The MEPIS distribution has been one of the bigger KDE-centric distributions around for some years now, created to make desktop GNU/Linux easier to use. As part of our KDE and Distributions series founder and main contributor Warren Woodford talks to KDE Dot News about the history and current vision of the distribution.
Can you tell us about the history of your distribution?
I started MEPIS in November 2002 because I wasn't satisfied with the distros I
had used. I've been working with GUIs since 1984 and I know what I like and
expect from an OS and a desktop. Trolltech had the tools and KDE had the
desktop but, in my opinion, everyone was missing the mark when putting it all
together to create a user experience. So I decided to do MEPIS. I didn't
know if anyone would like the results, including me.
Why did you choose KDE and which version of KDE did you first implement?
KDE and Qt reminded me of the NeXT desktop and NeXT AppKit, which I liked a
lot. Programming in Qt/KDE was easy because the concepts were so similar to
NeXT (now Mac OS X). I think I first used 2.2.
How did you find initial support for a new distro?
I found everything I needed in the documentation.
What could KDE have done better to help new distros use KDE?
I can't think of anything.
What were your first impressions about KDE's documentation and community?
I'm happy with the documentation. But some apps seems to have ample
documentation, while others seem to have very little. I wish the
implementation were more even.
I've met some of the community members at shows, and they're a great crowd.
How closely do your releases depend on KDE releases?
We sync releases with KDE, since KDE is the largest part of what the user
sees. Typically we wait for KDE to settle a bit after a new release and then
we roll out a new MEPIS.
Do you have a clear target audience for your distro?
Our number one target is non-technical computer users who want an easy path
away from Windows. But often our users are technical and experienced. For
many of them, computers are a bit of a hobby, a way to learn new things and a
way to socialise with others.
A recent poll on the MEPISLovers forum indicated that we have users starting at 2
years of age going up to 90 and that the curve is flat from about 30 to 60,
or maybe it was 70. In other words, MEPIS seems to appeal to people of all
Do you have any user feedback mechanism? If so, what feedback do they
have about KDE?
We get feedback from the MEPIS forums, the MEPISLovers forums, direct email,
and reviews written by MEPIS supporters. MEPIS users usually have little to
say specifically about KDE. It's there, it works, they like it.
In what ways do you customise the version of KDE that ships with your distro?
We choose which packages to include and we tweak the defaults. Otherwise, we
let KDE be KDE. It's an incredibly flexible and adjustable desktop. We
don't feel a need to rewrite it.
Our OnTheGo feature, which gives the user an encrypted desktop running on a
USB key, uses some custom magic at login time.
What are the biggest strengths of KDE for your distro?
The many many well integrated KDE pieces that we can choose from to make the
Your commitment to quality.
What are the biggest weaknesses?
Media device support. It continues to get better, but it still isn't good
enough for very non-technical users. I'm hoping that'll be cleared up in
And media players. The current choices all have strengths and weaknesses.
None of them are a clear winner. It reminds me of K3B 3 years ago, close but
no cigar. K3B got their act together, and now they kick butt. Hopefully,
the same will happen to KMPlayer or Kaffeine or some other app.
What KDE applications are the most popular among your users?
Amarok, Kmail, K3B, Digikam, Konqueror
Do you feel that you have a good relationship with the KDE community?
Yes. Everything's fine.
What feature would you as a distro maintainer like to see in KDE?
As I indicated above, I'd like to see a world-class app for playing video
files and streams. Maybe KMPlayer with more style, a few more features, and
a better UI (like K3B).
Is the extended 4.0 release cycle an issue for your distro?
No, it'll give us time to catch up on other work.
What are you most looking forward to about the 4.0 release?
I don't know yet. Every time you have a major release I find lots of new
goodies to play with. :)
Do you plan any involvement in the beta/RC releases of the 4.0 release?
To the degree that we have time. Some members of the MEPIS community are
always among the first to try new KDE releases. I'm sure they'll be
Any other plans for your distro in the future?
64 bit seems to be inevitable.
We plan on better integration with OS X.