2010-08-15

Preview: Crunchbang ("#!") Linux 10 "Statler" Openbox (Alpha 2)

The default Openbox desktop. Aside from the Debian swirly logo, the desktop looks pretty much the same as in 9.04.01.

I am back at home, so I have more time to write reviews (until I need to move to my dorm room). Yay!
This is the first time I am previewing a distribution before its final release. As such, I have tested this distribution in VirtualBox rather than making a Live CD/USB of the ISO file.
You may remember that I tested #! 9.04.01 a while back, and that I was highly pleased with its lack of bloat combined with its full feature set. Unfortunately, I have to say that while this one is a good release (and please keep in mind that this is still an Alpha build based on Debian 6 "Squeeze" Testing), it isn't quite as nice as 9.04.01.
Follow the jump to find out why.

VLC and Gedit at 2 different levels of transparency (when compositing is turned on).

Because this is #! Openbox, most of the desktop features (and quirks with Openbox) are the same, so I won't go through a whole lot of that again. Compositing is still present, though now there are 2 different compositing window managers.

Iceweasel playing a YouTube video.

As #! 10 is now based on Debian, Firefox has been replaced by Iceweasel (basically the same thing but minus the Mozilla branding).
Sadly, a few nice applications present in 9.04.01 are gone in 10. I don't remember if Pidgin is present or not, so I won't make any comment on that yet. Aside from that, Skype and Cheese Webcam Booth are both gone, probably due to the proprietary codecs (in Skype) conflicting with Debian's strict free software philosophy (which is strange, considering that a lot of proprietary multimedia codecs are included by default, which in itself is nice).
#! is still as light on resources as ever, despite the fact that I tested it in VirtualBox (I allocated 384 MB of RAM to the running image).
I really liked PCManFM in 9.04.01, as it was as fully-featured as Nautilus yet a whole lot more lightweight. Unfortunately, PCManFM has been replaced by Thunar, the Xfce file manager, which I feel isn't quite as fully featured as PCManFM (and doesn't look nearly as nice either — the application is inconsistent as to which buttons get icons and which don't, as some (like back and forwards) don't but some (like Home, I think) do). (Another note: as far as I know, 9.04.01 was the only version of #! to use PCManFM as the default file manager, as every version before that used Thunar as the default file manager).
AbiWord and Gnumeric are still present, but now there's a nice little link to install OpenOffice.org (without needing to manually open Synaptic Package Manager just for this purpose).
One of the good things about this release is that there is less redundancy in the application selection for the Live CD; where before there were 3 text editors and media players, there is now 1 (maybe 2) of each.

The Catfish desktop search program, along with the Openbox menu. Note that the fonts have been changed from regular sans serif fonts to terminal-style monospaced fonts.
I really liked the 9.04.01 theme as it showed that a lightweight, black-based Openbox theme could really look slick. This version's fonts and color scheme look too much like a CLI made into a GUI — the fonts are all monospaced, while the titlebars are stark white on black (instead of the nice gray theme as before). It's likely to scare off newbies as looking too "techie".
Usually, when I do reviews, I don't test installation procedures, but as I looked on the distribution's website, the installer is a primitive keyboard-based GUI installer based on Debian's live installer. I find the Ubuntu installer (which was used in the Ubuntu-based 9.04.01 release) to be much easier to use, so in my opinion this choice is a step backwards. Also, unlike before, there is no way to install from within the live session (except to restart and choose to install in the boot menu).
I'm sorry to say that I wasn't as pleased with the version as I was with the last. Granted, this is still Alpha 2, so there's a lot of room for progress and improvement (though I'm guessing that there's a feature freeze right now, so the features I want probably won't be added for this release). Hopefully, this otherwise wonderful distribution will be a lot better when the final release comes around.

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