Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Simply Mepis 7

Based on a comment left on an earlier post I pulled down and booted Simply Mepis 7. I remember Simply Mepis as the distribution that switched from using Ubuntu as its foundation to using Debian as its foundation. The reason given at the time was that Ubuntu wasn't upgrading adequately within a given release. Apparently baseline Debian was.

This is the first time I've ever booted Mepis, and the experience has been quite positive. As usual I haven't devoted a lot of time checking every feature. Instead I just wanted to see if it would boot and if everything worked; everything to me being graphics, networking, sound, and multimedia codecs.

Mepis boots just fine to a full KDE graphical desktop. The only issue I have is that the screen resolution is limited to 1280 by 1024. Contrast this with Ubuntu and Mint (3 and 4) which boot the screen up into 1900 by 1440. Lower resolutions always herald a later problem with choosing higher resolutions after installation. It's something I can deal with, but over time I've grown tired of having to 'fix' it.

Networking and sound worked just fine. I was able to test all of that together via Firefox (2.0.0.11) and the built-in entertainment menu. Not only could I play Flash multimedia (YouTube and CNN just to name two) but I was able to go to the Apple trailer site and play back QuickTime in normal resolution and at least two 'sizes' of high def: 480p and 720p. Playing back 1080p would have been pointless.

The new Star Trek trailer plays as standard QuickTime just fine. It's going to be an interesting movie...

The Hell Boy trailer, playing at 480p, was in a separate window from the browser. Not all the high-def trailers split out from the browser; for example the Star Trek high-def trailer played within the browser page.

And finally an example of a 720p high-def trailer, spilling off the edges of the desktop. In both cases the trailers played without any dropouts, stutters or slowdowns. Playback was smooth and clear.

I tried out the DVD test and the test failed. I have no idea what it would take to get Mepis to play back DVDs, but it can't be any more difficult than Ubuntu (which can get quite cranky). It's a shame that Simply Mepis 7 doesn't have DVD playback all ready to work.

Again, this is certainly no exhaustive test. But as a simple kick-the-tires type of test it shows the Simply Mepis 7 has great promise and looks to be an excellent distribution. The support of web-delivered multimedia is as good if not better than Mint. I did not try high-def playback on Mint because of my problems playing back high-def on older releases of openSUSE and Ubuntu (including 7.10). Now that I've seen it work out-of-the-box I expect to see it continue to work on Mepis, and I'll start checking for it on other distributions in the future.