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

The Linux Mint Fluxbox experience

So what do I think of all of this?

Well, I’ve been using this on my laptop for a week now, and to be honest, I’m probably going to keep using it on this laptop, unless some glaring show-stopper that is as-yet unseen rears its ugly head.

So far it’s been stable, faster than my prior setup (which was Linux Mint 8 Main Edition running Fluxbox which I had installed and configured myself), and packaged in a way I find pleasing.

So let’s break this down a little bit.


Whenever I read a review of a Linux distro, the very first thing I’m looking for is “what did they NOT like?”, because it gives me the instantaneous enumeration of things that can tell me if there are any show-stoppers for me, without wasting any time. So I’m doing the “Cons” first.

I don’t really have much to complain about. I went into this knowing that as a Fluxbox-centric distro, more attention was paid to efficiency of resource-use and speed than full functionality and a long feature list. As such, I have been utilizing Linux Mint 8 Fluxbox CE with a much greater tolerance for some things than I’d ordinarily be exercising.

I also realize that the choices made in terms of what apps were included are largely subjective and a matter of personal preference. I mean, when it comes down to it, the apps I prefer for everyday use are really only a sudo apt-get install away, right? So I can’t really get that upset about what this release includes out-of-the-box.

That said, as usual, I have some snarky comments about a few things, which you can take or leave. It’s all a matter of opinion, after all. 🙂

Sylpheed, as I had mentioned, is the default mail client, which I find to be a poor choice. I’ve used Sylpheed in the past, and while it’s relatively stable and handles basic sending and receiving and reading of emails to a simple extent, I find that it’s not really that much lighter than the far more ubiquitous Mozilla Thunderbird, and it has one particular issue that I find makes it a FAIL in my book every time I’ve tried it.

In this screenshot, you can see the Sylpheed address book (click for the full size image):

Nice, simple, clean. But those columns are it. You can import your address book from CSV or LDIF, but the only fields that make it are the ones you see. Name. Email address. No phone number. No street address.

And no way to add those fields/columns. I realize that this is an email address book, but come on… who DOESN’T use their primary mail client address book to store other info? At least give me a phone number field, guys!

I realize that my beef here isn’t with the Linux Mint 8 Fluxbox CE release, but the Sylpheed developers, but as this is still an issue for me, I don’t like Sylpheed being the default mail client. I installed Thunderbird, so problem solved.

See? I really can’t complain that much. About ten seconds after realizing that Sylpheed was still a big FAIL for me, I had a better option already installed and ready for me to configure to my mail accounts.

The only other thing I ran into was related to the fact that I have this installed on my laptop. Because Linux Mint 8 Fluxbox CE was intended to minimize settings managers and background daemons in the interest of better resource management, no power management system was included out-of-the-box, which caused me some minor strife on my laptop because of things like lid closing and actions involving AC versus battery power.

As a workaround, and at Kendall’s suggestion on the Linux Mint Fluxbox CE forum, I installed the xfce4-power-manager and added a command to my Fluxbox startup to launch the daemon for it to get around some of this behavior. This was a satisfactory workaround for me, because again, I get what they’re trying to do here, and it’s a simple enough resolution. As I mentioned in the forum thread in which I brought this up, had I been evaluating this release on a desktop PC, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the lack of any power management options.

Also related to running this release on a laptop was a lack of configuration available for my touchpad, which necessitated my re-implementing a solution I had initially worked out for running Fluxbox on Ubuntu on this same laptop. In Ubuntu and Linux Mint Main Edition, I still find that to be unsatisfactory, since both of those are full-featured distros and having to go through these kinds of gymnastics to do such a simple thing really annoys the crap out of me.

However, again, knowing what the point of the Fluxbox CE release happens to be, here I’m less concerned, and my solution works well enough.


You knew I was going to say nice stuff too, right?

Now that I have my whining and complaining about minutiae out of the way, I have to say, I really like this release. While I would have chosen a few different default apps had I been packaging a Mint-based Fluxbox distro of my own, that’s still a matter of opinion, and you’ll never please everyone — especially in the Linux community.

The underlying stability and speed are well within what I would expect out of a Fluxbox-centric distro, and it still has the cohesiveness and “completeness” that I have come to expect out of something called “Linux Mint”.

For my complaining about apps, I do like some of the choices.

