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Debian + Openbox = CrunchBang Linux (Video) 106

Posted by Roblimo
from the a-derivitive-distro-that-sounds-fun-and-useful dept.
"CrunchBang Linux is a Debian based distro with the Openbox window manager on top of it. So it is Debian under the hood with Openbox on the surface," says distro supporter Larry Cafiero. A glance through the #! (CrunchBang) forums showed an exceptionally fast response rate to problems posted there, so even if you haven't heard of #! (it's not in the DistroWatch Top 10), it has a strong and dedicated user community -- which is one of the major keys to success for any open source project. In order to learn more about #! Linux (and to share what he learned), Timothy Lord pointed his camcorder at Larry during LinuxFest Northwest and made this video record of their conversation.

Tim: Alright Larry you are on.

Larry: I am on. Okay.

Tim: So we are looking at the CrunchBang Linux booth here at Northwest Linux fest. What is CrunchBang Linux?

Larry: Okay. CrunchBang Linux is a Debian based distro with the Openbox window manager on top of it. So it is Debian under the hood with Openbox on the surface.

Tim: Now how do you distinguish that from let’s say Debian distribution installed already from just going ahead and putting an Openbox?

Larry: Okay, that is a good question. One of the things that we do in CrunchBang is that we have a special script that runs after the install that installs different programs, that make it special, that make it different than just Debian with CrunchBang, Debian with Openbox on top of it. So it is the script essentially on the install that is your “secret sauce” that makes it a distro.

Tim: Now the Openbox interface is fairly simple, not like having what a lot of distros now here use with very complex desktop environment. What does that give to users?

Larry: Okay. What that provides to the users is that’s much more lightweight; it is lighter on the system which means you are allowed to do a lot more or if your system is actually more able to do things that you may want to do as opposed to allocating resources to things like icons, or pictures or things along those lines.

Tim: Here on your display table here you have got a couple of different machines running the system, how do they differ? And what is the hardware?

Larry: The reason we have these two machines: This guy is a T30, a ThinkPad T30, it is running 512 megabytes RAM. And it is running CrunchBang. And this guy here is a Toshiba Satellite L455. Now this has got dual processor and 4 gigabytes RAM. CrunchBang runs well on this because there is not a lot of resources on the desktop environment because there is none. It is a window manager, and on this one it is sort of like putting a Formula One engine on a go cart. It really flies.

Tim: Now as a distribution, how did CrunchBang come to be?

Larry: CrunchBang was started in 2008 by a British developer named Philip Newborough. Actually to hear Philip tell the story, he actually wanted to “scratch an itch” so to speak, and he wanted to have a distro, and he decided well, I am going to start my own. Originally, it was Ubuntu based, and in 2011, I think in February of 2011, he decided, well, he actually took a look at the Debian Live Project which allowed people to make distros from Debian. And he really liked it a lot. And he essentially cut out the middle man. He set it going through Ubuntu which actually it does have the same repository, or it has repositories that are similar to Debian. We are going right to Debian. And so it is now a Debian based distribution.

Tim: Is there an ideal CrunchBang user? Is there a particular type of people that gravitate to it?

Larry: That is a good question. It is actually you might want to have maybe a year of Linux or six months or something, just be familiar with Linux and the command lines before you actually give CrunchBang a try. The reason I mentioned that is because a lot of people were used to a desktop environment where there are icons and things where you just click and off you go. A window manager is a little different where it is menu driven and you have to choose from menu items as opposed to just clicking on an icon. So it takes a little bit of getting used to. Also being used to things, or at least being aware of things like the command line, how the command line work and things along those lines, are advantageous.

So there are two trains of thought essentially in this where you could actually get in the user say this is CrunchBang and this is how it works. And then just go at it. Some people might equate that with just pushing somebody into the pool and having them swim. But other people say the learning curve is more negotiable that way. Speaking of a learning curve, though, I don’t think CrunchBang’s learning curve is that steep. So if you are a beginner it is not going to be hard if you have two IQ points to rub together to actually understand what’s going on. With that said, as far as I am concerned, my ideal person, ideal CrunchBang user would be somebody with a little bit of experience and somebody who has a working knowledge of how things like batch scripts and command line work.

