One of the more popular Linux distributions, but not one that’s offering much of a threat to Ubuntu in terms of popularity, Simply MEPIS nonetheless has much to commend it. It’s the community version of the MEPIS distribution, and right from the start it glistens with commercial gloss.
We downloaded the live CD ISO file, burnt it to disc and booted from there. We were soon at a tidy menu that allowed us to vary the screen refresh rate, opt for a R/W file system, run a memory test or opt for minimum options. Some have complained that, given it’s a distribution aimed at relative novices, there are too many options here, but we don’t buy that. There’s a clearly labelled default option, so we went for that.
Then it’s log-in time. This may confuse novices a little, but the OS offers to log you in at first as a guest, or as root. Root is generally the one to be avoided as a rule in Linux, given that it lets you tinker with pretty much everything. It also requires a password that’s not immediately obvious, but likewise, not tricky to work out!
We headed down the guest route and soon arrived at a very tidy, very professional-looking desktop screen. In fact, scratch that: it looks terrific, as if someone has really bothered to have the thing gleaming. It’s an appreciated effort too, and a slap in the face to those who still maintain that Linux can’t match the desktop qualities of Windows.
The distribution is based on Debian and uses the KDE 3.5.10 desktop environment, and this gives you a Mac-a-like menubar at the bottom, along with desktop icons. One of these, as usual, allows you to click on it to install the operating system to your hard drive, which is quite a straightforward process.
There’s a good selection of default programs bundled in (even if they’re organised in a slightly odd way), and we were pleased to see that Simply MEPIS picked up the bulk of the hardware in our testbed laptop.
It didn’t take long to do it, either, and we were at a working desktop in a short amount of time. The only problem we had was with wireless networking, which took a bit of fiddling, but we did eventually get it working. It took a little effort on our part, and we did feel that Simply MEPIS could have made such an everyday task – connecting to a wireless network – a little more, er, simple.
Yet it’s a good operating system and one with far more going for it than problems against. That said, Simply MEPIS does, you feel, occasionally forget that it’s aimed at beginners, but it has a tried and tested feel to it that serves it well.
It’s not quite as user-friendly as Ubuntu, but it is backed by a huge repository of programs to download and it’s a good starting point for a PC system. Even so, it’ll serve a slightly more confident user better than a Linux debutant.