CrunchBang Linux Review

I love CrunchBang Linux.  In my opinion, it’s one of the best distributions of Linux for older computers (heck, any computer) that is actively developed.

I pieced together a Gateway M250 laptop a year or so ago (3 bad ones parted out into 1 good one) and loaded it up with max RAM (2GB).  It’s now a handy little 14 inch laptop with a 1.73Ghz single core Centrino processor.  Not bad…but when playing videos or streaming them, it can really struggle.  So keeping the operating system lightweight on it is a definite must.

Enter, CrunchBang.  It’s small and fast.  It’s elegant and slick.  Just look at this screenshot:

Default Desktop

Simple and sleek, CrunchBang gives feelings of order and uniformity while breaking the speed limit signs.  I’d like to take some time to show you why I feel CrunchBang Linux should be the next distribution of Linux you put on your laptop.  Let’s get started…

Login Screen

In the screenshot above we find the login screen that greets you after installing CrunchBang.  It’s very basic and sleek…it gives the impression that CrunchBang has things together.  It’s impressive but you won’t get to the most impressive portion of CrunchBang Linux until you login for the first time after installing.  I’m going to assume that you already have CrunchBang installed and are booting it for the first time in this review since the install is very easy to do.  After the installation, you’ll be greeted by a command line first run wizard (see below):

First Run Wizard

This wizard will take you through a plethora of tasks…including, but not limited to, getting you connected to the internet, installing development tools, installing web server tools, installing software development tools, and of course…updating your install.  You’ll be able to select each that you want to perform or skip each depending on your need/desire.  THIS is how a first run wizard should be.

This wizard is just a simple script but it does more in the first few minutes for new users than any first run wizard I’ve ever seen.  In my opinion, this tool puts CrunchBang head and shoulders above just about any other distribution of Linux out there.  This lightweight approach to things permeates the entire install.

Now that you’ve made it through the first run wizard, we can explore the various applications installed by default.  For a list, please see the CrunchBang wiki entry.  I’ve found that there is a lightweight replacement for everything I’m accustomed to.  You access these applications by right clicking ON the desktop…which is the standard way to do this using the Openbox window manager.

Right ClickAs you can see, there is a well organized menu structure for the applications that are installed and the appearance provides a uniform appearance just like all other areas of the distro do.  The theme is modern and elegant and continues throughout the menu structure.

browsersAre you a Firefox, Opera or Chromium fan?  Doesn’t matter.  Install scripts are provided inside the menu to get you the right browser right away.  Just a small detail that shows the creator of the distro isn’t thinking about only themselves but rather, the standard user.

I recommend CrunchBang Linux for ANYONE out there…regardless of skill level…who wants a lightweight, complete, and polished distribution of Linux with very few hassles.


Where Will You Hide the Bodhi?

Bodhi LinuxI had a brief flirtation with Bodhi Linux this past week.  I nuked my CrunchBang Linux install to give it a go.  It seemed pretty solid, but after spending some quality time with the distro, I found the version of Network Manager loved to randomly disconnect me from wireless networks…as in, right in the middle of me transferring files, streaming music, and doing tha IRC thing.  Very irritating.

I did a full update to the most recent released version (released in the past few weeks) and found e17 randomly crashing which wasn’t the best addition to a randomly disconnecting wireless connection…and I know that crashes aren’t a problem in e17 since the handler can just restart all the modules and BOOM you’re back.  Regardless, the Network Manager disconnection problem eventually irritated me enough to jump ship.  I attempted connman, exalt, and wicd but I found myself lost.  Since I haven’t used those tools before and the docs very scarce for uprooting Network Manager from Bodhi, it was a stopping point.  No worries, it’s still a great distribution and e17 is VERY fast and looks very good on this 7 year old laptop. However, CrunchBang called me back.

It just works.  Period.

It’s fast.  It’s openbox.  It smells tasty.  Ok, so I made up that last part…there isn’t a smell per se, but rather an overall polish that makes me want to use it.  So, inside a Starbucks in Eastern North Carolina, I buried a Bodhi and set out for home with a CrunchBang ISO.  I promised a review of CrunchBang anyway and it’s high time I started on it.  Let the distro hopping slow down for a while.

Old Computer? No Problem! Linux Saves The Day.

Want to know what utilizes 54.3 MB of RAM idle at 1% CPU utilization on a Gateway M250 laptopCrunchBang Linux, that’s what!

It’s always a breath of fresh air when you are able to resurrect older hardware that most people would throw right into the trash with a dash of Linux.

Granted, this M250 laptop isn’t in its default config…I’ve updated it from 512MB of RAM to 2GB of RAM…which puts it at the maximum it can recognize.  It is running a Pentium M 740 Processor that runs at 1.73 Ghz and was part of the Centrino line from Intel.  It’s not breaking any land speed records but it hums along nicely.  I can upgrade it still to a Pentium M 760 and then that too will be maxed out.  For now, this laptop would run Windows XP normally and probably not do a fantastic job at it with a bunch of apps installed.