Tim: So how did you come to be a CrunchBang user? What is your background? You are here at the

Larry: Somebody just hit me on the head and dragged me off and then the next thing no what happened was I was a Fedora user for the longest time, and I still am to an extent, but I was trying it out one day, you know, one day I had some time and I thought Oh CrunchBang, I read about it an article, this would have been a couple of years ago, in 2011, probably early 2011, and I tried it out and really liked it. I had a very old machine, I think it was actually this guy here the T30 here on the table. And I was kind of impressed with how it worked on this older machine and how it worked on actually newer machines, it worked even better. I was also impressed with the forums at CrunchBang.

The community there is very well informed, and that is one of the strengths of the distro. Also is the fact that there are a lot of folks who are very knowledgeable about CrunchBang and very willing to help. And that is another thing. You never hear RTFM on a CrunchBang forum or anything like that. In fact, if there is a fault, you probably have too many answers to the same question and sometimes ensuing arguments about which one is better. But that said, the forums are very informative and actually very helpful. And that impressed me. So then I started using it more to the point where I decided to help out with the advocacy of the distro.

Tim: Speaking of advocacy here, you are here talking about it at this festival, but it is not your day job?

Larry: It is not my day job, sadly.

Tim: How did you come to this?

Larry: How did I come to this? How did I come to CrunchBang? I was doing this actually on a daily basis. First of all, I like coming to shows, I serve as the Publicity Chair for the Southern California Linux Expo in Southern California. And I’ve worked at booths for the last four of five years for the Fedora project and other places like that. So I really enjoy coming to shows and working at booths and talking about free software, free and open source software. My day job actually I am a newspaper editor in Santa Cruz. I edit Wired News for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. And this is pretty much vacation for me. And so I do this when I am not doing university work or anything else. So I am enjoying myself. Wish you were here.

Tim: That is very good. Alright.

Larry: Okay.

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Debian + Openbox = CrunchBang Linux (Video)

Comments Filter:
  • by Nimey (114278) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:20PM (#43678285) Homepage Journal

    For a lightweight distro, it's pretty well thought-out and has some nice extras over a default Openbox install, plus the devs understand the concept of "discoverability" in that they have a list of keyboard shortcuts in the top-right by default. Unlike lighter distros, it's not crippled by being limited to whatever the devs and community can package up or you compile on your own (like, say, DSL or Puppy) since it's backed by the Debian archive.

    This distro will work a treat for your old Pentium III laptop.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:36PM (#43678455) Journal

      Unfortunately, he didn't really answer the major question. What makes Crunchbang different from Debian + Openbox? There's a script that provides some "special sauce". Ok, but as a user what does that script actually do for me? It "installs different programs", but what programs are those, and why can't I just pipe a list of packages into 'dpkg --set-selections' to accomplish the same thing?

      Major missed opportunity by the Crunchbang devs to actually explain what distinguishes their distro. I am their target audience and I still have no idea what they have to offer over what I have currently.

      • by elwin_windleaf (643442) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:52PM (#43678613) Homepage

        I think the main reason Crunchbang stands out for me as a distro is how well it suits the way I use my computers, and how little tweaking it needs to fit my preferences.

        The Crunchbang "dev" - I'm pretty sure it's just Philip - has customized the GTK and Openbox themes, as well as the Openbox menu and the tint2 theme, without inextricably linking them together. If you want another panel, it's easy to swap out tint2 for your favorite. Honestly, I usually leave the defaults because they look awesome.

        Philip has also pre-defined keyboard shortcuts so that you can launch your main applications without going through a menu system or leaving the keyboard. There's a cheat sheet built into the desktop via conky that lists the most useful shortcuts there. If you want to tweak the configurations, there's a in-depth right click menu that points you to all of the config options/files.

        All of this attention to detail leaves a very minimal system that does exactly what I want, and then gets out of my way. It's like getting the best aspects of a desktop environment with the memory footprint of a barebones window manager.

      • by Yebyen (59663)

        Why does it have to be different?

        They are a community providing support (arguably separate from Debian), the Debian distro is well supported (so making a destructive fork that you can't provide support for is discouraged), and it may be that the difference is in the defaults.

        90% of the complainers I hear about Ubuntu can't stand Unity, and an equal number complain about Gnome 3. (180%!)

        So, it sounds like Crunchbang capitalizes on that, to me.

        • by kthreadd (1558445)

          Why does it have to be different?

          Of course it doesn't have to be different, but some might say that it's a bit wasteful to build a separate distribution when you're doing so few changes, changes that could instead be integrated in Debian itself or provided as a separate repository.

          They are a community providing support (arguably separate from Debian), the Debian distro is well supported (so making a destructive fork that you can't provide support for is discouraged), and it may be that the difference is in the defaults.

