Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Crunchbang 10 Statler XFCE

Before I begin this review could I point out that this dsitro is at Alpha stage and due to a lack of experience with openbox I opted for the XFCE edition. Whilst I was testing this it is not generally recommended that a project at alpha stage should become your primary OS. As of Crunchbang 10 the project has moved from being Ubuntu based to being a Debian based distro.

Crunchbang loaded quickly with clean black background, system information on the right of the screen and a system tray in the bottom right. The two large rectangles on the bottom panel are workspaces, I'm not sure if I like this feature, it seems to take up too much room for simply selecting workspaces.

All the basics are included in the 1.7GB of installed space to have a fully functional desktop. Iceweasel (Firefox without the copyrighted logo) provides the browsing experience, xchat allows the user to access the IRC channels without any problems, Pino has been included for all your micro blogging needs, transmission provides you with a torrent app (legal and open source only please). Gnumeric and Abiword have been chosen as a lighter and quicker alternative to Open Office. As you would expect with XFCE, Thunar is included. GUI Package management is in the form of Synaptic. The app that gave me the biggest smile was the inclusion of the GIMP. Since Ubuntu dropped it from it's list of pre installed apps more and more distros are leaving it off their initial installs. This is really a shame as the GIMP shows off the highest standard that open source has, this really is a powerful piece of kit.

All of these apps worked perfectly out of the box. The internet connection told me that I was offline, but in fact I was able to browse without issue, a pretty small bug for alpha stage. A variety of games were sampled, I downloaded the NVIDIA driver and the 3D games ran very smoothly indeed. Skype was one of the apps that I was needing and I was a bit apprehensive after it failed to load, however a quick trip to the forums and I was communicating with friends ac cross the water.

For those of you unfamiliar with XFCE, there is no menu icon in this version, simply right clicking anywhere on the desktop will bring up the application menu, that's the reason it appears to be floating in the above screenshot.

The main issue I experienced was with Compiz. It installed fine, but then failed to run. A few fixes were tried but to no avail. I then experienced the hazards of working with alpha stage software: one of the fixes I tried caused the system to fail to load an X environment on the next reboot, I was left with a cursor and prompt.

However for alpha stage Crunchbang 10 is remarkably stable and highly usable. But I'm left wandering were exactly does it fit in? At 1.7GB it certainly is not a small distro, probably a bit lite for a complete install, I think it would be an ideal introduction for a user who wants to attempt building up their own distro but does not feel reading for Arch yet.

Overall the experience was very good, everything worked out of the box except my graphic card, well that's expected. The issue with compiz will be fixed soon, but be honest this is not the primary thing a user should be looking at when choosing a distro. For a small(ish) distro it does come with a wide array of apps, everything you need to get the basics done on a desktop.

Fancy building up your on desktop but don't really have a good grip of the command line or the confidence, give Crunchbang 10 a go.

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