It finally hit me why Mepis / Debian rocks

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 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.

Subscribe to Swaroop CH

Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.
Jamie Larson