SimplyMEPIS 8.5

The last time I looked at SimplyMEPIS was the 8.0 release. In this review I’ll be taking a look at the latest version, SimplyMEPIS Linux 8.5. SimplyMEPIS is based on Debian, and it uses KDE as its desktop environment.

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new stuff you’ll find in this release:

2.6.32 kernel
KDE 4.3
The SimplyMEPIS Welcome Center
NDisWrapper Manager

The Welcome Center
SimplyMEPIS now comes with the MEPIS Welcome Center. The welcome center provides helpful links to support resources, language packs, popular applications and additional community software. The welcome center is a nice addition to SimplyMEPIS though it’s not quite as slick as the one that comes with Linux Mint.

The new SimplyMEPIS welcome center provides helpful links.

KDE 4.3
I love the fact that the SimplyMEPIS developers did not default to the heinously annoying sliding KDE 4 menus. It is so much easier using the KDE 3 style menus. This was a smart move on the developer’s part and I wish more KDE-based distros would emulate it. The sliding menus in KDE 4 are atrocious and counter-intuitive.

SimplyMEPIS uses KDE 3 style menus in KDE 4.3.

The NDisWrapper Manager
If you need to use legacy drivers for wireless access, you’ll love this new tool.

Use the NDisWrapper for legacy drivers.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to run SimplyMEPIS 8.5:

MEPIS Linux-32
an i686-compatible processor at 300 MHz
256 MB RAM
3 GB free hard drive space
an X.org supported video processor

MEPIS Linux-64
AMD Athlon64, Athlon64-FX, Athlon64-X2, Opteron, Sempron64, Turion64, or Intel Core 2 Duo desktop, Core 2 Duo mobile, Pentium4 Prescott with EM64T, PentiumD with EM64T
256 MB RAM
4 GB free hard drive space
an X.org supported video processor

Recommended specifications
an i686-compatible processor at 700 MHz
512 MB RAM or more
8 GB free hard drive space
a CD/DVD reader

Installation
Installing SimplyMEPIS is very easy and quick. It’s certainly no harder or longer than installing Ubuntu. You can try SimplyMEPIS via the Live CD desktop before deciding to do an install. SimplyMEPIS can be installed from the Live CD desktop too.

You can install SimplyMEPIS from the Live CD desktop.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Booting & Login

Bootsplash
The bootsplash screen shows the SimplyMEPIS branding, along with boot options and a preview of the desktop wallpaper.

Login
The login screen also displays the wallpaper, and it allows you to change your session type or opt to logout or shut down your system.

The SimplyMEPIS 8.5 bootsplash screen.

The login screen for SimplyMEPIS 8.5.

The Desktop
The desktop contains icons for Documents, Trash, the MEPIS Manual (see the help section for a screenshot of the manual), and the MEPIS site. I generally dislike icons on the desktop but, in this case, I don’t mind them. The MEPIS Manual is certainly something worth having available to new users, as is the link to the MEPIS site.

Controls
One of the best things about SimplyMEPIS is its assistant menus. These menus let you configure users, x-windows, networking, system settings, etc. Here’s a list of them, along with screenshots of each to show you what they look like.

MEPIS Network Assistant
MEPIS User Assistant
MEPIS X-Windows Assistant
MEPIS System Assistant

These assistants offer real value to SimplyMEPIS users and help set this distro apart from others. You can access these by clicking on the Application Launcher Menu button on the panel, then by choosing Settings.

Wallpaper
The SimplyMEPIS desktop won’t wow you with glitzy wallpaper. In fact, it’s rather drab and dreary looking. But perhaps that’s appropriate for a distro that’s more a workhorse than a showhorse. Still, I’d like to see something a little more upbeat than the current wallpaper.

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
KPatience
KMines

Graphics
GIMP
Gwenview
Okular
digiKam
KSnapshot
DNGConverter
AqcuireImages

Internet
FileZilla
Firefox
KMail
Konqueror
Kopete
KTorrent

Multimedia
Amarok
K3b Disk Burning
Kdenlive Video Editor
KMPlayer
KMix
KsCD

Office
OpenOffice.org
KMyMoney
Okular

Software Management
The Synaptic Package Manager icon is available on the panel. You can also find on the System menu.

Synaptic is relatively easy to use but it’s rather ugly and primitive looking compared to the Ubuntu Software Center. It would be nice to see SimplyMEPIS have a spiffier software management tool some day. Still, Synaptic is functional and it will get the job done for most users (albeit in an unattractive way).

