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SimplyMEPIS 8.5

May 25, 2010
By

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

 

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15 Responses to SimplyMEPIS 8.5

  1. TJ on December 20, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Awesome release. Kudos to the developers!

  2. Brian Masinick on October 19, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Brian Masinick wrote:

    Alan hits it on the mark as far as a rolling release goes. You can get that with sidux and you can also get it with antiX, an official alternative to SimplyMEPIS.

    Some of the antiX advocates start with an antiX BASE build and create their own completely different system. They may change the kernel – the smxi tool provided allows you, for example, to enable and grab Xen extended kernels written by Damentz, which are well regarded. You can also grab sidux kernels using the same tool, and of course, you can grab any stock Debian kernels as well. When you do so, it begins to require more expertise to understand what you are changing and the implications of those changes. Suffice it to say that if you want it, with MEPIS you can get it and you can do it, and there are those who can help when you have questions too.

    I have two SimplyMEPIS systems installed. I keep one equipped as delivered, adding only one or two applications that I manage myself in my own directories, and the other one, I've hacked almost beyond recognition. I changed it from Debian Lenny (Stable) to Debian Squeeze (current Testing, next release's Stable), then I disabled the MEPIS repositories and upgraded. It now has the applications at the Squeeze release versions, and I managed to do all of this without hopelessly breaking the system. So I have one SimplyMEPIS 8.5 system and one Pseudo SimplyMEPIS 10 or 11 (depending on when Squeeze gets released and SimplyMEPIS gets upgraded to include the Squeeze code in the new apps).

    I can tell you this: the next SimplyMEPIS release will be excellent! I hope that Warren not only bases it on Debian Squeeze, I hope that he also manages to include a more effective wireless network manager; the one he provides was good for technology four or five years ago, but has unfortunately not aged very well and is in need of a change. Nevertheless, the SimplyMEPIS that is out there today is amazingly stable and the next one promises to be equally stable and at least when it is released, a bit more current. I can hardly wait – could get one in time for Christmas! :-)

  3. Brian Masinick on July 2, 2010 at 7:52 am

    I wanted to point out to potentially interested readers that the MEPIS Lovers Community is an excellent resource for SimplyMEPIS and antiX, the two officially sanctioned MEPIS distributions. There is a MEPIS Community Repository, where requested packages are added by experienced community members, adhering to the high standards set by Warren Woodford.

    Just recently a KDE 4 apt-notify applet was created. SimplyMEPIS, in the KDE 3 days, was the first distribution to offer a package update icon notification, a feature you see these days with many systems. When MEPIS came out with the Version 8.5 release, this feature was initially lacking on the task bar, but community members have been working on it, getting it just right, for the past few months, and recently made it available, not just to testers, but to everyone. Warren thought enough about it that he, "MepisGuy", wrote a Tweet about it.

    Note that for those who have a love for the antiques, there is still a SimplyMEPIS release, 8.0.15, that contains the very stable Debian Lenny packages and KDE 3.5.10. Version 8.5 is also a very stable Lenny based release with the KDE 4.3.4 packages expertly grafted in.

    When the Debian Squeeze release comes out, which is currently in Debian Testing, SimplyMEPIS will come out with a Version 10 (or possibly Version 11, depending on when it is actually released), that will, more than likely, contain KDE SC 4.5.

    Meanwhile, if you want to run Debian Testing on a MEPIS core, grab antiX BASE and use smxi to add whatever desktop environments you want to it, and you get another great, highly tailored system.

    In case you can't already tell, I am enthusiastic about both SimplyMEPIS (for a stable, reliable desktop system) and antiX for a light, but highly customizable and flexible test system that is solid enough to use for every day use, and its also fast.

  4. Kenny MacLeod on July 2, 2010 at 4:16 am

    I have used Mandriva, Linux Mint, Kubuntu & Ubuntu for long spells but always seem to return to Ubuntu (I'm 10.04 at the mo'). I have also given OpenSUSE & Fedora 13 a swing – Fedora was fine but OpenSUSE felt a little rough somehow.

    Recently I've loaded Mepis8.5 on a rather troublesome spare desktop of 2004 vintage.

    First impressions are:

    It seems reasonably fast.

    Synaptic is fine although a Softare Centre aka Ubuntu would be nice.

    It looks ok & I suppose that can tweaked.

    I don't like the menu system – I've used KDE3.5, KDE4.3 and Gnome mostly. I agree that the sliding menus of the straight KDE4 type are not great but the Mepis set-up is a bit messy & cluttered. I think Gnome have it more or less right by having three panel menus but maybe this can be changed too.

    Other than that it works well – particularily like the Repair tool which allowed me to fix bad blocks an a dodgy laptop I have.

    Excellent, I never thought KDE4 could be so light.

