Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bodhi Linux 0.1.5 and the Enlightenment Desktop

20110220 Update: 0.1.6 Released, see below

Bodhi Linux 0.1.5 has been released, and I wanted to get a look at it. I'm glad they are using BitTorrent to distribute the install disk, even though its 380MB size makes distribution easy on the bandwidth.

Enlightenment is one of the most beautiful of the Linux window managers that is being produced. I've used the E-Live and PCLinuxOS-Enlightenment LiveCD distributions in the past, and found them to be both quick and aesthetically pleasing.

And isn't beauty something that the world needs more of? Well, it certainly doesn't hurt.

Bodhi Linux's advertised hardware requirements of a 300MHz CPU, 128MB of RAM and 1.5GB of hard disk space is certainly frugal by the standards of the day. I wish I still had my ca. 1998 350MHz 128MB laptop to try it out, the last time I used it was with Debian "unstable" in 2009 and it worked fine, but I'd like to have seen it with Enlightenment. Olwm was frugal with resources, true, but as a window manager it was computing like it was 1992 all over again.

Some memories are NOT meant to be relived, although I notice that it's still in the Debian respositories, so somebody is willing to maintain it! And, as a second aside, the Enlightenment window manager libraries are available for many distributions, but they seem to me to be for development, not finished products for end-users.

From the Bodhi web site,
The only applications you will find pre-installed on your Bodhi system are Firefox, LXTerminal, Elementary Nautilus, and Synaptic.
Nice. I'm sure they'll come up with a few more defaults as they go along, after all once you're past the 50MB bootable business card and 180MB mini-CD, might as well fill up that CD#1. Maybe just fleshing out a full Nautilus would suffice, no need to skimp so much at that point. This is not Damn Small Linux, after all.

Bhodi Linux boots as a LiveCD, with options for failsafe mode, memtest86 and to just boot the first HD. A nice set of options, especially for those of us who sometimes forget to eject our install media on that first reboot.

After asking for a default system language, Bodhi does something interesting. It provides a list of different color schemes to be run. Let's see later if these themes can be as easily changed once it's running. As it is, they're all quite attractive, pick one and run with it.

Yes, the preview which showed a dozen virtual desktops was not being silly. That's exactly what the user gets after a nicely quick finish to the boot sequence.

I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again: Flash, splash and panache are all well and good, but a system that just boots up and gets out of the way, so I can go on and get work done, is a pleasure.

...being pretty doesn't hurt, either.

The fact that Enlightenment is a set of libraries, rather than a complete and pre-packaged "desktop", becomes clear when looking at the settings and configuration panels, which are reached through the rather interesting "left click on the desktop" menu entry called "Run Everything".

I say incomplete not to be derogatory, but to try to communicate the feeling that there is lots of room to grow here. The different options areas, like "Plugins", allow for a large variety of different places to put things, but it's not at all crowded at this time. This is a Good Thing for a release which is numbered 0.1.5, because it means the developers are already setting their sights on how to allow growth without compromising what they have already built.

The graphics options are the most complete, of course, because of the Enlightenment Desktop.

So now, let's see it get installed to the HD.

The familiar questions are indulged in, Time Zone, keyboard layout, use entire disk.

Then the "Who are you?" question comes up, with password strength testing, this is the first explicit example of Bodhi's Ubuntu roots. It's a good idea, and I'm glad they have it.

The slide-show isn't trying to sell me anything, it's just information about the release schedule and principles by which Bodhi will be run. Good information, politely presented, and I'm glad to see the pointer to, a forum I've frequented myself.

Installation complete, and I get to file a bug-report too! Someone needs to go in and update the text of the "Installation Complete" pop-up window, get the Bodhi name in there. Ah, a sense of community, everyone can contribute, even me.

Hey, didn't I do this Language screen once already? It seems that the install did not carry over the language selection, let's see if it does the second time I boot from the HD....

Perfect. No "select language" or "select theme" screens, just right into the desktop. It still has the "Install Bodhi" link, however, which I'm sure will be worked out as the install procedure is perfected.

The gold on black color scheme is quite nice. Reminds me of the Yamaha FJ-1200 that came one year in a black-gold motif. By  Cromm, what a beautiful bike that was, too bad I was never in a position to buy one, so I settled for red-white.

Firefox opens to a local QuickStart page, an introduction to the features available in what comes with Bodhi by default, as well as how to use the software repositories and the Synaptic package manager.

These are very good things to have presented both as default, and being served from local files so the information is available without a network connection. Good thinking, Bodhi.

Those local HTML pages also include a list of links directly to the Bodhi web site. Let's try installing something, just to see if it is as easy as I think it's going to be. Click on "Get Software" and...

Argh! Hey, you three big Buttons! Get OUT OF THE WAY! Another bug report, which makes two, and that is NOT BAD AT ALL for a 0.1.5 version release!

Software installation begins with updating the package lists from the repositories. I do not expect this is going to be a command-line-only function for long, and it looks like the Bodhi folks have already set themselves up with a spot for a "bodhi-apt-update" script. The spot is ready, just plug it in.

Update: I'm told this is now working, I seem to have caught them between software upgrades. I'll leave this in to show how quickly things can improve and progress in Open Source.

Using the Ubuntu repostiories is a good idea, especially since Bodhi is going to be following the Ubuntu release cycle. Apt handles multiple versions of packages existing in different repositories just fine, and with only a little care the Bodhi repository versions will remain at the top of apt's list.

My first try, with Solitare, did not work. The installation URL graphics are not obvious, the buttons need to be fixed, as you can see here they just look like white vertical bars. So I tried installing another package, the Nikhila Application Set, and it successfully launched the installer.

