CrunchBang Linux 9.04 (OpenBox with Ubuntu) Review and Screenshots

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.

Desktop
Desktop

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.

Packages Installed

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.

openbox_config

Ubuntu Base

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

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I’m Back with Kubuntu Linux (and Happy as Ever)

It was an uneasy breakup.  Kubuntu and I had parted about two months ago rather abruptly after I had installed 9.02.   After a nearly four year love affair between us, I felt that I had been jaded.  The new KDE 4.1 Plasma desktop was awkward and things just didn’t seem right.

Numerous crashes.  Not knowing where things went.  Applications acting strange.  It was as though I had returned from a vacation to my home and all the rooms had been redecorated.  After much soul-searching and investigation, I decided not to leave the Ubuntu “family” just yet, but to forsake KDE (as I felt they had forsaken me with Plasma) and to move to Gnome with Ubuntu.

From the get-go, Ubuntu seemed familiar and easy to use.  All the elements were in the right place.   It was as though the stars had aligned.  I was happy again as a Linux user.  I was sold on Ubuntu.  I wrote off KDE and Kubuntu.  Sure, there were plenty of pleasant KDE implementations, many better than Kubuntu, like Mandriva and SUSE.  Even Mepis 8.0, with it’s KDE 3.5 was appealing.  But, I had decided to stay with Ubuntu.  It was inertia, and it felt fine.

After about a month of using Ubuntu on Gnome, the cracks in the foundation started appearing.  Where was Klipper!  Amarok didn’t work well.  The Gnome tools felt different than KDE.  The Alsa sound drivers were having problems all the time.  Come to think of it, I missed KDE…

So, after two months, I’m back with Kubuntu.  This time, I’ve installed KDE 4.2.  Many of the kinks of the original Plasma version have been worked out.  I’ve been reunited with all my favorite KDE apps in their native desktop environment.  Even the sound card is working again.  I’m happy to be back.  The only real holdover from my Gnome days is Evolution.  I’ve left Kmail, and for now have taken a real liking to Evolution as the best email app for my needs.

KDE is working on releasing v.4.3.  They are up to RC2, and there are details on the Kubuntu website on how to upgrade your existing KDE desktop within Kubuntu.   If you are still struggling with KDE 4.1, I strongly encourage you to check out at least v.4.2, and/or leapfrog to 4.3.

My next hill to conquer is whether to leap with KDE to another distro such as Mandriva or Open Suse.  There are so many choices out there for Linux users.  But the old adage still rings true – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Let us know about your KDE vs. Gnome vs. Xfce experiences.

Vector Linux 6.0 Gold – Review and Screenshots

Vector Linux is a popular Linux Distro whose motto is “speed, performance, stability”.

Version 6.0 was released in February 2009.  Their stated goal is to “Keep it simple, keep it small and let the end user decide.”  Having said that, this end user decided to see what was cooking at Vector.

Xfce Desktop – GNOME packages

The modest but pleasant Xfce Desktop is complemented with a nice array of GNOME packages.

Download

The 700 MB ISO download directly from their website http://vectorlinux.com/downloads was fast and without incident.

Vector also offers a deluxe version, which includes installation support and costs $22.99, available for purchase online at their website  (Note: We are not associated with Vector in any way).

Vector also comes in a KDE version.  The Xfce version reviewed here is targeted at the power user and at users with older hardware looking for a fast Linux that will work without bells and whistles.

Tricky Installation

There is no live CD, so you’ll have to install Vector Linux to begin testing its capabilities.  The installation screens are pretty straight forward for active linux users.  First-timers and users new to Linux may find the installation a bit daunting.  Vector has been around for about 10 years, and the process is polished, however, it’s roots are in Slackware (A Linux distro for advanced users), and it sometimes shows.

Install 3

Most of the questions should be familiar to users who have installed Windows, such as configuring your time zone and language.  You will have to configure a Linux partition on which to install the OS.  There is an automatic configuration option for those who find it too confusing to configure it manually.

Pleasant Desktop, Nice Selection of Installed Apps

Desktop
Desktop

Installed internet browsers include Sea Monkey, Opera, and Firefox.

Open Office is not installed on the basic version (it is included in the Deluxe edition). Instead you’ll have Gnumeric Spreadsheet, Abiword, and Calendar.

Multimedia includes the great VLC player, Mplayer, Xine, XMMS, and others.

