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Kubuntu 8.10 vs Mepis 7.9.94 vs Puppy 4.1.2

January 9, 2009

Okay, how about a smack down between 3 of my favorite distros?  Okay, Kubuntu is not my favorite as this is the first time I’ve tried it, but it is a biggy.  I have ragged and ragged on Ubuntu even though I have tried to like it.  I do prefer KDE, so I’m going to give that an honest look and see if that warms me up to the Ubuntu brand.  I’m pitting this distro giant against Mepis which has been a fav of mine since discovering Linux and is responsible for me falling for KDE.  The release I’m running is 7.9.94 which is the RC1 of 8.0.  Not quite as stable or developed so the advantage goes here to Kubuntu before we even start.  Puppy has been my light weight fav for a long time and is an odd one out in this little comparison.  But we’ll see how well this little distro measures up.  Since I’m running totally off of live CD’s, Puppy actually gets an advantage as it runs totally in RAM.

Hardware: Dell VOSTRO 1500 w 2 G RAM and Intel core 2 Duo usually dual booting XP and Mandriva 2008 spring.
Tasks I will be using for comparison:
1. Booting
2. Getting on my wireless network
3. Working on this post in Google docs.
4. Getting a screenshot (or two)
5. Watching a Youtube video
6. Detecting an 8g flash and saving the pictures/screen shots to it
7. Finding my other partitions
8. Find my webcam
9. Play a game
10. Get me a beer

Good luck to the contestants. First up, Mepis Live CD.  Insert and restart…

mepis-menu

It took less that 5 minutes to totally restart but it took another 15 minutes to get on my wireless network.  NDSWrapper is included and I found it by looking in the lower left menu and going SYSTEM/Mepis/Network assistant.  For a nOOb like me, it was not as straight forward as I would like.  It said I would have to completely restart in order for changes in network setting to take effect.  This is obviously not true, but I did logout and log in again but still had to fiddle with the settings until I saw a notification that said I had a network connection.

mepis-network-assistant

I did take a few screenshots using ksnapshot.  Firefox is right in the bottom toolbar, where it should be.  Kmail is the mail client and Open Office handles the office tasks.  All in all, it was a nice full suite of programs and everything was where I expected it to be, since this is running off the familiar KDE 3.5 interface.  One extra I did try was the Kmag under accessibility options, and you can see my network connection and the time.

mepis-network

Mepis had no problems detecting my flash and saving the screen shots there.  Next it was time to go to YouTube, and of course Fred was right there so I gave him a shot.

mepis-youtube

Yeah, he’s really pathetic, but he’s even moreso without sound.  And sure enough, it just occurred to me that I had not heard any sound since booting.  And so, while Mepis was able to view a Youtube video, it failed in the sound department, at least off the live CD.  While it located the Mandriva and backup partitions, it did not detect the main Windows partition.  This is important in case I ever wanted to use this as a rescue disk.

mepis-sound

At this point, the test is over since it is kind of pointless playing a game without sound.  The game selection looked a bit skimpy but this IS a live CD.  It also failed to get me a beer, which was really disappointing since I could really use a beer at only 1/3 of the way through this process.  Next up: Kubuntu.

kubuntuscreen

This might be a bit sketchy as I’m going from a somewhat distant memory.  Kubuntu uses the KDE 4.1 interface, and this was my first experience with that.  It really is an attractive interface, moreso than anything I’ve used thus far.  Getting the wireless to work was a snap…easier than anything else I’ve ever run.  It easily recognized my flash drive where I saved the ksnapshot pics.

kubuntu-toolbarThere was also sound, as I ran Amorok which had a sample file that I could check.  However the rest of the exercises did not go so well.  First off, I was unable to get to Google docs because it does not support the default (and only) web browser, Konquerer.

kubuntu-webwriteKonquerer is supported by other aspects of Google but not online document editing.  So that really crimped me, but it is useful to know that limitation.  Next, I went to YouTube to see if I could watch Fred spaz out.

kubuntuyoutubeI could neither see nor watch him as flash is not supported out of the box on the live CD of Kubuntu.  I’m not terribly surprised, knowing Ubuntu’s ways as I do, but it still scores as a FAIL in this diagnostic.  And Kubuntu had no games.  Zero, zilch.  Not even mahghong or whatever it is no one ever plays but is included in every other distro.  All in all, Kubuntu is a very attractive and snappy distro that holds a lot of promise.  Too bad Mepis couldn’t have stuck a bit closer to Ubuntu’s development, because I think Mepis does a better job with KDE.  I liked that Kubuntu did so well connecting to my wireless network (TOTALLY painless) but not including flash or Firefox caused problems.  I set these tests up before trying these out, just so you know I was not intentionally trying to trip up Kubuntu.  I didn’t try a webcam test on either Mepis or Kubuntu, but I would not hold my breathe on that one.

