Historical Note from 2010: The comment copied in full in this post was on the old TalkBMC web site, and when this blog's historical posts were moved to "communities.bmc.com", the original comment was lost along with all comments to all other posts.
One of the very best things about the Open Source community is when we can have open, honest conversations about various topics. This does not mean agreement on all points of course. Understanding is the goal.
In response to my post from last week, Mike P wrote a response titled "Feedback from a Mepis User". It was a long comment that Mike clearly took a good amount of time to compose, and his response is full of good information, filling in some blanks. I am going to re-post the comment here in its entirety, and I am going to intersperse some addition comments / information of my own. I will add some formatting and headers along the way as well: Mike's original comment can be seen in its original format at the end of my last post.
Hardware Detection Under Mepis
As I noted in the post, I did not test hardware detection under Mepis, but the Mepis web page asserts it is the best going. Mike adds:
Concerning hardware detection - I have tried them all, mepis out-performs all the others in terms of overall hardware detection when tested with multiple brands and types of systems, which is not really surprising, seeings as Mepis was the first Live CD with a fully functional GUI installer. I work in a very busy computer repair shop and not other live CD can consistently detect and use OOTB as much hardware as Mepis can, period. Ubuntu detects it, but it can't fully use it until well after the first reboot, pclinuxOS may be the highest on DW, but its HW capabilities are well below par.
I would imagine working in a computer repair shop that the depth of the hardware detection is much more deeply tested than anything I can normally do. Based on this comment, I will try a test install of Mepis 7 on my Dell 745. When I installed PCLinuxOS I had some problems when it came to setting up the video with the Dell 172FP monitor. Nothing I was not able to overcome, but it took some work. I documented that in my "PCLinuxOS 2007 and Mint 4.0: ELDs?" post. Mint / Ubuntu did not have issues with that same hardware, so all this will perhaps prove is that Mepis can do what Mint / Ubuntu can do. It should still be interesting. The Dell 745 has an ATI video card in it. That might be a problem. Mike writes:
Concerning your experience with the graphics issue during installation, there is a known issue, not only with Mepis, but with xorg 7.1 on any machine with an ATI graphics chip, and it does not matter what flavor of Linux they are running. If your MBP has an ATI GPU, then you are affected. Xorg 7.2 is better by a long shot, though it a portion of the issue still remains
The MBP does in fact have an ATI X1600, but since I was running Mepis virtually I would not have thought that to be an issue. The Dell 745 has a ATI GPU chip, so this may remain an issue. I will not get a chance to test this one way or another till I get the 745 back from Dan and his work on the GFS issues with Centos / RedHat AS though. I may see if I can scare up some other hardware for the Mepis test, although I really do want to see the ATI issues first level so I can know if I am seeing the same thing under Parallels or not.
Warrens indications earlier this year was that he may roll out an update to Mepis7 somewhere in the first quarter. I think it may have been related to the graphics issue as that can certainly be a show stopper for anybody trying out Mepis for the first time. By and large, Mepis will boot on 70% of the machines out there, but it struggles with the s3 savage gpu of 4-5 years vintage and some of the newest widescreen LCD's, but there again, so does windows.
I hope that he does. I know it is a great deal of work to roll a point release of a distro, but this sounds serious enough to be frustrating to a first time user, and that is clearly the target audience of the Mepis distro, even though Mepis appears to have the chops to keep more experienced folks using it too.
These days, and for a long time now, I expect Linux to work better than MS Windows, and it usually does.
Concerning the naming of Mepis, in the earlier days, there used to be different versions, but that is no longer, except for a 32 vs 64-bit variant. Any reference to "Simply" Mepis is nothing more than a familiar association, much like the way a past student may still call a former school teacher by their "Mr and Mrs" title, even though they now have an adult relationship and the teacher would prefer to be on a first name basis. Warren himself states that the name of the latest version is Mepis 7, not Simply Mepis 7. It would be nice to see an addendum to your report to correct that piece as it would appear that insufficient research was conducted before posting your article.
