CrunchBang 11 Waldorf

CrunchBang 11 has been released so it’s time for a review. I last looked at CrunchBang back in 2009. Wow! Has it been that long? I’m pleased to report that CrunchBang 11 didn’t disappoint in any way.

If you aren’t familiar with it, Crunchbang 11 is a distro based on Debian. It uses the Openbox window manager. Openbox is very fast and minimalistic. You won’t find tons of useless eye candy or stupid interface glitz in CrunchBang 11. It’s not bloated and slow, nor does it try to “wow” you with things you don’t need or want.

Frankly, it’s one of the most functional and efficient distros available today. You can run it on top of the line hardware, or you can run it on older, slower machines. It’s a perfect choice for anyone who prefers functionality over form.

CrunchBang 11 Preinstall Boot Menu

CrunchBang 11 Preinstall Boot Menu

Here’s the official description of CrunchBang:

CrunchBang 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 and provides a modern, full-featured GNU/Linux system without sacrificing performance.

The primary aim of the CrunchBang project is to produce a stable distribution offering the best possible out-of-the-box Openbox experience. To achieve this goal, CrunchBang pulls many base packages directly from Debian’s repositories, which are well-known for providing stable and secure software. Packages from CrunchBang’s own repositories are then customised and pinned to the system to produce what is known as the CrunchBang distro.

Put simply; CrunchBang could be thought of as a layer built on top of Debian, specifically to provide a great Openbox experience.

What’s New in CrunchBang 11

I was not able to find a list of changes or new features on the CrunchBang site. I encourage the CrunchBang developers to create a “What’s New” page for future releases. It makes the job of reviewers much easier. See how Linux Mint does it for their distro releases.

System Requirements for CrunchBang 11

I was not able to find a list of system requirements either. Since CrunchBang 11 is based on Debian, you can use that as a reference point for system requirements.

CrunchBang 11 Download

You can download CrunchBang 11 from this page. The file I downloaded weighed in at 775 MB.

If you’re a distrohopper then you might want to try it in a virtual machine via VirtualBox before running it on real hardware.

You can get CrunchBang 11 in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. I opted for the 64-bit release.

CrunchBang 11 Installation

The CrunchBang 11 installer is quite good. It offers a guided partitioning option, and it’s very fast. Even total newbies shouldn’t have a problem installing CrunchBang 11. You have the option of jumping into the install or running a live session.

After the install is complete, and you boot into the desktop, a script will run in a terminal window. The script gives you the option of updating your system, installing Java as well as LibreOffice. You can also install development packages.

I like LibreOffice, so I used the script to add it to my system so I wouldn’t have to bother later.

CrunchBang 11 Install Guided Disk Partitioning

CrunchBang 11 Install Guided Disk Partitioning

CrunchBang 11 Install Disk Scheme

CrunchBang 11 Install Disk Scheme

CrunchBang 11 Install GRUB

CrunchBang 11 Install GRUB

CrunchBang 11 Post Install Script

CrunchBang 11 Post Install Script

The CrunchBang 11 Desktop

If you’re used to other distros, you might be slightly freaked out by CrunchBang 11 when you boot into the desktop. You won’t find garish wallpaper or 3D doodads. Instead, you’ll see a dark grey background.

CrunchBang 11 Desktop

CrunchBang 11 Desktop

On the right you’ll see system information and shortcut keys. Take note of the shortcut keys as they can be quite useful.

CrunchBang 11 Desktop System Info and Shortcut Keys

CrunchBang 11 Desktop System Info and Shortcut Keys

To access applications, system settings, etc. just right click on the desktop and a menu will popup.

CrunchBang 11 Desktop Menu

CrunchBang 11 Desktop Menu

CrunchBang 11 Wallpaper

CrunchBang 11 Wallpaper

CrunchBang 11 Look and Feel Menu

CrunchBang 11 Look and Feel Menu

CrunchBang 11 File Manager

CrunchBang 11 File Manager

Linux Software Included in CrunchBang 11

Here’s a sample of the linux software included in this release. CrunchBang 11 comes with some well chosen applications that should meet the needs of most users. It doesn’t overwhelm you with gobs of applications though, and I liked that.

Graphics
GIMP
Viewnior Image Viewer

Internet
Iceweasel
gFTP Client
Transmission
XChat IRC Client
Remote Filesystems
Remote Desktop
SSH

Note that you also have the option of installing Chromium, Chrome or Opera in the browsers menu. Dropbox and VNC Server are also offered.