If you click the Sections button in Synaptic you can browse applications by category.

Software Repositories
To add or remove repositories, click the Settings menu in Synaptic and then choose Repositories.

Adding & Removing Software
Just find the application you want to install or remove in Synaptic, then right-click it to mark it for installation or removal.

Use the Synaptic package manager to add or remove software.

YouTube & Flash
YouTube videos looked and sounded great. There was no need for me to install flash.

For my test video, I picked one by Ronnie James Dio. Dio passed away recently from stomach cancer. His death was a sad passing for an amazing singer. Check out his videos on YouTube if you get a chance. There’s a fair amount of stuff available there.

Rest in peace, Ronnie. One of the best singers of all time. God rest your soul, thanks for the great music.

DVDs
You’ll need to install the appropriate codec to run DVDs in SimplyMEPIS. For legal reasons it is not included with this distro.

Problems & Headaches
My experience with SimplyMEPIS was very good, I didn’t run into any problems of note to talk about here.

One thing I would like to see though, as I’ve noted in other reviews recently, is more could integration into SimplyMEPIS. Peppermint OS has spoiled me and made me want to have various web services included by default in each distro’s application menus. It would be very nice if SimplyMEPIS incorporated some cloud services into a future release in the same way.

 

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the MEPISLovers forum, the online manual, and the wiki.

The manual is a great resource, especially for new SimplyMEPIS users.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
SimplyMEPIS 8.5 is a nice alternative for KDE users. It’s obviously not going to appeal to the GNOME crowd, and that’s fine. The SimplyMEPIS assistants provide some real configuration value and help set this distro apart from some of the others.

I feel comfortable recommending SimplyMEPIS to pretty much any Linux user. While it certainly won’t win any award for the “slickest” or “coolest” distro, it still has a lot to offer. SimplyMEPIS is definitely a workhorse, not a showhorse. And to me, that’s a good thing.

Check it out.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit JimLynch.com for opinion columns.

Summary Table:

Product: SimplyMEPIS 8.5
Web Site: http://www.mepis.org/
Price: Free
Pros: Good selection of applications. MEPIS assistants add real value for users.
Cons: Drab desktop wallpaper. Lacks the cloud integration of Peppermint OS One.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Summary: SimplyMEPIS offers a viable, KDE-based alternative to some of the better known desktop distros. It’s worth considering if you want a workhorse desktop distro rather than a showhorse.
Rating: 4/5

 



SimplyMEPIS Linux 8.0

Certain distributions tend to get more press than others. SimplyMEPIS isn’t one of the ones that gets drooled over by the media the way that Linux Mint, Ubuntu and others do. I include myself in this as a journalist since this blog has been up and running since early July and I’m just now getting to a review of SimplyMEPIS.┬áIt’s a shame though as SimpyMEPIS has quite a bit to offer the desktop Linux user as you’ll find out in this review.

First a bit of background about SimplyMEPIS from Wikipedia:

MEPIS was designed as an alternative to SUSE Linux, Red Hat Linux, and Mandriva Linux (formerly Mandrake) which, in the creator Warren Woodford’s opinion, were too difficult for the average user. MEPIS’s first official release was on May 10, 2003.

In 2006, MEPIS made a transition from using Debian packages to using Ubuntu packages. [1] SimplyMEPIS 6.0, released in July 2006, was the first version of MEPIS to incorporate the Ubuntu packages and repositories.

What’s New In This Release
SimplyMEPIS 8.0 is based on Debian Lenny. Here’s a sample of what’s new in this release:

Linux Kernel 2.6.27.18
KDE 3.5.10
OpenOffice 3.0
Firefox 3.0.6
Bind 0.9.6
IPv6

Picture6

Requirements & Installation
Here are the system requirements for SimplyMEPIS:

Intel Pentium III or Athlon (K7) processor
128 MB RAM
3.0 GB free hard drive space
CDROM drive

SimplyMEPIS is a Live CD distribution so you can check it out without having to install it. When you first boot into SimplyMEPIS you’ll see that you can log in as Root or as Demo. No passwords are included on the login screen but if you simply use root or demo you can login and then begin the installation. I noticed when booting into the demo desktop that sound worked perfectly as I heard the login music play.
Note that when you go to do the install you’ll need to type in the root account’s password (root) to begin. The install itself is very easy and only took me about 15 minute or so. I had no problems with it and was able to boot into my SimplyMEPIS 8.0 desktop.
mepis1
mepis2
mepis3

