2011-05-19

Revisited: SimplyMEPIS 11.0

Before I start, there are two things I would like to say. The first is that this was meant to be posted in the middle of last week. However, that got thrown off with the Blogger outage, and after that I got really busy with studying for finals, and yesterday I was traveling back home from college, so today is the earliest that I've been able to post this at my leisure. The second is that I meant to write reviews of Ubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" based on opinions of one of my friends in college who is new to Linux but willing to try it out. However, we both got really busy and it never worked out. I managed to put most of my opinions of the new Unity interface in my review of Edubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal", so please refer to that if you want to get a quick idea of what I think of it.
Main Screen
A couple weeks ago, I tried out SimplyMEPIS 11.0. It didn't exactly work; Plymouth failed to load, and X/11 refused to start when I aborted Plymouth and logged in through the CLI. I went through the forums looking for similar issues and/or fixes and found nothing. I tried going on the MEPIS IRC channel but found myself the only person there. So I gave up and posted a rather negative review. Boy, did I get a lot of feedback on that review — in fact, that review has gotten the most comments out of any of my posts ever. Wow! But then, a lot of it was negative, saying that "it shouldn't be called a review", et cetera. There were a few helpful suggestions here and there, and one of them (which is apparently a tip suggested on the MEPIS forums, and somehow I missed that) was to add the line "xdrvr=intel confx" to the end of the first GRUB line for MEPIS.

Well, I tried that, and it worked! So I owe readers of this blog an apology for testing too late, getting frustrated too easily, and getting cranky and whiny too easily. I'll try not to do that again. With that in mind, follow the jump to read the review that I should have written the first time around.

One of the frequent suggestions was to use a real live DVD. However, I figured I should at least give the solution a shot with the live USB I had already created. So after putting that phrase into the GRUB boot command for SimplyMEPIS in my live USB setup, I continued on. Just as one of the commenters said, there was no Plymouth boot splash in the live session, but that was OK because the boot process was quite quick, and I was quickly taken to the desktop.

Mozilla Firefox + LibreOffice Writer
From the moment the cursor appeared on the screen, it became clear to me (as if it wasn't already) that SimplyMEPIS is decidedly a KDE distribution. Many KDE distributions use the stock KDE 4 loading screen or a variant with the proper logo or corresponding color scheme, but SimplyMEPIS's KDE 4 loading screen is totally different and much cooler to look at, in my opinion. That gave way to the desktop. The desktop has a standard KDE 4 panel on the bottom, and some desktop icons going down from the top-left corner of the screen. Unfortunately, the "Documents" folder icon label is still split into two lines, and it still takes away from the otherwise professional feel of the distribution as it did in SimplyMEPIS 8.5. Another somewhat odd thing is the "MEPIS QuickStart": its icon label is the only one to fade to the right. Other icons include "Trash", "MEPIS site", "MEPIS Manual", and "MEPIS Install", the last icon probably only present in the live session. Clearly, the emphasis here is on the new user. The panel has, from left to right, a button for a classic KDE menu, workspace switcher buttons, shortcuts to KDE System Settings, Dolphin, Mozilla Firefox, and KMail, a task switcher, a system tray, and a clock. All in all, it's a fairly standard setup for KDE 4.

There are two very small issues I had here. One is that one of the icons in the system tray looked like an orange version of the Dropbox, so I thought Dropbox might be included out-of-the-box; the icon is actually for updates through APT (and, for the record, Dropbox is not included). The other is that for the main menu, there are categories of applications which have entries called "More Applications". I now understand that these contain applications that are used less frequently (e.g. LibreOffice Draw under the "Graphics" category) or should be hidden away to not confuse new users (e.g. KRDC). The only minor nit I have to pick with this is that initially, the placement of some applications under "More Applications" subcategories seemed totally arbitrary. In short, ignore what I just said about all that.

