CrunchBang 10 Statler review - Crunch, bang


Updated: November 7, 2011

CrunchBang Linux is a power-user oriented, minimalistic distribution focused on clear, simple elegance of the Openbox desktop, with a low memory footprint, a robust behavior, and a spartan set of programs. Not one to fawn over you, it's the other way around, although, based on the facts and figures, it should not be too difficult to setup.

The biggest change since the last time I tested the distro is the switch to the Debian base from the Ubuntu family, which also guarantees a rolling release schedule. In other words, install once and enjoy forever. But this also means introducing archaic elements of computing, the kind that Ubuntu was intended to solve. So there's the tricky teaser question for you, whether going Debian can make an operating system more effective, perhaps somewhat akin to Linux Mint Debian Edition?

Teaser

Live session

I booted Statler from a live USB into a black, simple desktop, dominated by the Conky output in the top right corner. No start menu or anything of the sort, the entire desktop is equal in its worth. Left or right click anywhere, and you fire up a menu that lets you open your programs and tools.

Live desktop

Look & feel, Wireless, first impression

According to Conky, the system was using only 100MB on startup, which is quite lean. The default system language is English (GB), the proper kind. Wireless worked well, including encryption.

However, the leanness and meanness come at a price. The all-black desktop can be a bit depressing, as most people are not used to working monochrome. Some color would be nice, a dash of red and yellow to enliven the atmosphere.

Samba sharing

Nope. I complained last time and the problem persists. I believe it is possible to smbclient from the command line, but then it is also possible to dance Rumba in Albania with equal glee. Seriously, I really do not understand why it is so difficult to provide a simple graphical interface for people who want to share files with other operating systems. It's all about honesty. Even if the menu read FU n00b, I would accept that, but not this bleak indifference.

Applications

CrunchBang comes with a decent arsenal. The default browser is Chromium, with Flash packaged. You also have Abiword, Gnumeric, VLC, so you're all set to do your usual stuff. There's also GIMP, but no decent screenshot utility, if you exclude GIMP itself. scrot works, but it's annoying.

scrot

Apps 1

Apps 2

You also have installer scripts for OpenOffice and Dropbox, which is nice.

Apps install

Multimedia

As I've mentioned, you have Flash, so you can watch Youtube and alike. BTW, notice the weird suggestions offered by the site for my Wagner, Ride of the Valkyries choice; Playboy casting. Youtube, are you mental?

Flash

Configurations

If you're used to having shortcuts or some kind of menu, you will feel rather frustrated using this distro. Pretty much all of the settings consists of editing configuration files and reading man pages. Geeky stuff, but I don't enjoy that.

Among the some annoyances that I encountered: no easy way to disable Touchpad, no easy way to create shortcuts or desktop items, no easy way to configure startup applications. Even adding a non-default wallpaper took a while, as you must add directories before the content will be displayed.

Mouse settings

Custom wallpapers

And then, there's the matter of setting up your theme. One of these reads Simple Green, but the actual color is something in between blue and purple. Now, one of us is definitely blind, me or the developer, but it definitely is not me, because I have awesome eyes and I was actually cast for flying stunts for Top Gun.

Green theme, not

But if you forget this one glitch, you can pimp the desktop quickly and easily.

Nice wallpaper

Installation, the problem start here and now

I was dismayed to learn that you cannot install the system from within the live session. Or perhaps it is possible, but since I could not find the option, the failure level is equal. I had to reboot and choose the text installer, very Debian, very unfriendly.

Now, one of the stages in the installer is checking the CD media. The problem is, if you boot from a USB drive, the installer will not be able to detect it as CD media and this will cause the setup to fail. At this point, Dedoimedo decided he had better things to do, like watching Star Trek TNG, so he quit.

Conclusion

The last time I tested CrunchBang, I foresaw a bright future for this young distro. It's good that I don't play lottery, as my prediction skills failed me. CrunchBang did have a future, but in the transition to becoming a Debian-based rolling edition, something got lost.

I feel the distro has taken a turn for the worse. It strives for that long-term goal of hassle-free computing, and that sounds great, but to get there, you must sweat and then sweat some more. I'm not in the mood to work around the 1999 mentality of setting up your machine. Some of the great elements that existed in CrunchBang 9.04 are gone, replaced by crude, rigid changes that feel half-beta. The simple beauty remains, but that is not enough to sway me over. So I shall have to wait for another release. For the time being, CrunchBang 10 Statler is crunch, bang, nope.

Thanks to Ankur for suggesting the distro review.

Cheers.

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