Comparing MEPIS 8 and Ubuntu 9.04

This post has been updated due to new information regarding Ubuntu 9.04.

I first tweeted about Ubutu 9.04 a week ago. Now I know I’m not exactly comparing apples with apples, since MEPIS 8 is based on Debian 5.0 and uses KDE 3.5, whilst Ubuntu 9.04 uses GNOME 2. I might be better off evaluating Kubuntu, the 9.04 release uses KDE 4, which I’d used previously, and disliked due to its (apparent) gradual reduction in speed.

But back to Ubuntu versus MEPIS. Since 10th June, I’ve been using it as a web developer machine on a Compaq nc8230. This machine is better-speced that the IBM R52 I use for MEPIS, so I’m giving Ubuntu the benefit of faster machine here. We’ll see if that pans out in Ubuntu’s favour later on.

Package Management

I develop in PHP, so I use Apache, MySQL and Oracle (remote server) on a daily basis. From my point of view as a developer, all of the .deb packages I use have the same name as in MEPIS. Synaptic, used in both MEPIS and Ubuntu, handles packages very well, so it is a tie here.

MEPIS 1, Ubuntu 1.

Applications

For applications however, I still felt that, overall KDE’s were more suitable for me, even though I was able to find GNOME-based replacements for the applications I used in MEPIS:

  • Kate to Gedit. Kate can syntax highlight my .ctp files, while Gedit has no such configuration option. Kate has sessions so I can quickly switch between projects, Gedit does not.
  • Konsole to Terminal. Konsole remembers my tabs, Terminal does not.
  • Katapult to Do. I prefer the default Alt+Space shortcut for Katapult, Do does it like Win+Space, because Alt+Space is used by GNOME. I also prefer if a calculator is built into Do, so I press Win+Space+32*5 and I get the result (160) onscreen.
  • Kdesvn,Kdiff3 Kompare to Meld. Meld is MUCH better than either of the 3 applications, as I can do 3-way file/directory comparison easily. It can even open a Subversion-ed directory and handle it correctly)
  • No Dropbox client in MEPIS, versus official Dropbox client in Ubuntu. Dropbox works very well, as it is the official release from the Dropbox guys. I’m still waiting (hoping) for a KDE-based one, but maybe they are reluctant to write one in KDE 3.5, then later rewrite for KDE4?

MEPIS 1, Ubuntu 0.5 (due to Meld, Dropbox).

Speed/Stability

I feel that Ubuntu 9.04 has some way to go, as I’d to POWER OFF the laptop as Ubuntu does the dreaded “window goes dark” thing, and I see/hear alot of hard drive activity, and then I have to (painfully) switch to Terminal, and then type killall <process>. Usually, the culprit is Firefox 3.0.11.

Previously I’d written about how unstable 9.04 was. After some reading on the forums, I figured it might be a graphics issue. Setting System -> Preferences -> Appearance -> Visual Effects to “None”, seem to have resolved my stability problems. How strange, yet comforting. Ubuntu is now as stable as MEPIS (or probably most Linux distros, anyways) is.

MEPIS 8, on the IBM R52, meanwhile is fast and stable, albeit with less special effects. I must admit, I was wowed by the special effects, but not at the expense of speed, and particularly stability.

MEPIS 1, Ubuntu 0. MEPIS 1, Ubuntu 1.

Conclusion

I’ve no issues with Synaptic, as it is used to manage packages in both MEPIS and Ubuntu.

I loved to use Dropbox and Meld in Ubuntu, so much that I was probably willing to accept the differences between kate/gedit, konsole/terminal, katapult/do. What was frustrating to me was to develop halfway, and then have to wait for the system to return control of the UI to me, and if not reboot.

The overall score is MEPIS 3, Ubuntu 1.5. This scoreline is obviously subjective, but you’ve heard all the good things about Ubuntu, have a slow(er) laptop, please do consider MEPIS. The overall score is MEPIS 3, Ubuntu 2.5. I still prefer KDE 3’s apps, but it wouldn’t be a huge leap to jump to Ubuntu’s GNOME Desktop, or for users that still prefer KDE, Kubuntu 8.04 (KDE 3.x) or Kubuntu 9.04 (KDE 4.x).

Both MEPIS and Ubuntu support audio/wireless networking flawlessly, unlike (cough, cough) Debian. At this point, I really don’t see the benefits of using Ubuntu (mostly due to its speed/stability issues) over MEPIS, so yeah, I’m a fan.

References

Debian, MEPIS and Ubuntu from en.wikipedia.org

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