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CrunchBang worth more than just a test run

July 24, 2011 18 comments


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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The far and the wide

July 21, 2011 2 comments


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

A wide assortment of issues and items have cropped up in the last several days, all of which are newsworthy and most of which cry out for comment. On the latter, that’s what I do. After all, they don’t call it “commentary” for nothing.

So let’s take a look at some of these digital news blurbs, like

RMS: Just say no to the Cloud: For once, I am completely and unequivocally behind the man behind the GNU. Richard Stallman wrote an article appearing in the electronic version of Der Speigel outlining the dangers of so-called cloud computing. It’s fairly simple — your data, held remotely, is not really your data since you don’t have possession of the drive that physically holds it. Yep, call me “old school” about this, and I’ll thank you for it.

But why is it in Orlando? The release schedule for Ubuntu 12.04 is out and it looks like the UDS — that Ubuntu Developer Summit to the unenlightened — will take place at the end of October or early November, in Orlando, Fla., as usual. Why? Disney World? Who knows?

Who’s on first? Though not a news item per se, Carla Schroder wrote an excellent piece on Linux.com about how to find out who and what is on your network. The Linux.com tutorials and “weekend projects” are generally top notch and very educational, and this one in particular takes one through how to go about doing some router spelunking.

Meanwhile back in the Sunshine State . . .: Florida is getting a lot of attention. Red Hat is holding its North America Partner Conference on Oct. 25-27 in Miami. That’s about 240 miles south of Orlando, where the UDS will be taking place about the same time, possibly. It’s a straight shot down the Florida Turnpike, if you’re interested. According to the VAR Guy, “the event signals a shift for Red Hat, which previously lumped partners and customers together at the annual Red Hat Summit.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment to fiddle with a newly installed version of CrunchBang.

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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A comment worth repeating

July 21, 2011 Leave a comment


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

[BLOGGER'S NOTE: This comment from Simfox in Rwanda came last night around midnight my time. Rather than have this very poignant response sit in the comments section of the previous blog post, I've taken the liberty of reposting it to a new blog item, including my response to it. I have not changed any of the text, but I have changed the formatting to provide paragraph breaks to make it more readable. Thank you, Simfox, for this insightful comment to my blog. --LtFSG]

Submitted on 2011/07/20 at 11:59 pm

Generally agree with the sentiments re MS, and the logic upon which they are based, but disagree with the Nazi reference.

I work with Genocide survivors and perpetrators in Rwanda and view our human predilection to evil as both reversible and redeemable. We often encounter extraordinary instances of reconciliation and forgiveness here, but they are always (and I repeat, ALWAYS) based upon full and complete recognition of the wrong that was done, an attitude of contrition backed by consistent, long-term acts of restitution, and a humble, determined desire for forgiveness.

It is real, and it happens, so even a Nazi supporter can, with a genuine change of heart and mind, find himself a welcome guest in your local Synagogue.

Which brings me back to MS: what would they have to do to earn my trust as a long-term Linux user? Well, let’s see, where have I encountered this before? Step 0: recognition of wrong-doing. Step 1: acts that palpably demonstrate this change of attitude. Step 2: humble requests for forgiveness/reconciliation.

In my assessment MS can achieve this without GPLing their IP, but their latest actions vis Kernel contributions are no indication of incipient rapprochement

Simfox
Butare, Rwanda

Submitted on 2011/07/21 at 8:22 am | In reply to simfox.

As I mentioned in the blog, this is a controversial position and I have received the same reaction that you make in your comment whenever I make the Nazi analogy. I don’t make it often, and I don’t make this assessment flippantly or casually. I understand the gravity of the comparison. But as hardline and dogmatic as it might be, I stand by it.

The Nazis in Germany called the Jews and Judaism “a disease” and, I would assume, that those who still advocate for Nazism still do. Microsoft calls Linux “a cancer” and hasn’t, to my knowledge, retracted that statement. Microsoft has made it clear in word and deed that they are out to exterminate Linux and any other competition. They have failed here on many fronts, thankfully. I find it hard to believe that they would change this policy no matter how conciliatory and how much repentance or restitution they might perform (and again, I’m not holding my breath for them to do this).

Further, my hat is off to you for your opinion that the “human predilection to evil as both reversible and redeemable,” especially since you lived through the recent horror in Rwanda. Perhaps you are right, but I find it very difficult — bordering on impossible — to forgive anyone who participated in genocide. As an aside, I think my capacity to forgive is wide, but not wide enough to include such blatant and horrible sins against humanity. I believe that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who have participated in genocide, no matter how much they admit their wrongdoing, how much restitution they make, or how conciliatory they are.

Which brings me back to the comparison: Is my comparing Microsoft to Nazi Germany “too much?” It could be. But the point I hope I’m making — the point that spurs this comparison — is that Microsoft, in a corporate and societal sense, is acting in a way that mirrors Germany in the ’30s and ’40s. By no uncertain terms do I mean to belittle or take away from the grave horror of the Holocaust or any other genocide.

Regarding Microsoft earning our trust: Assuming they did take Steps 0 through 2 as you outline, history has shown that they have gone back on their word before, so to have them open their code and license it under any variety of licenses — having their remorse and restitution in writing in a legally binding document — seems to me to be the only way to approach this.

Further, I think this exchange probably deserves more than to sit here in the comments section of my blog, so I am taking the liberty of posting your comment — probably one of the best I’ve received ever — and my reply, verbose as it is, as the next blog item. Thank you, Simfox, for sharing these thoughts and I salute you for your candor and courage.

Larry Cafiero
Larry the Free Software Guy

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.)
Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Dead button Wordpress button Xfce button dbEntrance button AntiX 7.0 fedora badge XubuntuEliminate DRM!

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