STABILITY plus 3D : SimplyMEPIS 6.5 for 32 and 64 bit Intel and AMD based PCs and MacTels has been released by MEPIS.
6.5 started as a minor update to the Ubuntu pool compatible 6.0 release of SimplyMEPIS but the project quickly expanded to add the 7.1 X window manager, newer display and wireless drivers, Mac Intel support, Amarok music player with music store and mtp support, and the experimental Beryl 3D desktop.
Warren Woodford reveals some of the highlights of the update process "When we started working on 6.5, we quickly realized that, while the Ubuntu pools were a good source of stable reference builds of packages, yet the packages for 6.0 were not being updated the way our users wanted, that was due to conservative Ubuntu maintenance policies and Ubuntu being very busy building newer reference releases. So we decided to take it upon ourselves to provide an upgrade path for 6.0 that would allow 6.0 users to enjoy the benefits of the newer software without having to perform a complete reinstallation. About 20% of the deb packages in 6.5 are maintained by MEPIS and are freely available to the users of MEPIS and Ubuntu 6.0."
"We were urged to switch to a newer kernel but that was not consistent with our goal of updating 6.0. A package dependencies nightmare would have ensued. Instead we improved the kernel with newer drivers for wireless and with patches to support other newer hardware. For example, our 2.6.15 kernel works out-of-the-box with the JMicron IDE chip that was placed on several Intel 965 based motherboards including the Asus P5 series."
"Likewise we retained KDE 3.5.3 because it's the most stable version of KDE that works with 6.0 packages. Updating KDE would also trigger major dependency issues. As a compromise we patched and recompiled 3.5.3. And the fact is, KDE 3.5.3 works fine, As some of our users have pointed out on MEPIS forums, 'sometimes a bigger number doesn't mean that something is better.'"
"We were likewise blocked when we tried to update OpenOffice to 2.2. But we have learned a lot about the package relationships in the Debian/Ubuntu tree and we expect to provide a wider range of update options after our next major release. And for 6.5, we expect that we will be able to make an unsupported and unofficial release of OpenOffice 2.2 packages soon. It will not be fully integrated with the 6.0 codebase, but it should work for those who are willing to make some compromises."
"We also felt that the amd64 support for multimedia and Internet were finally mature enough that we could build a 64 bit release that would offer 'the Magic of MEPIS' that our users expect. I think we've done a pretty good job of producing a 64 bit release that is functionally almost indistinguishable from the 32 bit release. The main difference is that the 64 bit version requires a 64 bit processor and may run 10% faster performing common tasks, but occasionally you will find a web site or multimedia content that will play better in the 32 bit release."
"The MEPIS 'utilities' have been restructured as a group of 'MEPIS Assistants' They were broken out to provide utilities that are organized by functional area and that will integrate better with the upcoming KDE 4.0. Especially the new MEPIS Network Assistant was enhanced to support WPA security and automatic network detection. WPA support is another area where 6.5 goes far beyond the 6.0 packages "
"A late addition was the inclusion of the Beryl 3D desktop fully integrated with KDE as a unique session type. Even though this is experimental software, we felt it was important to include Beryl with the default installation, so users can try it out, brag to their friends if it works, and get involved with the Beryl Project if they want the software to get better. Beryl can be tested from CD if you have an Intel, Radeon or newer NVIDIA graphic chip. To use 3D with NVIDIA you must explicitly choose to run the proprietary NVIDIA driver. From CD, only the new NVIDIA driver is available. If your NVIDIA chip requires the legacy NVIDIA driver, you have to install on hard drive before trying Beryl."
"The MEPIS desktop got a complete facelift thanks to community member Ruud Kuin. We also have an expanding documentation wiki due to the efforts of AdianTM, Jerry Bond, and many others. Recently Matt Melbert started managing a weekly podcast called 'MEPIS Talks' to inform users of the latest activities at MEPIS. Soon we will be acting on several suggestions from MEPIS fans and supporters for new development and educational projects for our users."
Some of the important package changes in the 6.5 release are: an updated and security patched 2.6.15 kernel, Xorg 7.1.2, Firefox 22.214.171.124, Digikam 0.9.0, Sun Java 6.00, Amarok 1.4.4 with mtp, mplayer 1.0.rc1, fuse driver 2.6.1, ntfs-3g 1.0, madwifi-ng Atheros driver 0.9.2, wpa-supplicant 0.5.4, ALSA sound drivers 1.0.14rc3, NVIDIA driver 1.0.9755, NVIDIA legacy driver 1.0.9631, ATI fglrx driver 8.31.5, Beryl 0.2.0, and QT 4.2.3.
The MEPIS CDs contain an experimental "SimplyMEPIS Assistant" for OSX that helps prepare a MacTel computer for the installation of SimplyMEPIS. And the MEPIS installer detects MacTel hardware and disables features that might damage an OSX system drive. It appears that MEPIS is the only Linux committed to this level of MacTel support.