Crunchbang and Archbang

Since I stepped up to a slightly more modern computer, I have shifted the majority of my distro-hopping expeditions to virtual machines. Having two cores means I can usually still meddle in other matters while watching an ISO boot in Qemu. And it saves a few steps in burning a CD, rebooting, tinkering with the live environment, then returning to an installed system.

But let’s face it: Emulated systems just aren’t anywhere near as fun as the real thing. Distro-hopping in a virtual machine is like drinking sugar-free cola … where’s the fun in that? And it tastes strange too.

So here are two real-life systems running live CDs, forming an unusual pair — Archbang and Crunchbang.


These are both prereleases — Archbang is the 2.00 RC, and Crunchbang is the Statler alpha — but I’ve modified the default desktops a little bit. Must show something new, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

The ‘bangs are popular these days and have been for a while. Crunchbang has a reputation for scooping Ubuntu users who find the default arrangement a little heavy, while Archbang is a relatively recent offshoot to do the same thing, just with Arch Linux. As you can see they’re not precise duplicates, but rather different approaches to doing the same thing.

This Crunchbang release will be the first built from Debian, if I understand correctly. It incorporates a healthy shake of Gnome, but it seems quick and speedy, even off the CD. Of course, using Gnome doesn’t mean it has be sluggish and bloated, it only means that some renditions will be sluggish and bloated. ๐Ÿ˜

I could recommend any number of substitutes to things like gedit or Thunar, but the fact remains that if those are the applications the Crunchbang community wants, that’s what they’ll get. Don’t want Iceweasel? Put something else on there, I say. As it stands the theme is coherent, it runs fast, I had no hardware issues and short of installing it, everything worked fine while it floated in RAM.

Archbang is interesting as well, but I don’t want it to sound like a footnote. The software selection is markedly different — Chromium is in place, for example, and Exaile is the media player on hand, and so forth — so I am not sure if the idea is to mirror the Crunchbang desktop with Arch as the foundation, or just to provide an analog between the two root distros.

Either way, I suspect that building a system to duplicate Crunchbang or Archbang in either Arch or Debian would only take an hour or two, so you could say the time saved is small. But both systems would be good starting points for building your own Openbox desktop, adding or subtracting the software you like and using their configurations as frameworks.

So the real question becomes: Which do you prefer, Arch or Debian? ๐Ÿ˜ˆ


19 thoughts on “Crunchbang and Archbang

  1. zoev9

    Arch, hands down. Arch is just faster, more up-to-date and configureable. the /etc/rc.conf is probably the best customization script to date. I also don’t like how much bigger Debian is than Arch, smaller is always better. Read Isaac Asimov if you disagree. Oh and the most important part, Arch’s pacman is a thousand times better than apt-get and aptitude.
    I wouldn’t go for a preconfigured Arch install though, takes out all of the mystery and excitement of building up a new system.

      1. Adrian

        IMHO: It’s simpler, quicker and more foolproof.

        I haven’t had -any- dependency problem with Arch Linux in the past four years (not continuous use). Installation, upgrading and configuring is as simple as it can get.

        The only flaw I could note is that it doesn’t have a really good graphical (nor ncurses-like) UI for newbies.

        1. steve

          All the same things could be said about apt, and that is with 4 years of continuous use. And apt does have a front end in synaptic.

          Hardly a convincing argument.

    1. Lithium

      I won’t discuss the “more up-to-date” or “stable” part, but I recently tried both and Crunchbang Statler was just as nippy as Archbang, and it booted a few seconds faster as well.
      Debian done right (net-install and add what you want after) is just as responsive as an Arch install.

      1. Gutterslob

        I’ll echo Lithium on that one.

        I’ve not tried Archbang, and couldn’t get the new CrunchBang Alpha to install on my netbook.
        But I have built both a Debian Squeeze and Arch install from scratch on the same system (using the same OpenBox WM, configured to mimic CrunchBang), and there’s no speed difference whatsoever. They both use round the same amount of ram, and have similar boot/shut-down times. I’m currently running a Sidux + OpenBox install on the same netbook, and am very pleased with it.