Configure your system with the VASM Control Center.

Gallery of Screenshots

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Sabayon 4.2 Gnome Linux – Review and Screenshots

Sabayon 4.2 Gnome Linux is the newest release (June 30) from the popular Gentoo-based Linux distro.

Sabayon aims to be a beginner-friendly distribution.   Their motto -“as easy as an abacus, as fast as a segway” offers a lot of promise.    Sabayon is also available in a KDE 4.1 version.

The 1.8 GB file can be downloaded from their website or from approved mirrors, and a fast torrent.  I chose the 64 bit torrent and had completed the download in just over 1 hour.

What’s with the Rock Concert?

We booted the Live DVD and had Sabayon up and running in a couple minutes (the DVD drive did spin endlessly for another few minutes).  The desktop launched, and a rock song started playing.  I can assume the name was “Hall of Fame”, since that refrain was repeated over and over again.  I don’t mind rock music, in fact, I’m a big fan, but I don’t understand why a OS should start with a full song?  I’m assuming this is only for the Live DVD – maybe regular users can comment here with specifics.

The desktop is beautiful.  They employ user-friendly Entropy graphical interface.  You almost forget that you are in Gnome.  Put differently, this is not the Gnome that your father used to drive.

Desktop
Desktop

Sabayon is one of the most popular Linux distros, in 9th place at  http://distrowatch.com. Their 117,000 Alexa rating shows that they have decent traffic to their website.  You can see why when  you pop open the hood.  The website is gorgeous.

World of Goo Fiasco

I tried to run the Goo demo and evidently my graphics card didn’t support it.  After a minute of wobbly screens, I managed to ctrl-alt-bksp  and get to a prompt to return to the X desktop.   Of course, I had to do some sleuth work to figure out the the username was sabayonuser and the password is the same (small letters).    Meanwhile, the music of the Goo demo, reminiscent of the Spiderman movies, was still playing in the background.  I pulled up a status monitor and saw that the Goo demo was still taking over 50% cpu.  After killing that item, everything went back to normal.

Fabulous XBMC Media Center

The Sabayon folks really hit it on the nail with this one.  The media center, which figures prominently on your desktop, is simply wonderful.  XBMC Media Center gets a full thumbs up and reminds me a bit of the new Windows 7 Media Player.  Essentially, it puts all your media needs in one place.  It organizes and plays videos, music, pictures, and also displays weather for your location, and more.

XBMC Media Center Screen
XBMC Media Center Screen

Package Selection

The installed pacakges are more or less what you’d expect.  Open office, graphics, email, Firefox, etc…  They’ve included Bluefish in the programming section, and I think that’s a great selection.

Desktop Features

I clicked on the lock user button on the bottom toolbar and after a few tries, figured out that the password is the same as the user  (sabayonuser).

Lock Screen
Lock Screen

Gnome Do – this nifty tool helps you to select and open your installed apps very quickly.  I’ve noticed that most of the newer distros are including this app.  Strange that Ubuntu omitted it from 9.x.

Mounting a drive was never easier with the helpful drive mount buttons on the bottom of the screen.

Mount Drive
Mount Drive

Sabayon Shines on Graphics and Themes

One of the nice diffrentiating factors that Sabayon has Compix Fusion Icon integrated nicely to the desktop, which offers a whole boatload of screen and theme effects.

Compiz Fusion Icon
Compiz Fusion Icon

Screenshot Gallery

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Ultimate Edition Linux 2.2 vs. Ubuntu – Quick Review and Screenshots

Ultimate Edition 2.2 was released on June 17. It’s the latest salvo from TheeMahn, creator of this popular distro of Linux. Ultimate Edition was originally released in late 2007 to be Ubuntu with a “better user experience and with improved usability.” In the releases since, they have broken from Ubuntu and actually have created their own repository .

Like Ubuntu, Ultimate Edition is Gnome based. TheeMahn also built Ubuntu Gamers Edition, and it shows in Ultimate Edition (UE). Ultimate Edition has software pre-installed and ready for use on a live DVD environment.

Slow to load, Gamer appearance
We reviewed the live DVD x64 version. The file was 1.1 GB and downloaded  quickly from one of their mirror sites.  They do recommend you seed this file as a torrent afterwards to help distribution and to enable UE to continue to be offered  for free.

