Tuesday, 10 January 2012


Despite the fact that I no longer use it on a daily basis, I occasionally still dabble with linux.

Everyone tells me that Mint is the new black but I have singularly failed to get it to build a vm on virtualbox, so I resorted to going back to Ubuntu with the latest version of Unity.

Call me prejudiced, but I just plan don't like it - there is something in the user experience that jars. I am not a window manager freak, but in these days when Windows 7 is the most common one out there, closely followed by OS X, window managers need to give people a comparable experience - if it looks and feels like windows 90% will never really notice if all they do is fire up a browser to read mail.

Now there are two distributions that I've used for lightweight virtual machines, crunchbang and xubuntu. both of which use the lighter weight window managers, OpenBox in the case of Crunchbang and Xfce in the case of Xubuntu.

Of the two, OpenBox is even more cheeseparing in its use of resources than Xfce, and for that reason I would certainly consider crunchbang for use on an old netbook (or other old laptop) but with Xubuntu as a fall back position due to its better hardware support.

Crunchbang is a good stable distribution but Xubuntu, in my experience, supports a wider range of hardware, and being built on Ubuntu is generally slicker, and Xfce conforms more closely to the generic window manager meme than OpenBox

Certainly building a Xubuntu vm was a fairly slick experience, and I was impressed by the way it picked up it was running on virtualbox and offered to install some extra drivers.

The interface is the interface, the software manager is neater than it used to be - my usual test of installing kwrite just worked without any confusing messages about extra libraries etc. The default set of tools is good, abiword, gnumeric etc, but I'm guess that a lot of people using xubuntu will be doing most of their work in the google ecology.

Unlike crunchbang, the browser is still firefox, rather than chromium, the open source version of chrome, but that's an easy fix if it's important to you. (Just to complicate matters, the latest distribution of crunchbang has changed to iceweasel)

Xubuntu still produce a version for ppc machines, and I'm tempted to try installing it on one of my old glass imacs - perhaps not the original one, but the second one which has a little bit more memory - I've always had this idea of having a machine available for visitors to use to check their email, blog or tweet from, and while smartphones have kind of taken over the email checking role, they're not yet universal ...

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