May 032011

crunchbang After all those rich desktop Environment saw in Ubuntu, Chackra or Gnome 3 in general i needed a desktop minimalistic and comfortable, so today I’ve done some test on #! Crunchbang 10, it’s a Debian GNU/Linux based distribution with a lightweight desktop Environments: Openbox and optionally XFCE.

I’ve tested it with a virtualmachine on Virtualbox, installation made at 32 bit with Openbox.
Short story : i loved this Debian 6 in black and white, with custom Kernel and a minimalistic approach.

Long story…continue reading

On the download page you can choose among 4 iso: 32/64 bit and Openbox/XFCE, I’ve installed 32 bit Openbox.

Once you boot the iso you can choose between try a live image, or go for an installation (graphical or textual), I’ve installed directly with the graphical option, not much to said about this, it’s the same installer you can see on Debian, i did an easy setup (all filesystems in 1 partition) and let the CD do his work, in around 15 minutes it was completely installed and rebooted, ready for the first login.

Like Ubuntu root password is not set, but you can use sudo to do the maintenance/management of the system.

The first login it’s interesting the desktop open with a terminal with some questions, used to finish the setup of your machine, it’s possible to skip any step with the key “s”

  • – The first step do an update/upgrade of the system, basically it do a “sudo apt-get update” and “sudo apt-get upgrade” (or perhaps it’s aptitude, but you have understood the goal).
  • – Setup printer, I don’t wanted to configure them, so I skipped this step.
  • – Installation of the Java JDK and JRE, or skip
  • – This step ask if you want to use a custom Kernel, “more unstable than standard Debian but better for desktop”, if you say yes (i did it) you get liquorix kernel (2.6.36-2.dmz.5-liquorix-686).
  • – CrunchBang by default installs abiword and Gnumeric, if you want also openoffice you can install it in this phase (i hope in Libreoffice for next release )
  • – CrunchBang by default installs sshfs and fuse to export/import network filesystems, in this phase you can add your username to the group able to mount them (if in doubt do it)
  • – On my Openbox installation I’ve been asked if i wanted also XFCE, I skipped this.

And here ends the installations of the main tools/programs, the next question asks if you want also some development tools, if you say yes (aka you don’t skip this) you have 4 more steps:

  • – Installation of ALL Version control system tools (git, mercurial, CVS, SVN and others..)
  • – Installation of openssh server
  • – Installation of a full stack LAMP (and rsync ?)
  • – Installation of the development tools to build Debian packages.

After that reboot to get all the update ready and the new kernel (if you have chosen to install it).


Ok, so now you have fully installed your CrunchBang, but what do you have ?

  • Kernel 2.6.36-2.dmz.5-liquorix-686 or 2.6.32 (if you don’t installed the custom)
  • Browser: chromium-browser 9.0.597.45~r70550-1
  • Mail client : Nothing by default
  • Graphic : Gimp 2.6.10
  • Office: Abiword 2.8.2-2.1 and Gnumeric 1.10.8-1squeeze5
  • Multimedia : VLC media player 1.1.3-1squeeze5
  • Microblogging: Heybuddy 0.2.0~revno-235-2 (identica client)
  • File manager: thunar 1.0.2-1+b2
  • Terminal : terminator (nice one, i did not know it)

Look and feel

Crunchbang it’s a minimalistic distribution, so if you are searching for some weird 3D effects..go away !
Personally i use Fluxbox+Conky as standard on my Laptop at work, and XFCE at home, what i like in a desktop environment it’s his small memory/cpu footprint and in this CrunchBang it’s amazing 50 MB used at login, this is the best I’ve saw so far (take the poll), better than my Gentoo+Fluxbox or Bodhi Linux.

But a video it’s better than 1000 words:


When I see distributions like this one or Bodhi i always start with a positive feeling, others distro have used me to install everything and more and then i spend time to remove stuff that I did not had requested.
In this case, CrunchBang install the minimum indispensable and discreetly asks if you want extra things, and then I have at my disposal the repository of Debian so I can really have fun and install anything.

Positive note, the kernel is not aligned to the stable release of Debian, which tends to quickly become “antiquated”.

I like the graphics, so overall for me CrunchBang is a good choice for a computer that is not particularly powerful, or those who do not want to waste time with complicated graphics or desktop, but to maintain stability and wealth of choice of Debian .

And at last if you liked this distribution, don’t forget to flatter it:

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  17 Responses to “#! CrunchBang 10 “Statler” Review”

  1. Cruchbag 😛

    Also, I really like ObenBox, but I’ve never tried a distro that has it preinstalled. May have to give it a spin.

  2. Mi hai fatto tornare in mente che è ora che aggiorni l’Archbang che ho su di un Pentium III, con una Gforce4 MX440, e ti assicuro che mi ha sempre funzionato egregiamente. Amo anche io i WindowManager sia Fluxbox che Openbox che uso su Debian e Slackware.

    ps:ti consiglio di provare anche Archbang (openbox).

