Friday, October 10, 2008

From PCLinuxOS to Mepis: Painful, but worth it!

If you've installed PCLinuxOS with an advanced partitioning, prepare for a painful surprise. SimplyMEPIS (up to 8.0 beta 2) doesn't let you install /usr, /var and /tmp into the partitions of your preference.

Which means that once you've logged in, you need to enter the console (through ctrl-f1), mount the other partitions, delete their contents, cp -a /usr /your-usr-partition-mount-point, rename the other partition, edit fstab, etc. etc. etc.

It's not something that you can do while in the LiveCD (I've tried to an extent and I failed miserably).

Also, if you've used a non-standard file system such as XFS, just forget about it. You need to mkfs.ext3 the other partition (in this case, /tmp) and then proceed. Speaking about /tmp, an additional step is required: You need to delete /tmp, which is a symlink to /var/tmp.

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But after I managed to do all that manual installation work so that I retain the structure of my partitions (which I carefully tuned), I'm actually enjoying it.

For starters, you get nVidia support right out of the box. I booted the LiveCD in 1280x1024 with no problems whatsoever.

The KDE provided with Mepis 8 is awesome. It's not KDE4, but 3.5.9, and that gives you stability. But this KDE is better configured than the one with PCLinuxOS 2007. I can pump the volume up and down with my multimedia keys. In PCLOS, I had to set up the mixer manually (not without the help of some friends on slashdot and irc) and add some lines in some obscure alsa config file.

The kernel: PCLOS2007 ships with 2.6.19, and the latest upgrade is 2.6.22. Mepis 8 ships with 2.6.26, which also means support for tons of more wireless and external devices.

Package management: The Synaptic package manager is also provided as default (yay!), but Mepis provides an excellent addition: The actual applet tells you how many upgrades are available. And finally, there's no "pay-for-upgrade" policy. The latest packages are already available for no additional price (like Firefox 3.0.3, which I just downloaded an hour ago), and the repositories are based on Debian, one of the most community-supported repos. Try to beat that, Tex!

In short:

If you're stuck in PClinuxOS and want to try a debian-based distro, the upgrade is painful (unless you happen to have installed in only one partition), and you need to delete your packages - for compatibility - anyway. But it's really worth the upgrade, provided you manage to install prettier themes. Personally, the default ones suck - but hey, it's a beta version. And no crashes! :)

If you're undecided between PCLinuxOS and Mepis, go for Mepis. Nothing beats getting connected to the default Debian repos.

4 comments:

devnet said...

PCLinuxOS 2007 ships with a 2.6.18 kernel.

Your statement "But this KDE is better configured than the one with PCLinuxOS 2007" offers no proof at all. Recognition of multimedia keys is kernel based...install an updated kernel from the pclinuxos repos and then compare.

PCLinuxOS doesn't only give upgrade packages to those paying. Please see my post on how the repositories work. http://linux-blog.org/pclinuxos-repositories/

rick_777 said...

It's not the recognition of the multimedia keys, but the actual configuration of the mixer. When I installed PCLOS over my nvidia motherboard, the mixer only had 2 states: On, and Off. I had to add a soft mixer channel so that I could turn up and down the volume.

With Mepis, it just works.

I also copied some text from the page you sent me:
"First and foremost, the repositories are setup in a “trickle down” model. Updates are pushed first to the PASS server. Only people who have donated 20 USD or more to PCLinuxOS have access to this server."

As I said, I lost access to the PASS server a few months ago, and I was shocked to find that I couldn't find the 2.6.24 kernel anymore. And it's very different getting quick updates than software that is being tested.

In any case, I won't complain about PCLinuxOS anymore. I almost finished configuring Mepis and I just love it.

Reginald said...

I just want to say up front that I personally use Pclinux as my primary system. I use it because it is fast and stable. Admittedly it isnt cutting edge but thats not what Pclinux is about anyway. I also use quite a few other distros and I have found that Arch is an excellent distro as are many of the Slackware derived distros. I would probably use Mepis also if it wasnt based on debian as Ive always run into problems with all debian based distros Ive tried.

Roy said...

Doing a custom installation is not any more painful on MEPIS than any other distro. You can install it to any partition. I use only two partitions, one for root and one for home, and it could not be easier than in MEPIS.