The wallpaper is all-new and much fresher than the really dull one from version 8.5. The Oxygen theme Elegance is all-new for version 11 and goes well with the rest of the desktop. The Crystal KWin window decoration style, QtCurve KDE theme, and Oxygen icon theme are all carried over from version 8.5 essentially unchanged. The Crystal and QtCurve themes were included in version 8.5 because version 8.5 was the parallel KDE 4 counterpart to version 8.0, which used KDE 3; hence, the developers wanted to retain visual familiarity, as MEPIS was one of the last holdouts against KDE 4. That said, now that version 11.0 has replaced both version 8.0 and 8.5 and there is no current version of SimplyMEPIS with KDE 3, although I do think that the Crystal theme gives SimplyMEPIS its own visual identity to set it apart from other KDE distributions which too often look almost identical, I think it's time that the Crystal theme got replaced by something more modern-looking. Furthermore, when the Crystal theme is used, windows that are not maximized have an ugly thin gray blocky border reminiscent of Microsoft Windows 95, which should definitely not be a goal theme-wise.

Moving on to applications, Mozilla Firefox, at version 4.0.1 (the very latest, which is somewhat surprising for the usually conservative MEPIS developers), is the default browser, though for some reason Konqueror is also present. Most codecs seem to be present out-of-the-box in true MEPIS style, as YouTube and other sites with multimedia content worked fine for me. I suppose the presence of Konqueror will placate the KDE users who prefer to browse files and the web with Konqueror as was required in KDE 3, but considering that Konqueror is no longer a huge part of KDE and some other KDE distributions have done away with it altogether, I think the MEPIS developers should do the same, if only to make the live ISO file smaller.

Speaking of file browsing, Dolphin is the default file manager. This is not a surprise, but the reason I mention this is because when Dolphin opens to the home folder, instead of just showing the home folder icon and a '>', the breadcrumbs bar shows the full path, though each folder along the way is clickable. The default KDE behavior is to just show the home folder and a '>' when Dolphin is at the home folder, and I feel this is more user-friendly and I feel like new users would get confused and/or intimidated upon seeing "/ > home > [name] >", so I'm not sure why the MEPIS developers changed this behavior. 

LibreOffice is the default productivity suite, which is again a surprise given the conservative (i.e. release only when ready) nature of the MEPIS developers. Furthermore, LibreOffice is well-integrated with KDE in terms of theming. This is certainly an improvement from SimplyMEPIS 8.5, where OpenOffice.org looked sorely out of place.

Some other applications present include digiKam, Amarok, a few KDE games, Kdenlive, VLC, and the GIMP. That makes for a pretty nice set of default applications.

MEPIS was originally famous for making Debian easy to use; part of that came from the MEPIS configuration tools, which consists of the MEPIS Network Assistant, the MEPIS System Assistant, and the MEPIS User Assistant.

The MEPIS Network Assistant's purpose should be self-explanatory. It's a handy tool to do some more in-depth network configuration. However, for my purposes, I found the KDE Network Management system tray applet to be much easier to use and much less complicated; furthermore, it was much easier in that than in the MEPIS Network Assistant to find and connect to a wireless network (which, incidentally, I don't use anyway).

The MEPIS System Assistant has options for configuring the computer's name, locale, and some other cache-related stuff, as well as options for creating a MEPIS USB device, repairing or updating GRUB, and repairing a partition. I could see most of these things being quite useful, though I have a feeling that the new users MEPIS is trying to court would shy away from such things and ask a more technically-experienced friend to help them. With that in mind, the MEPIS USB device creation tool seems a little odd, because it says it can only create USB devices with SimplyMEPIS 8.0 or 8.5. Why would I want to do that when I'm using the latest SimplyMEPIS 11.0? It seems a little silly to me. Also, how could I repair GRUB from within MEPIS? I suppose it would make sense in live mode, but on an installed system, if GRUB needed to be repaired, wouldn't MEPIS be unbootable anyway? I'm not sure I fully understand why that tool is there.

