ArchBang Linux 2012.05 review

 Last year when I was searching for a light weight distro that is easy to use and fast to install, I came to know about ArchBang, a linux distro based on Arch Linux and uses Openbox as the desktop environment. And it really did a great job on my old computer that has a celeron CPU and only 256 MB of RAM. Since then, ArchBang has become one of my favorite distros. After knowing the release of Archbang 2012.05 via Distrowatch, I downloaded the new ISO file and installed ArchBang on my laptop to test it and now I want to share my review about this newest release of ArchBang Linux, 2012.05.

ArchBang Linux review

Download and Installation

The first thing I notice about this release is that the ISO image is a little bigger than the former versions, over 500 MB for both the 32 and 64bit versions. But comparing to the popular distros like Ubuntu, Mint or Fedora, ArchBang is still very light-weight. After downloading the 64 bit ISO file, I created a bootable USB to install ArchBang on my laptop. And as in the former versions of Archbang, the installation process ran very fast, less than 15 minutes if you know what you are doing with the installer.

You can click here to download ArchBang 2012.05

ArchBang review

New users of ArchBang should know that installing ArchBang is different from installing Ubuntu or Fedora. Since ArchBang uses a text-based installer, you should know how to use the nano text editor to install ArchBang. Besides, people who use non-US keyboard will have a little problem since there is no tool to change the keyboard layout when you use the live CD. Therefore you will have to use the US-layout when testing ArchBang with the live CD. If you decide to install ArchBang into your hard drive, you can edit the layout is the configure system step, which will take effect after you reboot. Except these little problems, everything else is very well explained. If you can understand simple English, you will be able to install Archbang.

To know more about how to install ArchBang, you can check this article.

Look and Feel

The look of ArchBang has been improved little by little in each release. You can see in the screenshots below, the first one is the default desktop of ArchBang 2011.10, the second one is the default desktop of ArchBang 2012.05. Clearly, we have a more beautiful and cleaner tint2 panel in ArchBang 2012.05. The wallpaper of the new ArchBang is more stylish and well-designed too.

Arch Bang linux
ArchBang 2011.10
Arch Bang review
ArchBang 2012.05
Besides the tint2 panel and the wallpaper, everything seems to be the same as in the former releases of Archbang. Although we have a new GTK theme but it's still a dark theme and honestly, it's still not as beautiful as many other themes you can find on Gnome-look. ( I hope someday ArchBang can come with a light GTK theme by default ). The icon set is still the old boring Gnome icon theme. The conky is still very simple with monotonic lines to show the system performance and the shortcut keys. All in all, in my opinion, you will need to do some decoration works to make your ArchBang desktop look good.

Openbox

The desktop environment of ArchBang is Openbox. With Openbox, you dont have the icons on the desktop to launch applications. Instead you will use the keyboard shortcuts and the Openbox menu. The default keyboard shortcuts are displayed on the conky and you can access the Openbox menu by right-clicking on the desktop screen. You can edit and customize the keybindings and the Openbox menu in the preferences option on the menu. Another option to launch application in ArchBang is to use the dmenu, the hot key to open dmenu is Alt+F3. Except the keybindings and the menu, using Openbox is just like using Windows, you can drag windows around and use the window buttons to maximize/ minimize and close application windows. By default,  you can also close applications by right-clicking on the application tabs on the tint2 panel. But if this feature annoys you, you just need to edit the tint2 config. This option is in the Preferences tab of the Openbox menu.

The most prominent advantage of OpenBox over other desktop environments is that OpenBox is crazily light-weight. As you can check in the screenshot, at idle with no other applications running, ArchBang consumes only 140 MB of RAM. That's why ArchBang will work magnificently on old computers or netbooks.

Applications

ArchBang always tries to be as minimalistic as possible. Here are some important default applications of ArchBang 2012.05:
  - Firefox 12.0 as web browser
  - LXterminal as terminal
  - Leafpad as text editor
  - Epdfview as pdf reader
  - Shotwell as image viewer
  - Deadbeef as music player
  - Mplayer and gnome-player to play videos

Note: Adobe Flash and media codec packages are pre-installed by default in ArchBang.

If you have used ArchBang before, you can see there is a change in the philosophy of ArchBang. The ArchBang team now favors popular and user-friendly applications instead of fancy ones like jumanji, zathura, geeqie .. which used to be put into the former versions of ArchBang. I think it is a wise decision to attract new users  because most people would prefer the applications they are accustomed to.

With very few default applications, users of ArchBang are expected to install more applications to suit their need. Since ArchBang is based on Arch Linux, you can use both the official source of Arch Linux and the AUR to get new applications for your ArchBang box. And in ArchBang, packer is pre-installed by default so installing aur packages is very easy.

Performance

As I have said many times before, ArchBang needs very little hardware resource to run so you dont have to worry about the hardware requirements. You still need to customize and install some additional things to make the system run smoothly (like cpu scaling modules, graphic card drivers, laptop fn keys ...) but  everythings is running well in my experience. Also, in this release of Archbang, you have the mobile broadband installed by default so if you use a 3G USB, just plug USB in and configure the settings. It works right out of the box.

If you got a problem when using ArchBang, you have a lot of places to seek help. ArchBang has a very active and knowledgeable community, on the forum and the irc channel, so you can find the solutions of your problems there. Moreover, since ArchBang is based on Arch Linux, every problem of ArchBang is a problem of Arch Linux. Therefore you can find the answers of your questions in the Arch Linux community too.

Conclusion

There are many opposite opinions about ArchBang Linux, some hate it and some love it. ArchBang is like a Jack-of-all-trades linux distro. It isnt as advanced as Gentoo or Arch Linux and it is certainly not as user-friendly as Ubuntu or Linux Mint. However, ArchBang is still worth-checking out because of many reasons . If you are an unexperienced Linux user who wants to try Arch Linux, you can try ArchBang first to learn how everything works. If you are looking for a light-weight linux distro for a netbook or an old computer, ArchBang will do a very great job. And if you are someone who wants to try something new, just check ArchBang and it may become your new favorite distro.
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