Desktop & Apps
The SimplyMEPIS default desktop wallpaper is a combination of grey-blue cloudy swirls with black. It left me feeling cold (more on that in the problems section). When you boot into your desktop you’ll see the following icons:

Documents
Floppy Drive (who still uses these?)
MEPIS Site Link
MEPIS User’s Manual
My Computer
Trash

The desktop panel contains a MEPIS button that gets you started accessing apps, etc. You can also launch a web browser, access system settings, access your home folder or open the Kontact information manager from the panel. If you’ve used KDE then the SimplyMEPIS desktop is what you’d expect it to be in this release.

Also, when you click the System icon on the desktop panel you can click on MEPIS to choose from the following:

MEPIS Network Assistant
MEPIS System Assistant
MEPIS User Assistant
MEPIS X-Windows Assistant

I found each of these to be quite useful in their own way so don’t forget to check them out after you boot into your SimplyMEPIS desktop.

Here’s a sample of what you’ll find for apps in SimplyMEPIS 8.0:

Games
KBattleship
SameGame
KMines
Colorlines

Graphics
OpenOffice.org Draw
showFoto
digiKam
Kooka
KSnapshot

Internet
Kopete IM
JBidwatcher
KMail
Firefox
Konqueror
gFTP
Akregator
Guarddog

Multimedia
Amarok
K3b
KsCD
KMPlayer
KMix
Kino
Kid3

Office
OpenOffice.org
Kontact
Kate
KWrite
KOrganizer
KPDF
KAddressBook

Overall you get a good selection of software in SimplyMEPIS 8.0. To add more just click the System icon on the desktop panel and then choose Package Manager to launch the Synaptic Package Manager.

mepisapps

What I Liked Most
The easy install and the lack of KDE 4’s obnoxious menus were the two things I enjoyed most about SimplyMEPIS. Yes, I actually didn’t miss KDE 4 much if at all while using SimplyMEPIS. The SimplyMEPIS online manual is also quite good and should help users before, during and after their installation.

Problems & Headaches
I find the login password thing rather stupid and potentially somewhat annoying to new users who might not be able to figure out the passwords. Yes, I know it’s simple if are familiar with logging into these kinds of distributions but newbies to Linux might be perplexed and might not know where to get the passwords for the Root or Demo accounts. And, of course, some newbies might not even know what Root is or what it should be used for.

Note that SimplyMEPIS is using the older version of KDE. I personally don’t mind this at all but some KDE users might not appreciate not having KDE 4. Given that this review is a bit tardy since SimplyMEPIS came out toward the beginning of the year, I’m not going to penalize it in this review for the older KDE desktop. But be aware of it if you decide to download SimplyMEPIS 8.0.

I was not happy to note that GIMP was not included in the default install.

The SimplyMEPIS default desktop wallpaper is rather drab looking. It lacks the gorgeous appeal of Linux Mint 7’s as well as the satanic creepiness of Ubuntu Satanic Edition. I’d like to see something more distinct to give SimplyMEPIS its own identity and more easily identifiable look and feel.

And I also did not care for the way the app menus were organized. There was the main list of apps but then I had to click on another selections called More Applications to see the rest of them. They all ought to be listed directly under the appropriate category rather than having some of them broke out into More Applications. A minor thing perhaps but still annoying.

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Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the forum at the Mepis Lovers site and the online manual.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Overall my experience with SimplyMEPIS was pretty positive with a few things that I didn’t like.

It’s a fine – but slightly dated – choice for almost any Linux user. Newbies should not have a problem installing it or otherwise using it. And experienced Linux users might also enjoy giving it a shot on their desktops.

If you’re not in a pressing hurry then you might want to wait for the next release which will probably have KDE 4 included with it.

MEPISsystem

Summary Table:

Product: SimplyMEPIS 8.0 Linux
Web Site: https://www.mepis.org/
Price: Free
Pros: Easy install, good selection of apps and excellent online manual.
Cons: Still uses KDE 3.5 instead of KDE 4.
Suitable For: Beginning, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Summary: SimplyMEPIS is looking just a tad bit dated at this point but it’s still an excellent choice for desktop Linux users.
Rating: 3.5/5