          90% of the complainers I hear about Ubuntu can't stand Unity, and an equal number complain about Gnome 3. (180%!)

          So, it sounds like Crunchbang capitalizes on that, to me.

          Debian doesn't have defaults. If you don't like Gnome then just install Openbox instead.

          • by Yebyen (59663)

            So tasksel --list-tasks doesn't have any mention of an option for a full desktop environment?

            My things have changed!

      • Install scripts, mostly dev stuff. Apache, mysql, postgres. There's a nice default gui. If there is another debian + openbox + web dev install scripts distro that I am unaware of, or if you've got your own custom debian image, then maybe this isn't that useful.

        Probably if dpkg works for you, you aren't their target audience.

      • The cb-welcome script starts by updating your sources list, then prompts you, by category, if you would like to install that category, or [s]kip. It's an interactive method for running a bunch of predefined apt-get install commands, this includes printer support, Libre Office, development tools, the Liquorix kernel, and some more. Nothing fancy yet simplicity rules.

        Essentially it is is Debian + Openbox, albeit with some preconfigured, sane, defaults that runs tint, conky and compositing. Under the hood you

      • -update repository data
        -update packages
        -install printer support
        -install java
        -install libreoffice
        -ssh server
        -lamp stack
        -a few dev tools

        Some of these things have been moved from the system installer to the post-install script (openssh daemon, printer support).

        In my opinion, what makes CrunchBang unique compared to Debian with Openbox manually installed is that CrunchBang contains it all, ready to go, in an offline CD-based installer. It has the base system and the desktop/window manager, all in one simplifie

    • Puppy is no longer plagued by lack of packages. Barry Kauler now uses a set of build scripts (called woof) to generate "puppy" from the repositories of Debian, Arch, Ubuntu, Mageia, Slackware or T-2 (rpm based distro support is still pre-alpha) ... so if you want Arch without systemd, Puppy is one alternative (Puppy has alternate packages for udev, etc...).

      The reason I've kept using Puppy after trying it was the responsiveness of their forum, even though there are so many different flavors. It shows that

  • PiBang (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Erbo (384) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .obreerbo.> on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:27PM (#43678353) Homepage Journal
    There's also a distribution for the Raspberry Pi "inspired by" CrunchBang, called PiBang [pibanglinux.org], which is based on the Raspbian distribution. I'll have to look at that one; the nature of the Pi makes it easy to switch distros by just changing out the SD card.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's Jason Biggs' favorite distro.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:31PM (#43678399)

    "CrunchBang Linux is a Debian based distro with the Openbox window manager on top of it. So it is Debian under the hood with Openbox on the surface,"

    So why should I install CrunchBang Linux instead of, say... I don't know ... Debian pure blend Wheezy with Openbox?

    At least I (and DistroWatch) have heard of Debian.

    • Also LXDE (which Lubuntu uses) is built using Openbox. Gives you a bit more complete desktop environment.
    • by shawn (2920235)
      I use crunchbang on my work computer. I don't really think of it much as a separate distro, more like a pre-configured install of debian. Once it's installed, you run the machine exactly as you would a debian install. The reason i install crunchbang instead of debian, is because so much of how i would like to set things up the way i like them is already done. Also, the look and feel of the desktop is pretty keen.
  • How is does using a new WM make a different distro? If I take Fedora and replace the default shell with zsh, can I call it Gothmollix?

    • Re:New distro? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:41PM (#43678499)

      All a distro is just a specific collection of software/packages that is given a name.

      That's it and by that definition...this is a distro. Pretty simple.

      Crunchbang like many other distros is in fact more than that. It is a collection of packages and customizations to those packages...AND the accompaning community of developers and users....that come together to make a distro unique.

      • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex@Nos ... t-retrograde.com> on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:52PM (#43678607)

        How is does using a new WM make a different distro? If I take Fedora and replace the default shell with zsh, can I call it Gothmollix?

        All a distro is just a specific collection of software/packages that is given a name.

        That's it and by that definition...this is a distro. Pretty simple.

        Crunchbang like many other distros is in fact more than that. It is a collection of packages and customizations to those packages...AND the accompaning community of developers and users....that come together to make a distro unique.

        Crunchbang Shill!
        Fess up. How much free software are they giving you to get you to post this stuff?

        And, yes, you can call your distro "Gothmollix", you don't even have to replace any of the inards if you want, just the name. If you're distributing it, it's a distribution AKA "Distro".

