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Debian Operating Systems Linux

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 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.

  • 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.

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