November 19, 2004

My workstation OS: Mepis Linux

Author: Marcel Gommans

I began using Linux in 2001 with Mandrake, but I wanted to try
other distributions. I spent time with Peanut Linux, SUSE, Ark,
Onebase, and Debian. And then it happened: On my neverending quest
for the perfect distribution I discovered Mepis. It has not left my
desktop since I installed it. Although I have tried several
distros since, I haven't found one that pleases me more than Mepis.

Although I know my way around an operating system, I'm not the
kind of guy who wants to fiddle around too much to get a distribution
to work. It has to work 'out of the box' or require very little
tailoring. At least as important as usability is a good community --
someone to help you when you need advice. And a third thing I need is
easy availability of packages for additional software. Mepis has all
of that.


It's easy to check whether Mepis will work on your system before
you install it, because you start Mepis as a LiveCD. This also makes
Mepis a great recovery and rescue CD. Just put the CD in your drive,
reboot, and enter the world of Mepis!

This distribution is known for its excellent hardware detection.
Where some distributions refused to work with either my onboard sound
or my network card, Mepis did a great job.

Mepis comes with KDE desktop environment. But since you have
access to all the Debian packages, you can easily install GNOME and
many other window managers. I installed Xfce myself a while ago.


While I didn't need help with hardware support, I did want to be
sure help was available if I ever did need it. I started on the
distro's Web site
, but I was not too happy with the search
options in the forum section. Then I found,
a site started by Donna South, a longtime Mepis fan. Here you can
find a good forum and an art gallery. But sometimes you need help
without wanting to wait for an answer on a post you placed on a
forum. On the #mepis ITC channel on you can find
help for Mepis issues almost every hour of the day.


If you want additional software, Mepis is great. Because it is
Debian-based, you have thousands of packages available for
installation in the Debian repositories. Apt-get and its GUI
front-end Synaptic make it easy to install new software. And Mepis
comes packed with plenty of preinstalled software. Especially the
Mozilla browser has been given some extra attention. I never saw a
Linux distribution in which a browser could handle so many different
file types, including Windows file types such as WMV, out of the box!
All the plug-ins you need are there. Mepis creator Warren Woodford did
a great job there!

Mepis comes with the Mozilla and Konqueror browsers. For multimedia
it has XMMS, RealPlayer 10, and Xine. The KOffice and suites are
available for office work. Imendio Planner and Scribus are there too.
For IRC you have Kopete, which can also be used for instant messaging with MSN, ICQ, Yahoo,
and more. Mepis also has Skype installed, a great application for
Internet telephony.

Woodford expanded the functionality of Debian with enhancements
like a Mepis Installation Center that makes it easy to install Mepis
on your hard disk. There is a Mepis System Center to help you install
localizations, change video and mouse settings, network settings, and
more, without having to edit configuration files. This makes the
distribution easy to use and very newbie-friendly.

Of course there have been issues with Mepis. Some of its
enhancements can cause compatibility problems with standard Debian
packages. There were problems with hwdata, but these are solved now.
The Mepis Web site warns users about this problem and shows them how
to avoid trouble. There is a Mepis repository where Mepis-only
packages like themes and modified Debian packages can be found. These
modified Debian packages should prevent future problems.

Mepis is easy to install, and once installed it's a very good
Debian distro, incorporating tweaks it would take you days or weeks
to configure yourself. Some people might call Mepis a newbie
distribution, but I believe Mepis is shaped the way a modern distro
should be. And I will continue to use it!

Marcel Gommans is a former IT manager in Venlo, the
Netherlands, who has been using Linux for several years. He is
available for jobs and projects concerning IT management, ERP
systems, and everything related.

What's your desktop OS of choice? Write an article of
less than 1,000 words telling us what you use and why. If we publish
it, we'll pay you $100.

So far, we've heard from fans of FreeBSD and Mepis Linux.


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