The MEPIS User Assistant does things like restoring default configuration settings, syncing files and configurations among computers, and managing users on the computer. It seems handy, though the user management thing seems redundant as that is also present in the KDE System Settings dialog.

SimplyMEPIS is no longer the only distribution to have such GUI configuration tools for new users, but it was one of the first, and it still has them, which is good. That said, I feel like some of the options may confuse rather than help new users, so the MEPIS developers can't just keep the same programs going without making improvements.

Moving to hardware, despite the fact that I had to force SimplyMEPIS 11.0 to use the Intel graphics driver, SimplyMEPIS correctly detected my laptop's optimal resolution, and it looks great on my laptop. Unfortunately, some desktop effects like the cube did not work, though most did. Furthermore, though KDE is at version 4.5 on SimplyMEPIS 11.0, dragging windows to screen edges and corners did not resize them in a tiling fashion; I'm not sure why this is, as it's a useful effect. SimplyMEPIS, unlike some other distributions, correctly recognized my laptop's FN key combinations (especially to modify the volume), though there was a slight lag when I tried changing the volume with the FN keyboard shortcuts. Next, Kopete recognized my webcam and mic just fine. Finally, my wireless card was recognized fine, though that's no surprise as it is an Intel card and is among the better-supported cards in Linux.

The GUI package manager present is Synaptic Package Manager. Unfortunately, it gave me an error about the package cache being cleaned out. Just to be sure, I tried using the CLI Apt-get to install packages, but I got the same error. I happened to open the MEPIS System Assistant again and saw that the box was checked to clean the package cache with every boot. This meant that I could not install packages at all within the live system, because unchecking the box would require a reboot to take effect, but this live USB was not made to be persistent across boots. That meant that I could not try installing Skype or anything like that. (On another note, Skype failed to install because the live USB is a "read-only file system" and was thus unable to be accessed by Dpkg, or something like that.)

As I couldn't install anything in the SimplyMEPIS live session, I had to switch to a different live system to install VirtualBox so that I could try installing SimplyMEPIS. The VirtualBox testing was done within a Lubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" live USB session with 1024 MB of RAM, 12 MB of video memory, and a 10 GB virtual hard drive available for the guest OS.
The MEPIS installer doesn't seem to have changed much in the last few years. First comes the unusual EULA, then partitioning, then GRUB setup, and then user and locale setup. Compared to newer installers like Ubiquity and Anaconda, it does seem a little old, so a new user will need a helping hand to install SimplyMEPIS, but it does the job well.

After I installed SimplyMEPIS 11.0 and restarted the virtual machine, I was greeted by a session almost identical to the live session, which is only to be expected. The big thing that I wanted to make sure here was whether installing packages would work given that it didn't in the live session due to weird settings, and thankfully, it did work. And that's where my time with SimplyMEPIS 11.0 ended.

Once again, I apologize for not being more patient, thoughtful, and willing to seek out answers in the previous review. Thanks to the commenters on that article who made various suggestions on how to fix issues that I had. In conclusion, after I got SimplyMEPIS 11.0 to work, it seemed like a pleasant enough distribution that's quite stable and is relatively user-friendly. That said, though I have tried to evaluate this distribution only on its own merits, I can't help but subconsciously compare this to things like #! and Debian-based Linux Mint, which just seem more polished and well put-together. Maybe it's just my pro-Linux Mint bias, but I feel like there's nothing to set SimplyMEPIS apart from the rest anymore. Plus, regarding things like the APT caching issue and the login name, I think SimplyMEPIS could use some saner defaults. But above all, I simply cannot deny that initially, SimplyMEPIS refused to play well with my computer's hardware, and the solutions posted in the manual and wiki didn't work; in that sense, I don't think SimplyMEPIS is a good distribution for users who are new to Linux, though that is its target audience.

