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Community: Mepis: Debian Without Tears

Dec 01, 2004, 23:30 (7 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Neil Lucock)

[ Thanks to Neil Lucock for this article. ]

Everything I've ever read about Debian GNU/Linux made the same point: it's a bitch to install it and a joy to maintain.

I've never felt brave enough to install "pure" Debian, I've always worried that my lack of expertise would leave me with a broken installation. Now I've got a working Debian system and it took less time to install than any Mandrake or SUSE installation I've ever done. Welcome to Mepis--there's no reason now not to have Debian.

The first step is to obtain SimplyMepis. You can find a mirror that carries it, buy a download from their website or order it from one of the online companies that sell cheap CDs.

Burn the iso to a CD-R and ensure your PC is set to boot from CD in the BIOS. Save any files you want to keep before rebooting, since you are going to be messing with partitions. Reboot and SimplyMepis runs as a live CD, just like Knoppix.

This allows you to see what you are getting. If you want to install it, the Mepis live CD has an Installation Center which will write the OS to your hard drive. This is really easy if you have already got a Linux partition to use.

If you need to alter partitions, there is a tool called Qparted to handle the job. Its OK (I used it to get rid of an unused Win 2K operating system on my PC), but it's not as intuitive as Mandrakelinux's offering. Once the partitions are sorted, it installs.

I didn't notice any dialog box to let me choose what applications I wanted to install, Mepis just installed everything. This is not really a problem, since the whole process took no more than 20 minutes. I didn't time it exactly; I expected it to spend 50 minutes (or more) installing software.

After I removed the CD (keep it as a rescue disk or give it to a friend), Mepis booted up. There was a bit more configuration to do (such as setting the time and date and mail accounts). Finally, only one thing needed to be done. The sound system didn't work.

I opened a terminal, became root and ran the Alsa configuration utility, which did the job. Mephis found my DHCP modem and my wife's Win XP machine was found on the network and mounted by smb4k in my home directory.

Debian has a wonderful package manager called Apt. If you use any RPM (Redhat Package Manager) system, you can spend ages trying to satisfy dependencies when attempting to install software. You download one package, which then needs another to be installed before it will work. That package also needs other file, and so on, and so on. Apt has its own database to tell it what is needed, then connects to the Debian website, gets everything necessary, and installs it for you.

The default desktop for Mepis is KDE. Mepis comes with OpenOffice.org and a nice selection of software to use. Of course, you can have anything you want; just use Kpackage, the graphical front end to Apt, to see what is available. I found the default installation to be pretty much what I wanted. I did decide to go back to Kmail and it imported my Evolution mailbox without any problems.

If you want Debian without tears, Mepis is a good choice. My previous OS was SUSE Linux 8.2. Perhaps Mepis does not have SUSE's excellent YaST configuration utility or Mandrakelinux's Control Center, but it does give you easy access to one of the most feature-rich distributions available.

Try it if you are looking for an easy Debian distro.

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