- About Us
What do you do if you grow tired of waiting for the leading Linux distros to produce the kind of Linux desktop you want? If you're Warren Woodford, founder of MEPIS, you simply do it yourself.
Reviews of MEPIS are popping up on the Internet now, but I had never heard of it before NewsForge.com editor-in-chief Roblimo mentioned the name to me one day last month. That's why I contacted Warren Woodford and requested a copy for review.
Woodford has a fascinating history in high tech, stretching back to the '70s when he tried to start a PC company. He has designed satellite ground stations, battlefield management workstations, written a thesaurus of the American language, and had success as a NeXT developer and a Java developer.
Somewhere along the way he moved to Linux, trying SuSE first and then settling on Mandrake. In 2002 he felt that Mandrake was never going to deliver the quality Linux desktop he wanted and decided to do it himself. Warren told me by email that "I decided to take matters into my own hands and create the kind of desktop Linux that I needed as a successor to the promise of NeXT and as a foundation for my larger vision of a computing environment that is incredibly easy to use and that facilitates collaboration, publishing, communication, and community by and for all people." MEPIS Linux is the result.
The test environment
I am using a low-cost desktop box I purchased from Fry's Electronics for $199.99 for the review. It came with an 800MHz VIA processor, 128MB DRAM, 30GB hard drive, 52X ATAPI CD-ROM drive, and mainboard with built-in AC97 Codec sound, 3D Graphics Accelerator video, SiS630E chipset, and a 10BaseT/100BaseTX NIC.
The box is connected to the Internet through my home LAN. A Belkin Wi-Fi router sits next to my office desktop, and the test machine connects to it via Cat 5 cable. Connected to my desktop box is an HP printer which is configured to allow sharing with others on the LAN.
Woodford sent me the two-CD set of the latest release of MEPIS (2003.10.01). When you first boot the MEPIS CD, you are asked if you want to run in Demo or Live version. If you choose Live, MEPIS starts in LiveCD mode, similar to Knoppix or one of the other LiveCD distributions. To install the system, choose Demo mode instead of Live.
After starting in Demo mode, the MEPIS desktop appears. It looks almost identical to the LiveCD desktop. I clicked on a desktop icon for the "MEPIS Install Center" to begin the installation process. After entering the default root password and confirming that I wanted to install MEPIS on the hard drive, off we went.
The first install screen showed the disk that would be use (/dev/hda) and offered me the choice of modifying the existing partitions or using them. I wanted to remove them all so that MEPIS would have the same starting point that LindowsOS did.
The installer started a program called QTPartEd. Just as the name suggests, it is a GUI partition editor. I used it to delete all the existing partitions. Then I proceeded with the installation by allowing MEPIS to partition and format the drive as it saw fit.
Once the formatting of the drive was complete, I had a few more decisions to make. Should LILO live on the MBR or in /root? Was the localization of language and keyboard correct? Then I added a normal user and provided passwords for both root and that user.
Then came one screen each to configure network names (for Samba) and services and servers to run at startup. The default selections were to run Guarddog firewall and leave everything else off. One interesting choice of services was RAID/LVM. I don't believe I've ever seen that offered as an installation option before.
That finished the installation. It took just over half an hour, and most of that time was spent formatting the 30 gigabyte hard drive. The format must have been checking for bad blocks. I don't remember requesting that it do so.
Next: Desktop look and feel