A CrunchBang derivative for the Raspberry Pi? Les Pounder fires up the community created distribution to investigate.
W hen Crunchbang Linux came on to the Linux scene in 2008 it ushered in an era of lightweight Linux distributions for all types of machines that had previously been left unloved. The use of the Openbox window manager, in particular, gave a world mostly full of Gnome and KDE a new and interesting method of user interactivity.
About two years ago, the creator of Crunchbang, Philip Newborough, was approached by the community to produce a version for the Raspberry Pi.
Philip asked the community themselves to produce the distro and while PiBang Linux is not an ‘official’ Crunchbang distro, it has Newborough’s blessing.
PiBang is a distro for those that want a stylish yet grown up Linux operating system for their Raspberry Pi.
It’s also using the standard Raspbian repositories, which enables you to access all of the existing software and projects that are currently whizzing around the community.
The distro uses the Openbox window manager to great effect and the desktop is a minimalist’s dream. To access the menu all you need to do is click on the right mouse button and it appears. The amount of entries on the menu that appears highlights straight away that this a packed distro.
There are two others versions of PiBang available. One uses the i3wm tiling window manager and another that’s designed as a stripped back server operating system. The distro – what ever version you choose – is supplied as an image file (.img) that you can transfer to a blank SD card via good ol’ dd. When you first boot the OS you are asked to create a new user who can be added to the list of sudoers and afterwards you’re free to login to the desktop. From there you’re presented with a configuration screen. In the post install screen you can configure and install extra software, such as Git version control and LAMP services.
Bang! Apps galore PiBang comes with a serious amount of software as standard. Familiar names, such as Gimp and LibreOffice are there, though we think that they’re a little too demanding for the Raspberry Pi. We’d like to swap LibreOffice for Abiword and Gnumeric or even Google Docs, which is also available via the menu.
Elsewhere the software choices made by the PiBang team are quite pragmatic. For example, the standard browser for Raspbian is Midori but PiBang provides the options to install Chromium or Iceweasel if you so wish.
We particularly like the inclusion of Gigolo , which can be found in the network menu under the name Remote Filesystems. Gigolo enables you to use remote drives via a handy graphical interface. We tried it out by SSH’ing into our main box and navigating around the filesystem.
Performance is admirable and compares well against stock Raspbian, with a notably slicker speed boost from Openbox . For best results we’d recommend overclocking the CPU using raspi-config to around 800MHz.
This should help things zip along nicely.
The main barrier to performance is the hardware used in the Raspberry Pi.
Until the true power of the GPU is unleashed via Wayland, all distros will have a speed limit.
We found the PiBang to be a serious distro for those who want to use their Pi as both a hobby and a production tool.
PiBang has firm roots in Raspbian and this provides you with a plethora of great software, should you need to install any more software as PiBang comes with plenty of options. If you find Raspbian too simplistic but still want to have access to its repos, then PiBang should be a definite contender for a space on your Raspberry Pi.