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informative review - bunsenlabs helium


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#1 OFFLINE   saturnian

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Posted 07 September 2018 - 06:14 AM

Good info here about Openbox and BunsenLabs Helium: https://www.ordinate...s-helium-review

#2 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 07 September 2018 - 08:34 AM

Is it just me or do each of these variations of Debian exist to present a polished DE or Window Manager to the user? We have GNOME (Ubuntu and Debian) Cinnamon (Linux Mint) Xfce (MX-17, Xubuntu) KDE (Kubuntu) Openbox (Bunsenlabs) LXDE (Lubuntu) LXQt (Sparky) and many others I haven't mentioned. Some distros feature more than one DE or WM, it's true. But each one is configured and polished from the vanilla code.
Don't get me wrong. This can be a good thing. It is nice to see what can be done without struggling with all the config files and GUI management.
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#3 OFFLINE   saturnian

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Posted 11 September 2018 - 09:52 PM

One thing I like about distros like BunsenLabs and SalentOS that ship with Openbox is that I can learn things that I can use in my own Openbox setups (in Debian and in Arch).

As a result of some of the things mentioned by the author of that piece, I ended up making some changes to my Openbox menu, in Debian Stretch as well as in Arch. The author kept going on about the lack of a "dynamic" applications menu in BunsenLabs; I normally use only a "static" Openbox menu, edited myself using obmenu or by editing the menu.xml file. For a "dynamic" menu, Openbox users can use obmenu-generator, and for BunsenLabs users, there's bl-obmenu-generator. I went a different route and added the LXDE Applications menu into the Openbox menu, which is something I've seen in SalentOS. That gave me a "dynamic" Applications menu right there in the "static" Openbox menu.

The author also wrote about dmenu:

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dmenu on the other hand is a much more visually impressive tool in its elegance.

This tool creates a search box on the left side with a horizontal sorted list to the right; as the user starts typing in the box, the list of possible matches from the list is narrowed down and updated. Unfortunately there isn't a default keybinding to run this program and it doesn't appear in the standard static menu or in the default configuration of bl-obmenu-generator, so in either case users will have to add it to one of these menus and/or create a keybind for it.


I tried dmenu, and I like it a lot. I created a keybinding for dmenu so that the Super(WinKey)+Space keystroke starts it. It's like other keyboard-driven app launchers in that search results are narrowed down with each character you type; normally, I don't have to type more than the first three characters of an app's name to be able to launch that app.

Shots below, showing my Openbox setup in Arch Linux, first showing the LXDE Applications menu that I've added, and second with dmenu in action (at the bottom of the screen) (I typed "thu" for Thunar):

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Anyway, nicely done review of BunsenLabs Helium. I haven't updated to it yet; still hanging with the Jessie-based BunsenLabs Deuterium, partly because I love the defualt black-gray theming, which reminds me of CrunchBang. Although the blue-ish Helium defaults look okay, too. Jessie is the current "oldstable"; I figure Deuterium will be fine to use until sometime in 2020.

Here's how the default desktop looked with Hydrogen and Deuterium:

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And now with Helium:

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#4 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 12 September 2018 - 08:07 AM

Interesting to see what can be done by an experienced Openbox user. In my view, the key thing with these lighter weight WMs is to choose one you like, stick with it and after a while configuring it will be second nature - or at least you'll have a good feel for it.
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#5 OFFLINE   Hedon James

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Posted 12 September 2018 - 09:55 AM

I agree with Ray (again? there's a shock?!)  I just didn't "get" Openbox, but in hindsight, it was because everytime I tried it out, it was a default configuration....a blank grey screen with nothing to click on.  I had to accidentally discover that a right click at least produced a menu.  It wasn't a menu I was familiar with...and missing MOST of the applications on my system, but I could open a terminal and use the cli to start programs; usually the PCManFM file manager, which has a bookmarked category for applications.  But in the absence of a finished product to demonstrate it's features and benefits, I just didn't understand who could possibly be productive with the Openbox desktop.

Little did I know that the whole key to Openbox productivity is, in fact, the menu, and the ability to hammer it into EXACTLY what you want!  I had long ago settled on LXDE as my preferred desktop, and still think it is the BEST DE in Linux (for me).  (my LXQt quest is only because I don't see a future with LXDE and the gtk2 toolkit it is based on; but TODAY, LXDE is much more malleable than LXQt, but I digress).  The A-HA! moment for me was the installation of ArchBang in a VM, which I viewed as a sort of litmus test to see if I could installed Arch from scratch, despite it's challenging reputation.  As soon as I had it installed, the mission changed from my original intent to a full exploration of the ArchBang Openbox configuration.  My initial reaction was that THIS Openbox made sense...why didn't other distros do the same?

It was at this precise moment that Saturn posted a screenshot of his Fluxbox desktop that caught my eye, that I believed to be Openbox until he informed me it wasn't.  I had heard of Fluxbox, but didn't really know much about it, and couldn't find many distros that showcased it.  So I started researching Flux and discovered the tabbed windows feature...I didn't even know such a feature existed ANYWHERE, but I immediately wanted it!  This feature could change my entire workflow for the better!  (And it has!)  I immediately installed Fluxbox and became fixated on customizing my menu to suit my preferences.  I fell in love with Flux.  Openbox opened my eyes, but Fluxbox won my heart.  I experimented with "naked" Box sessions, autostarting the components I wanted from within the Box configs, but soon realized that I was autostarting most of the LXDE components as a WM "skin".  Once I realized this, I just decided to use LXDE, but with the Box WMs managing my LXDE sessions.  Again, a perfect match!