Being that I've been using Debian a long time, I recognize the next, maybe somewhat frightening, pop-up as a normal kind of alert from the Apt package management system. I believe this could be avoided by scripting the initial repository synchronization to both update the repository lists and do the initial upgrade of all installed packages at that time, or by having the user complete the process himself with

$ sudo apt-get update ; sudo apt-get upgrade

...rather than just updating the list.

On the list of unauthenticated packages are vlc, audio and video utilities, and LibreOffice. A respectable suite of applications to get people working.

Sure enough, the install completed successfully and the packages are available to run. There were a couple of minor library files that were not available during the update, but that's to be expected. Bodhi Linux is a work in progress, and it's important to remember that it can only get better from here.

The great thing about developing a Linux distribution is that the building blocks, the utilities and applications themselves, are already built and being continuously tested and evolved by millions of people all over the world. The work of a distribution is not to "re-invent the wheel" but to put a suite of materials together in a way that is both pleasing and functional.

The Principle of Least Astonishment is an excellent guideline for such projects. As recorded in that ancient and venerable tome, The Tao of Programming:
"A program should follow the Law of Least Astonishment. What is this law? It is simply that the program should always respond to the user in the way that astonishes him least."
Bodhi Linux is clearly following that principle, using the tools of Enlightenment and repositories of Ubuntu. This will be a fun, and pleasant, release to watch. Thank you, Bodhi Linux for the opportunity to experience your work.

Update 20110220:

Bodhi 0.1.6 has been released, and from the changes I see I'd say they are putting polish on this distribution very quickly. I'll wait either a few development releases, or until a full release is done before making another full comment, but don't wait for it yourself. Get 0.1.6 and try it out.


  1. Anonymous13/2/11 14:28

    I was a little suspect at the inclusion of Nautilus Elementary, until I spotted that full Nautilus has a tendency to bring most of the rest of GNOME with it. Nautilus Elementary does work with gvfs, so the "connect to server" dialogue can be restored. I found with about 150MB of packages I had a fairly full featured desktop all running on a Duron 900MHz machine with 512MB of RAM. I like that they have gone with Network Manager too, and Enlightenment E17 is excellent. It's my new low resource desktop of choice. It is a bit optimistic to run it on the absolute minimum spec (I tried - it works, but there is a lot of swapping of the 128MB once you have some apps open).

  2. Then keeping it "elementary" is a good idea. The Bodhi philosophy of keeping it as simple as possible, but not simpler, seems a good way. I ought to take my own advice and, in effect, get out of _their_ way. :^)

    Let's see where they take it.

  3. Anonymous14/2/11 06:55

    Great review! I tried Bodhi couple weeks ago, now I`ll give it a try again. Thank for very interesting stuff, and write more again, Curt-at!

  4. Ray Charles15/2/11 11:02

    Very nice review. thanks
    testing bodhi now :D

  5. Curt, Thnx for the great review. I have used DSL before, but Bodhi w/ Enlightenment sounds much better.

  6. I think keeping in mind the target audience for this distro is important. It is not aimed at beginners. As a power user who wants to use enlightenment I appreciate the fact that the iso is only 380mb in size and the only apps are Firefox, Synaptic and Terminal.

    If there is one thing true about power users, is we each adopt our own personal set of tools. So here is a blazingly fast, minimalistic Linux that I can add just what I want. Instead of starting out slow and bloated with 30 servies running and silly things like 5 different terminals, 4 calculators, and 6 different text editors.

  7. Anonymous19/2/11 23:10

    I don't like it. Has only firefox. Others one must instal alone. Maybe installations will be compatible maybe not. Updates are often a problem. mp3, flash, java ... . I prefer other distros.

  8. Anonymous21/2/11 08:11

    A few corrections to the above comment:

    - The Bodhi disk has Synaptic, so you do not "must install alone"

    - All my "software page" installations worked. I'm sure software is tested before made available there.

    - Updates are done more than once a week. If it were some problem, it got fixed quickly. That may happen, as its an RC.

    - mp3, flash, java and other proprietary stuff cannot be freely distributed in all countries. Like Ubuntu and Fedora, Bodhi do also provide the "how and to" its users to download and use those tools.

    As you see, its not that bad...

    Linux has lots of choice because its users have lots of preferences.

    Its absolutely normal that you prefer other distros, but that's not for the reasons you mentioned.

  9. I did the install on a lappy FS Amilo and it works great
    It's all recognized, like in Ubuntu for that matter.
    If Ubuntu works on your machine, then this will be amazingly fast.
    the Enlightenment compiz, named Ecomorph, although in it's development and would say alpha state, is also working and providing some really cool effects, like cube, wall expo, wobly windows, ring and other alt-tab 'view open programs' replacements, that look cooler - all in all - the perfect small, lightweight, astoundingly lookin' distro!

    Thanks for making it guys!

  10. Anonymous16/9/11 12:37

    This little OS is Amazing!!!.
    I just installed it on a 900mhz laptop with 256 of ram and installed a lot of stuff, and it works really well on the older laptops and give`s them a new lease of life.
    So all i would like to say it`as a great OS and cant wait to see if they put out an LTS version??
    Cause this Distro Rocks!!!

    keep up the great work guy`s :)

  11. Anonymous4/1/12 20:31

    Just installed this as a second OS on a system for a developmentally disabled person to use...did not come with Firefox but a simple install of Firefox, flash, and java...put it on a small 10 gig partition and she is good to go without endagering the machines main os...very nice indeed, excellent graphical layout for the size.

  12. BodhiLinux at last... Linux in the hand of Mr. Nobody.
    All is no perfect (translation for french guy like me but BL works fine on my computer but i replace E17 (i don't like it) by XFCE. That's wonderful...
    Next step... based on debian will be great !

    Un grand merci à toute l'équipe.