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Community: Mepis: Debian Without Tears

[ 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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