Linux Mint 8 Fluxbox CE review: Lightweight, fast, surprisingly cohesive

As I mentioned on February 12th, the long-awaited Fluxbox Community Edition of Linux Mint has been released, and I’ve had the opportunity to install it on my laptop to give it a whirl.

I promised @Kendall — the man who picked up the Linux Mint Fluxbox CE torch and ran with it to keep this project alive — a review, so here goes!

Overview

Linux Mint 8 Fluxbox Community Edition is based on Linux Mint 8 Main Edition, the 2.6.31 Linux kernel, and Fluxbox 1.1.1. As a longtime Fluxbox user and a recent enthusiast of Linux Mint, I was pretty excited that there was going to be a Fluxbox Community Edition based on the most recent Mint release, because to me it seemed like the best of both worlds — the streamlined, clean “cohesiveness” I’ve come to enjoy in Linux Mint, plus the fast, highly customizable Fluxbox that I tend to install on my own anyway, regardless of what default desktop or window manager is included in any distro I’m using.

And while I’m perfectly capable of getting Fluxbox to work on top of Ubuntu and Linux Mint alike, I really wanted to see what Mint would be like when implemented with Fluxbox as its centerpiece, as a distro, and I can say, I haven’t been let down.

So, down to brass tacks, as it were, I have Linux Mint 8 Fluxbox CE installed on my five year old Toshiba Satellite A75, which seemed to be an excellent test bed for a distro release designed to be optimized for limited resources.

The main features and apps, screenshots included

I’ve taken a number of screenshots immediately post-install so I can show readers what things look like before I tweak and customize things to the way I like them. Any of my thumbnails below can be clicked on for the full-size version.

I’m going to go over what the main items are first, and I’ll express my thoughts on them and their implementation after.

Anyone reading this review is probably already a Fluxbox user, and as such probably doesn’t need an A to Z rundown of the installation process in this release. I’ll sum that part up by simply saying that the Linux Mint 8 Fluxbox CE installation process runs just like the default Linux Mint 8 Main Edition install, using the Ubiquity installer with all the same options as Ubuntu and regular Mint.

Once installed, after a reboot, the user is greeted by a lightweight and Mint-themed SLiM login manager.

Once logged in, this is the default desktop:

Same wallpaper and shiki theme from the Linux Mint 8 Main Edition, and I found it to be aesthetically pleasing and quite clean.

Upon login, the user is greeted by a welcome screen familiar to those who have used Linux Mint 8 Main Edition:

The default menu is a very simple, basic Fluxbox menu, with commonly used items at the top — “Home”, which launches the default file manager (which I’ll get to in a minute), “Web Browser”, which launches the default browser, and several other menu options for other basic things — and categorized, dynamic menus below a separator. Under the bottommost of these, the “System” menu, users will find the Fluxbox menu, which Fluxbox users will find familiar and useful for configuring their window manager via Fluxbox’s default options.

Astute observers will note the presence of VolWheel in the notification tray, a basic volume control and sound manager, as well as the GNOME NetworkManager Applet.

This release doesn’t have GNOME installed, preferring instead a mix of lighter weight, faster applications drawn largely from Xfce and LXDE. As such, here we have Thunar as the default file manager:

For the default terminal, I found that LXTerminal had been selected for this role:

Sylpheed is the default mail client:

We have Pidgin for instant messaging:

OpenOffice.org 3.1.1 is also included:

And Xfce’s Mousepad text editor is installed:

In addition to these and other default applications for various functions, Linux Mint 8 Fluxbox CE also includes the very useful MintInstall, and (unique to the Mint Fluxbox Edition), mintConfig:

MintConfig is a nifty everything-in-one-place graphical control panel for this environment, which conveniently puts everything together for you. I still tend to prefer configuring my Fluxbox by hand, editing the files with a text editor, but if you’re not that sort, this release saw fit to make life a little easier on some of you by including a number of well-established graphical tools to manage your Fluxbox menu and keybindings and other settings. They’re not really my cup of tea, but I have used them and they certainly seem to work fine in this implementation.

Next Page: The Linux Mint Fluxbox experience, Cons and Pros

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22 thoughts on “Linux Mint 8 Fluxbox CE review: Lightweight, fast, surprisingly cohesive

  1. You may have had a good experience with this distro installed, but it is horrible as a live cd. It could be the worst distro I have ever used.
    I was anticipating a good experience but I was totally disappointed. It took almost 30 minutes to load and when it did apps were less than cooperative.
    Even though the MD5 matched I thought perhaps it was a bad iso burn. I downloaded it again and burned it again using K3b.
    The same results. It just wasn’t worth the effort when there are so many distros better than Mint anyway. I then tried both burns on 2 other computers with the same results.
    This was my experience. Can’t speak for anyone else.

    • 30 minutes to boot Mint fluxbox? Some mistake here I’m afraid. You don’t supply any details of the hardware involved, but either it is broken or the CD you are using is. Or maybe some obscure networking thing if a network is involved. No problems here with a ThinkPad R51 or a generic desktop with 2.8GHz Celeron. You are not by any chance a Mint-hater with an axe to grind?

