CrunchBang Linux 2

[If you don’t know who or what these (*) are, check the Glossary page.]

It’s Not a Job…It’s an Adventure!

In the morning, I have a routine. I’m an early riser; I come downstairs, grab a cup of tea or coffee, go to my computer (BigDog*), and check out the morning news. It’s quiet in the house, just me and the dog…and that’s the way I like it. Once I have my dose of legal stimulants and make sure that the world hasn’t blown itself to hell overnight, I’m ready to leap tall buildings with a single bound. I hope you infer from this, that for me, this might not be the best time for big surprises. This morning, I power up BigDog and here’s what greets me: !!! This isn’t Xubuntu 12.04.

What in the world did TheFrog do? We have an agreement here on the LilyPad. I need at least one machine that always works…one machine that RoboFrog keeps his hands off. BigDog is supposed to be that machine. HE comes in; without a word, HE sits down at Untouchable* and starts tinkering.

We spent months trying Linux distributions before Xubuntu 12.04 was released. It was like an answer to our prayers. Other than the problem with Thunar (file manager), it just worked…and it’s beautiful. If we were recommending Linux for a newbie, Xubuntu 12.04 would be it.

“What did YOU do!?”

TheFrog continues tinkering with Untouchable.

“Try it. You’ll like it.” HE doesn’t even look up.

I take a big breath and look at BigDog. Clearly, we’re not in Kansas anymore. It is attractive, though. What is it? CrunchBang!

“I though YOU had a big problem with CrunchBang.”

“Yeah, I did,” HE replies. “But I fixed it. I loaded CrunchBang on all of our machines.”

“!!!!!!…What!?” I’m trying not to scream.

“Try it. You’ll like it; I promise.” HE still doesn’t look up.

For RoboFrog, it wasn’t an issue at all. For me…well, I was doing everything I could not to crawl under my desk, and thumb-in-mouth, curl up into the fetal position. The last time I talked with TheFrog, HE had a deal-breaking problem with CrunchBang. Now, HE had loaded it onto every machine we have and I was supposed to take it in stride. Wow!

Problems in CrunchBang-ville

TheFrog loaded CrunchBang 10 onto Dellbert* and it exceeded all of our expectations. Then, HE moved on to Untouchable. That’s where the problems began. HE tried the same tests HE did on Dellbert (previous post).

RoboFrog couldn’t get a movie to play properly on Untouchable. Untouchable would transfer part of the movie, play it, stop and think for awhile, transfer some more, play it, stop and think for awhile, and so on. Totally un-watchable. TheFrog decided to copy the movie file (3.1 GB) to Untouchable and try playing it from the local hard drive. At 1 hr 5 min, HE shut it down. The transfer still hadn’t completed. It should have taken 5 or 6 minutes. Clearly, there was a problem with NFS (Network File System). Dellbert had done a phenomenal job. Untouchable was a much more capable machine. Why was it taking so long to transfer the file?

RoboFrog decided to start with Debian 6.0.5 and work HIS way forward from there. Debian 6.0.5 had the same problem. HE tried transferring the 3.1 GB file. HE stopped it at 1 hr. It was transferring, but at a glacial pace. The problem was with Debian 6, not CrunchBang. What was the difference between Dellbert and Untouchable? 32-bit vs 64-bit version. TheFrog’s conclusion was that there’s something wrong with the 64-bit version of Debian 6 with respect to NFS. Xubuntu had worked perfectly. We used NFS for all of our backups and for access to our movie library. This was a deal-breaker. CrunchBang 10 (Debian 6.0.5) wasn’t going to work for us.

The wheels were turning, though. When TheFrog wants something, HE’s not easily put off. HE was smitten with CrunchBang and…NO…simply wasn’t an option. Then it came to HIM. Debian 6 was timing out. They were well along the way with Wheezy (Debian Testing). CrunchBang had to be well along the way with a Wheezy-based distribution as well. HE poked around the CrunchBang web site, and sure enough, there was CrunchBang 11 (based on Debian Testing). HE downloaded CrunchBang 11, loaded it onto Untouchable, and repeated the file transfer test.

