Once upon a time there was Crunchbang Linux, and then it was no more, and then the community brought it back to life in another form known as BunsenLabs Linux. This distribution offers a lightweight and easily customizable Openbox desktop.
The minimum requirements for BunsenLabs is 256MB RAM and an installation using a little over 2GB of disk space. You can use lower resources if you do not intend to run a graphical desktop with low resource-intensive applications.
Download and Installation
BunsenLabs is available in 32-bit and 64-bit architectures. There is an extra 32-bit build which does not require PAE support in the computer's CPU for older machines. Grab them from here. After downloading the file, burn the ISO image to a CD/DVD or a write it to a USB thumb drive using tools such as Unetbootin or Etcher and then boot from it. Upon bootup, you will have the option of booting into the live environment and trialing the distro or you can go ahead and install if you are sure you want to install it. You cannot install from the live environment, you will need to come back to the boot menu to install.
If you choose to install, the process is very straightforward as it uses the simple Debian installer. You will be required to set up the usual things such as disks, language and keyboard, user account and password and a few others. The process will take a few minutes and you will have your desktop setup and ready to use.
If you choose to install the distro, you will be presented with the login screen which is nice and simple.
Clean Desktop, Smooth Experience
Upon login, you immediately see the direction the distro chooses to go with keeping things simple. By default, there is a panel at the top of the screen with a few quick launch icons on the left (firefox, file manager, gedit and terminal). On the right, you have the system tray showing your network, battery and volume icons with system time. There are no icons on the desktop except some system information on the right powered by Conky. You can appreciate the system performance as RAM usage is less than 200MB. The wallpaper is nice with bunselabs written in the center with a flame atop. Everything looks grey and I bet a whole lot of folks will definitely want something more colorful.
BunsenLabs comes with 2 workspaces by default. I only discovered this by accident as I was scrolling through a page with the mouse wheel only for it to change workspaces. The behavior was quite strange I must say and I am still looking for a way around this as it happened a few more times.
Right click for menu
Right-clicking on the desktop will popup the menu as there is no launcher or menu icon on the top panel or any other place on the desktop. Everything or place available in the distro is accessible from this menu. Your installed applications, recent files, places and system settings or preferences are just a right click away.
Preinstalled Apps In BunsenLabs
BunsenLabs packs a lean selection of software with only a handful of some essentials. Firefox is the default web browser but you can also install Chromium, Google Chrome or Opera with just a click. You also have transmission BitTorrent Client, HexChat IRC, Filezilla and links to install OpenSSH server and client and remote desktop app.
When it comes to Office, you have only Writer out of the LibreOffice suite installed. Impress, Calc or the entire suite can be installed, once again my just a click. You have Gnumeric and Google Docs available by default which I think is pretty cool.
For Graphics you have Mirage image viewer and a screenshot app installed with GIMP, Blender, Inkscape and some others only a click away.
Cruchbang offers no limit to customization except your imagination. Let us look at this briefly.
The first thing I wanted to change after booting up the distro was the wallpaper. I don’t know why everything has to look so dim but unfortunately, the wallpaper selection was more of the same (variants of the default). To change the wallpaper, right click on the desktop and navigate to Preferences> Choose Wallpaper.
Look and feel
Under preferences, you can click on Appearance to customize the look and feel of the desktop. You chose a darker widget theme, edit the colors or change the icons or cursor themes.
Conky, Tint2 and more
Conky is available and running by default on BunsenLabs. You can choose from other pre-installed themes or install other themes and further customize your desktop.
You can also move the top panel to the bottom by going to the thing menu.
If you know what you are about, you can modify Openbox and compositor. You can choose a theme for your notifications even (theme and location) and all these are available under preferences in the right-click menu.
Lovers of the discontinued Cruchbang distro can rejoice at the success and quality of this community-powered project. BunsenLabs has made me wonder why I have not used the Openbox desktop environment that much. Bunsenlabs does a good job keeping things minimal. But I must say BunsenLabs is no distro for beginners as things are somewhat complicated not that it is too hard. Also, the number of installed applications are almost too little for new users but then again you can install some curated ones with just a click. On the other hand, BunsenLabs will be ideal for old computers and computer with low hardware config. I like Bunsenlabs quite a lot because it keeps things simple and gets out of the way.