A look at CrunchBang Linux

I’ve done quite a bit of severe distro-hopping to find a reasonable distro to use on an old Dell XPS M1330, which is my work laptop at the moment. I eventually figured out that I would like something light-weight but also easy to use and easy to customize. I have several machines on my desk at work and only really use the laptop for a quick SSH session to a server during meetings and for testing LAMP stuff. I eventually settled on using CrunchBang 10 Statler, aptly described as a ‘Nimble Openbox Linux Distro’, which uses the stable 2.6.32 Linux kernel.

CrunchBang uses Openbox, the clean, fast and very configurable window manager, and Tint2 for the taskbar/system panel.

Here’s a quick run through the installation and setup

First off I grabbed the x64 iso from http://crunchbang.org/download/ and booted from CD.

CrunchBang Menu

The graphical or text install runs through the setup process, i.e. account creation, disk partitioning as you would expect from a Debian-based distro.

Once you have successfully completed the installation and logged in the fun stuff starts.

After logging in the first time the post-installation script will greet you with a giant hello.

Let’s see what the script does:

Update system software sources

Update installed packages

Option to install printer support

You are then presentend with the option to install the Java runtime environment

Option to install LibreOffice

Dev packages, i.e. git, subversion, bzr installation

Openssh server installation

LAMP stack installation

Debian package dev environment installation

When the script has been completed you are thanked with a giant ‘FINISHED’ and a smiley face.

Here is my desktop, let’s make some changes!

Edit the Tint2 config

Tint2 is a lightweight taskbar which is easily customized as you can see in this screenshot:

I then edit the config, replacing it with my preferences. If you like this setup you can download my tint2 config file from here.

Now I have a simple clean taskbar, just what I wanted.

Default packages

A default installation of CrunchBang includes the following list of packages, which are all reasonably light-weight:

  • Geany 0.2 for text editing
  • Iceweasel 11 for web browser
  • Thunar 1.0.2 for file management
  • VLC 1.1.3 for media
  • Catfish for file search
  • Gimp 2.6.10
  • Viewnior 1.0 for image viewer
  • gFTP 2.0.19 for an FTP client
  • Transmission 2.0.3 bittorrent client
  • XChat IRC client
  • gigolo 0.4.1 for connecting to remote filesystems
  • AbiWord for word processing
  • Gnumeric for spreadsheets
  • Evince 2.30.3 PDF viewer
  • GParted 0.7.0

The right-click menu has some handy options for the installation of optional packages:

  • Chrome
  • Opera
  • VNC server
  • Dropbox
  • LibreOffice

The Settings menu has various configuration options:

  • Conky system monitor
  • Startup script
  • Openbox configuration
  • Display settings
  • Power management
  • Screensaver
  • Wallpaper
  • Default application config
  • Appearance settings

Even on my relatively old laptop I am very impressed by how snappy CrunchBang is, particularly after swapping the hard drive for a cheap Intel X25-V solid state drive the system boots up in a few seconds. I have also installed the Nvidia display drivers to be able to use the VGA output on a Samsung 32″ TV as a cloned screen. More details in this forum post.

CrunchBang has a lively forum here where you can get community support, tips and tricks.

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