CrunchBang 11 (Waldorf)

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

At The Robotic Frog, we like newbies! But…CrunchBang is NOT a distributions for newbies. If you’re brand new to Linux, we recommend Xubuntu 12.04. Does that mean that a newbie can’t get CrunchBang to work? Not at all. It’ll just takes some patience and hard work. If you’re a newbie and you think you really want to give CrunchBang a try…and you need help…drop us a comment and we’ll do the best we can to help.

I’ve spent roughly three days with CrunchBang 11…and I think TheFrog got it right. I have never used a Linux distribution that grew on me so fast.

When RoboFrog first loaded CrunchBang, the only thing going through my head was “Wow. That’s just butt-ugly!” Call me shallow, but I like a Linux distribution that at least makes an attempt at looking attractive. Xubuntu is difficult to beat for initial impressions. It is stunningly attractive. The impression is that the Xubuntu team put a lot of work into getting everything right. As I said last time, CrunchBang comes up with a face that only a mother could love. Thankfully, it only takes a few minutes to make it much better.

CrunchBang has a minimalist user interface and we like that. Actually, I don’t think it’s as minimalist as it looks; rather, it’s efficient and elegant. In the three days I’ve been using CrunchBang 11, I’m completely in love with it. Now I understand the look in RoboFrog’s eyes. I’m still waiting, holding my breath, hoping a big disappointment doesn’t show up. So far, it hasn’t; CrunchBang just keeps getting better and better.

Their web site says that CrunchBang is infinitely hackable. Being slightly mathematically inclined, I’m not altogether comfortable with the word infinitely in this context, but let me say emphatically: We haven’t found anything that we want to change that we can’t…easily. Let’s see  how to make CrunchBang more presentable.

The unreadable text on the right side of the screen is Conky. Conky solved a couple of problems we’ve had for a long time. We’ll tell you about that another time. First, lets change the Conky display so that we can read it.

Settings!

You get the System Menu by right-clicking anywhere on the screen. No more chasing after a panel-button in a corner of the screen or on a shortcut panel. You simply right-click wherever your mouse is. There’s one exception. If the screen is covered with an application, you’ll have to move your mouse to the panel (default: top of screen) and right-click there to get the System Menu. In practice, we don’t find that we have to do that much.

[Update: Just found this. If you have a Super key (Windows key on PC keyboard, Command key on Apple keyboard) Conky comes to the rescue. Super+space brings up the system menu even with the screen covered by an application.]

Right-click to bring up the System Menu. Search downward until you find Settings. You’ll want to spend a lot of time in the Settings menu. You can change almost everything about how your system looks or operates from this menu.

Choose: Settings->Conky->Edit .conkyrc

This brings up the configuration file for Conky. Once you get used to editing these configuration files, you can turn your system into almost anything you want.

.conkyrc comes up in a text editor. We made three changes to the Conky configuration: 1) We changed the xtfont to Droid Sans, 2) We changed size=12, and 3) changed default_color to ffffff’. We weren’t sure Conky would accept color codes in hex, but it appears to work. The lines we changed look like this:

xtfont Droid Sans:size=12

default_color ffffff

Save your changes, and finally, you can read the Conky display. We think it’s pretty cool…and useful.

Note: We like the Droid fonts. I can’t remember whether the system comes with them loaded or RoboFrog loaded them. If they aren’t loaded on your system: $ sudo aptitude install droid-fonts.

Okay, so how about the background? Even easier. Bring up the Settings menu; go to Choose Wallpaper…and you’ll find a few really ugly wallpapers. Maybe it wasn’t as easy as I implied. Not a big problem, though. Find some wallpapers that you like, maybe you already have some favorites or download some from the Internet. Here’s the important part: AS ROOT (sudo cp …), copy them to /home/<username>/images/wallpapers/shared. Once they’re copied to this folder, you can go back to Settings->Choose Wallpaper, select the one you want, apply, close, and you have a new background. Now things are getting much better. Most of the ugly is gone.

I don’t get all the grayed-out text. We simply can’t read it, especially on a gray background. Here’s the last change we made for our initial setup. Let’s make the clock and workspace numbers so we can read them.

Settings->tint2->edit config file

In this configuration file, we made the following changes:

taskbar_name_font = Droid Sans 12

taskbar_name_active_font_color = #ffffff 100

time1_format = %H:%M

time1_font = Droid Sans Mono 12

clock_font_color = #ffffff 100

Then:

Settings->tint2->Restart tint2

That’s it! Now, you have an attractive, efficient, elegant user interface, a large selection of up-to-date applications, and a very stable system. Very cool!

Appeal to Reason

Let me make a plea for Linux developers everywhere. These folk put a lot of time, blood, sweat, and tears into creating amazing, free (as in freedom…and beer) OS’s and software that enrich our lives. At The Robotic Frog, we’ve looked for the “right” Linux for a long time. We like Xubuntu, but we LOVE CrunchBang 11. We’re so convinced that CrunchBang is what we’ve been looking for, that yesterday, we sent them a donation. It won’t be the last. Some developers are paid for the work they share with us. Most aren’t. They do it and make their work available to us for the joy of doing it. That doesn’t pay for the servers, the rent, or feed their families, though. Time is ultimately the only currency we have. Let’s help these folk keep doing what they love so they can keep providing us with stuff WE love. If you have a Linux distribution…if you have embraced a distribution that you intend to use for more than a few days…consider sending them a donation…even if it’s just $1 (US or equivalent). We tried more Linux distributions in the past 9 months than in the entire time we’ve used Linux. If we had sent $1 (US) to every distribution we tried, it would be less than $30 (US). As I sit here thinking about it…that’s not much. I could…and will in the future…gladly pay $1 (US) just for the privilege of being able to try a new Linux distribution. Please consider donating to your favorite Linux distribution. You know what the alternative is if there were no Linux.

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.