Multimedia
VLC Media Player
Volume Control
Xfburn

Office
Google Docs
Abiword Word Processor
Gnumeric Spreadsheet
Calculator
Evince PDF Viewer

Linux Software Management Tools in CrunchBang 11

If you need more software, or you just want to remove something, you can fire up Synaptic. Or you can simply use Apt at the command line. Synaptic is not the most elegant software management tool available, but it is quite powerful. Once you learn to use it, it can be a terrific tool.

However, I also understand that it can be somewhat daunting for newer folks.

CrunchBang 11 Synaptic Package Manager

CrunchBang 11 Synaptic Package Manager

Problems & Headaches Found in CrunchBang 11

I had no problems installing or running CrunchBang 11. It worked very well for me.

But if you’ve run into any problems, please share them in the comments. It’s always helpful if readers are given a heads up about potential pitfalls before installing a distro. Thanks in advance.

Where To Get Help for CrunchBang 11

If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below or register for the DLR forum. Other readers might be able to assist you. You might also want to check out the CrunchBang Linux forum, or IRC channel.

If you’re new to Linux, you might want to check out some of the books available about it at Amazon. You can learn quite a bit that you will probably find useful later on. You can also save lots of money with deals on laptops and tablets, desktops and monitors, components, and computer accessories.

Final Thoughts About CrunchBang 11

These days it seems that lots of distros and other operating systems are adding tons of glitz and glitter to desktop interfaces. CrunchBang 11 does the complete opposite. Frankly, it’s a breath of fresh air and I enjoyed it. It was fast, stable and did what I wanted it to do. It never bogged me down in useless desktop drivel.

CrunchBang 11 should particularly please those looking for a minimalistic distro. You’ll know right away if you’re that kind of user. You want speed and functionality, not useless and stupid eye candy. In that sense, CrunchBang 11 delivers in spades.

CrunchBang 11 is recommended for intermediate and advanced Linux users. Beginners who want a taste of a minimalistic distro should also consider trying it.

What’s your take on CrunchBang 11? Tell me in the comments below.



CrunchBang Linux 9.04.01

Sometimes great minds think alike, there’s just no doubt about it. When I heard of the release of CrunchBang Linux I knew I had to do a review of it here on DLR. And when I got up this morning I noticed that there was a post by Brian Masinick in Request A Review asking for…you guessed it…a review of CrunchBang Linux.

Hey, just the cool name alone warrants a look at this distribution. Good idea, Brian!

CrunchBang Linux is based on Ubuntu but it doesn’t use Gnome or KDE for its desktop environment. Instead it used a lightweight window manager called Openbox. Openbox doesn’t have the eye-candy of Gnome or Ubuntu but it’s faster and much better suited to older computers and for those who prefer functionality over looks. It’s a minimalistic desktop environment that doesn’t seek to overwhelm you with feature-itis or the latest 3D special effects. It’s rooted in simplicity but is also quite customizable if you wish to change it to suit your own preferences.

What’s New In This Release
The last official release of CrunchBang Linux was 8.10.02 and there have been a number of changes since then:

Much improved boot performance with faster start-up times.
Improved support for wireless cards.
Ext4 filesystem support.

Other changes over the previous release have been kept to a minimum, with the exception of:

The lightweight tint2 panel/taskbar replaces lxpanel.
Transmission BitTorrent client replaces Deluge.
A full Vim installation included by default.
Pyroom fullscreen editor included by default.
Many other minor tweaks and fixes including:
Improved documentation added to default configuration files.
Openbox menu items added for commonly used configuration files.
New and improved default Openbox and GTK themes.
Additional Openbox and GTK+ themes installed, including the popular Dyne themes.

Installation & Desktop
CrunchBang Linux is a Live CD version of LInux so you can burn it to a CD, pop it  into your computer, boot up and try it without having to install it.

After you boot into CrunchBang Linux as a Live CD you may be taken aback if you are used to seeing Gnome or KDE. Instead of the usual desktop glory you’ll see a black and white desktop environment that is about as sparse as sparse can get. Don’t worry too much though as you can easily change your wallpaper and make CrunchBang Linux’s default black desktop into something a bit more colorful. Just right-click the desktop then choose Preferences then Choose Wallpaper.

