Home > Chrome, Chromium, CrunchBang, LibreOffice, Openbox, VLC Media Player > CrunchBang worth more than just a test run

CrunchBang worth more than just a test run


OSCON 2011
Next up: OSCON. Get there if you can, and give them my regards because I can’t make it this year :-(

Those of you who read these hallowed pages know I have an affinity for distros that — how can I put this tactfully? — are unique and can be arguably considered as “boutique” or specialized distributions. While others may consider them as such, I don’t necessarily see them that way — I liken them to modified distros in the same way a Shelby Cobra is a step above a mere Ford Mustang, with the proviso of course that ultimately, like the Shelby, they’re not for everyone.

When I test these distros — as I did recently with Kororaa and Bodhi (not to mention the BlueBubble spin of Fedora 15 that Juan Rodriguez built from the ground up, nearly single-handedly) — I generally put them through their paces and, until I update them, I don’t use them on a regular basis despite the fact they remain on the laptops they’re tested on. Generally after the review consisting of a day or two of use, I go back to my old trusty Fedora for daily digital duties.

However, I’m on my fourth day of using CrunchBang — also known in shorthand as #! — and, for once, the temptation to use it for longer that the simple “test drive” is overwhelming, to the point where it’s completely feasible that I may be using this for quite awhile.

The last time I had an opportunity to use the words “crunch” and “bang” in the same sentence, I was describing how an old pickup truck had run a red light and, not seeing it thanks to traffic in the left lane, I ran into it with my Volkswagen Jetta last January.

Yet for those of you keeping score at home, there’s nothing close to resembling a crash here. CrunchBang, so says its home page, “is a Debian GNU/Linux based distribution offering a great blend of speed, style and substance. Using the nimble Openbox window manager, it is highly customisable (Editor’s Note: That British English for “customizable”) and provides a modern, full-featured GNU/Linux system without sacrificing performance.”

Without sacrificing performance — let me emphasize this for a moment, because when I first used CrunchBang, running the ThinkPad T30 from a USB stick, the performance from the live media was the fastest I’ve ever experienced from live media. I’ll give credit to the Openbox desktop atop the Debian Squeeze for that. Further, installing it on a hard drive and running it for the last few days, the speed with which this old T30 runs is nothing short of remarkable.

For the uninitated, the Openbox desktop can take a little getting used to, with navigation being a little different than some of the other, more common desktop environments. But what you give up in lacking familiarity (albeit temporarily) you get back with speed and efficiency — I would go out on a limb and assume that the processor temperature never going over 50 has to do with the fact that the ThinkPad’s not breaking a sweat thanks to the lighter desktop.

One of the features that I found astounding in CrunchBang was that the VLC Media Player, for the first time, actually worked on this old Thinkpad; I’ve never been able to get it to run on other distros. I watched part of “Mr. Baseball” on a laptop which had never shown a DVD before. Also, CrunchBang comes with Chromium as a web browser, with Flash support — this may not appeal to some free-as-in-freedom software advocates, but for those who absolutely, positively must have their YouTube and other Flash-driven sites, it saves those users from having to set it up themselves.

A deal-breaker that became a deal-maker: The only quirk it took awhile to overcome was not being able — at least immediately — to replace OpenOffice.org with LibreOffice. There are workarounds outlined on the CrunchBang forums, however the way I did it was to follow the instructions on the forum regarding changing a Debian repository and changing Synaptic to “Download from : Server for United States.”

CrunchBang is probably not for the neophyte, but if you’ve been using GNU/Linux and FOSS for about a year or longer and you are comfortable tweaking your system, you should have no trouble getting up to speed on this quick distro. The site does have a caveat on the “about page” at the bottom that “CrunchBang Linux is not recommended for anyone needing a stable system or anyone who is not comfortable running into occasional, even frequent breakage. CrunchBang Linux could possibly make your computer go CRUNCH! BANG! Therefore CrunchBang Linux comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by applicable law.”