        • Crunchbang Shill!

          Fess up. How much free software are they giving you to get you to post this stuff?

          If I hadn't let my mod points expire, you'd get them for this.

          Hilarious.

  • Anything you can do with can be done equally well, usually better, with the unadulterated parent distro.

    I checked the Crunchbang "about" page. Here's what it offers: a collection of unquantifiable claims, the same kernel and userland already available in Debian, and a dark theme.

    Apparently it's "Infinitely hackable" and "Super nimble" blah blah blah. I'm surprised they didn't also claim "elegant" and "intuitive".

    Better description: pointless.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Is it "disruptive", too?

    • Your right, Crunchbang is essentially Debian with a dark theme - that's one of the reasons I like it so much.

      The reason I use it over vanilla Debian is that all of the manual configuration and package selection that I'd do with a Debian netinstall is already done in Crunchbang. A couple config tweaks, and my system's fully-configured. They do add a lot of helper bash scripts and they add some custom packages in their repo, but mostly I use it because it's a Debian + Openbox installation with sensible defaul

      • by julian67 (1022593)

        Who mentioned Hurd? I didn't. That's not even a good strawman.

        Why is the comparison point a netinstall? And why, on a system that can be upgraded from version to version, does anyone care very much about configuring it the first time? You only have to install once, not repeatedly. How hard is a netinstall anyway? The LXDE disc includes openbox, it's not like anyone needs a third party to provide a window manager.

        If "helper bash scripts" are important why aren't they even mentioned on the project page

        • Who mentioned Hurd? I didn't. That's not even a good strawman.

          You mentioned Crunchbang used a stock Debian kernel as a seeming downside, so I picked a facetious example of a non-stock kernel. You may commence your giggling.

          Why is the comparison point a netinstall? And why, on a system that can be upgraded from version to version, does anyone care very much about configuring it the first time? You only have to install once, not repeatedly. How hard is a netinstall anyway?

          Because that's how I've set up my Openbox desktops previously? I tend to distro-hop, so I end up reconfiguring quite a bit. If you're upgrading the same system for years, you're right, it probably doesn't make that much of a difference to you.

          As for the website not giving you a bulleted list of features... who cares? There's no Crunchbang copywriter

          • by julian67 (1022593)

            I said nothing about being offended, mortally or otherwise. Another strawman.

            A complete failure to actually specify what makes crunchbang crunchbang on the project's own site is about the only thing there that is really informative, and that's inadvertent.

            Crunchbang seem unable to say what distinguishes it from its parent. They resort to terms so vague as to be meaningless, except that it ships with Adobe Flash. The users who supposedly gain some benefit from it don't seem to know either.

            This is a news s

  • by emag (4640) <slashdot@g[ ]ki.org ['urs' in gap]> on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:43PM (#43678517) Homepage

    I've been running Debian since about 1999... and I've been using Openbox since about... 2003? 2004? Does that mean that I was running #! before it existed?

  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @02:45PM (#43678547)

    The best forums I ever encountered were the Gentoo forums. The OS is a pain in the ass if you don't want to update every couple weeks but the amount of help, howto's and other stuff available on the Gentoo forums frankly blows away every other forum I've ever encountered. And though Gentoo has a bad reputation for RTFM in fact I found their forums to be beyond helpful to total newbies (though I wasn't a newbie).

    • My personal favorite is the Arch Linux forums.
  • I thought years ago that Debian + OpenBox == Knoppix?
  • by Xolotl (675282)
    There is also a Crunchbang-inspired derivative for the Raspberry Pi, called PiBang [pibanglinux.org]. I find it much more pleasant than the gaudy Raspbian ...
  • I came across Crunchbang few days ago, when I noticed it on distrowatch front page. I needed something light so I've decided to try it.

    It is seriously impressive. Install is very very simple and intuitive (and supports full-disk encryption in installer - fairly important for me), it is logical, desktop looks nice, it's fast.

    It was one of those really nice surprises you don't expect :)

  • by CCarrot (1562079) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @05:45PM (#43680381)

    I would think the usual order of things is BANG-> CRUNCH... :o)

  • as a replacement for Ubuntu 10.04. I want to stick with debian because I get on with apt-get, but I don't want unity/kde/gnome3/cinnamon. Obviously the other alternative is linux mint mate.

    D

  • I've watched the video and the explanation doesn't really make sense to me. What am I getting with CrunchBang that I'm not getting with Debian/Openbox? More apps added? So? They're not available in the repositories?

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