Ok so I have put off doing this review for sometime. I tried Crunchbang for the first time about a year ago and I was a little underwhelmed.
Actually to tell the truth at the time I was in a position where I had a number of versions of Linux I wanted to try out but I had suffered a hard drive failure and all the distros I had downloaded had been destroyed. I was left with a DVD wallet with old versions of Ubuntu and Mint and two USB drives with live installations available. (One contained Mageia and the other Crunchbang).
At the time I tried Crunchbang first and was immediately alarmed at the incredibly black screen and I switched straight away to Mageia. I used Mageia for about 2 weeks before I downloaded other distributions and started building up a new library. This all reminds me that I never did a review of Mageia either.
I have moved on a lot since those dark days and it is about time I gave Crunchbang the review it deserves.
Download and Installation
To download Crunchbang Linux visit http://crunchbang.org/.
There are two versions of Crunchbang available:
- 32 bit
- 64 bit
I am aware that Crunchbang is very lightweight and therefore I decided to install it on my Samsung R20 laptop which has a mediocre 2gb of ram and is fairly low in specifications.
I installed Crunchbang onto a USB drive using UNetbootin and rebooted the laptop. I was given a choice to start Crunchbang Linux in live mode or to install the software.
I chose to run the live mode first just to make sure there were no glaring problems that would prevent me using Crunchbang on this laptop and the live mode worked perfectly well.
I then looked for the install option from within the live mode but could not find it. I pulled up the alternative menu and typed install and there were various options available but none of them started an installer.
I therefore decided to reboot the computer and install using the “Install” menu option.
The Crunchbang install process was actually pretty good. I like an installer that runs in a clear linear fashion without jumping around.
You basically go through the usual steps of choosing a language, keyboard layout and timezone and you are also asked for a username and password so that you don’t have to run Crunchbang as root.
Then comes the partitioning bit. If you are installing Crunchbang so that it overwrites everything on the disk then there is a simple install routine that enables you to do this. You can also choose to create a separate home partition and even separate usr, var and boot partitions.
If you are installing alongside Windows then you would need to know what you are doing with regards to partitioning beforehand. There is no simple Mint or Ubuntu install alongside Windows option.
The Crunchbang Linux screen loads with it’s familiar black screen. At the top is a taskbar with icons in the top right for connecting to the internet, clipboard manager, battery monitor, audio settings and a clock.
A really useful feature of Crunchbang is the information on the right side of the screen.
There are two categories of information displayed. The first category is system information and this shows your computer name, uptime, ram, swap usage, disk usage and cpu usage. What is remarkable is how well Crunchbang Linux is performing. Memory usage is just 100 megabytes and of course there is no swap usage. The CPU is sitting at 1%. It is all very slick.
The second category is a list of shortcut keys that can be used. First of all there is the run dialog which can be called up by press Alt and F2.
The run dialog enables you to type in the name of the program and run it. Other shortcut commands bring up various menus. For example Alt and F3 brings up a menu at the bottom of the screen. Again you can start typing a program name but this time a list of available applications is shown with each keystroke.
There are shortcut keys for bringing up the main menu (super key and space) and then there are shortcut keys for bringing up the most commonly used programs such as super and w for bringing up a web browser and super and t for bringing up a terminal window.
Connecting to the internet
Crunchbang automatically detected the wireless card within the laptop and my wireless connections were made instantly available.
All I had to do was enter the security key and I was connected.
Post Installation Tasks
When you run Crunchbang Linux for the first time a terminal window is displayed with post installation instructions.
This is a really useful script that helps you install a few extras. There are 13 installation steps but some of the steps rely on you saying yes to certain options.
The sort of options available in the post installation script include updating the software repositories, updating the software packages, setting up printer support, installing java, installing LibreOffice and installing development tools.
Change the desktop wallpaper
The main thing that put me off Crunchbang when I first tried it last year and indeed this time is the ultra black wallpaper.
Adjusting the wallpaper is simply a case of bringing up the main menu (right click on the desktop), choose settings and then change wallpaper.
There are a number of wallpapers available but all of them are quite dark or not very inspiring. There are loads of wallpapers available on the internet though so I downloaded one and it appeared in the list within Nitrogen (wallpaper manager).
Crunchbang Linux is a lightweight distribution and the applications installed by default match the lightweight ethos:
- Catfish – File search tool
- Archive – File compression
- Geany – Text editor
- Task Manager – Task Manager
- Terminator – Terminal
- Thunar – File Manager
- GIMP – Graphics editor
- Viewnior – Image viewer
- Screenshot – Screengrabber
- VLC – Media player
- Volume control
- XFBurn – CD/DVD burner
- Iceweasel – Web Browser (+ installers for Chrome, Firefox and Opera)
- gFTP – FTP Client
- Transmission – Torrents
- XChat – IRC
- Gigolo – Remote Connections
- VNC Viewer – VNC Client (+ installer for VNC Server)
- Installer for Dropbox
- Link to Google Docs
- LibreOffice (You can install this from the first run wizard)
- Synaptic – Package Manager
- GParted – Partition Editor
Crunchbang doesn’t come with a default audio player. I think you are expected to use VLC.
If I am using a lightweight system then I like to use Guayadeque. Guayadeque has grown on me the more I use it. When I first started using it I really didn’t like it all that much because it isn’t immediately intuitive but when you get used to the way it works then it does really work.
Guayadeque isn’t installed by default so I loaded Synaptic to install Guayadeque. Synaptic is easy to use. Just type the program name or a description of the program in the search box and a list of suitable applications is displayed.
Guayadeque is in the default repositories and therefore is displayed straight away. Simply mark the application and click apply to install.
Synaptic enables you to mark a number of applications and install them all at once and it finds all the dependencies that are required to make the applications run.
One thing that has to be mentioned is that installed applications do not instantly get added to the menu. You have to edit an XML file and then click the reconfigure Openbox menu item for the downloaded application to appear.
Flash and MP3
To test Flash I load up a browser and go to Youtube. The default browser in Crunchbang is Iceweasel. Iceweasel is a forked version of Firefox. You can install other browsers within Crunchbang by going to the Network menu and clicking the installer of the browser you prefer to use.
Flash was installed correctly and I was able to watch videos straight away.
I tried to play a song within Guayadeque and instantly hit the Gstreamer error that is common across many distributions. (Missing plugin)
To get around the missing plugin error I loaded Synaptic and installed the GStreamer Ugly plugin.
I was then able to listen to Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride” from the 1980s. Don’t ask me why I chose to do that. It really isn’t relevant to the review in any way whatsoever.
There are some distributions that have a lot of glitz and glamour and they lack functionality (if these distributions were people my nan would say they were “all skirt and no knickers”). There are other distributions that are built for do-ers. (and of course there are some that provide Glitz and glamour as well as functionality).
Crunchbang is built for do-ers. The people that use Crunchbang are not bothered about gestures or flashy graphics.
Crunchbang is for people that have a purpose for their computer and the operating system is a tool to help them achieve that purpose. I would imagine that Crunchbang would be great for software development.
The performance of Crunchbang is absolutely brilliant. It is fast and sleek and uses very few of the system resources made available to it. If you have an older computer it is ideal.
I would suggest that Crunchbang is not for people new to Linux unless they are computer savvy to start with. If you have been using a Ubuntu type distribution for a few years and you have become competent enough to not need the pretty menus and graphics then Crunchbang will give you a lot of your computer’s power back in your hands.
One thing I would change? the black wallpaper.
Thankyou for reading.