Thunar is a file manager I can really get behind… it’s very responsive and lightweight, and I’ve been using it anyway for quite some time. If I had my way on two things about Thunar, it’d be

1. Tabs
2. An option to disable the delete confirmation dialog and bypass the “Trash” entirely

Aside from that, I really like Thunar, and I’ll probably continue using it, at least until someone forks it and adds those two features.

I spend a lot of time in text editors — as a Fluxbox user, can you really blame me? — and Mousepad is a fine, lightweight option for this basic function. Prior to this, in Linux Mint 8 Main Edition, I was using the default there (which is Leafpad). Mousepad is basically a clone of Leafpad as far as I can tell (unless it’s the other way around… I don’t really know which came first), and I really like it as far as light/simple graphical text editors go.

LXTerminal is a fine terminal, and though one of the first things I did here was install aterm, I like that a full-featured — but still lightweight — terminal app was included. LXTerminal was a great choice for that, and while aterm is still my favorite, I am going to make a point to use LXTerminal for a bit because I like the look of it, and it seems very flexible without a lot of overhead.

Also impressive is this release’s ability to handle wireless on my laptop without any fuss, and I find that VolWheel is a nice little applet to manage sound. Normally I install WMix and run it in the slit with my other dockapps, but since VolWheel is taking up that functionality pretty well, I have skipped that part of my usual setup and just settled on the default. Those of you who have read some of my other rants here will know that it’s unusual for snarky old me to use the default anything, so that’s saying something.

Fluxbox mintConfig, while not quite as useful to me as a text-editor-Fluxbox-config kind of guy, is still something I can really appreciate. Had something like this been around back when I was first learning Fluxbox, I would have felt a LOT less overwhelmed by the myriad of little things that needed tweaking. The fact that this includes configuration options for a variety of different things all in one place — Thunar File Manager settings, Print Manager, Xscreensaver settings, and Bluetooth, just to name a few — makes this release feel like a full, cohesive package, not just a collection of individual apps and applets cobbled together from a variety of other desktops and environments.

After all, Fluxbox itself is a very simple, unassuming, single-purposed window manager. It isn’t a desktop environment, it isn’t an operating system in and of itself, and by itself contains really nothing to manage an entire computer. It simply provides an environment in which most users utilize other apps to fulfill those tasks.

So, accomplishing any level of cohesiveness and interoperability with that as the starting point is to be commended, and I for one found this release to succeed on all levels in that respect.

As I had mentioned earlier, I will be using this release on this laptop going forward. I really like it, and in spite of the clean configuration, the Linux Mint cohesiveness, and thematic packaging, I still find Linux Mint 8 Community Edition to be a flexible, malleable, customizable and usable distro.

I leave you with a quick screenshot of what my Linux Mint 8 Fluxbox CE laptop looks like after I spent a week kicking the tires:

With an environment this fast, stable and customizable, how can anyone go wrong?

Great job on this one! I look forward to Linux Mint 9 Fluxbox CE! Cheers!

02/25/2010 EDIT:
I can’t believe I published this review of a major distro release without touching on a couple of key areas. However, when everything works as well as Linux Mint 8 Fluxbox CE, you kind of forget about some specifics, so forgive me while I tack on a couple of items to the end here!

Flash and Multimedia

As one might expect from a Mint release, Flash is configured out of the box and works flawlessly without any additional steps by the end user. In addition to this, other multimedia that I tested also worked fine, including MP3, OGG, and WAV for audio, and MPEG, AVI, and even WMV for video.

ACPI Functions

One rough area I forgot to mention in my “Cons” section above was (you guessed it) problems with suspend/hibernate.

In this release, if you select “Quit” from the menu, it brings up a dialog with a number of options, including “Log out”, “Shut down”, “Restart”, “Suspend”, “Hibernate” and “Shutdown”.

“Restart”, “Log out”, “Hibernate” and “Shutdown” all work flawlessly on my laptop, but “Suspend” is basically a no-go. It blacks the screen and the power button LED on my laptop goes into a slow pulsing mode, but it is impossible to recover from without holding the button down and doing a full, cold boot.

Your mileage may vary of course. Thanks for reading!

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.


      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/ %F and paste the following into said file:

    begin file
    # 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

    # tell bash that lists are terminated with a hard return

    # 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
    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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