Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.
I’ve never worked with MEPIS or any of its derivatives before. I know about them, but I never took the time to install or investigate until now, and thus far it has been a very enjoyable experience.
I snagged the AntiX ISO after a comment left elsewhere here, and while I’m not a big Fluxbox fan, I find this to be one of the most pleasant setups I’ve seen yet. The disc booted cleanly and went straight to a clean, albeit dark-themed, desktop.
The installation tool, like Wolvix‘s, was a good step easier to run than Ubuntu’s, in my experience. It handled partitioning without any input from me, and had only a few questions to ask before it was done. Time to install was probably under 20 minutes, even on this old machine. (The only quirk was the root password — which is “root”. I guessed it and everything was happy.)
It found and configured the network without a hitch — the Xircom card never made it blink. Video went straight to the right dimensions and depth. USB mouse? Check. JP106 keyboard? Check. In fact, I can’t think of anything that didn’t get set up right, on the first try, and without my picking at it. It was a nice change.
AntiX seems to be set up with a good array of GTK2, GTK1.2 and CLI apps, for just about every need. It’s not as overwhelming a selection as some distros, but it’s plain that someone made sure a machine of almost any power has an option. As an example, Firefox is coupled with Dillo and something called hv3 — which I need to investigate a little more. Likewise, rox-filer is default, but Xfe is available. Xchat is installed, but so is irssi. Sylpheed plus mutt. And so forth.
Speedwise, AntiX ranks pretty well. I should repeat that it’s Fluxbox-based, which means it’s probably faster than an XFCE-based distro by default. But the numbers are still very good.
Firefox opens in around 12 seconds, but needs another 6 or 7 to finally render a working page. (Dillo, on the other hand, is up, loaded and finished in less than 4 seconds … but that’s to be expected.) Startup is in 1:25, which is pretty quick. Shutdown is about 25 seconds, which isn’t great, but usually doesn’t matter to me. Other applications are as peppy, or fall in a range that’s proportionally fast.
In fact, the only things I could complain about would be superficial. The gray theme is nice, but would be nicer if the GTK theme matched as well. The glossy clearlooks effects are a little out of place; something flat and gray, like a rezlooks variant, would probably fit better.
But that’s exceedingly trivial. The default desktop is sharp, and cosmetics beyond that aren’t worth mentioning.
One thing that does strike me as interesting, and I think I knew this from the Ubuntu forums, but MEPIS has some Ubuntu built into it. Since the repositories and kernel match the Dapper release, I decided to play a little shell game. I tacked the Gutsy repositories on to the end of the sources.list file and let it upgrade itself.
Which didn’t really work. Some packages weren’t exactly compatible, and I got a lot of errors out of aptitude. I could reboot, but after a point there wasn’t anything I could fix or install. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s always fun to try.
In all, I think AntiX, and probably Mepis by extension, is worth trying out. If you like Fluxbox, I’d definitely suggest it. And since it did a fantastic job setting itself up on a very peculiar machine, it wins extra points with me.