CrunchBang Linux also displays some interesting and dynamic system information on your desktop such as:

Host
Uptime
RAM
Swap Usage
Disk Usage
CPU Usage

And you’ll also see a list of shortcut keys that cover a number of useful things such as:

Run Dialog
Alt Menu
Main Menu
Client Menu
Terminal
File Manager
Editor
Media Player
Web Browser
Graphics Editor
Clock
Lock Screen
Volume Control
System Update
Logout
Screenshot

To launch applications just use the Shortcut Keys listed on the desktop or simply right-click your desktop to open a menu. From there you can launch whatever application you want or you can opt to install CrunchBang Linux to your desktop.

Despite the differences in desktop appearance between regular Ubuntu and CrunchBang or even Linux Mint and CrunchBang, CrunchBang is still Ubuntu. So you get all of the advantages of Ubuntu but just without the desktop bloat of KDE or Gnome.

Installing it is no more difficult than installing any other version of Ubuntu. My install took just a few minutes and I had no problems with it.

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CrunchBang Applications
Don’t make the assumption that simply because CrunchBang uses the minimalistic Openbox desktop environment that it doesn’t have its share of applications. For the most part I was pleased with the software that was included with one glaring exception that I’ll talk about later. Here’s some of what you can expect to see once you install CrunchBang Linux:

Internet
Firefox
Claws Mail
LIferea Feed Reader
gPodder Podcast Catcher
gFTP Client
Transmission BitTorrent Client
Skype
XChat IRC
Pidgin IM
Gwibber Microblogging Client
Network Tools

Graphics
GIMP
Inkscape
GPicView Image Viewer
FontyPython
Xsane Image Scanner

Office
AbiWord Word Processor
Gnumeric Spreadsheet
Dictionary
Calculator

Sound & Video
VLC Media Player
Rhythmbox Music Player
Audacity Audio Editor
PiTiVi Video Editor
Kino Video Editor
Create Screencast
Cheese Webcam App
Sound Juicer CD Extractor
WinFF Video Converter

Terminal Apps
Vim
Midnight Commander File Manager
MoC Music Player
rtorrent Bit Torrent Client
elinks Web Browser
MUTT Email Client
newsbeuter Feed Reader

Not a bad selection of software at all. It covers most basic computing needs and then some. You can always add more software by right-clicking your desktop then choosing System then Package Manager.

Note that CrunchBang Linux comes with the ability to play DVDs, Flash, MP3s and most other popular media formats by default. So you shouldn’t have to run around grabbing codecs to use your CrunchBang system to play various forms of media.

Problems & Headaches
One thing that I was disappointed to notice was the lack of OpenOffice.org. Abiword is included and that’s great. It’s a fine word processor but, given all of the other software included with CrunchBang, it seems odd that OpenOffice.org didn’t make the cut. I know that some people think it’s too bloated or is unnecessary. Well I disagree with that as I think it should be included by default with most distributions.

Beyond that I didn’t have any significant problems or issues with CrunchBang. I found it pretty much simply worked for me and I was able to accomplish all the usual computing tasks without anything slowing me down or causing me any headaches.

Picture 9

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Sometimes it’s nice to have a distribution that deliberately avoids the eye-candy overload of Gnome or KDE and that takes a different path when it comes to usability and functionality. Frankly, after using CrunchBang, it makes me wonder if we really need to have so much glitz in our desktop environments. It’s not just Gnome or KDE that suffer from desktop overload, it’s also Windows and Mac OS X. Operating systems have gotten so fancy and so…pretty…that it all seems quite unnecessary after using a distribution like CrunchBang for a while.

I recommend CrunchBang Linux for anybody who decides that they want a distribution that isn’t weighed down with desktop bloatware. Those who are running older, slower computers might find CrunchBang Linux a particularly good alternative. Newbies to Linux can also play with it if they want to get some experience with a simpler and faster desktop environment.

I like CrunchBang Linux a lot and I think it’s well worth a download. Even if you don’t use it as your main desktop distro you’ll still enjoy what it has to offer if you just want to experience Ubuntu in a more minimalistic way. And don’t forget to snag your cool CrunchBang Linux coffee mug! Woohoo!

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Summary Table:

Product: CrunchBang Linux 9.04.01
Web Site: http://crunchbanglinux.org/
Price: Free
Pros: Uses the lightweight Openbox window manager
Cons: Doesn’t come with OpenOffice.org included by default.
Summary: Provides the power of Ubuntu but without all of the Gnome or KDE desktop bloat.
Rating: 4/5