28 comments:

  1. Actually, being a long time Linux user (Currently Debian), I feel that your last review was much better. It's far better that you post a negative review highlighting all the difficulties you experienced with install and such. Of course fanboys will flame you and you should expect that. Developers will appreciate your feedback though, because they understand that trying to gloss over real issues should never ever be acceptable to the Open Source community.

    What you experienced is a serious flaw with MEPIS. If you cant install and have it work the first time through, then there is a real problem and you were right to report it, albiet the wrong way. You should have reported it on the projects bug tracker. Having to manually enter anything into the GRUB boot line is a serious issue that new users will not even bother with. They will just throw the MEPIS cd into the trash can and move on to something that does work. So don't apologize or feel as if you did something wrong. You didn't and you were right to post as you did.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't understand: should "xdrvr=intel confx" have been necessary in the first place? If things don't work, you should not be timid about reporting on it. Simply Mepis 3.5 was the first Linux distro I used that allowed me to do real work without Windows. It worked on my system when Ubuntu Warty would not. Warren does a great job.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Prashanth - Bravo! Awesome review - I'm really impressed with all the work you put into this. Great job digging into the history of the distro, describing your experiences with the different Mepis system control programs, and even digging into the guts of how progressive versions of Mepis got their look in KDE through different types of Qt theming. You explained what sets Mepis apart from other distros, what the devs should consider changing in order to modernize the distro, and the ways in which Mepis is not really so different from other Debian derivatives - to the point of no longer having a clearly defined niche for itself.

    This is a review you should be proud of, and other reviewers should read this and learn how to improve their own reviews. They should dig into the guts of the distro - not just tell us what the installer looked like and what the default programs were on their desktop. They should dig into the history of the distro, and tell us what sets the current version apart from past versions. They should tell us how the distro they are reviewing compares to other similar distros, and whether or not there is a clearly defined special purpose for the distro - and how well it fulfills that purpose.

    Thanks for all your hard work, I am impressed. I am still working on my own review for my blog site - maybe I'll have time to finish it this weekend. I think that ultimately my review will pale in comparison to the detail you have set forth here.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "As I couldn't install anything in the SimplyMEPIS live session"

    Actually, this is incorrect. If you choose the boot option AUFS (the second one down; use the GRUB help or see Users Manual Section 3.3 on "Booting up"), you can install software for the session, which allows you to test hardware that need special drivers, check Skype, etc. Also, using that option, there is no "APT caching issue," which only appears anyway on the LiveMedium.

    You are totally right about the Assistants; we are aware that they are now somewhat out of date and need revision. We tell users in the Manual to use Network Manager, for instance.

    A good thorough review--nice work!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm glad that you actually sat back and too the criticism positively that was given to you in your last review and that this review is more in tune with the reality of what this distro is like.

    There is however one glaring omission that was not offered either in your first review, or this second one
    I read through your responses to the last review and found this.
    -----
    That aside, the laptop I tried SimplyMEPIS 11.0 on is an Asus U30Jc (Intel Core i3-370M, 4 GB RAM, dual graphics cards Intel GMA 4500/NVidia GeForce 310M, 64-bit). I didn't find anything particular regarding this hardware on the MEPIS wiki.
    -----
    Well now we have a real picture of what the reason for your initial issue was. With Mepis being based on Debian stable, the xorg it comes with is not aware of your laptops dual graphics engine, therefore it is hardly surprising that you got a blank screen and had to use a boot cheat-code.

    Next, to answer your assertion about beign read only, you are correct, but a simple search would have revealed that there is a cheatcode that enables packages to be installed, and if you had bothered to actually burn a DVD and insert it, then looked at its contents, you would have seen that it has an autorunner (albeit for windows) with a HTML miniguide that would assist newbies in their quest and lets face it, if someone is at the point of searching for alternatives and serious about it, some of them WILL do the research. There's even links to pages with screencast type tutorials on installation with instruction on how to avoid the common pitfalls of installing Linux in a dual boot environment.