It took only 4 min 50 seconds to transfer the 3.1 GB file from Whitestar* to Untouchable. That was more like it. HE still had CrunchBang 10 loaded on Dellbert, so HE tried the file transfer with Dellbert: 6 min 10 sec. CrunchBang 11 worked almost perfectly on Untouchable. In addition, we got lots of updated applications. There was one minor problem with CrunchBang 11.

CrunchBang 11 experienced the same problem with Thunar (file manager) that plagued Xubuntu. We verified that it was a Debian/Xfce problem, not CrunchBang. Thunar was a minor problem because HE simply replaced Thunar with PCManFM. Problem solved.

It was at this point that RoboFrog got the bright idea to switch all of our machines over to CrunchBang. For now, HE was leaving Dellbert on CrunchBang 10. Everything else had been converted to CrunchBang 11.

Here’s a look at CrunchBang 11 on Untouchable. Now that I’m over the initial shock of having all of our machines converted to CrunchBang, I’m looking forward to giving it a try. TheFrog says “Try it; you’ll like it.” We’ll see. Next time…How HE transformed an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan.

CrunchBang Linux

[If you don’t know who or what these (*) are, check the Glossary page]

CrunchBang 10

It only took RoboFrog about half an hour to have CrunchBang 10 installed and running on Dellbert*. I blame ZACHARiAS for that. RoboFrog thinks that ZACHARiAS is HIS new best friend. ZACHARiAS left us a comment on our last post recommending CrunchBang. Never one to pass up an adventure, TheFrog hopped right to it. We tried CrunchBang once, but TheFrog can’t remember why we decided not to use it.

More Than a Pretty Face

In fact…this is a face only a mother could love. It’s butt-ugly. The CrunchBang team are the ultimate function-over-form-folk. RoboFrog isn’t put off by ugly; HE tends to be a function-first-amphibian. Also, HE knows it’s easy to change the look of a Linux GUI (Graphical User Interface).

But first…HE wanted to figure out why we aren’t using CrunchBang. CrunchBang 10 is derived from Debian 6. Debian 6 isn’t an exciting distribution, but it’s rock solid. That’s what we were running on Dellbert before TheFrog decided to take ZACHARiAS’s advice and try CrunchBang.  (HE can never leave well enough alone! All HE needed was and excuse.)

Debian 6 was working extremely well. I crossed my fingers and hoped the TheFrog could get everything working again with CrunchBang. And you know what? There were no problems whatsoever. It took a few minutes to figure out how the GUI worked. After that, everything worked perfectly. RoboFrog got the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) server working. Except for the user interface, everything appeared to work the same as Debian 6. The GUI, though, was a big deal for TheFrog.

The GUI (Openbox) is crisp…even on Dellbert…and efficient. I could see TheFrog starting to vibrate. HE decided to see how far he could push Dellbert. HE compiled a C program. No problem. An Objective-C program. No problem. HE ran a couple of Perl programs. Again, no problem. Okay, that’s fine, but what about multimedia?

We’re movie freaks here at TRF (The Robotic Frog). We have a huge external hard drive attached to Whitestar* with all of our movies on it. All of our computers access that drive through NFS (Network File System). We like NFS because it’s easy to set up. We’re able to watch movies on any computer, anywhere in the house. Very cool. RoboFrog wanted to see if Dellbert could play a movie acceptably. Surely, this would bring him to his Pentium III knees.

Using VLC Media Player, TheFrog brought up a movie. Watched the entire movie. Dellbert did a great job playing it. I don’t want you to think that Dellbert performs as well as some of our more capable machines. We’re writing this, using Dellbert…and frankly…he’s sluggish. I have to give him his due, though; he has performed well beyond our expectations.

I Think TheFrog’s in Love!

HE had that moonie-eyed, short of breath look. I’ve seen it before. HE had it when we first looked at Xubuntu 11.10. HIS feelings went mostly unrequited until Xubuntu 12.04 came out, but like now, it was obvious that Xubuntu 11.10 had turned TheFrog’s head. And, it’s obvious now that CrunchBang 10 has turned HIS head as well. It’s at moments like this that I become most afraid. When HE’s in love, everything gets either really good…or everything goes to-hell-in-a-hand-basket . There’s no inbetween. What was it going to be this time?

