know enough to install the driver, load the modules etc manually, but to begin with, it's nice to get some hand-holding (besides, isn;t that the way everything should work - with minimal intervention?)
Sixth, To me, the philosophy behind the OS is important. Ubuntu is a novel venture in which a person and an organization are investing in the future of free OpenSource software. I want to do what I can to see that this is a success story - so that other organizations will invest in Open source development. I wish Canonical all success, since they do not have any Mandrake-like clubs, or MEPIS-like 'Pro' versions, and since they provide the same OS freely as they do when they get involved with professional support. It is good to know I have the best my distro has on offer, and that I am not discriminated against - even though I pay nothing.

Canonical is serious enough about spreading the word. They distribute (read mail out) CD packets to whoever wants them, for free, across the world. The sheer cost of shipping cds worldwide, any number of them, boggles my mind. I received some 10 cd packs, and am lined up to receive another 100 cd packs - each with professionally made and packaged cds.

All this and just a general feeling of "this one's a good one" made me choose Ubuntu as my only OS.

Swaroop C H says:

Carthik: How long does it take to download the full KDE packages!? I shudder to think of trying this at home. Btw, what is that you liked about Ubuntu in particular?

Barry Arthur says:

Second, how do I enable services (specifically ssh daemon) ? Fedora had a GUI for that.

Annoyed me too. There is a GUI tool called ksysv that does the job. It's not as neat or intuitive as Fedora's, but will do until I find something better.

Praveen A says:

> I guess, old (Red Hat) habits die hard.

I guess, old (KDE) habits die hard. Gnome rocks dude!! Gnome is so beautiful (user friendly by default) that I had to change :-)

Swaroop C H says:

Praveen, I think I will stick to KDE. Here's why - /2005/02/09/why-i-prefer-kde-over-gnome/

doowadiddy says:

and you really believe that all those "professionally made and packaged cds" don't have some type of ulterior motive behind them? wake up and smell the coffee. ubuntu and canonical is a little too much hype and very close to being a deadend with it's non-debian compatible repositories.

all that money attracts lots of attention....but true open source efforts aren't based on hype and millionare's efforts

Swaroop C H says:

Anonymous a.k.a. doowadiddy : I do not know enough to comment on the non-debian compatible repositories but regarding true open source efforts, wasn't OpenOffice based on hype and millionaire's (read Sun's) efforts?

shiyas says:

i am newbie in linux world , if dont mind please send me the ubuntu linux totorials (installation and configurations)
by shiyas

Swaroop C H says:

Hi Carthik,

If its not too much trouble and you can make that CD, that would be great! I am eager to try it out :)

Swaroop C H says:

Hi Shiyas,

Due to the very nature of open source, things change fast and so documentation is not as complete or up-to-date as you would like. If you're a beginner, I would recommend that you take someone's help to install it for the first time. However, there is a [complete Debian installation manual][1] - a brief read of it should give you an idea. Remember that Ubuntu and Mepis make it extremely easy to install! All you need to remember is to make new partitions in the hard disk.

[1]: http://www.debian.org/releases/stable/i386/install

Swaroop C H says:

Shanker Balan uses Reliance for internet on FC3.

Swaroop C H says:

Matt: Just run `/etc/init.d/ssh start`, you should have the OpenSSH daemon running.

bob_man_uk says:

I really liked mepis, moreso than fedora core 3, i know this is a little out of time but i really need to access my install(mepis install) via the command line, (enabling SSH daemon) i downloaded the apt-get packages for ssh and it installed them no problem but ssh still doesnt work, i tried scanning the PC (mepis box) with GFI languard and it only detected VNC (yes i enabled desktop sharing but its slow) and port 80 (web server) which is ok, but i need SSH, and help is appreciated or should i go find some forums? oh and by the way, if anyone else reads this and are toying with the idea of moving but dont want to loose your windows applications, get hold of a copy of crossover office, cedega or wine(wouldnt recommend) i have managed to get internet explorer R5 installed and working without any problems and Putty (shell manager, im sorry but i have a bad memory when it comes to remembering server names/ip addresses) and i use openoffice and other things for all my productivity uses,

thanks for listening,

P.S great review,

cheers,

Matty G

Shyam says:

Oye! Which part of the Sify program didn't work on Mepis?

And it seems Mepis uses the Gentoo naming convention for versions :p

Swaroop C H says:

Shyam: there's only one binary Sify program and that didn't work!

Swaroop C H says:

William: Thank you for explaining about the real meaning of Ubuntu. It surely was good to hear about that :) ... I am curious as to what is Ubuntu's business plan? (It needs some method to sustain it's activities in the long run) I'm more interested in the part in how Africa plays a role in their plans.

William says:

I am currently using Mepis and have just completed downloading and running the live-cd of Kubuntu. As regards the post about the motive behind Ubuntu - Mr Shuttleworth received about $750 million when he sold his company. Projects were funded to provide Linux into schools and libraries in South Africa - this I know as I was also involved in assisting libraries to distribute GPL software. If you have seen the poverty within the townships the you will understand that GPL software is the only way to assist education and the use of such software in developing and establishing new business enterprises to uplift local communities. Ubuntu, in Africa, represents the giving of resources by those who are in a more fortunate position to those who are in greatest need. While business enterprises who "invest" in GPL by purchasing software and services, the making of such GPL software available to the ordinary citizen allows the s development of skills which can complete the circle by creating a more skilled workforce which is needed by the business enterprise. When I was in Cape Town I was invited to the townships to give (free) presentations on Linux - having lived there for 40 years I am very aware of the challenges. No, I do not see Ubuntu developing into something with the mindset of SCO!

Praveen A says:

A real testimony for Ubuntu.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/glugc/message/118

It was written by my friend Felix Nelson who is a doctor and not a tech guy who use GNU/Linux [he has been using it for some years now]. He also got his dad to use GNU/Linux. [Now he has some problem since he is searching for Reliance phone driver for linux, because his father now use reliance phone as modem and so cannot use GNU/Linux for browsing. Does anyone out there know how to connect to net using Reliance phone in GNU/Linux]

gregord says:

Just to update the original review:
SimplyMepis is now up to version 3.31 and both Synaptic and Firefox ( with several others ) are included. One of the joys of Mepis is that the users are listened to and suggestions acted on.
I have tried several distros and this is the one for me LOL.
Dave -UK.

Arjun says:

Ya, i just tried out Mepis myself recently. Its really amazing! I used Fedora before and had lot of trouble with my hardware. Mepis worked like magic. No hitches. The latest version has more softwares than anyone can possibly need. The only domain where i felt it lacked was Development. It doesn't provide any of my favorite IDE's like anjuta by default. Otherwise Mepis rocks!!!

neo says:

hey dude!! im usin use right now cause it needs some old school drills thats why i opted out from gnome...ok can you tell me how do i mset up a dial up connection in my kde..waitin for mails

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