    Also, in the system assistant, I too was surprised about the labelling of the USB bootable device type to create, but I can assure you that the process will create a bootable flash drive and it does it better than unetbootin.

    Concerning the bootsplash, the only place it doesn't work is on the Live Media, but it works perfectly after installation.

    As for hardware not offerign up a desktop, I have opportunity to use the Live-DVD and/or USB more than most and I can honestly say that those that have no-screeners are the exception, not the norm, though to be fair, you are right in saying a newbie wouldn't take the time to investigate it fully, so would likely move on. That's just the way the cookie crumbles and lucky for them, there are other options.

    Finally, despite Mepis being based on Debian Stable,t he community packagers make it possible to almost effortlessly use later version packages as they become available, instead of begin trapped in the Debian Squeeze pool, so Mepis is one of the best choices for anybody that wants a phenominally stable base system they can use for a couple of years without having to reformat.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't get people doing reviews from a live session or from a vbox installation (or both), how can you go in-depth in the distributions features, performance problems, hardware issues, etc etc based on live/vbox ?

    I have a hard time taking reviews based on this serious, ether buy your selves a test machine or stop doing reviews altogether .. seriously...

    I also have issues with people doing a installation, checking what applications are installed and checking if youtube works and that's it.. How about the real interesting stuff like: Sharing of files on network, Access to changing settings, performance, package availability, etc etc, there is allot of stuff that people actually care about..
    You and about 90% of all the other people doing reviews can do allot better! Sorry for the tone, but it needs to be said

    ReplyDelete
  7. @Anonymous 1: I think the issue was that having reviewed a number of Linux distributions prior to this, I am no longer a true newbie and know better than to just give up. That said, I did say at the end that I can't simply repudiate the previous review, because if I don't put in the "xdrvr=intel confx" line into GRUB, I still can't get X/11 to start correctly.
    @allenbeme: I'm not sure if you read the original review, but there I didn't put that line in, and that's when things went horribly wrong.
    @flagstaffphotos: To tell you the truth, this is the review that I really, really wanted to write the first time around, because I didn't see the appropriate fix in GRUB and thus I couldn't get a working live session. Thankfully it worked this time around; please do check out my other reviews, because I've tried to be as thorough in those as I have been in this one.
    @Jerry: Is the AUFS option present only in the installed system or in the live system as well? That may be something for me to consider in the future.
    @Anonymous 2: I agree that VirtualBox doesn't give a good metric of performance and working programs, but the live session is almost always identical to the installed system anyway, so I don't understand the huge emphasis you and other commenters elsewhere have put on installing distributions on real hardware. On the live session, I can evaluate package availability, performance, ability to change settings, and hardware compatibility just as well as on any installed system. And frankly, if the live session turns out to be inferior to the installed system, that's a strike against the developers for not creating a live system that accurately represents what is about to be installed. (And for the record, I don't cover network file sharing because I don't use it at all, so it's totally irrelevant to not just myself but to 90% of newbies to Linux out there.)
    Thanks for the comments!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Live session only. Picture and description in the Users Manual

    ReplyDelete
  9. Good review. It is true, if you have to write something to the Grub just to start the thing... is a serious drawback for a long lasting distro as Simply mephis.

    ReplyDelete
  10. @PV Yeah, and a few hours in a flight-simulator and you have a deep understanding of flying..

    ReplyDelete
  11. PV - one thing you failed to mention is that MEPIS is a user-friendly distribution based upon Debian Stable. That is the reason I came to MEPIS after being frustrated by the instability of Ubuntu 10.10. I briefly tried Natty, and uninstalled it after a few days.

    I'm convinced that MEPIS is for users who want a fully useable desktop that is stable, in which one can get real work done but not compromise on flexibility or computing power. I find that the assistants, even though they need some work, are VERY useful. When KDE gets too confused to recover, just log into root and reset any user's KDE desktop settings to defaults from the user assistant. The Network Assistant has helped me also.