So how about the latest Puppy?

puppy-menuMoving along to Puppy, which is the last test of the day.  Puppy, one of my most favorites, actually gave me more problems than the others as far as finding the wireless network.  I ended up getting through it using the NDISWrapper, but it was a bit of a pain.

puppyconnectionThe screenshot program is not as nice as Ksnapshot so not as many screen captures here.  The odd thing is that the default browser on Puppy is SeaMonkey and that had absolutely no problems accessing Google Docs.  Then I went to Youtube and was able to watch and hear Fred with no problems.

puppy-youtubepuppy-xsoldierPuppy does include a fun Galaga-type game called Soldier X that could get a bit addictive to those of us into that genre of game.  But Puppy also failed to get me a beer.

Given the struggles I had with all of the distros of one sort or another, I never did really try to find my webcam,

All in all, I actually enjoyed looking at Kubuntu the best and Puppy the least.  But Puppy succeeded in more of the tasks than any of the other live CDs making it a continued favorite of mine for just working where I  need it.  The purpose of a live CD is to see how a distro will work on a given hardware system, and these three CDs did give me a chance to look at the respective offerings and showed that they do have differences in functionality.  Given this particular demonstration, if I were to recommend a distro to someone new to Linux, Puppy is the only one of these three that is able to do most of the tasks that I tried right out of the box. When you add in the benefits of its small size and its speed, it really whips up on the other two distros handily.   Granted, it does not have a full office suite, but being able to use Google apps helps shore up that problem.

Puppy Wins!

None of these distros got me a beer, but I suppose they all make up for it by being free, as in beer.  Linux made some good gains in 2008 and I see more gains being made in 2009 as long as more apps start being available on the web.  When applications start being less dependent on the operating system, the advantage swings almost entirely over to Linux.

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17 comments

  1. Try spoofing Konqueror as Safari to see if Google Docs will work.


  2. My top three are Mandriva 2009, Mepis, Puppy.

    Mandriva has been flawless with wifi every time I installed it. No fiddling. Installed it and the wifi just worked.

    I tried Kubuntu back in the 7.04 days and switched to PCLinuxOS because I was underwhelmed. Its much better now but I prefer to use one true commercial distro like Mandriva or Suse next to my smaller ones.
    Canonical has no plans to try even have a business plan and therefore fall under ‘rich man’s toy’ category. We need to have strong commercial distros that can flourish on their own and Canonical basically gave up after not even three years by saying that its impossible to make money with the desktop. Considering that Mandriva is a publicly traded company that did that way before Canonical ever existed, I have to laugh. I like Shuttleworth and he says all the right free software things but if you just admitted that you wont have a business plan for the desktop, then its a bit too much like a rich mans plaything.

    My friends think Puppy is too juvenile looking but I like it. It’s a happy looking GUI and makes me smile. Kids and older folks love it and is the distro i put on all the old machines I come across.

    While Mandriva2009 is our home desktop, Mepis is my workhorse.

    KDE 4.1 is aaaaalmost there.
    I cant wait for 4.2… it might be the one I switch my folks with from their PCLinuxOS2007.

    Ive used Ubuntu on my wife’s Dell Mini 9 and Im really a KDE fanboi :-).
    First thing I did was dump Pidgin for Kopete because wifey wants video with her yahoo IM.
    Got rid of the awful rhythmbox or whatever audio program they have to install Amarok and the buggy Totem was replaced by the genial VLC.

    I also use XCFE, GNOME, Windows and Mac also during a work day and I have never died from contact with them but if you give me a choice, KDE is the one for me.

    But that is the beauty of GNU-Linux, you can choose which look YOU want, not the only look the proprietary companies will tell you that you will like.

    Great post. Keep it up.