The DVD loaded to the desltop environment after a couple minutes of considerable churning.
Here’s the default desktop

Ultimate Edition 2.2 Desktop
Ultimate Edition 2.2 Desktop

First impressions are that it’s a gamers distro.  I can’t imagine business users embracing a mouse cursor of a rotating fighter jet (at least that’s what I think it was).

Here’s a gallery of screenshots for all the menus and installed software

There is a healthy helping of installed programs.  There aren’t 2,500 programs as we saw in the “uber” linux version of ArtistX, but there is definitely a good mix, with emphasis on sound and video, and graphics.  UE also comes packaged with some non-licensed video tools,  such as Handbrake.  Although Ubuntu doesn’t offer some of these tools out of the box, and sometimes not in their official repositories, there is such a large Ubuntu user-community, that often you’re only a few clicks away from adding anything that you can’t find at first try.

UE comes with a large assortment of backgrounds and Gnome themes.  That may account for the bloat in the size of the file download, as the installed base of programs is not too different that what is available out of the box for Ubuntu.

UE backgrounds ultimate edition linux

Conclusion

Ultimate Edition has done a good job with deskop design, and offers a great number of themes and background to further tailor to your individual needs.  The initial default setup looks childish and is geared more towards a young adult gamer group.  The product set of installed programs was very good, but we didn’t see an amazing jump over what’s available out of the box from its mentor, Ubuntu.   The usability was good, but not a great diffrentiator to give up the comfort of the solid Ubuntu distro with the large installed user base.

For users looking for a “different distro”  than Ubuntu/Kubuntu, we recommend trying out Mandriva Dream Linux, ArtistX, and MintLinux (click for reviews).

ArtistX Linux 0.7 – An Ubuntu Alternative – Review & Screenshots

ArtistX 0.7 http://www.artistx.org/site2/

ArtistX is touted as a “free multimedia live Gnu/Linux distribution for audio, 2D and 3D graphics and video”.  It’s based on Ubuntu (Intrepid 8.10) with Gnome and KDE desktops and featured literally 2,500 software packages in the media, graphics, and video space.  In fact, ArtistX claims to have included all currently available Linux software in the multimedia space, and therefore can turn your computer into a full multimedia production studio.

When I read the blurb from their website, my initial reaction was, why not just stick with Ubuntu and toss in whatever apps from their distro looked interesting.  For starters,  how much time would it take you to carefully select and add 2,500 new apps (many that are not available on the Ubuntu repositories)?  There is an amazing number of useful tools all packaged up nicely here into one distro.  Have a look at the gallery below to see the screenshots of the menu categories.

Here’s the main desktop.

Artisitx Desktop

Pleasant, neat, very Gnome…  The desktop background is a bit too much in my opinion, but we get the idea of what they are trying to accomplish.   ArtistX has a KDE desktop as well, but the real action here is in the multimedia packages.

Live DVD

The download is about 3.3 GB, which I decided to take from the Torrent listed on their website.  The iso file download is then burned to a DVD, and voila, you have a Live DVD to either run ArtistX or install to your USB drive without ever touching your hard drive.

Is ArtistX the Uber Linux?

The menu structure is very pleasant, and well organized.  It’s actually easier to use than Ubuntu.  Considering the large number of applications to choose from, you can see that they gave a lot of thought as to how to display them and make it easy to access all your favorite (and never seen before) tools.

This distro really has a lot of good things going on.  ArtistX is based on Ubuntu (which itself is based on Debian), so you know you’re starting with a solid base.  The polish of the site is evident.  Likewise, they have compiled an enormous amount of software tools into one flavor of Linux.  It would take many days (and weeks) to go through all of the thousands of tools included in ArtistX.

Despite their ‘calling card’, ArtistX is not just about an enormous number of graphical and multimedia tools.  Have a look at the Games and Education section.  It looks like they tossed in Edubuntu as well.  There’s also about 50 internet tools, 30 office tools, 40 programming tools, and needless to say, a seemingly unending number of graphics, sound, and media tools.

Conclusion

ArtistX is still in the early stages and may not be your workhorse desktop distro just yet (they are still on v.0.70), but there’s a great potential here.  If you are interested in using Linux as your multimedia workstation, then you’ll definitely want to give it a try.  The only question that I have is, what can they add for the next release, since everything is already included!