I think the lawyers made them say that, because after four days of tweaking, some of which not exactly the most advised (but nonetheless corrected), I have yet to make it go “CRUNCH! BANG!” In fact, I think I may keep the drive with this distro installed in the ThinkPad for awhile for use on a daily basis.

Finally, the naming convention for CrunchBang does not escape mention: Currently, CrunchBang is based on Debian Squeeze — keep that letter S in mind — and the name for the current CrunchBang version is Statler, as in Waldorf and Statler, the two elderly gentlemen in the balcony on “The Muppet Show.”

CrunchBang is one of the more pleasant surprises on the Linux distro scene, and it’s clearly worth a test drive. Or more.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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  1. Bob McKeand
    July 24, 2011 at 5:44 pm | #1

    I can see your interest after that penultimate paragraph.
    Anything named after grouchy old men would wiggle your
    walker.

    My lovely bride and Linux Guru, Ms. Panik has tried #! with
    some success. There were some problems getting everything
    running, like WiFi. The target machine would be her Dell Mini 12
    which is mega under powered and full of flaky hardware.
    So, she will DL the newest #! and test fly it soon.

    I mentioned that LtSG had not been totally put off by that Bodhi
    distro so she played with it today. It worked well on the Dell.
    She says that the decision to install Bodhi will follow the #! trial.

    Now I have two questions:
    1. What are two people in their 60′s doing playing with Linux
    distros? I should be sitting in the park talking to the squirrels,
    oh wait, cyber-squirrels.

    2. Why did LtFSG mention Fords? Strange.

    Peace, Bob

    • July 24, 2011 at 5:53 pm | #2

      Hi, Bob –

      Better to be fiddling with Linux distros than having to tell kids to get off your lawn. Also, parks with squirrels are way overrated.

      As for the Fords, I am not that partial (though I drive a Mercury). The Cobra/Mustang analogy was the only one I could come up with to describe a modified version of a street car.

      As for Bodhi, I do like it and it’s on the Toshiba laptop (which, historically, is not the most Linux friendly laptop), though given a choice between the Enlightenment and Openbox desktops, I’d probably go with the Openbox.

      But your mileage may vary.

  2. Troy Widgeon
    July 24, 2011 at 6:47 pm | #3

    I myself am a #! aficionado. Been using it on my Eee’s since before Statler and have never been happier than when it made the jump from Ubuntu to Debian. It’s lean and mean and everything pretty much just ‘works”. I however opted for the xfce flavor when Statler came out and I must say I’m pleased with it. So far it has kept me from fishing around for netbook distros as it fits the bill nicely. Nice read and wish more folks could appreciate the simplistic beauty of this lightweight yet full featured distro, Would recommend it to anyone sick of dumbed-down, screen robbing netbook “optimized” interfaces. Cheers!
    Troy

  3. goossbears
    July 24, 2011 at 9:11 pm | #4

    Like Troy, I also like #!. I have both Xfce and Openbox #! on several laptops and on an old souped-up desktop or two.
    FWIW, #! Statler cleanly installed on two of the laptops even better than the native Squeeze.
    No graphical install problems whatsoever.

    The forums are absolutely magnificent and highly recommended!

    It certainly did and _does_ help that I have a slight bit of background with Debian in order to properly edit the /etc/apt/sources.lst for the package repositories of desire. I decided to install Mozilla’s FF on #! — as I have used this well in the past — instead of just taking the default Chrome.

    The only two current nitpicks I have with CrunchBang are:
    1. You can ONLY obtain the CB iso by a 32-bit or 64-bit BitTorrent download — it’s close to _impossible_ to download the CB iso via HTTP/FTP for those who somehow lack the ability to host torrent seeds or otherwise use torrents in their IT environments .
    2. CrunchBang Statler r20110207 is getting close to its half-year anniversary date. It is not old or stale YET, however I do think it would be EXCEEDINGLY helpful if the main developer would quite seriously consider a CB upgrade before the end of the year (maybe he is already primed and ready to release an r201108xx even as I write this??) After all, Debian Squeeze Stable reached version 6.0.2 last month and the stable linux kernel itself is already going past version 2.6.39.
    Just mentioning these few nitpicks.