Well, as they say in Radio: OK. Done. Although it was not me setting the record straight. :)
I did do a fair amount of research for the piece though: One can not write 4400+ words and just blather on. Well. OK. Some can, but I do try not to. I noted in the post that I had never been able to discover what the deal with the name was, and it is not obvious on the site. I could have dug through all the history of all the forums and probably come up with it. But that was not the point of why I even brought it up.
My intended point was that a *new* user would find that confusing. Not enough to turn them off or send them screaming into the arms of Apple. It just is historical and non-obvious. I am not a new user of Linux, and I found it odd till Mike explained it.
What would be pretty cool here is not that I have to do research, but that there was a link on the home page of http://www.mepis.org that was "The History Of Mepis". Something light and accessible but that tells people things like where the name came from (it is a corruption of "Memphis"), how long the Distro has been around (since 2002), why it was created (Because Warren Woodford had a different vision for what a Linux Distro should be in terms of ease of use), who created it (Warren), How it started out as one thing and took some turns along the way to land where it is today, the version history and names... that kind of stuff. At the risk of starting a flame war, kind of like what PCLinuxOS does with their "About Us" link on their home page. The Mepis history page has a distinctly different flavor and approach.
On the subject of the licker panel, the first thing I do is change it. I too do not like a dynamically resizing panel, though I have seen a system with a Mac desktop skin that fooled the pro's on first glance, then it just really p'd them off because they're purists and it was running on an AMD based notebook originally sold with windows preloaded.
I do try to be very clear about when I am stating a personal preference, and I hope that I am equally clear at all times that I do not expect others to feel the same way about this kind of stuff as me. I talk more about this in my "Color Theory" post.
Gnome apps under KDE on Mepis
Now, the hot potatoe...Evolution
You quoted "Mepis shipped with a back....." and this us totally untrue, Mepis does not ship with evolution and your choice of description would make it appear that evolution is part of the original hard disk installation. I would have preferred to have read that you installed evolution after the fact, as that would read in a truer sense. Warren takes Linus Torvalds stand on Gnome vs KDE, and like Linus, Warren does not like it or endorse Gnome, so it's hardly surprising that little effort is put into a fully integrated Gnome groupware client.
"Totally untrue" is a bit of an overstatement I think: Mike is 100% correct in that Evolution and Connector were not on the LiveCD, and that I used the built in, as shipped package manager to install it. Apt and Synaptic, pointed at the Mepis repositories. I'll give Mike "not stated clearly" and 10 penalty points to me. In writing that post I did have a note to go back and write a paragraph describing how I dialed in some packages that were not shipped to tweak out the install, and I forgot to go back and do it, even though I later made oblique reference to this when I talked about enabling Debian "testing".
I am pretty sure Mike has not read the body of my work, but even then he appears to know that he was heading down a slippery slope with this one when he called it a hot potato.
I do not have a great deal of investment in how others set up the colors of their desktops, or how pristine they leave their distros. I am not a purist about most things. I like to ask people why they do things they way they do them, in case they have thought of something I have not. If nothing else, there is a reason that Ice Cream comes in so many flavors.
I do have strong beliefs around certain subjects, and this one just crossed over into one of those areas. I do not think I can stand up and shout to the mountain tops about Open Source, and Open Standards, and the like and at the same time sign on to the internecine warfare some get into over KDE versus Gnome.
I use both. I interchange parts. I use the best of each. They should and can interoperate, and not interoperating is going to be cause for me to stop, throw down the caution flag, and point out the problem. Open Good. Being intentionally incompatible: Bad. Very Bad.
The crux of the matter here is that Mepis *does* in fact *provide* in their official Apt repositories a specially packaged, Mepis labeled, version of Evolution. And they do say on the web site that Mepis "includes the very best business and multimedia programs". Further, I have been nothing if not clear over the years that the only way a Linux desktop user can *currently* interoperate against MS Exchange infrastructure is, for better or worse, with Evolution (more on that after the next section). I have at least 10 or 20 posts about that one topic alone here at TalkBMC. So many in fact that I have often think that someday I will get a "Please, not more Evolution posts" comment. Did I mention I am planning a quick update on a problem with Evo and Mint? Opps....