  3. Give Linux Mint a try. It comes with all the proprietary codecs installed by default so may pass all your tests.


  4. Your favorite distro wins the smackdown, what a shock.

    Seriously though, I used MEPIS for years, but now I’m using Kubuntu. Kubuntu is thoroughly underwhelming out of the box, but I find it wears better over time. I still have a MEPIS 7 box at home, but because of the updated QT libraries and other things it’s hit-or-miss whether stuff from Debian’s repos (which it uses) are actually going to work.

    Point being, if the out-of-the-box experience is all you care about, MEPIS or Mint or some other “remix” type distro is going to suit you well (by remix I mean a distro that depends on someone else’s package base and repos; no offense to the hard work of those devs); the problem is that these distros tend to break down as you veer away from the original install scenario. Case in point: try installing GNOME or XFCE on MEPIS.

    Kubuntu’s default config is close to useless, but over time and lots of reconfiguring it holds up better. My laptop has gone from KDE to KDE with compiz to XFCE to icewm and back to KDE and each setup installed easily and worked tolerably well. I don’t preach Ubuntu as the greatest distro ever, but for the way I use Linux it is the best compromise (though I’m seriously looking into Arch).

    I won’t comment on puppy as I haven’t gotten around to seriously using it.

    Since you claim to be a noob, I’ll offer you some advice: Don’t listen to the hype, either good or bad. Ubuntu is popular, but that doesn’t make it good or bad. It fits for a certain type of user, and not for certain other users. There is no best Linux for everyone.

    And don’t judge a distro by the liveCD experience. For heaven’s sake, that’s just lazy.


  5. You really do have to give Mint a try, Mint 5 KDE is the latest community edition on with KDE and it brought my search to a dead stop, IMHO it has replace PCLOS as the “distro hopper stopper”.

    It’s been over a year since I tried Puppy, after your review I’ll need to give it a run on the USB key for my “carry around in the pocket distro”.


  6. I would have to agree that Mint 5 KDE will get the job done. It is based on KDE 3.5 and who knows when Mint 6 KDE will be out.

    If you type in the search bar “term” when termial pops up on the list, hit enter. Then in the terminal type sudo apt-get install firefox. The .deb for flashplayer is broke. You can start firefox by typing “fire” in the search bar. In Firefox go to adobe.com, download the install_flashplayer.deb. Close Firefox, click on the install_flashplayer.deb on the desktop and install it.

    Not exactly built in. But it takes less than 5 minutes, only 1 command line to type and 18 megs of data to download. Plus it gets the job done better than Mepis or Puppy.

    If the cam is detected, Kopete will let you use it in MSN. If you need Yahoo, you can “sudo apt-get install gyahci”


  7. I should have mentioned those instructions are for Kubuntu. In Mint 5, you would not have to do that it all. It should just work out of the box.


  8. [...] Becoming a Penguin Trying to find a Linux that works « Kubuntu 8.10 vs Mepis 7.9.94 vs Puppy 4.1.2 RE: Smackdown post January 10, 2009 Wow. Thanks to all for stopping [...]


  9. [...] Kubuntu 8.10 vs Mepis 7.9.94 vs Puppy 4.1.2 Okay, how about a smack down between 3 of my favorite distros? Okay, Kubuntu is not my favorite as this is the first time I’ve tried it, but it is a biggy. I have ragged and ragged on Ubuntu even though I have tried to like it. I do prefer KDE, so I’m going to give that an honest look and see if that warms me up to the Ubuntu brand. I’m pitting this distro giant against Mepis which has been a fav of mine since discovering Linux and is responsible for me falling for KDE. The release I’m running is 7.9.94 which is the RC1 of 8.0. Not quite as stable or developed so the advantage goes here to Kubuntu before we even start. Puppy has been my light weight fav for a long time and is an odd one out in this little comparison. But we’ll see how well this little distro measures up. Since I’m running totally off of live CD’s, Puppy actually gets an advantage as it runs totally in RAM. [...]


  10. If I knew how to do it, I suppose I could try fooling Google, but why not include the Iceweasel if Firefox is too proprietary?

    Thanks for the feedback, Rene. Mandriva 2008 is what I’m using right now on my laptop and PCLinuxOS runs on the other two machines in the house. All dual boot with XP. Mepis used to be my favorite but PCLOS won mostly because Mepis fell behind. I’m still fond of it.