Samurai Linux – Review Screenshots – Web Testing Framework

Samurai Linux – Testing for security, penetration, and reconnaissance

The Samurai distro is available as a Live CD and it comes with the a gob of testing tools for security and applications.  Samurai is Gnome-based and has a pleasant, yet simple, interface.  The real wealth of this distro is in the number of security and testing related apps pre-installed.

Reconnaissance Tools Fierce domain scanner and Maltego.

Mapping Tools WebScarab and ratproxy.

Discovery Tools w3af and burp.

Exploitation BeEF, AJAXShell, etc…

Th Live CD comes with a pre-configured wiki that you can set up to be the central information store during your pen-test.

The Gnome Menu creation tool is installed, so you can rearrange the menus to your own liking.

Wine is also pre-installed with none other than the venerable Windows Notepad.  Interesting.

Conclusion

If you are doing extensive app security testing, or like to hack in your spare time, this distro is what dreams are made of.  If you are look for eye-popping graphics and nifty graphics, try a different flavor of Linux.

Gallery of Samurai Linux Screen Shots

samurai1

samurai2

samurai3

samurai4

samurai5

samurai6

Windows 7 Ultimate Screenshots Review – A lot like Linux

Is it Windows or Linux?

Let’s take a look at the latest Windows 7 Ultimate RC.  After spending some time with it, the bells started ringing.  It became quite evident that they were recreating the best elements of Linux while reversing some of the confusion created in Vista.  As a matter of fact, the widgets look like direct copies of KDE 4.x plasma desktop.

What’s new in Windows 7

Windows 7 does a much better job of presenting video and images than any previous version of Windows, and it’s centrally designed and fully upgraded Windows Media Player organizes all your various media into one location.  The aggregation of media is surely Windows 7’s finest feature and is far superior to any competing product in that space.

The installation was painless, so let’s get right to the desktop and sees what’s cooking…

Nice clean desktop with many options

There is a large assortment of desktop images and eye-popping screen saver themes to choose from.  You do not have to download ‘extras’ as in the past.  You simply go to the desktop configuration applet (similar to Gnome or KDE on Linux) and choose the elements of the theme that you want to replace.

Windows 7 Desktop
Windows 7 Desktop

I downloaded and installed Irfan, the great freeware graphics program.  Windows 7 popped up with a warning notification that this application I was about to install wanted to modify registry information.  The rest of the screen went dark to draw attention to this Yes/No decision of going forward or not.  That’s a good security feature.

Windows 7 Security in action
Windows 7 Security in action

Sticky Notes – borrowed from Linux

Usually I’ll get a phone call and will need to jot something down. I’m always looking for a pen on my real desktop.  Now, with sticky notes you’ll never have to jostle again.  Thanks to Sticky Notes, you just type something on to your Windows Desktop, and there it will stay until you make it go away.  This is a great feature for Windows enthusiasts.  Linux users will be less impressed since we’ve had Tomboy Notes and the like for many years.

Sticky Notes (A nice Linux feature import)
Sticky Notes (A nice Linux feature import)

Calculator, Screen Capture

windows7-4

The calculator got a bit of a face lift.  Notice that scientific looking Zero…  Then of course Windows 7 adds the extremely useful (and baked into Linux for many generations) Screen Capture utility.  It works well, and I am glad they finally added it into the basic toolset.

Windows 7 ships (so far) with IE8.  Since you are already probably using IE8, there’s not much new to report there.  IE8 does give a good preview of the design and centralization of Windows 7.

The Newly Revamped Windows Media Player

It’s gorgeous eye candy, and it’s functional too.  This is the crown in the jewels of the new Windows OS.  Microsoft has captured all the media related elements of the OS into a cohesive entertainment center that is both aesthetically pleasing and useful too.  The thumbnails barely do justice to the beauty and ease with which you glide from TV to Videos to images to music to live entertainment guides and more.

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Mirosoft Widgets Look like KDE 4.2 Plasma

Microsoft lets you widgetize your desktop and pull elements from the Media Player on to a separate and smaller widget.  Look at the TV listings widget below.  Does this not cry KDE 4.2 Plasma?  I wonder who dreamed up the plasma look first?  The folks at KDE or Microsoft.  I also wonder if there isn’t a patent infringement somewhere in the offing?

windows7-10

Windows Libraries (aka Explorer)

Nicely organized, slightly updated look, still Vista-looking, and essentially the same functionality as from XP.

windows7-12

KDE or Windows?