    The best thing about MEPIS is the great and friendly group of people on the forums, as well as the comprehensive documentation - the completeness of which I never cease to be amazed at.

    In the end, a distribution is composed of a base plus a set of applications, all integrated together. It seems to me that MEPIS is a perfect balance of stable base distro (debian stable), useful apps for usability and productivity, great documentation and friendly community. It seems, by all measures, to be a great distribution for newcomers and proficient computer users (like me) who don't have the time and energy to put together the perfect system because we have too much work to do. Otherwise we'd all be running Arch or Slackware. I'm happy with MEPIS for providing a stable, productive and powerful desktop environment.

    ReplyDelete
  12. 90% of people using Linux don't care about sharing files between there computers on there home network? ;)

    ReplyDelete
  13. @Anonymous 1: True that!
    @Anonymous 2: Please go troll elsewhere. Thanks for your time, though.
    @Anonymous 3: Hmmm...I feel like I must have mentioned it in the last review, but maybe I didn't do it even there. Anyway, it certainly does have those things in its favor, but it's not the only player in the game now. I've personally found Linux Mint in that sense to be the real successor to MEPIS in terms of making Debian easy and complete, but again, that could be just due to my bias.
    @Anonymous 4: I didn't say that. What I said was that most newbies I know who would be even remotely inclined to try Linux have never even heard of network sharing.
    Thanks for the comments!

    ReplyDelete
  14. "@Jerry: Is the AUFS option present only in the installed system or in the live system as well? That may be something for me to consider in the future."

    Live only. Pic and description in the Users Manual.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Something is wrong here, I placed my feedback here last night and I could see it here after placing it, right after jerrys, but it has now disappeared.

    I am not at all happy about this because I specifically went to a great deal of trouble to address some of your points that were not correctly addressed.

    There was nothing malicious whatsoever in my feedback, neither was I rude, defamatory or condescending and my information was presented in such a way as to be helpful and adding to the review, so if a mod or the OP has removed it, then that person is in total error and it needs to be re-instated, else this whole feedback thing and review is nothing more than slanted journalism giving little more than false impressions.

    ReplyDelete
  16. @m_pav: The thing is, the Debian 6 "Squeeze" (which is the latest Debian Stable) live USB I tested a while back worked out-of-the-box, recognizing my dual graphics setup fine (though it just used the Intel card). Also, that miniguide may be present in the live USB as well, but I would need to check that. And yes, I agree that MEPIS does a great job of combining a stable base with the latest applications. Finally, regarding your comment not initially showing up, I have never had to delete a comment that was published before unless it was a duplicate or unless it was mine and I messed up. As it turns out, it somehow got caught in the spam filter, but that was not my doing by any means. Thank you for alerting me to this. To the other commenters, I will try to check the spam filter more diligently in the future, but I may slip up from time to time, so if you have published a comment that you feel is legitimately constructive and not spam-y but that has not gotten published, please let me know. Also note that comments with links in them frequently get caught in the spam filter.
    @Jerry: Thanks for the clarification!

    ReplyDelete
  17. (PART 1 - I WENT OVER CHARACTER LIMIT)

    Prashanth
    First up - kudos for going back and reposting.

    Disclaimer - I'm no longer associated with MEPIS - although I used to use it exclusively, and assist within the Community (so I have no axe to grind either way). Thought I would pass on a couple of comments.

    [1] Comment on dropbox - it's not installed by default - but it is available for easy install in the repos.

    [2] MEPIS wasn't "one of the last holdouts against KDE4". Because it's based on Debian Stable, it's not exactly easy to maintain the stable integrity, when Debian Stable doesn't support KDE4. So Warren and the team actually did a brilliant job of bringing KDE4 to a stable environment. The way you put it isn't quite correct, and the way you worded it almost sounds critical?

    [3] Konqueror is present because it's tied into the KDE4 standard package - no more, no less. Firefox is there because it's one of the most used browsers in the community.

