Spotlight On Linux: CrunchBang
Being based on Debian is a point is its favor as it means that standard trouble shooting and standard packages work on the system. The documentation on the website assures that CrunchBang is, essentially, a standard Debian installation with a few additional custom packages.
Installation takes a familiar path. It's a usable system when booted from the CD image, and hard disk installation is invoked by running a program from the desktop.
So far, so much the same. So, in what ways does CrunchBang differ from other distros?
When CrunchBang is booted for the first time, the user is presented with an interactive post installation script comprising of 15 questions. These prompts allow the user to further refine and specialize the installation. They allow for the optional installation of various applications such as Open Office, suites of tools such as build tools and conveniences such as popular media codecs and the Sun Java runtime. One option is to install a specialized kernel which is apparently optimized for desktop use. If selected rather than skipped, each installation option takes between a few seconds and several minutes to complete.
The desktop itself has a dark theme consisting of black, white and gray but this can, of course, be changed. On the backdrop there is a system information panel showing free memory and CPU usage amongst other data. Below this area is a reminder of keyboard shortcuts. For example, Windows key + W launches the web browser.
I'd not used OpenBox before, and I can confirm that is has a minimalist appearance along and feels responsive and fast. As standard, the window controls use a series of Braille-like dotted icons. These look cool, but it's impossible to guess the function of each at first glance. The task switcher sits on the bottom of the screen and features a standard status area with a clock. The task switcher is icon-based and also includes a virtual desktop switcher in quite a nice arrangement, although it doesn't automatically stay on top windows, which will perturb some. The application launch menu and system menu is the sort that is invoked by right clicking on on either the backdrop or the task switcher.
Any guesses as to what these dots mean?
The taskbar is also a pager. A nice arrangement.
In conclusion, CrunchBang looks like it could be a good distro for people who want to try something with a bit of kick to it in the speed department without straying too far from standard Debian. It might be also good distro to set up for a Linux novice if you don't think that they'll get on with the more common KDE/Gnome desktops. It's a worthwhile distro that has enough uniqueness to justify its existence without having the feel of a experiment that won't be around for long.
The CrunchBang website.
UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.