      • Not a mint hater at all. I was prepared to like it. If you read my comments I tried it on multiple computers and burned the iso more than once.
        I am an experienced Linux user so I don’t make these comments lightly. There has to be room for criticism, or how can a distro grow.
        I am glad others are having good luck. I am just relating my experience.

        • This is actually very possible. there’s been a lot of problems on some machines with some versions of ubuntu and derivitaves taking forever to boot. the problem i’m meaning are when the boot process stays at some point, can’t remember exactly what it was something about crypto discs i think for a very very long time. some people have even said it takes an hour or more. but also, when it happens, usually if you add noapic nolapic to the boot options it’ll boot fine.

  2. Very nice review indeed, thumbs up for the particularity :) I would like to suggest to you to try Crunchbang, as I noticed you’re quite a fan of minimalistic *box wm-s – it’s using openbox and in my opinion, is one, if not the one best distro, using *box as default window manager.


    • Very nice review indeed, thumbs up for the particularity I would like to suggest to you to try Crunchbang, as I noticed you’re quite a fan of minimalistic *box wm-s – it’s using openbox and in my opinion, is one, if not the one best distro, using *box as default window manager.

      Thanks!

      Crunchbang is on my short list of distros to try, and OpenBox is the primary reason for it.

  3. I’ve got it on one of my (now infamous) laptops. The initial experience was actually bad: for some reason, the hard drive really did *not* like the filesystem (ext4, I think, but it may have been ext3). When I reinstalled with ReiserFS, the problems cleared right up.

    There are several things I like about it, but also a few things with which I am less than happy. Of course, I’m not staying in Fluxbox, and SLiM is set up on the assumption that you’re only going to be using Fluxbox (or at least you’ll be defaulting to Fluxbox), which really isn’t unrealistic, considering it’s a community release.

  4. Nice review. Almost exactly mirrors my experience. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks and the only negative so far is Sylpheed. I think I’ll follow your experience and go back to Thunderbird. I’m using a netbook and haven’t had any problems with it. It reminds me a bit of Crunchbang but I like Mint Fluxbox better — probably a matter of finding the choices the developers made match my preferences more closely.


    • Nice review.

      Thanks, Mark. :)


      Almost exactly mirrors my experience. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks and the only negative so far is Sylpheed. I think I’ll follow your experience and go back to Thunderbird. I’m using a netbook and haven’t had any problems with it.

      Yeah, I keep trying Sylpheed, but there are lots of little things that bug me about it, and the address book just drives me nuts.

      If you’re using a netbook, depending on the hardware, Thunderbird might be a slow, bloated mess for you. On a netbook, I’d be tempted to just go with webmail and dispense with a local mail client entirely.

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  6. Thanks for an interesting review.

    I’ve been using Mint KDE for a while on my laptop, but want to try something a bit lighter for my netbook (Acer Aspire One). This seems to fit the bill, so I intend to grab a copy and have a play.

    The netbook is currently dual booting OpenSUSE 11.2 and XP. It will be interesting to compare this version of Mint with SUSE. Version 11.2 runs surprisingly well on such modest hardware, although some minor lag kicks in with desktop effects enabled.

    I’m really pleased with OpenSUSE, so this version of Mint will have to be very good to convince me to hop over to it.

  7. RE: Thunar: “2. An option to disable the delete confirmation dialog…”

    Mine doesn’t do this, so you must be able to configure it — I must have done it too long ago to remember..

    But I do know how to:

    … bypass the “Trash” entirely

    Make a custom action called “Destroy”; have it call ~/bin/thunar-destroy.sh %F and paste the following into said file:

    begin file
    =========
    #!/bin/bash
    # a script for thunar custom action
    # destroys all selected files and folders

    # terminate each list entry with a hard return
    TERMLIST=`echo “$@” | sed ‘s/ \//\n\//g’`

    # Remember the old list/string terminator
    OLDIFS=$IFS

    # tell bash that lists are terminated with a hard return
    IFS=$’\n’

    # confirm
    zenity –question –ok-label=Destroy! –cancel-label=Preserve! –title=”ARE YOU SURE?” –text=”$TERMLIST\n will be DESTROYED!\n\nThis cannot be undone!” &&

    # DESTROY!
    #with progress whizzy for long processes
    (for i in $TERMLIST; do
    sudo rm -r “$i”
    done) | zenity –progress –auto-close –auto-kill –pulsate –text=”WORKING…”

    # Restore old list terminator
    IFS=$OLDIFS
    =========
    end file

    Beware that the above may have linebreaks inserted by the comments software. Just the stuff between the equal signs.

    Make the file executable, and you should now be able to destroy files.

    Remove the “sudo” if you don’t have your permissions as lax as mine. You’ll need to install zenity.

    m a r

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  9. I installed Opera and it does not show on the menu.What is the easiest way to create a short cut in the menu for newly installed apps or programs in Mint Fluxbox ? am I going to have the same problem with LXDE?

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  12. Just out of curiosity: What is the font used in the right-click menu in the screenshot of your desktop (after you spent a week kicking the tires)? Looks good!

    • In the menu itself, I’m not sure what that font is. It’s part of the Shiki-wise Fluxbox theme that comes with Mint 8 Fluxbox CE. I don’t actually know which font that sets for the menu though.

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