TheFrog looked up at me and said, “I’m going to load CrunchBang on all of our machines.”

My voice broke and I almost screamed, “No your NOT!”

Xubuntu 12.04 is the best thing that’s happened to us since Fedora 14. If I had any influence on HIM at all (unlikely), I was going to push this in a different direction.

“We searched for months to find a distribution that we like. You can’t just chuck everything for this ugly duckling.”

“Okay, we’re not using Untouchable* right now. How about I test CrunchBang on him and if everything’s good…then we’ll switch everything over to CrunchBang?”

That’s uncharacteristically magnanimous of TheFrog. Usually, I walk into the RFCC (RoboFrog Computing Center) and HE’s simply had HIS way with it. It’s enough to drive a man to drink.

I replied cautiously, “I’m not sure about switching everything, but I can live with Untouchable.”

“Good. I’ll get to it.”

I think you can see there’s a lot more to this story. Here’s a summary: We’ve loaded CrunchBang 10 onto Dellbert and it is working well beyond our expectations. Apparently, whether I like it or not, we’re moving to another level with CrunchBang. Next time…Untouchable.

Dellbert 2

[If you don’t know who or what these (*) are check the Glossary page.]

Dellbert* is a rescue computer. My guess is that he’s about 14 years old. By today’s standards, he doesn’t have much computing horsepower. The thing that intrigues us about machines like Dellbert is that they’re free. Most of the folks who know us here at The Robotic Frog (TRF) know that we like tinkering with computers. A couple of times a year someone offers us an old computer that they just want to get rid of. It was fun collecting them until they came up on MsRoboFrog’s* radar. MsRoboFrog doesn’t appreciate our treasures (junk) as much as we do. We’ve negotiated a loose treaty with HER, the conditions of which are that when we bring a machine home, we get rid of a machine. We don’t think SHE knows about Dellbert and Old Blue yet, but in the spirit of upholding our agreement, we got rid of a couple of dead computers that we raided for parts.


Initially, Dellbert had 128 MB of RAM. We had no problem loading Debian 6.0.5 (XFCE GUI), Debian Testing (XFCE GUI), and Ubuntu 12.04 Server (LXDE GUI) even with this limited amount of memory. Interestingly, we were not able to get Lubuntu to load. Go figure. The distributions would load, but things were sluggish and there was a lot of disk swapping. Where things really came to a grinding halt was when we tried to get a browser working. Knowing that we were extremely short of memory, we decided to stick to lightweight browsers.

Our favorite lightweight browser is Midori. Midori wouldn’t run at all (even with 384 MB). Next, we tried Arora. At least Arora tried to run, but there was so much disk swapping that Dellbert was effectively locked up. Time for something really light. Our third try was Dillo. Dillo ran very well. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that we’re used to, but it was acceptable. As we searched the Internet for lightweight Linux browsers, we came across one article that surprised us. The article recommended Firefox. We assumed (you know what that gets you) that Firefox was a heavyweight. We simply hadn’t considered it, so we gave it a try. Firefox performed very well…and that’s the browser we’re using with Dellbert.

Memory, memory, memory!

Last time I told you that we raided an old, blue Candy-Mac for a couple of memory boards that…to our surprise…worked perfectly with Dellbert. Dellbert now has 384 MB of RAM (random access memory). Did it make a difference? You bet it did! Most of the disk swapping is gone and everything works faster. If you’re going to play with an old computer and you want to do one thing that will make a big difference…add memory!

So…Now what?

The purpose of our two rescue computers is to determine whether old computers are of any practical use today. We’re using Debian 6.0.5 on Dellbert because it’s rock-solid and there aren’t a lot of updates. We’ve set up a LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP) server to experiment with hosting a web site. More about that another time. We’re working our way through a book on HTML and using Dellbert as our test-dummy. It’s surprising how well Dellbert is performing. We’ll give you a peek once we figure out what we’re doing.