SimplyMEPIS 8.0.10 has been released, and it is as usual very good. I've been pleased and impressed with MEPIS for quite some time now, and despite a few small problems on my various computers, I continue to feel that way. MEPIS is a solid, well developed derivative of Debian, and it has an active, helpful and knowledgeable community for support.
Despite being what might be considered a "minor" release, going from 8.0.06 to 8.0.10, there are a number of significant changes in this distribution. Two of the more obvious are an updated Linux kernel (126.96.36.199) and Firefox 3.5.2, but there are numerous others. It is the more subtle updates and changed that I really liked, though. As it happened, the first system I installed it on was my HP 2133 Mini-Note, and I was pleased to see that the LiveCD boot menu had a new "Small" option, which says it is for "most netbook and VM installations". Nice. I've had to struggle with installing on netbooks enough that anything that is done to make that easier is good news for me! The installation went very smoothly on the Mini-Note (and on my S6510 and ASUS N10J). During setup and configuration I noticed another nice change - they seem to have changed from the MEPIS Network Assistant to Knetworkmanager (although the MEPIS Assistant is still there and can easily be activated, for those who prefer it).
In the process of installing it, I ran into one small problem on each of my laptop/netbook systems. None of them stopped the installation from completing, though. Here are the gory details:
- Fujitsu S6510: After installation, the resolution of the laptop screen is incorrect (1024x768 instead of 1280x800). I have seen this before with other distributions, it is usually caused by the X configuration getting confused by the different internal/external display resolutions available on the Intel 965 graphic controller. But oddly enough, I was able to "fix" it by simply commenting or removing all of the Display Mode specifications in the xorg.conf file. The X server then correctly determined the laptop display resolution by itself.
- HP 2133 Mini-Note: The 8.0.10 distribution still doesn't include drivers for the VIA Chrome graphic controller. This is not a huge problem, because both during and after installation it uses the VESA driver, with a display resolution of 1280x800, which is slightly larger than the 1280x768 resolution of my Mini-Note. The correct driver can be downloaded and installed from the openchrome web site, or you can copy over the necessary file from any other Linux system that is using the X.org X Server 1.4 version.
- ASUS N10J: Both during and after installation, there is no keyboard selection for Swiss German. This is very strange, because there is one for Swiss French... hmmm. It is relatively easy to work around, by first choosing Swiss French, which gets you close enough to make the installation without going insane over the keyboard, and then after booting the installed system, edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf and change XKbLayout to "ch(de)".
As I said, none of these problems is very serious, and all of them are easy to fix or work around after the installation completes. I like SimplyMEPIS more than enough to make up for the minor bother they cause after installation.
The release notes say that the next MEPIS release, 8.5, will use KDE 4 rather than 3.5. I'm looking forward to that, because I have always found MEPIS to be one of the easiest KDE-based distributions to use, so it will be interesting to see what they do with the newer KDE.