    Thanks for suggesting Linux Mint, Bart, Monty and Fred. It is on my short list of distros to try. I did try Mint 4 in March of last year, and it did make the initial cut. However it could not beat PCLOS for the final win. Would it be fair to pit it against Mandriva 2009?

    Well, Alan, Puppy is *a* favorite distro. But it isn’t *the* main one I use by a long shot. These were all new versions I had never tried before and I would never have predicted Puppy beating Kubuntu! I agree that there is no best for everyone and the fact that we keep testing these things out is a testament to our fickleness! I wish I had a spare machine to indulge my fickleness, but until I do the live CD is going to have to represent in these little beauty contests! Yeah, it’s kinda shallow.

    I haven’t seriously tried the Puppy USB option, Monty, but it could be a really easy option on even a 512 MB USB stick. I need to try that, myself.

    I briefly thought of downloading Firefox, Fred. However that is a very real limitation of the live CD. I need to probably commit to an empty partition if I’m going to download and tweak. Kubuntu looks gorgeous but she turned out to be too much of a tease for me to consider any sort of longterm comittment.


  11. Your heart’s in the right place, but I’m afraid you have a lot to learn about designing tests for software. You were willing to jump through hoops to get wireless working on two of the distros simply because you already knew how. On the other hand, you didn’t even attempt to resolve Mepis’ sound issue, nor to issue the single command to install Firefox under Kubuntu. And considering your previous criticisms of Ubuntu, are you really claiming you didn’t already know the Ubuntu series doesn’t install flash by default, and why? Again, it was a one-command fix. How many undocumented steps did you take making wireless work, again?

    This wasn’t intended as a flame. I just feel considerable unconscious bias crept into your comparisons.


  12. I suppose bias is a fair charge. I did work harder to get wireless to work because without that, I don’t have a test nor do I even have a post. The entire thing was typed on Google docs using 2 of those three distros. I did try to resolve the sound issue for Mepis, but screen shot #2 is too small to read, as are the ones showing me resolving Puppy’s wireless woes. All were done using GUI.

    As for command lines, I will occasionally copy and paste one if it suites me, but not on a live CD. I suspected Ubuntu might not come with flash, but if I had Firefox then I would have (tried to) installed the plugin and not made it a big deal. The lack of Firefox and lack of support for Google docs would have smarted less if it weren’t for the fact that Puppy’s little Seamonkey browser pwned Kubuntu’s Konquerer on those tasks. I can’t blame Ubuntu fans for being a bit upset over that, but don’t blame me for it. I was surprised and rather disappointed, myself, that the sexy Kubuntu turned out so prudish in her functionality. Good for others who have managed to woo her more effectively in order to appreciate and discover her charms!

    I do think other simple side-by-side comparison tests of this sort should be done by by more people, and could be done by people who happen to have several partitions to spare. I’m like the rest of you; interested in reading what people are doing with these software tools.


  13. When I use a live CD I tend to use xubuntu which as firefox on it or Slax. Slax is a great choice because of how easy it is to customize. Just grab any programs you need from slackware and convert them to lzm files and put them in the /slax/base folder. Plus there is a folder called rootcopy. That gets copied over before KDE starts. It is possible to set up boot scripts and install firmware without doing a complicated remaster. The CD only has 200 megs of files on it so there is plenty of room for adding whatever you need.


  14. Nice comparison. I’m also a linux n00b and just started running puppy 4.1.2 last month–the out of the box functionality was of prime importance for me as well. I actually had very little problem using the “connect” wizard for my wireless.

    The other really nice thing was that I did a frugal install to HDD without creating a linux partition. This was great because as a long time windows user I want to dual boot and get comfy with Linux before deciding if I want to do a full install. But it’s running so well as it is that I’ll probably leave it.

    I got my webcam working fairly easily–the hardest part was actually just verifying that it worked. I had to skype a friend to see if she could see me.

    Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised with how well Puppy is running and all the built in programs. Every time I mess around with it I find something new and say to my wife, for example, “Hey, this thing just recognized my digital camera no problem! I didn’t need to install anything!” Good stuff.


  15. [...] is actually the lightweight distro winner in head-to-head comparisons on ZDNet, Tuxmachines, and On Becoming a Penguin.  A download of under 90 MB, it’s easily configurable yet has more applications than TinyMe [...]


  16. [...] and then one of them gets chosen over all the others.  I’ve done direct comparisons in terms of functionality [...]


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