    [4] The breadcrumbs bar is expanded in Dolphin by default because the community preferred it that way. In fact they changed quite a few defaults to make it easier to use. You don't then have to look around for the settings if you are unfamiliar. If you think about it - for a newbie, the ability to ask for help and be explained the full path - actually makes searching easier not harder.

    [5] Re MEPIS Assistants - see if you can follow me with this one (wink). You were using the live USB right? If anything goes fubar once installed, you can fix grub by booting the liveusb and using the repair grub feature. It's actually really handy. Also the reason for the create live-usb is so that you never need to actually burn a CD once you have MEPIS installed. When next release made, download ISO, create new USB, then boot off that. Simple really.

    [6] You talked about the Assistants confusing new members - but you didn't really think about that IMO. The tools are there to make recovery easier (although some are getting dated now). The thing is MOST new users will read the manual and/or use the forum. That's when they learn about the Assistants.

    [7] You can't use Synaptic to load packages from the live DVD/USB - unless you enable AUFS (which is an option when booting). Again - reading the copious documentation or simply asking on the forums would have bought some speedy help.

    [8] Installer - this statement floored me "Compared to newer installers like Ubiquity and Anaconda, it does seem a little old, so a new user will need a helping hand to install SimplyMEPIS, but it does the job well". The installer is so simple my 10 year old can use it. On a relatively quick machine, you can be installed in under 5 minutes. Your comment could not be further from the truth. I will agree with you that it could be improved with asking more questions for personalisation / preconfiguration.

    ReplyDelete
  18. PART 2

    Prashanth - again, good on you for going back and having another go. I can't help but think during the entire review though that you went out of your way to pick holes in MEPIS. It's not perfect but commenting that in your opinion it's not a good distro for newbies is a little strange. You also commented on a lot of things you didn't know about, and didn't take the time to find out - that's not good journalism. You commented a lot on aesthetics and look - but very little on the things that should count to a newbie (eg documentation, stability, ability to find help, speed of forum responses etc). Sadly - no-one really gets in depth, and as such you paint a poor picture based on your own biases - but which doesn't really describe the complete experience.

    For example - did you know that the manual is completely rewritten for each release? Did you actually read any of it? What about the fact that there are 2 other repos which further add to the package selection - one maintained solely by Warren, and the other maintained by the community - which provides the latest packages recompiled against the stable library base. The Community can make a request at any time, and if it can be recompiled, they will add the newer version so that everyone gets the advantage. FWIW it's part of my legacy to the community there - I helped set it up.

    I'll leave it at that. Hopefully the MEPIS team will take some of your critiques on board. There are some things which can and should be improved. I also hope that you take my critiques in the manner they are intended.

    You have the makings of a good reviewer if you can:
    [a] do more research
    [b] drop any preconceptions before writing, and if you're not sure of something in the review - ask the MEPIS community. After all - that's what a newbie would do. It's also what makes the Linux community great.

    ReplyDelete
  19. @Brooko: Thanks for the amazingly detailed response. I'll try to go through this piece by piece. Regarding Dropbox, it wasn't a complaint — just an observation. Regarding "last holdouts", I don't necessarily mean this to demean SimplyMEPIS because it switched to KDE 4 only when that became stable and usable and not before; it was a good thing that the change didn't happen too soon, and that also applies to PCLinuxOS, which only switched to KDE 4 around the same time as the release of SimplyMEPIS 8.5. Regarding Konqueror, I can accept that explanation (and the same goes for the breadcrumbs). Regarding the Assistants, I'm still not sure why the GRUB repair tool is present in the installed system if it's more useful as a live session tool, no? Regarding the age of the Assistants, I respectfully disagree that the first thing users will see is the forums and manual; yes, the manual is there, but the forums need to be reached by first using a browser, whereas the Assistants require no browser to be seen by new users. Regarding the installer, I guess we can only agree to disagree, but I feel like especially with regard to partitioning (because this is typically the hardest step), Ubiquity and Anaconda do a better job of presenting all the different options in the simplest and easiest-to-understand manner possible, and better than the MEPIS installer. Do note that I said the MEPIS installer does the job well, in any case. You're right that I should have talked more about repositories, ways to get help, et cetera, and that my biases have crept in a little too much; I've tried to make my leanings clear in other reviews, and I should have done that in this as well. Thanks again for the comment!

