It’s the end of an era for an enthusiastic and loyal group of Linux users who benefited from Corenomial’s unique Debian mixture known as Crunchbang Linux (abbreviated #!). When Crunchbang was first started, it filled a much-needed gap for older computers by adopting for the desktop only the Openbox window manager without the other features of a “full” desktop environment. Originally using a minimal Ubuntu base and later switching to a Debian base, Crunchbang was – at first anyway – specifically targeted to users of old, modest hardware that would have been bogged down under the weight of the popular desktop environments of the time, Gnome and KDE. There was Xfce for older hardware too, a full desktop environment, kinda-sorta like “Gnome Lite” at the time. Using only a window manager was a rare and gutsy experiment to try when Corenomial first introduced Crunchbang, but it was Crunchbang that taught many users that – guess what – you don’t really need a full desktop environment to have an awesome point-and-click desktop experience! You can save your computer’s resources for applications instead of “eye candy.” Dark and almost sinister looking, the Crunchbang desktop allowed even beginners to adequately master basic desktop Linux while having an intimidating super-techno-geeky looking desktop to impress their technophobic, Ubuntu and Mepis using friends who were terrified to even gaze upon a terminal interface. Much more impressive than that old spinning cube trick that impressed so many kids for whom having a dazzling desktop was at least as important as what you might actually use the computer for.
But today Xfce is so much more than “Gnome Lite.” And some wonderful new players have joined the game now. LXDE, RazorQt, Enlightenment, and others. These are full desktop environments rich with features that in some instances rival the “big old dogs” that have dominated the Linux desktop for years. For a little while Corenomial included several Xfce features in Crunchbang that gave it pizazz without adding the “bloat” that brought so many users to Crunchbang from other distros. His improvements and default settings taught the Linux community to focus on what matters – performance, good stewardship of resources, and making the most of what our computers offer. There have been other distros built on window managers without a “full desktop environment,” like Puppy and AntiX, but it was Crunchbang more than any of the others that provided an example of just what can be done with “just” a window manager.
Loyal users and admirers of Crunchbang will maintain the forums and community spirit of the distro, but the chief of the project, who I would call “Cap’n Crunch” if I had earned the right to be so informal with such a great developer, has come to feel that with the incredible advances of the ultralight desktop environments and other great Debian mixtures, the gap that Crunchbang used to fill no longer exists. I never used Crunchbang beyond installing it and playing with it intermittently on an ancient old relic, and never took part in it’s community. Now that this landmark distro is disappearing, I’m getting a sense that I missed out on something really wonderful. Long live Corenomial and long live the loyalty of the Crunchbang community. Read Corenomial’s announcement here.