#! CrunchBang Linux

#! CrunchBang Linux

IMPORTANT UPDATE: CrunchBang is unstable in my other laptop.

Among the myriad of Ubuntu derivatives out there, there is one I have been willing to try since the first time I read a review on it, back in 2008. I am talking about #! CrunchBang Linux, one of the most, if not the most, stripped down Ubuntu sequels, featuring the extremely minimalistic and lightweight OpenBox window manager. So this morning I downloaded the latest stable amd64 lite version (crunchbang-lite-9.04.01.amd64.iso) and I installed it on a laptop equipped with a dual core 1.66 GHz processor. The image is well below 500 Mb.

This is my work laptop, which came with Windows Vista pre-installed. Vista, was desperately slow despite of 3G of RAM and a decent graphics card. I immediately removed it. Standard Ubuntu was fine, but still a bit too bloated for what I do. I often run CPU, GPU, I/O, and/or RAM-intensive processes and I still need to be able to check my e-mail or do a presentation. Therefore, I need a system which uses as little resources as possible for desktop display and background functions.

The CrunchBang live CD is already performing quite well as compared to standard Ubuntu with Gnome. The installation proceeded quickly and smoothly, all the hardware as far as I can tell was automatically detected and configured (well, after all, you have Debian under the hood). I created a few ext4 partitions. Right after installation, I compiled the 2.26.31 kernel and carried out other performance tweaks, as previously described. The result is a pretty fast and responsive desktop. In spite of the Crunchbang disclaimer, this far it has been also a rock-solid system. Most of the required multimedia codecs and plugins are pre-installed, including closed-source ones.

OpenBox is still quite elegant and stylish for its minimalistic purposes. However, functionality is obviously limited and you need to perform quite a lot of manual configuration to have something that resembles a standard modern desktop such as Gnome or KDE. CrunchBang comes with the one and only OpenBox menu which you open by right-clicking on the desktop. It also features a pre-configured taskbar with two desktops, a volume control applet and a network manager applet (wireless networks were automatically detected). Wandering from forum to forum, I discovered a pretty nice, MacOS X-like, application launcher bar called ADeskBar. This is pretty cool, useful and easy-to-configure. The kind of thing novices will like to show up automatically and fully configured at login.

Then, I guess that the CrunchBang guys have not intention to compete in the main-stream GNU/Linux market share. Yet, I see no reason why they should not enhance the OpenBox experience with a few user-friendly touches such as ADeskBar by default. In my opinion, this could make of CrunchBang a reasonable choice for anyone, from the expert to the novice, needing to or willing to prevent precious resources from being wasted in superflous tasks.