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"CrunchBang 11 'Waldorf' released. Debian 7 'Wheezy' was released on May 4th; now that Wheezy has migrated to the stable branch of Debian, this means that Waldorf is the new stable CrunchBang release. To acknowledge this occasion, I have rebuilt the Waldorf images. The new images are available now from the download page. For anyone unaware, Waldorf has been in development for well over a year and has seen numerous development releases. This probably makes Waldorf the most thoroughly tested CrunchBang release to date."
Would you recommend the product? yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 7
Stable and reliable
Light in facilities without being light in size
CrunchBang is Debian stable with the Openbox window-manager. It’s available in 64- and 32-bit versions, the latter also with a non-pae kernel. It can only be downloaded by torrent, so you need to pick the right time: my first attempt threatened to take 24 hours. I used the 32-bit version.
The disk can be used for a live session or installation, but you cannot run the installer from the live session. Installation is not difficult, although the partitioning stage could be better explained and laid out. It’s better to run Gparted in in the live session first.
At first boot, the script cb-welcome is run, which gives options to install various items: updates, CUPS, LibreOffice, Java, LAMP, etc. Surely everyone wants to print? The main programs provided are Abiword, Gnumeric, Icewasel, Xchat, Gimp, and VLC. Media codecs and the Flash plugin are present. As one would expect from Debian stable, everything worked. I used the welcome script to install LibreOffice, but it didn’t give me a dictionary. Searching for ‘English dictionary’ in Synaptic suggested Aspell, which is for Abiword. I had to know that I needed Hunspell or Myspell, and find it by scrolling through the word-processor category.
Unlike some Debian derivatives, Crunchbang doesn’t improve on its parent’s feeble configuration tools. Is a firewall set up? Iptables is installed, but without any front-end you need to be an expert to know if it’s doing anything. Searching for ‘firewall’ in Synaptic reveled quite a few tools available, but the inclusion of ‘wget’ (like the dictionary problem) showed that Debian still can’t label their packages properly. As usual, I had to edit 2 files in modprobe.d and re-boot to enable my usb speakers.
CrunchBang is given to odd colour schemes — pastel on white in Geany, grey on black with Conky — so some configuration was needed to make Openbox legible. Otherwise, it works well, and a selection of keyboard shortcuts has been created and listed on-screen. Some Xfce items have been added, like the Thunar file manager and the Catfish search tool.
If I seem less than enthusiastic, I should emphasise that a lot of people like CrunchBang, and it’s quite nice if you know what you’re doing. But if I liked Openbox and Debian-style distros, I’d prefer SalentOS, with a decent selection of software installed, and encryption available when installing. If you’re after something for a small computer, this really needs 512MB; Openbox is the biggest of the window managers. If you need something that fits on a CD, this doesn’t, despite the lack of software on the installation disk: try ZorinOS Light for that.
Would you recommend the product? yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 8
Very fast and stable, highly configurable
Debian stable base - not up to date , too big install disc for such a light distro
As soon as Corenominal - the creator of Crunchbang (#!) decided to switch his distro to Debian base instead of Ubuntu, I started to plot against my one-and-only pure Debian (Gnome) system, and soon after I embraced #!
There is nothing so special about #!, except the effort Corenominal has put into polishing the Debian minimal installation, with custom scripts, configuration, and selection of software to achieve strong, yet light system. The kind of effort many of us were too lazy to make.
So, with #! you actually have the essential Debian, with fewest possible additions, optimized for low hardware resources.
It has mixed libraries from Xfce and Gnome (plus some core LXDE applications), without those desktop environments actually installed. Instead, the powerful Openbox window manager keeps the things going.
However, the downside of this, is the large set of libraries and tons of small applications/utilities to fill the gap of absence of full desktop environment, which makes it heavy on storage: the .iso package is 739mb, while there are very few applications pre-installed. The basic #! installation takes even more space than regular Ubuntu - and no lightweight distro should take that amount of space - not even close.
Corenominal took a step further and made easier for new Linux users to get along with this distro: there is a startup script which offers installation of commonly used applications, such is Libre Office, popular browsers, Dropbox, and so on.
Also, very useful are the shortcuts to major .conf files, available from the main menu, and Openbox keyboard shortcuts info, listed in Conky.
The system is highly configurable, partly thanks to the lack of full desktop environment - almost all components are independent small applications that can be separately configured or easily replaced.
In addition, if user wants to have a rolling release distro, it is as simple as adding new repositories and upgrading the system with a single terminal command.
The #! community is very friendly and helpful, without which it would be very difficult for a beginner to master the subtleties of the system.
Overall, this is reliable, beautiful (when configured), fast distro, yet it requires some knowledge of Debian and Linux in common, to feel comfortable with it. It doesn't get in your way - which is pretty much essential when functionality is in question.
I keep on comparing it with other distributions (tested more than 100 different distros by now), and I still have #! as a base system on my desktops.