Bodhi Linux describes itself as “If you are the kind of person that likes to make your own choices, this might be the distribution for you”. It is based upon the latest LTS release from Ubuntu (12.04), while using the Enlightment window manager instead of a more full featured desktop environment such as GNOME or Xfce. The website cites two ideals: Minimalism and User Choice. This is my review of Bodhi Linux 2.4.0, the 32bit edition.
I am using a Gateway M460 laptop with 2 GB of RAM and a 40 GB hard drive and an integrated video card from Intel.
The installer is the same as Ubuntu’s (for obvious reasons) and provided a clear, trouble-free installation. It took less than 15 minutes to complete the installation. There are a couple of extra questions, where you choose from 7 configurations and 5 themes.
Going from left to right, the top “shelf” provides the menu button, then the wireless indicator, the cpu usage, the 2 virtual pagers (which you can add to), the volume control, the battery/power indicator, the clock, and finally the power off button. In this setup, there’s a bottom shelf that hides until you hover over the center area. Then it pops up to provide you with launch buttons. At the start, only the Midori browser is here, however just as with Xfce, you can add any number of additional launchers.
This is a very minimalist distribution – little is installed at first, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your expectations. It gives you much more control over what you have installed on your computer, but then you must remember that convenience items such as a print wizard aren’t installed right away. In addition, the only folder created in your home directory is “desktop”. If you want separate folders for documents or downloads or pictures you must create new ones yourself. Java, mp3 and Flash support, and a way to play DVDs are all not supported out of the box.
Bodhi gives you the following applications from the install:
Accessories: an archive manager, and Leafpad (a text editor)
Preferences: the eCcess system tool, a login configurator, the network connections tool, and the Synaptic graphical package manager
Internet: the Midori browser (both regular and “private” versions)
Software Tools: the eDeb package installer, the Enlightenment file manager, and a terminal (Terminology)
There are a number of user settings available from the main menu, 14 categories in total.
I should also note that I needed to add my WiFi SSID manually both during the install and the live session when I was checking it out. Bodhi doesn’t intially include a way to see what WiFi networks are within reach, although I was happy that I didn’t need to add any extra firmware in order to have wireless capability.
Obviously, learning the ins and outs of the Enlightenment window manager is the key to getting the most out of Bodhi Linux. Although it uses few resources, it’s apparently very powerful and in the short time I used this distribution I barely got the sense of all you can do with it.
Bodhi Linux installs no games by default, but since it’s based on Ubuntu’s Precise Pangolin you should be able to get most of your gaming needs supplied easily. There’s no Software Manager, but you can of course search in Synaptic, or even add the getdeb extra repositories. Just keep in mind that you aren’t always getting the most recent versions.
I don’t know how well Bodhi supports dedicated video cards from Nvidia and AMD.
Terminology seems to be a decent console app, with a bit of bling on the cursor. eDeb, like GDebi, allows you to install .deb packages obtained from outside the system. The Screenshot program available from the main menu is a basic one, with no opportunity to only choose a window or delay the screenshot by a few seconds.
In addition to using Synaptic to install more applications, Bodhi also has an AppCenter web page, an alternative source to install many common programs. Take a particular look at the first two “bundles”, Nikhila and Pratibha, which will install a number of your more desired programs at one go (including Flash and mp3 support.)
The repositories should supply you with the tools and programs for viewing DVDs and listening to CDs, if you so desire.
Help and Tips
Bodhi does come with an illustrated Quick Start guide that is the home page for Midori when you first start up. In addition, the forums for Bodhi Linux should be your first stop when seeking help, or you can browse the wiki.
– Bodhi uses an established base with Ubuntu’s LTS releases. You should be able to get many answers via the Ubuntu forums in addition to Bodhi’s own.
– This also means that you really only have to re-install it every two years.
– the Quick Start guide is up to date and quite useful.
– there’s no printing capability installed by default that I can see. Even for a minimal distro that’s surprising.
– some defaults that Enlightenment uses are difficult to get used to, and trying to find where to change them is not clear. (Ex: when you close a window, the cursor moves around to center on the next window thus exposed)
– Some of the entries under “preferences” seemed better suited for “system tools” ( the eCcess tool for users, groups, and time/date, and the Synaptic package manager)
I think that Bodhi Linux will appeal to you under two conditions: (1) You prefer starting from a very small base set of programs and deciding exactly what’s installed, and (2) You enjoy using the Enlightenment window manager.
Unfortunately, for me neither of these seems to be true. If I want to start small, I probably would prefer to use Arch Linux, because at least I will learn a lot about the underlying system in the process of adding the programs I intend to use.
Bodhi certainly has its fans, and they have legitimate reasons for preferring it. But I don’t expect to use it on a daily basis, and I wouldn’t recommend it to people who aren’t sure that it’s what they will want. I could actually envision it being used in a small business environment, though – the LTS base provides stability, while the minimal install would let the system administrator control exactly what applications employees are given to use. This is one of the few distributions where it would be fairly simple to set up such an environment.
Version 3 of Bodhi Linux should come out soon after April of 2014, when Ubuntu’s next LTS version will be released.