CrunchBang – Fast Linux with Many Customization Options
CrunchBang Linux 9.04 is an Open-Box distro based on Ubuntu with Gnome packages. CrunchBang promises performance and ultimate customization options. Version 9.04.01 was released a couple weeks ago, and we decided to give it a test drive.
CrunchBang Standard vs. Lite
CrunchBang is offered in standard and lite packages for both 32 and 64 bit machines.
The CrunchBang Standard iso files are approximately 620 -675MB, and downloaded quickly from their download mirror pages. The Lite files are ~420MB in size. The major difference between these two versions is the number of packages installed. We tested the Standard version.
Installation and First Impressions
The Live CD loads rather quickly and the screen you are brought to is reminiscent of a warehouse or old hangar that needs a good coat of paint.
Who says looks are everything? We Linux users have become too accustomed to flashy backgrounds, 3-D and animated objects. At the end of the day, how much do we really need them, and don’t they sometimes just get in the way?
CrunchBang takes the minimalist approach to graphics. After a short period of adjustment (like walking into a dark room from the outdoors), things seem to fall in to place and CrunchBang shows just how efficient it really is. All your favorite programs are a keystroke or two away. Simplicity can be very efficient, especially when the desktop is in order. Your main menu is opened with a mouse click, where you’ll find the full assortment of menu items and important system functions. There’s even a handy ‘map’ of quick access functions on the right top side, which you can memorize before changing the desktop background to your favorite Penguin photo.
Super Key – Huh?
In case you are wondering what the heck is the ‘super key’ used for quick access to many programs and functions, they are referring to the “Windows” key found on most modern keyboards, usually next to the Ctrl button.
We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of packages included in the Standard version. Instead of Open Office, you get Gnumeric and Abi Word. You can always add Open Office later.
Sound and Video is fortified with VLC, Audactiy, and Rythym Box, all which are missing from the standard Ubuntu lineup, but are welcome additions. They’ve also included a bunch of video and sound editors, something for everyone.
For internet browsing and email, you get Firefox and Claws Mail (we’re seeing this lineup in more and more distros these days).
Graphics packages include Gimp and a host of other design tools.
The package selection is quite extensive for a live CD installation.
Speed and Performance
As promised, CrunchBang is fast. There’s little graphics to get in the way, and that’s fine for most people. You have quick access to your tools with the handy-dandy menu popup. The default desktop displays memory and CPU usage, so you can easily keep tabs on your PC’s performance.
Flexible Configuration – OpenBox
Here’s where CrunchBang shines. OpenBox is like taking an easel and paint and being given carte blanche to define your desktop configuration. OpenBox is not for folks who want an easy configuration tool. If you do want complete control and options to change just about how everything looks and functions on your desktop, then OpenBox is for you.
CrunchBang was wise to use Ubuntu’s repository. There’s (just about) everything you need under the sun waiting to be installed from the handy package manager.
Gallery of Screenshots
CrunchBang is a fine distro. It is very fast, and thanks to OpenBox, full of configuration options for the power user. The initial drab desktop can be configured to a very graphical environment, or left as-is.
A casual Linux user might be better served to start with a more standard distro like Ubuntu or OpenSuse, with all the graphical eye-candy. CrunchBang ain’t pretty out of the box, but it surely gets the job done quickly!
If you have an older machine, or are looking for a fast distro with many customization options for you to design the desktop of your dreams, then you will definitely want to try CrunchBang Linux.