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.

Feedly, Chromium , and Google Reader

How many of you use Google Chrome or Chromium and have more than 10 active feeds in Google Reader?  I’m sure that most of you raised your hand…well, maybe not physically but a mental raising of the hand I suppose.  How about 20+ feeds?  30+?  Is your (virtual) hand still up?  Mine is.

I’m plugged in…maybe too plugged in.  The “mark all items read” button received much use in my RSS reader.  I found myself skipping more than I actually read.  Google reader is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but it is a bit simplistic and plain…which is fine, it does its job well.  I’m informed.  But I often times find myself trying to sift through the cruft that is my various feeds.  I have wordpress design feeds, freelance feeds, Linux feeds, sports feeds, business feeds, inspirational feeds, youtube feeds, feeds about feeds, and feeds feeding those feeds.

Feedly

Feedly, RSS on Steroids

I wanted to get more from my news/RSS.  Enter Feedly.  Feedly is a way that my feeds become VISUAL.  Instead of line by line by line, I’m given tiles and mosaic patchworks in an easy to read format.  I have variety.  I have images.  I have screenshots.  I have thumbnails.  I can see my feeds.  I can see what they’re describing.  I can see what people are blogging about.  I started using Feedly a mere 4 days ago and I have completely caught up on my reading.  Before I started I had over 3000 articles and was many, many days behind on my reading.  I’m completely caught up now with a manageable 200  articles to read.

Does this mean I’m reading thousands of articles with Feedly?  Not by a long shot.  But I’m finding what is important to me faster and thus being much more efficient.  I’m still skipping many articles…but at least now I know WHAT I’m skipping.  I’m not just marking all read so that I can catch up.  Feedly allows me to peruse my feeds in almost a catalog fashion which speeds up my reading times and focuses my attention on the things that catch my eye.

Feedly is free by the way.  I use it with Chromium/Chrom (works with any web browser though, just head over to their website) and you can too.  Install it as a web application in the Chrome web store.  Once installed, synchronize it with your Google Reader account…things you mark as read in Feedly will be marked read in your Google Reader account and vice versa.  I also use it on my Android tablet.  Make sure to check out the settings page in Feedly to configure the right layout and colors for yourself to make things easier to read and fit your workflow.  I guarantee you will find yourself reading more interesting articles…bookmarking links more…and paying attention to what matters to you.

Thank You, Dear Reader

thank you!

Photo by woodleywonderworks

Thank you, dear reader.

Thanks for making Yet Another Linux Blog one of the top Linux Blogs on the planet!  It was an average day over 8 years ago that I began to host my own blog at linuxblog.sytes.net (thanks No-Ip.com!) on a PII that I inherited from one of my friends.  Slackware Linux hosted the project then and I wanted to use my new blog to explore the Linux world posting tips, tricks, and how-to’s on my way.  Millions upon millions of pageviews and 6 hosting changes later, we arrive here…at the end of 2011.

So am I throwing in the towel since I didn’t post regularly in 2011?  Heck no.  I’m going to continue learning and posting, exploring and writing.  In fact, I’ve made it a resolution to do more posting this year than I ever have to develop my writing as I begin to supplement my technical writing portfolio.  Technical Writing would be my profession of choice if this were a perfect world…getting paid to help people is something I find very satisfying.  For now, I freelance and am looking to possibly make freelancing become my full time job.

Once again, thanks for making Yet Another Linux Blog be a stop in your browser…thanks for making it be a blip on your RSS reader….thanks for your support and continued reading :)

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

How-To Choose the Right Distribution of Linux

so many choices

Courtesy of evelynishere

Which distribution is the RIGHT distribution?  Is there such a thing?  When you start your journey with Linux you might here something like this:

– Ubuntu is the best distribution for the desktop
– Linux Mint is the best distribution for a home user and the desktop
– Debian is the best way to go because of its stability and solid base
– Mandriva isn’t as good as Mageia
– Mageia isn’t as good as Mandriva
– Red Hat is for servers only
– Distribution X is better than distribution Y!

Here’s the thing…statements like these are all BLATANTLY FALSE.  Why?  Because they’re opinions..everyone has one and they are all just that…opinions.

When you start your journey with Linux, don’t let someone else tell you what you should or shouldn’t use.  Go out and find what fits you like a glove and use that.  It doesn’t matter how large of community the distribution has (unless that is what you’re specifically looking for) or how often it updates or how many hits it has on the Distrowatch tracker.  Use what is best FOR YOU.  Only you can decide what distribution scratches whatever itch you have.

If you choose the right one, chances are you’ll be a part of that distribution for a long time.  But don’t worry, it isn’t like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and if you pick the wrong distribution you won’t turn into a dusty exploding skeleton.  In this situation, the RIGHT distribution of Linux is ANY distribution of Linux.  As long as you’re making a conscious effort to choose free software and use Linux, you win.

I’ve been in, around and even leading Linux communities since the late 1990’s and there is one thing I’ve found it is this:  Every single distribution has a place in this world.  Every single distribution has it’s own niche users.  Every single distribution of Linux is important. I’m sure many of you have heard or have said that Linux just needs to simplify more and have only a handful of distributions so we can concentrate on just that handful and make it be fantastic.  Unfortunately, that wouldn’t work very well and would stifle creativity.  To prove my point…what if we didn’t have small distributions at all?  That wouldn’t have a large effect on Linux as a whole right? Let’s take a look at that hypothesis…

If Small Distributions Never Were…

As an example:  Symphony OS.  It used FVWM and Mezzo for the desktop experience and it REVOLUTIONIZED the way we see and interact with files.  If you use Gnome 3, Ubuntu Unity, or KDE 4.X, you’re using concepts that Symphony OS was the first to put onto a Linux desktop.  Symphony never had a huge user base.  It never shot up the charts at Distrowatch.  It did however, push the envelope of what a desktop distribution can and can’t do.  It did push the boundaries of design.  It did push simplicity and usability to a new level.  It also did web apps before webapps were cool.  Somehow it never caught on…but I it influenced people and challenged people to push the envelope of what was possible and impossible with desktop Linux.

Small, Niche Distributions Perform a Function

Often times I have found Linux users looking for a distribution that fills a specific function.  “I just want a file sharing distribution” they’ll say, or perhaps “I just want a nice and simple desktop”, or maybe even “I just want a tight firewall”.  The beauty of open source software and Linux is that you’ll find small, niche distributions that fit the bill for all of those needs and when you use these distributions, you’ll continue to learn about Linux…and perhaps you’ll push the envelope of what is possible and not possible just like Symphony OS did.

Regardless if you choose small or large distributions, you win.  The fact is you CHOSE and weren’t force fed something by system installers and companies who think they know what is best for you.

We CAN All Get Along

Many times when we pick the flavor of Linux we like, we identify with its goals…the direction its heading…maybe even the direction the community champions.  There isn’t anything wrong with this.  The next time you experience passionate supporters of Linux, keep in mind that neither you nor they are the enemy.  If you both use Linux and open source, you both win.  Small, large,  and niche distributions of Linux operate harmoniously together and build off one another…it’s one of the unseen benefits of Linux and open source.  Beauty and power in simplicity through collaboration.  Congratulate yourself every single day for choosing Linux!