  5. Brian Masinick on June 22, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    http://mepislovers.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=… does have an entire section devoted to art work, for those who get into that kind of thing, but frankly, the KDE Looks site (there are GNOME Looks and XFCE Looks sites as well) has more than enough art work for those who get into this kind of thing. Sure, for those in which appearance rather than function rank high, SimplyMEPIS would not impress, but as Jim pointed out at least twice, SimplyMEPIS is much more of a functional workhorse (a conservative one at that) than it is a cutesy distribution. You can gag on Hanna Montana Linux if you want something with an outlandish appearance that only pre-teen girls would be attracted to (normally).

    To me, SimplyMEPIS starts with Debian Stable (Lenny for both the Version 8.0, KDE 3 release and the Version 8.5, KDE 4 release), and definitely adds value, creating a much easier to install system with extremely valuable system management tools not directly provided by Debian in the core system. Debian experts don't need such things, but even for some of them, conveniences are appreciated, and SimplyMEPIS delivers.

  6. Jim Lynch on June 11, 2010 at 2:52 am

    Yeah, it's a nice distro. For sure, Bob.

  7. Bob Hoskins on June 11, 2010 at 2:50 am

    I like MEPIS.

  8. Brian Masinick on June 4, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Tlmck, I think I did mention it in the desktop section didn’t I? :blush:

    Read more: http://desktoplinuxreviews.com/2010/05/25/simplym

    You did, but be honest now, was it there all along or did you add it in after Tlmck mentioned it? ;-)

  9. Jim Lynch on May 27, 2010 at 5:11 am

    Tlmck, I think I did mention it in the desktop section didn't I? :blush:

  10. tlmck on May 26, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Jim, you forgot to mention the most important help feature available for this distro. It is the Mepis manual icon right on the desktop. It launches in Konquerer but is actually local on the disk. If there is a finer manual out there I have yet to see it. It has excellent general Linux info as well as Mepis specific.

  11. Brian Masinick on May 26, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Alan hits it on the mark as far as a rolling release goes. You can get that with sidux and you can also get it with antiX, an official alternative to SimplyMEPIS.

    Some of the antiX advocates start with an antiX BASE build and create their own completely different system. They may change the kernel – the smxi tool provided allows you, for example, to enable and grab Xen extended kernels written by Damentz, which are well regarded. You can also grab sidux kernels using the same tool, and of course, you can grab any stock Debian kernels as well. When you do so, it begins to require more expertise to understand what you are changing and the implications of those changes. Suffice it to say that if you want it, with MEPIS you can get it and you can do it, and there are those who can help when you have questions too.

  12. Brian Masinick on May 26, 2010 at 9:10 am

    I nominate SimplyMEPIS as the top Linux desktop distribution on the market today IF these are your selection criteria:

    1. Stability: SimplyMEPIS is based on Debian Lenny, the current stable Debian version. To that solid Debian core SimplyMEPIS adds additional hardware configuration support and a number of excellent system management tools as described in the review.

    2. Support: The MEPIS Lovers Community, at least to me, is the top vendor supported community in terms of providing excellent documentation, prompt and even mannered responses to requests for help (and that can be rare, as we frequently hear about "blow ups" in various forums), and the software is solid enough to require very infrequent change.

    3. Flexibility: The default SimplyMEPIS distribution is primarily designed for simplicity rather than the ultimate flexibility, yet in spite of that it remains a flexible platform. In support of this assertion, the MEPIS project officially recognizes two significant efforts, the antiX distribution, which allows highly customized systems to be developed at will, and the MEPIS Community Repository, which allows the base MEPIS project to retain only very stable software, yet allows those who want certain additional software to request it and get it.

    In the MEPIS Community Repository, we have seen not only the further advancement of antiX, but we've also seen very early versions of KDE 4 applied to a stable MEPIS core, we've seen LXDE and XFCE remasters, and we've seen a lot of discussion about personal projects to set up a MEPIS based system for either stable, testing, or cutting edge use, taking MEPIS and nearly revamping it in every conceivable fashion.

    Whether it is art work, the latest software, or just experimentation, the MEPIS Community provides it and helps you get it. Yet, for those whose only aspiration is to have a system that works, SimplyMEPIS offers it better than anything that I've seen in over 35 years of computer system experience.

  13. Alan on May 26, 2010 at 8:58 am

    @ Sandro:

    That's kind of the whole point of MEPIS. It's built on a stable base and has a long release cycle, making it great for people who don't want to constantly update.

    Besides, sidux already has the "debian rolling release" thing covered. MEPIS fills an important "Debian stable but friendly and with updated apps" niche.

  14. rambo on May 26, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Cons: Drab desktop wallpaper. Lacks the cloud integration of Peppermint OS One.

    :)

  15. Sandro on May 26, 2010 at 2:55 am

    It is a little sad that Mepis is not a rolling release…



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