2011-01-26

Preview: Bodhi Linux 0.1.4 Beta

Main Screen + Main E17 Menu
I've been reading a lot of good things about Bodhi Linux recently. It's a young (just a few months old) Ubuntu-based distribution that exclusively uses the Enlightenment E17 WM. (The name is appropriate because Prince Siddartha (later to be known as the Buddha) achieved enlightenment under a bodhi tree.) I've used GNOME, KDE, Openbox, and a bit of LXDE, Xfce, and Fluxbox, but I've never used Enlightenment before, so this is a totally new experience to me. Plus, not only is Bodhi Linux in beta at version 0.1.4, even Enlightenment itself, after over a decade of development, is still in beta at version 0.17 (hence E17); the release of E17 after E16 (Enlightenment 0.16) was a huge deal for its users. It's a good thing that it's built on a familiar Ubuntu base, or else I'd be totally lost. I made a live USB of this with UnetBootin and went on my way, so follow the jump to see how this experience goes.

After the boot menu came a Plymouth bootsplash with a spinner similar to the one in Trisquel 4.0.1 "Taranis". Following that came a window allowing me to select one among the many Enlightment desktop setups; I chose "Laptop Light". Selecting that loaded the desktop.
Nautilus Elementary + LXTerminal
Moving from Microsoft Windows to the GNOME as implemented in Linux Mint would be like moving from the United States to Canada. It's not quite the same, but it feels very familiar. Moving from that to KDE, standard GNOME, Xfce, or the Mac OS X desktop environment would be like moving to Europe. It's a bit less familiar but still generally manageable. Using Enlightenment, on the other hand, was for me like moving to another planet; it was a totally alien experience at first. That said, I generally got used to it relatively quickly. At the top is a panel with an Enlightenment main menu; moving to the right, the panel contains a window switcher, a system tray, a virtual desktop switcher, various applets (e.g. battery, volume), and a clock. Although there is a menu applet on the panel, simply left-clicking (as opposed to right-clicking as in Openbox and Fluxbox) on any empty space on the desktop also brings up a menu. On the bottom is a very stuffed Enlightenment dock reminiscent of Docky/AWN/the Mac OS X dock; that said, as there is an application switcher on the panel, the dock is really just an application launcher — the dock can't manage open windows. I feel like the dock has too many applications, like appearance and network settings and a root terminal, among others, that are better left in the menu. Oh well.
The default window theme is an Enlightenment-ified Elementary theme reminiscent of Mac OS X, while the default icon theme is the popular Faenza icon theme, and the cursor seems to be taken from KDE 4. That said, I feel like the black theme for the menu bars sticks out too much from the soothing colors of the window borders and other areas.
Mozilla Firefox (version 4 beta 8)
Nautilus is the default file browser, and it has all the Nautilus Elementary mods, which is really nice.
Mozilla Firefox is present at version 4 beta 8. I was able to try this in Pardus 2011 and really liked its revised interface and newfound snappiness. Bodhi Linux, like Ubuntu upon which it is based, doesn't include many codecs out-of-the-box, and installing Adobe Flash from Synaptic Package Manager (the only GUI package manager available) didn't work. Thankfully, Bodhi's own software repository webpage came to the rescue; it has a great selection of useful software that works on Bodhi. After that, YouTube and similar sites worked fine.
Speaking of which, there's no screenshot utility included with Bodhi. In fact, the default application selection is quite sparse, with just Mozilla Firefox, LXTerminal, and Nautilus. Most everything else present is dedicated to configuration. I went to get a screenshot utility and found an Enlightenment screenshot module (that's how it works in Enlightenment: modules) in Synaptic from the Bodhi repository and decided to install it; unfortunately, it seems to have been removed from the Bodhi repository, but this change hasn't been registered in Synaptic. I ended up settling for the CLI "scrot" program, which worked just fine.
Also, I installed Cheese Webcam Booth to test my webcam (just for good measure), and though it displayed a picture, when I wanted to record video, it kept crashing. Uh-oh.
Enlightenment was one of the first WMs to offer desktop effects, and it could do so without the sophisticated 3D acceleration technologies required by modern compositing WMs like Compiz and KWin. Even today, it's held in high regard for its near-boundless ability to be customized and its ability to provide cool eye-candy with rather minimal system requirements. I can now say from experience that this assertion is true; I was able to experience the desktop wall effects and other cool animations when manipulating windows out-of-the-box, yet not once did Enlightenment feel remotely sluggish. (Disclosure: I never measured actual numbers in terms of resource usage.) That said, there's an extension to Enlightenment called Ecomorph which allows for more effects like the desktop cube; although I successfully downloaded and installed the necessary packages, I was not able to run it. Oh well.
Speaking of customization, Enlightenment reminds me of KDE without the occasional crash and without the heavy system requirements. I was blown away at the degree with which Enlightenment can be customized; that is in fact what makes up the vast majority of the menu items, and even individual programs have myriad options allowing even the greatest control freak to placated. The KDE comparison goes further when one considers that the cursor is also taken from KDE 4; plus, just as in KDE, various gadgets can be either added to the panel or standing alone on the desktop, even the window switcher. Again, it's like KDE 4 before there was KDE 4.
Well, that's all I have to say about Bodhi Linux. (I didn't install it because there was no point, as it's Ubuntu-based.) The Enlightenment WM still seems a little strange to me, but at least I have a little experience with it now. I really like that it's filled to the brim with fast eye-candy, and I appreciate that Bodhi Linux comes with minimal applications and focuses more on desktop customization, allowing the user to pick and choose which applications are present. My only real gripe with it is that the bottom dock is too cluttered. Overall, I think this is a great way to introduce relatively new Linux users to the Enlightenment WM, though I'm not entirely sure it's the best way to do so for people who have never used Linux before.

6 comments:

  1. -v.nice review,prof P
    -that cluttered dock You mention,
    also come on other distros
    -it's easily sent to the bottom of the deep blue sea,
    if you chose to do so
    & you end up with a non-cartoonish desktop
    -just right click/properties...
    cheers

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  2. @Anonymous: Thanks for the tip!

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  3. Just a comment about the bar at the bottom - the last screen in the setup wizard entitled "quick launch" lets you choose what applications to include on that bar at the bottom. To display all of them as you have in those screenshots means that you checked off all the items.

    Oh also - the Enlightenment screenshot module is in the Bodhi repo.

    sudo apt-get install screenshot

    Cheers,
    ~Jeff Hoogland

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  4. @Jeff91: Wow, the original creator commented here! SWEET! Thanks for the tip about the quick launch bar - it looks like I sort of skimmed over that part. (Or, does that appear only in the installed session?) Also, I know the Enlightenment screenshot module is in the Bodhi repository, but it seems like the day I tested this, the site was giving a 404 error. Thanks for the comment!

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  5. thanks for the review of enlightenment
    I use it regularly on a daily basis for all my computing needs.

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  6. @Renato Rener: Wow, am I late on this one. Thanks for the support!

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