I want to be very clear here: If I thought that, as a point of distro purity, no Gnome packages were being packaged for Mepis at all, I would never have even looked at the distro at all. Not because I dislike KDE. Because I dislike the promulgation of "KDE versus Gnome" that so poisoned the early histories of those two projects. I get that schism occurs over stuff like this, and that is fine. The Mepis history doc linked above says (or at least implies) that the Mepis schism point is over usability.
I am also on record multiple times that I think KDE is the better desktop for the new Linux user coming from the MS Windows world because the two are closer in usage paradigm. I made some reference to this in "Which GUI" and direct reference to it in "Getting ready for IT360 / Linuxworld".
I would have just set Mepis gently down and walked away from it a long time ago if I thought the project was of a divisive nature. That would be their privilege, just as it is mine not to use projects that get strident in their divisiveness. I do not think Mepis in general is one of these. It is clear when you look at the project over at Distrowatch that they do not list any Gnome applications as installed in the tracked packages section of the page. They are available though.
Linus has his opinions about such things, and when they relate to the way that the kernel is built, the opinions carry a great deal of weight. On KDE or Gnome preferences what Linus does in this regard is merely interesting but not defining. That is the power of Open.
The Evolution and Connector stuff is packaged, it is packaged by the Mepis development team, and as delivered, it does not work in my environment. This was the entire point of the post: is Mepis of any use as an ELD? Answer is (and this is for me only, but I think it applies to many others): Not as long as I can not connect to MS Exchange servers in *this* shop. It would be really really nifty if MS Exchange was not in the picture or even better, if it played nice with others, but that just in not the current business reality.
KDE 4 and Beyond
KDE has the Kontact PIM suite, which is KDE's answer to Ximan Evolution, but the current 3.5.x iteration is certainly not MS exchange friendly. The next KDE PIM is reported to be undergoing heavy re-working to bring it into line for use in an enterprise environment, so it would have been nice to have had a mention about the existing systems and the future path, rather that your personal preferences only, because what you write may appear to be true for the time being, but if a reader stumbles across it a year or so later, it may be completely untrue for the then current version and you may have steered the reader away from the answer they were looking for.
As I hope to have pointed out here, I do 'talk' about these things quite a lot here on this blog. When I go to SHARE or LinuxWorld, I often give a 3 hour lab where I bring up an MS Exchange server, and take the attendees through setting up Evolution to connect to it. Then we go back and set up KDE's Kontact, for compare and contrast reasons. Kontacts capabilities to hook to MS Exchange via WebDAV were added in minor form a number of point releases ago (I have been giving that session for years) and Kontact has never been updated to be fully functional with MS Exchange. In fact, it has laid so fallow that I have just about given up hope that it will ever work. Will KDE 4 finally get it going? I have no idea. History is not on its side. They should be able to. If nothing else, the Evolution Connector code is Open Source. They can see how it works if they want and at the very least replicate the functionality. To date, they never have. This is the basis of my point for why, in an MS Exchange shop, one is stuck with using Evolution.
Stuck? Did I not just do a diatribe on Gnome versus KDE?" Yes, and this is not that. My problem with Evolution is not that it is from Gnome, but that it appears to me, based on years of experience, that it is fragile. One of the reasons I test and report on Evolution here so much is to try and keep Evolution going (by testing and filing bug reports, etc), at least until there is something that works as well or better with MS Exchange.
A few weeks ago, I started looking at the current state of KDE 4 for an upcoming post here. Along the way I installed it on my Mac and an MS Windows computer, just to see what the state of the art was. Part of the idea originally of taking the time to do a Mepis look was to see where it was at with KDE. I took a bunch of side roads, noticed the Mepis had Evolution as an installable option, and that led to my post.
Long term I would like to see Kontact and Kmail and the whole Koffice suite made more usable in an enterprise shop, because that gives me more options for how I stay a Linux Desktop user.
More on that when I know it....