    ReplyDelete
  20. @Prashanth

    No problem - you've been incredibly open and receptive to critique yourself - which is a great sign. And thanks for the explanations above.

    I definitely urge you for all your future reviews to cover three things which I do not think get the attention they deserve - hardly anybody takes them into account - most people simply concentrate on skin-deep aesthetics which can easily be individually altered.

    [1] Documentation
    [2] Community / Forum
    [3] Repositories

    They are the three most important things (besides the stability and ease of use) that IMO will decide on longetivity of the average user with a distro. Yet they are hardly ever mentioned.

    Anyway - nice conversing with you. Good luck with the blog.

    ReplyDelete
  21. @Brooko: Thanks for the tips and the support!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Why should anyone need to edit grub or grub2 just so the system can be launched with the desktop environment? This is a big put-off for both novice and experienced Linux users.

    As for flame wars, the failure of some to accept any criticism of their favourite distro is the best way to kill the enthusiasm of those who want to explore it. Linux is all about freedom and sharing. Bigotry has no place in a community that claims to advocate both principles.

    ReplyDelete
  23. PV, you state: "'m still not sure why the GRUB repair tool is present in the installed system if it's more useful as a live session tool, no?"

    Recently, I installed another distro right besides mepis. Of course it screwed up my grub bootloader, but my Mepis install was able to fix it lickity-split, no CD, no live USB, no hassle. God I love that assistant. Don't you?

    ReplyDelete
  24. @Barista Uno: Truth be told, though, those people are free to say such stuff. The problem is that it's irresponsible and unbecoming of a distribution that claims to be friendly and welcoming to all its users and accepting of issues.
    @Anonymous: Wow, I never thought of that. I retract that previous statement then.
    Thanks for the comments!

    ReplyDelete
  25. As a newbie to linux I found Mepis very user friendly. I had a desktop running xp that was killed by a virus, so I tried the live dvd and had no problems, so I did the complete install, which only involved about 5 steps. So far it is working very well. I was so impressed with linux that I decided to do a dual boot with Joli OS on my netbook, and that is running so fast now and using less battery so that I have no interest in using windows. Glad to see linux getting easier to use for non-techies like me.

    ReplyDelete
  26. @Anonymous: It's good that you have MEPIS working well. Also, I've heard extraordinarily good things about Joli OS; maybe that's why it's among the few Linux distributions being shipped by an OEM (in the form of Jolibooks). I'd like to try and review it, but I don't know if my somewhat more fully-featured laptop is an appropriate test machine, and I don't have a netbook at hand. Thanks for the comment!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I have been using MEPIS 11 from last 7 months and I must admit its very user friendly.BTW I have been distro-hopping a lot before and found MEPIS make me feel right at home, for a KDE based distribution. Only a long time user can appreciate how important the stability of a distribution matters for any meaningful daily work. Documentation is certainly the best among available distributions. Any useful application is easily available in repos (sometimes in community repos). Many of the desktop effects are carefully selected and disabled in MEPIS 11 which gives it that snappy feel.Of course some the features like snapping windows to the side can easily be turned on by configuring window behaviour, if one likes them. Overall MEPIS gives the feel of a well thought out distribution comparable to probably PCLinuxos, only to be more stable though.

    ReplyDelete
  28. @neeraj: It's interesting that you compare MEPIS to PCLinuxOS, because I've tended to have the same sorts of problems with both when testing them out. Anyway, it's great that it's worked so well for you. Thanks for the comment!

    ReplyDelete