Is it just me, or does this new tab menu interface borrow a lot from Linux KDE?

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windows7-15

Windows Power Shell

Finally we have something to sink our programming teeth into.  The power shell combines many of the best shell and terminal commands from Linux into the Windows command line utility.  Notice the ls and dir work here.

windows7-14

Conclusion

This is still an early review and Microsoft is still tweaking elements before the actual release of Windows 7 scheduled for next year.  Clearly they are on the right track.  By combining many of the best of Linux, side-stepping the potholes of Vista, and fusing the Media Player as a central ‘meeting spot’ on the desktop, Microsoft will reclaim its glory with Windows 7.

Note – we have mostly focused on the visual and functional elements for this review.  There are many enhanced security features, that we have not reviewed, which Microsoft touts as a major reason to move to the new OS.

Dreamlinux 3.5 Quick Review and Screenshots

Dreamlinux 3.5 is a Debian (Lenny 5.0) based popular Linux distro from Brazil.

Dreamlinux can be run directly from a CD/DVD/USBStick or to a Hard drive. Dreamlinux comes with a selection of the best applications designed to meet most of your daily needs.  Dreamlinux ships with the XFCE desktop, which is pleasant and easy to navigate.

This distro is really suited for a USB disk on key install, and the installation disk offers several easy step installations depending on your intended media (USB, CD, Hard drive, etc…).

In pursuit of the perfect Linux Distro

The folks at Dreamlinux have a goal, to make a distro where ‘dreams can come true’.  The idea is to take a solid core Linux distro, Debian, make it look pretty, add the coolest and most-needed apps, then make it easy to install to just about anything.

The distro lives up to the magic of easy to distribute and pretty looks.  As for the most-needed or best apps, I guess that’s a matter of personal preference.  I for one would have liked to see Gimp, for example.  But then again, with Linux, you are always just an install away from your favorites that may have been left out from the start.

Bottom line

Dreamlinux is a good distro and looks great.  Do they have the stamina for udpates and consistency of the larger distros?  Maybe users with more experience on this distro can chime in here.

Let’s take a walk through the OS with screenshots.

Dreamlinux 3.5 login screen
Dreamlinux 3.5 login screen

Nothing fancy here, but wait, the good stuff is soon to come.

I’m running this in a virtual machine (VMWare) so you can see the VMware menus straddling some of these snapshots.

Dream Linux 3.5

Nice looking desktop with easy to navigate menus.  Here’s the Office menu.  No suprises here.

Dream Linux 3.5

A matter of personal taste.  Many users like the menu bar with the Mac look.  As you mouse over the icon enlarges to give the 3d effect.

Gallery of Screenshots

Here’s a gallery of screenshots, including the nifty compass that appears as the default homepage on the internet browser.


Goodbye Kubuntu, I’m Staying With Ubuntu. Here’s why.

Saying Goodbye to Kubuntu
I said goodbye to Kubuntu two weeks ago when I replaced my KDE desktop with Gnome and I haven’t looked back. It feels at the same time invigorating and betraying. Like I’ve left a former love for my new fling.
I had been using Kubuntu as my main OS for over three years, having started with v 5.x and migrated along all the way to 9.x. When the Kubuntu folks decided to abandon KDE 3.5 and jump to the new experimental KDE 4.x, I felt as though I was using a beta product, as opposed to the solid well-built OS that I had come to love.

Very Happy with Ubuntu Instead
But make no mistake, Ubuntu is a better distro. The Gnome environment is very straightforward. Yes, there are less gadgets. But how many flying windows and 3-D animations do you really need on your desktop?
As a developer, and entrepreneur, most of my day is spent either on Evolution (email), Firefox or in Terminal windows, developing and monitoring my servers. I’ll check some spreadsheets on Office and occasionally play some music in the background.

Kmail vs. Evolution  (Side by Side)

Kmail on KDE
Kmail on KDE
Evolution on Gnome
Evolution on Gnome

Sure, Kmail is nice, but I like Evolution better. Why? I can’t explain, it’s just a feeling that the software is more-baked. Evolution had a more elegant interface.   Evolution doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as Kmail, but their handling of Signatures, HTML formatting, and general ease of use beats out the more extensible Kmail.  Both include calendar, memos, tasks, and contact management.
Continue reading “Goodbye Kubuntu, I’m Staying With Ubuntu. Here’s why.”