Although I was quite satisfied with LXDE-Fluxbox, and LXDE-Openbox, I thought about how I was satisfied with Openbox until Saturn introduced me to Fluxbox.  I was thrilled with Fluxbox, but was there an even BETTER fit out there that I just hadn't discovered yet?  While the tabbed windows feature is pretty rare, I learned it is in Fluxbox, PekWM, some other obscure WMs (perhaps JWM or TWM, etc...) and used to be in KWin until deprecated.  Tried them all, and Fluxbox and PekWM really stood out to me, head and shoulders above the rest.  I've hammered the menus and configs of all 3 to a state that is comfortable and "fluid" for me.  They're actually VERY similar, with a slightly different feature set; but vastly different theming capabilities.  I find myself in Fluxbox about 90% of the time, PekWM the remaining 10%, but comfortable in Openbox on those rare occassions when I'm in the mood for something different.  I use Openbox to manage my LXDE-based KODI box, as I just don't need to tab windows on that machine.  That machine usually just "sits there" serving content; when I need to actually use it for something, it's for 1 task/job and it's only a right click/enter or "ctrl+m" (menu) enter away.

The upshot of all this is that I learned the goal of a DE is to present a reasonably polished finished product for the end user, meant to be tweaked for preferences; whereas the Box WMs are meant to be STARTING POINTS, to be built from the ground up in a completely 100% customized fashion.  Distros like CrunchBang(rip), ArchBang, BunsenLabs, and Sparky (openbox) are great for demonstrating what a polished WM environment can be.  When you see something you really like, you can switch to their distro, or just "borrow" the config for your own custom build!

I think I would've warmed up to these WMs sooner if I had understood that they were "lumps of clay", not the kiln-fired statue.  JMO...

#6 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 12 September 2018 - 04:02 PM

I think that a discussion like this really shows the beauty of Linux, in that you can get as down and dirty as you want with your desktop, or you can just go with the defaults if that is what floats your boat. Hedon James really has got into the minimalist and lightweight culture.
I never really have; Xfce has been as lightweight as I've needed for old hardware. Recently I've had all kinds of horsepower and RAM on my machines so I don't mind cranking up GNOME3 or Cinnamon. Even those bloatmeister desktops are pretty lightweight when compared to Windows. I'm more a 3D-effect, "wobbly windows" type of user I guess.

Edited by raymac46, 12 September 2018 - 04:05 PM.

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#7 OFFLINE   Hedon James

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Posted 12 September 2018 - 04:41 PM

I'd say I'm more of a lightweight fan than a minimalist fan.  I like some bling, but only to an extent.  LXDE is the lowest level of "lightweight" that I am comfortable with, before I start sacrificing features and/or usability.  Just as feature-ful as XFCE, but lighter.  Heavier than Enlightenment or naked 'Box sessions, but more feature-ful.  Sweet spot for me...

I've got a frankenputer with AMD FX-6200, discrete ATI Radeon 6500(?), and 16GB RAM and my main machine is a frankenputer with i7-4770, onboard graphics, and 16GB RAM.  Both are BEASTS that easily handle everything I have thrown at them...don't even break a sweat.  I could easily handle Unity, Gnome, or KDE with no worries...but I'm frugal with the CPU cycles because I get a certain OCD satisfaction re-allocating CPU cycles FROM desktop rendering TO software/task crunching.  My personal philosophy is to tailor my desktop environment to the lowest common denominator, which is probably my old laptop with an A6 AMD (can't remember the model).  If my desktop runs okay on crappy hardware, it will just SCREAM on the good stuff...which allows those extra CPU cycles to concentrate on project/problem solving.  My frankenputers just chew them up, spit them out, and ask for seconds!

#8 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 12 September 2018 - 06:00 PM

I'm sure I could get the desktop to run faster with a lighter weight DE but honestly, I got such a boost in performance with an SSD and broadband Internet that I never worried about it further. I am not doing a lot of number crunching or video rendering.
My Linux rig has an A8-5600K and R7 360 GPU - in the same ballpark with your FX machine.
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#9 OFFLINE   saturnian

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Posted 12 September 2018 - 08:17 PM

The thing to keep in mind about Openbox and Fluxbox is that you can reuse your config files. If you're running a distro like BunsenLabs you can make copies of the config files and use them to help you with a "stock" Openbox installation with Debian, for example. I like to back up everything under ~/.config/openbox, but some other files as well.

So even if I'm starting out with a blank Openbox desktop, "stock" like it comes in Debian, it's pretty easy to get up and running with it -- I simply use a copied menu.xml file, for example, and maybe I have to edit it a little bit but it usually takes only a few minutes to get that customized menu set up.

Starting with a "stock" Openbox, I think it takes about the same time for me to get it tweaked to taste as it takes me to do the same with Xfce, mainly because of the copied config files I always use. I'm very torn about which lightweight setup I like best between Openbox and Xfce. Both are great. With Openbox, I like to use some apps from Xfce and LXDE.

Another thing, definitely read man fluxbox, it tells you almost all you need to know about that WM. I think that manpage is the best resource for Fluxbox.




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