Computing Simplicity with CrunchBang Linux

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I started writing this review in late January. Since then, the main developer of this one-man Linux distribution has announced that he will be shuttering the project.

Of course, being Open Source, it will never really go away. I wish him all the best. For the record, here are my thoughts on CrunchBang Linux.

In general, my distribution of choice is Elementary OS. The first release, Luna, was based on Ubuntu 12.04. Freya, which I am in the process of writing a review for, is in Beta and is based on Ubuntu 14.04. I like Elementary OS because it provides me with an Ubuntu base and a desktop environment that is lighter and more desktop-focused than Canonical’s Unity desktop. I use Unity at work; I like aspects of it, but there’s just something cluttered about it that keeps me coming back to Elementary OS, even with it’s rough edges.

However, I’ve just recently rediscovered CrunchBang Linux. I’m now running it on my Toshiba R600 and am again blown away with the simplicity and usability of this one-man distribution based on Debian Linux.

The current version of CrunchBang is based on Debian Wheezy. I’ve used the distribution on and off since the Ubuntu 9.04-based version released in 2009. Each release changes and improves slightly, but all are instantly recognizable as CrunchBang. The main developer, Philip Newborough, has a clarity of vision that is enviable. CrunchBang uses OpenBox as the window manager and has a clear, if relatively plain, GTK theme that matches well with his monochromatic, minimalist environment.

The environment is even lighter than Elementary OS, so things run very smoothly even on the most modest of hardware. I’m writing this on a very poky Core 2 Duo ULV laptop and nothing ever seems too slow. Elementary OS Luna ran reasonably well too, until an update took out LightDM and I felt like playing with CrunchBang rather than diagnosing a failing environment.

CrunchBang provides a series of simple scripts to automate the installation of common software such as Dropbox or LibreOffice. If you want to edit menus etc., there are convenient shortcuts to the appropriate config files.

Using Unity day-in and day-out, it’s quite refreshing to again have complete control of all aspects of your environment, configurable through a series of easy-to-follow text-based config files. I like to have certain key combinations to manage desktops and switch between applications. Making these changes was fast and efficient. Sure, CrunchBang isn’t a new-user focused distribution, but as someone who’s been fiddling with config files since the late 90s, I find making changes easier on CrunchBang than trying to bend Unity or Gnome to my will.

Of course, being Debian-based, CrunchBang comes with pretty much everything you’ll ever need software-wise. Also being Debian-based, Firefox and Thunderbird have annoyingly been replaced with IceWeasel and IceDove. Boy, I wish they’d sort that out.

There are a few things that I’ve done to enhance my experience with CrunchBang. The first was to install argyll which allowed me to load the proper ICC profile for my laptop display. Next, I added Ubuntu-like font rendering and my usual selection of fonts. (The fonts that shipped with webOS were just stunning. I’m also a fan of fonts-mplus for a console font.)

Anyway, if you’re looking for a lightweight Debian-based distribution that’s sane enough to ship with a reasonable selection of drivers, I strongly recommend CrunchBang. It’s a unique distribution; the latest in a long line of one-developer shows that I’ve had the fortune to enjoy over the years. It’s a pleasure to use and takes me back to the early days of Linux originality.

GoSaBe Blog - Feb 15, 2015 | Linux