  3. I’ve been using this distro with an old laptop and I’m quite happy with it.
    Maybe little dark for my taste, but works fine with my old hardware.
    I recommend it, if you are looking for a minimalistic distro for an old computers.

  4. A video is worth a thousand words, but you managed to get 1000 words into that video, if you want to change the theme from the default Black goto right click, settings ~> OpenBox Config ~> Gui Config tool.

    User interface settings under the same settings pane has a few more adjustable tweaks!

  5. Great review, I used #! before, I was using on an old IBM T-30 and it makes it fly!.
    I left it when there were no more updates, I’ve not tested this new version yet.
    I like Debian more than Ubuntu, so I think I would like this better.

    • It’s about the same as it was back when it was 9.04 based on Ubuntu Jaunty except as you probably already know with Debian you get more fine grained control over your package source which means that even though the newer #! is based on XFCE4 if your careful enough you can soon replace XFCE with Gnome 2.30 instead. Although you then have to edit a load of configurations like rc.xml and avoid pulling packages like Gnome main as this replaces the GDM with its own version and boots Gnome instead of OpenBox. It also gives you the option to install Apache2 in this version and there are two kernels available, the Liquorix Kernel and the Default Debian Kernel, the Liquorix Kernel may or may not give you a huge speed increase depending on your hardware whereas the Default Debian Kernel ships with SELinux support, (Security Enhanced Flux Kernel) – Which is a great addition if your going to be running that Apache2 server although you will have to harden the system with auditd and lynis first!

    • Oops, I also forgot to say, it now supports the encrypted LVM Logical Volume Manager and offers transparent full disk encryption from the outset, something Ubuntu failed to do with Maverick Meerkat!

  6. The difficulty I have with these ‘minimalistic’ approaches is that yes, I do want a light, fast, logical desktop but that does NOT mean I want every app cheaped down… I want the full-blown, all-features stuff.
    Yes, I know I can start removing the default apps, adding my own… but now you are getting away from user friendliness and getting away from what I think a lot of users want.

    So what’s the distro that gives me a light desktop but doesn’t chisel every app down?

    • Crunchbang abd Bodhi, as example, have minimalist approach but you can install any application you want on top of them.

    • That’s kind of why I’ve re-installed the Gnome applications underneath the openbox doesktop, it gives you the Light Desktop but does not chisel the apps down, of course this requires you the end user to have to get your hands dirty. It’s like YES it ships with Apache2 but by default php.ini in apache has two security risks that have to be addressed, you wouldnt just switch it on without hardening bits of it first.

      Likewise with your desktop, your free to chop and change bits of it, ok so it veers away from being minimalist once you start installing loads of extra bloated app’s, but hey if you want it to do what you want it to do, like share bluetooth into the nautilus file manager, you have to be prepared to get your hands dirty. As nautilus by default trys to take over the desktop when its run as root so you have to bust out gconf-editor and edit your configuration so it wont do that!

      Here’s a screenshot of my #! box running Gnome applications and with most of the menus and shortcut keys re-tweaked so it all does what I expect it to.

    • “Yes, I know I can start removing the default apps, adding my own… but now you are getting away from user friendliness and getting away from what I think a lot of users want.”

      If your looking for user friendly then try Ubuntu, I kind of get the over-all impression that #! is more aimed at Developers that are looking for a fast, clean, minimalist un-cluttered desktop with definable short-cuts and loads of memory to spare.

      The creator of #! Corenominal (Phil) has said many times it’s a distro that he created, because he himself finds useful and he only made it public so other people who appreciated its usefulness could share in it and download it for use.

  7. As I said, I had to upgrade my CrunchBang up to date.
    Current desktop, terminator rulez (I use it on all my distro).
    Sorry for my bad english.

  8. The distro you use depends a lot on the hardware you run it on and what you want to with it. Crunchbang is great for older/slower hardware or for doing basic stuff really fast! It’s perfect if you use the command line a lot and tend to have multiple consoles open….

    Wally, if you want all the ‘fruit’ in a relatively fast package (based on debian or ubuntu) then I recommend using Linux Mint XFCE or LXDE.

  9. Yup, this distro is the best – light, stable, clean, mean – it’s the bomb. I’ve bounced around and distro hopped, but nothing compares to Crunchy. There are other lightweight puppies, such as Anti-x. But I just like the look and feel of Crunchbang. I feel the debian switch has only made an elegant distro even more so. Highly recommended – especially for those who are a bit confident in there Linux craft.


  10. If Ubuntu was easy to use, can anyone tell why Crunchbang Linux developer moved to Debian????? Because from my point of view Crunchbang is easier to use and faster than Ubuntu derivates.

    • In general, Ubuntu it’s easy to use for the final user.
      I really don’t know if it’s easier to build a derivate from Debian or Ubuntu.

      Being more generic i’d say Debian or perhaps the author of #! just prefer it 🙂

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