Review: Simply MEPIS 8.0 Beta 2 - 01/10/2008 by Andrew
Gaming on the Cutting Edge – Part 8
In this multi part series I've previously looked at the following distributions:
Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 2
Mandriva 2009 Beta 1 (KDE4.1)
Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4
Kubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4
Kubuntu 8.10 Alpha 6
Xubuntu 8.10 Alpha 6, and
Mandriva 2009 RC2 (Gnome)
The aim of these reviews is to give the Linux user (and specifically the Linux gamer) an idea about what distributions are coming up as well as what applications, games and cool features are set to blow your socks off – or in the case of early alphas – what still needs work. There's also a selfish reason for doing these reviews; I'm looking for a new distro to be my main gaming machine. I need something that's relatively bug free, quick to configure and access the latest open source games and applications.
SimplyMEPIS 8.0 Beta 2
SimplyMEPIS was, believe it or not, my main distribution back in 2005 (around version 3.3). I even convinced my parents to ditch the 'Doze and installed SimplyMEPIS on their PC and they used it with minimal complaints for a number of years (actually, longer than I expected them to). Then I moved away from Mepis and never returned - until now (/dramatic music). In the quest to find an ideal gaming machine I thought I'd give it a chance, even though it's in an early development stage. I'll forgive crashes and strange occurrences, just so long as I can get gaming with the latest and greatest. Burning a copy of the 64bit Beta 2 (SimplyMEPIS-CD_7.9.80-beta_64.iso) I fired up the old test box, which consists of:
AMD Athlon 3200+ (2.0Ghz)
Gigabyte 939 Motherboard (GA-K8NSC-939)
2x512MB Geil DDR400 Dual Channel
Gigabyte 6600GT 256MB AGP 8x
LG DVD Burner (GSA-4163B)
Seagate 40GB 2MB cache ATA100
Logitech G15 keyboard + G5 mouse
SimplyMEPIS 8.0 is a 'Live CD', meaning you're able to try out the distribution to make sure it suits before taking the next step and installing it on a hard drive. As a Live CD, it's quite quick and snappy and the default look is a slight twist on the usual KDE 3.5 affair with the bottom bar centred rather than the full width. If you're stuck trying to work out the password for root and the guest user, the password is the same as the respective username (i.e. Username=root, password=root). Installation didn't pose any problems and was a simple case of follow the bouncing ball (filling in the information as required) until it's finished.
Desktop, Graphics and Games
SimplyMEPIS 8.0 Beta 2 is backed by the Debian Lenny core and is packing kernel 2.6.26, OpenOffice 3.0 RC2 and KDE 3.5.9. Sounds good and stable (the other main distros have already switched to 2.6.27rcX and KDE 4.1.x). After my experiences with KDE 4 I'm actually relieved to see KDE 3.5 again. Yes it now looks a tad dated but it does feel like home. Things work, the style is consistent and navigation is easy.
First boot was quick and painless and apart from my monitor and native resolution not being detected, everything looked good for the first boot into the system. I awaited a pop up to let me know of any updates but this didn't come so instead I set about enabling the Nvidia proprietary drivers. Using the MEPIS-Windows Assistant I selected the nvidia drivers and kicked off the download.
After the Nvidia drivers were installed, I was requested to reboot. No harm in that, what could possibly go wrong? Well, a lot it seems. No more window manager, hello terminal. Trying to be nice, I requested 'startx' which showed an error message that I've seen a number of times in my travels: “fatal server error : no screens found”. The solution was easy (well, it was easy for me, I've been down this path before), I ran as root the following command:
I followed the simple prompts and another reboot I was back in business – though I needed to install the nvidia drivers again. This time I also configured the model closest to mine. Another reboot and I was looking good, though it looked like (from the GUI) I've switched from nv, to nvidia and now vesa. I'm now not trusting the GUI at all.
Moving on I decided to check out the game situation. You can use either KPackage or Synaptic Package Manager to search/browse packages and so I did just that. I'm used to seeing repositories swimming in games, though there seems to be an extreme shortage in SimplyMEPIS. I couldn't find one first person shooter available for download. That's not good. Yes, I know that you can manually download Nexuiz, OpenArena and Warsow and run these direct from the directory without compiling, though this isn't the point. If I got this wrong, or I wasn't looking in the super secret third package manager, please leave me a comment below.
This is only Beta 2, so there's plenty of development left in SimplyMEPIS 8.0, though right now SimplyMEPIS looks and feels like a distro from two years ago. The GUI's that are supposed to keep you away from the terminal don't do their job to a level that you would expect these days. The fact that there's next to no games available in the repositories (from standard at least, you can add extra repositories) and that enabling the proprietary Nvidia drivers was problematic leads me to to suggest you look elsewhere for a Linux distribution for Gaming.
Have you tried SimplyMEPIS Beta 2? Comment/Flame/Troll/Rant below!