    Go OSS Bears

  4. oupsemma
    July 25, 2011 at 2:07 am | #5

    You can download CrunchBang isos from http/ftp in 2 places:

    - arpinux site, which has the latest Statler releases
    http://arpinux.org/isos/statler/

    - ftp://ftp.is.co.za/mirror/crunchbanglinux.org/crunchbang
    has the whole range of cruncheee, crunchbang-lite, Ubuntu and Debian versions

  5. istok
    July 25, 2011 at 2:15 am | #6

    openbox is a WM, not a full DE of any sort.
    the sole developer of crunchbang recently announced he likes ubuntu and unity and will not likely develop much in the future when it comes to the distro.
    which is a pity, because i agree it’s very nice.
    i ran it for a while, it has a nice xfce version too.
    however, it’s basically several scripts put on top of debian stable minimal installation. not hard to do.

    • July 25, 2011 at 9:44 am | #7

      You are right, istok. I use “desktop” in the vernacular, meaning what you see on your screen, and I didn’t mean “desktop environment” specifically, as in GNOME or KDE. It’s interesting that the CrunchBang’ “sole developer” is taking that stand, and it would be very unfortunate to see this distro suffer because of it.

  6. snekone
    July 25, 2011 at 6:22 am | #8

    I ran #! for a few months on my laptop as well, it was an absolute joy to look at. I really miss their simple design using other distros!

    I did have a problem with it though, think it was the Intel wifi chip in my laptop..

  7. Fred
    July 25, 2011 at 8:14 am | #9

    Larry, I think you should have also mentioned that since Openbox can take a little getting used to for the uninitiated, that there is also an Xfce version of CrunchBang as well (which is what I have on my computer, in fact), and I think that, between Openbox and Xfce, newcomers to Linux would probably be more comfortable with Xfce. That said, I think KDE is probably the easiest desktop for a Linux newbie to get used to (in fact, KDE 3.3.2 on Mandrake was my first introduction to Linux), but, as we all know, KDE is definitely NOT light. LOL

    • July 25, 2011 at 9:32 am | #10

      That’s right, Fred: My bad. I should have mentioned Xfce. Thanks for bringing it up.

  8. Bob McKeand
    July 25, 2011 at 10:13 am | #11

    Update: Ms. Panik had everything >EVERYTHING< working from
    the live CD. The install, in fact several installs with various
    options, always hung at Loading GRUB.

    She liked this distro a lot but……

    Peace, Bob

  9. tshann
    July 25, 2011 at 3:36 pm | #12

    I too have been using Crunchbang for several years now – before the debian version. It is my main distro for my personal and business use. I run a Virtualbox VM for my necessary XP access. But for a Linux distro, Crunchbang is de bomb.
    I too use the XFCE version. I used openbox in the former incarnation – and it’s great. But XFCE is about the same regarding lightness, yet it’s just easier all around to work with.
    I agree with this reviewer, that Crunchbang is NOT for newbies. But for those of us who can at least get around in Linux, Crunchbang is the way to go – if you like customizable, lightweight, and everything works to boot!

    Peace

  10. Simon
    July 26, 2011 at 1:39 am | #13

    I love #!. Excellent distro-base, lightweight and fast, and brilliant friendly community. I’m now more a fan of the xfce version however…

  11. April 3, 2014 at 5:22 pm | #14

    Thanks for sharing your info. I truly appreciate your efforts and I am waiting
    for your next write ups thank you once again.

  1. July 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm | #1
  2. November 27, 2011 at 7:22 pm | #2
  3. December 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm | #3
  4. January 18, 2012 at 3:41 pm | #4
  5. July 21, 2013 at 12:46 pm | #5

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