        I will say that Arch has a somewhat better package management model, though. (if you know what you’re doing, that is). From what I’ve heard from the members at the CrunchBang forums, ArchBang seems to be as good as it gets when it comes to a preconfigured Arch respin, so more power to them as well.

        At the end of the day, if I were to choose a *Bang variant, I’d probably go for CrunchBang again once it reaches beta or RC, since I’m just more comfortable with Apt syntax. Also because the amount of polish Cornominal (the creator of CrunchBang) seems to achieve with his distro puts any other Openbox based distro/respin to shame.

  2. sotolf

    I am running on archbang, and I am really liking the system, I have tried arch before, but what archbang does is giving me some basics to go on from, I am using awesome wm, and changed around a lot of small things, but I have to say that it is a rock solid fast and a really good distro, so thumbs up for archbang ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. koleoptero

    Exaile in a lightweight distro? WHY? Exaile, with 32.000 songs in its collection uses about 220mbytes of ram here. There are plenty of better solutions.

    Also I’m curious to try the xfce spin of crunchbang.

  4. damaged justice

    Like FreeBSD, I was immediately impressed with Arch the first time I installed it. Since then (less than a month), I’ve fallen in more serious like with it faster than any Linux distribution in quite a few years. Amazingly stable, but with bleeding edge packages newer than the ones I’d been compiling myself under Ubuntu. I’d still recommend assorted other distros in plenty of other situations, but for me Arch is the new preferred workstation, having finally edged out longstanding favorite Slackware in my personal pantheon of “best of the best”.

  5. johnraff

    “I suspect that building a system to duplicate Crunchbang or Archbang in either Arch or Debian would only take an hour or two, so you could say the time saved is small.”

    I don’t know Archbang, but I think an hour or two is a bit optimistic to make something like Crunchbang. Choose the right apps, write config files, scripts, menus, themes, artwork…

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  7. Artopal

    Archbang didn’t work for me with unetbootin (not having an optical drive on my netbook, I have to boot from flash drive). Crunchbang ran good, the Xfce version consuming less RAM than the Openbox one (running the live system).

    The developers made some strange app choices for my taste, but it still is a light and lean system from which to build upon, without much hassle, an optimal system for my hardware.

    On the other hand, I managed to make Ubuntu Lucid consume no more than 120-140MB RAM while idle (with GNOME). I will definetely try installing Crunchbang 10 when its ready. Maybe till then will Archbang work with unetbootin. I’m intrigued about pacman.

    1. willxtreme

      Instead of using unetbootin, run this command in a terminal as root in the directory where you saved the iso
      dd if=archbang*.iso of=/dev/your-usb-drive bs=8M

      run “fdisk -l” to list all your drives & partitions to find which one is your usb (often /dev/sdb)


  8. steve

    Also VMs are a great way to test stuff out without the risk of breaking anything. I’ll admit there’s fun in taking risks, but it’s no fun being left without a workable machine…

  9. Archattack

    If you are using Unetbootin to install Archbang then you MUST give the usb drive the label: ARCH_201102 (or whatever release you will be using)

    Now, it’ll boot fine.

  10. rik

    Since Crunchie went to Debian(thankfully !), I like them both now again.
    If you like Arch Linux, then it’s AB! If u like Debian/GNU then it’s CB!

    Another comparison would be:

    Arch, is BSD-ish in its more “standard” system/config file(s) simplicity, aka KISS, and less is more. Heck, I might even say elegant, just because of that desirable feature alone.
    Hence, it is more CLI-intuitive and friendly, but less GUI-friendly system-wise.

    Debian, is more obviously GNU-ish in its approach, which again, depends on your palette.
    Hence, Deb is more GUI-friendly system-wise, but less CLI-friendly, than Arch.

    Either way, they’ll both get you there, be it server/client, …


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