With Linux, I can load it up with just about anything I want and things just work.  If you haven’t taken a look at CrunchBang Linux in a while, you should do so immediately.  It’s like straight up octane fuel for your older computers.  I’m pleased that CrunchBang uses Debian for its base so that I am not in want of obscure packages and it uses Openbox, one of my favorite window managers, for its default desktop.

During the writing of this article using Firefox…er Iceweasel 8.0…it’s humming nicely at 175MB of RAM being used and about 15% CPU.  Very pleased thus far.  I’ll include a screenshot below and I’ll do a more in depth review of CrunchBang soon.

Remember, don’t throw out your old computers/laptops.  Resurrect them with Linux…particularly a VERY well put together and nice distribution like CrunchBang Linux!

 

CrunchBang Linux
CrunchBang Linux

Back to the Basics with Debian

Sometimes, you just have so many problems with the distribution you’re running that you have to wipe it out with a clean slate. I did that this past week and am now using Debian.

With using Debian there comes a feeling of being back to the very basic of Linux distros…much in the same way when you use Arch…it just feels plain, unencumbered, and basic and there is a feeling you get when build something from nothing…you start with a kernel and just enough CLI tools and create your house…then live in it.

It feels good to be stable. It feels good to not have to worry about programs crashing, the net disconnecting, or not being able to install programs.

People like to ride the unstable or testing route with most things out there…as I move forward in my Linux journey, I find myself looking to be less and less cutting edge and more and more stable. Plus, if there is a program out there that needs updating…backports are always a good way to get them.

I’m enjoying my new digs and will look to getting back into the swing of posting enjoyable articles and how-to’s in the upcoming weeks.

Unity Linux Gets a Sponsor with Host Color!

Good news to all of you out there that watch the project I’m involved with called Unity Linux.  What is Unity you ask?  Allow me to give you some background:

Unity Linux is a small Linux core based on Mandriva Linux.  We whittle down Mandriva to a small base desktop to provide users with ‘just enough graphics’ to be able to login and create their own distribution of Linux with the liveCD project which lies at the heart of Unity Linux.  We’ve replaced some of the common things like uprmi with the Smart Package Manager and we’ve moved on past RPM version 4 to RPM version 5.  Version 5 gives us some really cool features as well as speed enhancements across the board.

If you’re in the mood for Mandriva goodness (control center) without the extra stuff…give Unity Linux a try as a cholesterol free Mandriva.

In February of this year, Unity Linux turned 2 years old.  With this milestone on the horizon, we were approaching the time when our hosting service was coming due for another large chunk of change.  I began to seek out different hosting plans and price them and our developers started talking fund raising.  In January, I approached a hosting company named Host Color about the possibility of sponsoring Unity Linux via providing a hosting plan for them…to my delight, they were more than happy to provide for us!

I approached Host Color because they have been a sponsor of Yet Another Linux Blog for well over a year now helping the authors here bring excellent how-to’s and editorials about Linux.  Now Host Color has offered hosting for Unity Linux and given us a fine place to hang our hosting hat.  So, please join me in thanking Host Color for providing us with our new home!

TinyMe Linux For The Win

I was running Unity Linux 2010.2 with KDE 4.5 for around the last month.  I really like what has been done there but it seemed a bit heavy for my Gateway M250…the CPU fan was always on which told me it was always in high use.

I checked out Gnome 2.30 on Unity and found it to be delightful on my resources; however, Gnome doesn’t make me feel warm and tingly when I use it.  I find myself frustrated with its lack of configuration options…specifically, right click menu.  So I rolled my own using the base install of Unity.  That worked quite nicely but lacked much of the polish I became accustomed to when using KDE.  What I wanted and needed was a happy medium.   I found that happy place with TinyMe Linux.

TinyMe is based on Unity Linux 2010 and was previously based on PCLinuxOS.  It uses LXPanel, PCManFM and the Openbox Window Manager to handle the heavy desktop lifting.  The ISO I used was a release candidate and lacked much of the polish of the TinyMe stable release of the past.  Even though it’s a release candidate, I still found it quite stable and usable…especially since I know my way around the openbox window manager.

You can snag the TinyMe release candidate here:  http://distro.ibiblio.org/pub/linux/distributions/tinyme/

After a few adjustments of adding my favorite programs I was in business.

TinyMe RC 2010

Even without some of the programs that made TinyMe famous (like the TinyCC) this distro is both stable and robust which is a testament to the underlying Unity Linux core.  If this release candidate is any indication, look for GREAT things to come from TinyMe 2010’s full release…something I will be looking forward to!