As anyone who has read my ramblings long enough knows, I am a big fan of the Enlightenment desktop. I’ve been enjoying this take on the Linux desktop since the early E16 days. For a while, however, I left E17 for GNOME simply because the combination of Ubuntu and GNOME made perfect sense. Not only was Ubuntu a very stable distribution, GNOME had come a long, long way.

You will also have more than likely read my recent trepidation regarding the changes coming to the Ubuntu desktop (Unity). Although Ubuntu 11.04 will offer a traditional GNOME desktop selection at log in, I realized that Ubuntu Unity is just not the desktop for me. So, I decided it was time to head back to the land of Enlightenment. But instead of going through the paces of installing E17 on top of Ubuntu, I decided to search out a distribution that would combine the two.

The old stand-byes were dead; so I posted in “10 Ubuntu re-spins I’d like to see” that I wanted an E17/Ubuntu combination. My request was answered in the form of Bodhi Linux.This take on the Linux distribution claims to be “a minimal, enlightened Linux desktop.” And that is just what Bodhi is. But don’t let the “minimal” moniker keep you from giving this a try. Although once installed, Bodhi does only include a minimal amount of user-space applications (one web browser, no email client, no office suite, no graphics applications, etc.), all of these apps are but a click away, thanks to the Synaptic package manager.

Once the installation was complete (typical installation from Live CD to installed desktop), I was met with a very minimal E17 desktop. It only took about 10 minutes to get from that to the desktop you see at right. That desktop included the addition of various software titles, configuring the compositor, and configuring the shelves to my liking (and the addition of the zombie wallpaper).

Answering the big questions

How does Bodhi Linux perform?

Bodhi Linux has the advantage of being lightweight. Because it is not taking advantage of the heavier weight desktops, Bodhi is fast. It boots fast and it performs faster than most Linux distributions (maybe not the likes of DSL or Puppy Linux.) This statement even holds true with the compositor running. How fast? A simple, real-world test had me opening up The GIMP on two different (but equally equipped) machines. Machine A was my Bodhi Linux machine and Machine B was a standard Ubuntu 10.10 machine. Here are the average start times for The GIMP:

  • Machine A: 4.7 seconds
  • Machine B: 11.1 seconds
Those results pretty much speak for themselves. The GIMP is often one of the slower tools to start on Linux and Bodhi cut the start time by over 50%. Impressive.

Is Bodhi a worthwhile replacement for standard Ubuntu?

This is a tougher to answer. Is Bodhi Linux a good distribution for new users? Probably not. Because it requires a little post-installation work to be useful, I would say new users need not apply. But anyone wanting more performance from Linux, without GNOME or KDE, could find it to be the perfect replacement.

Generally speaking, I find users either love E17 or hate it. So whether or not Bodhi is a worthwhile replacement for you will depend on where you fall on the E17 continuum. That is not to say E17 has a tough learning curve;i’s fairly easy to pick up, and you shouldn’t let one of the best selling points of the distro turn you away (at least not from giving it a first try.)

Should Bodhi become a standard Ubuntu re-spin?

The answer to this question is simple: Yes! We already have the KDE spin, but many other re-spins fail to gain “official” status (Lubuntu can not seem to gain this). Although Bodhi is missing the catchy *buntu name, I believe it deserves “official” status. Why? With the change coming up to the official Ubuntu desktop, there will be users looking for alternatives. If Ubuntu wants to retain its user-base, it should certainly want to have as many official re-spins as it can. Not only will this go a long way to pleasing the users, it will also go an equally long way to appease the Linux community. Currently Ubuntu and GNOME are in the middle of a spat and who knows what the outcome of that will be. If this spat goes severely awry, Ubuntu could find itself in search of a new standard desktop. Although the chances of that happening are slim, if it were to happen the most likely replacement would be KDE. With KDE as the primary desktop a new “official” alternative would need to be put in place. I can’t see any reason why Bodhi shouldn’t be this “official” alternative.

Give Bodhi a try

If you are looking for a new Linux distribution to try, give Bodhi a chance. It’s fast, it has a solid foundation, and offers one of the finest desktops available on a PC. Once you do try it, report back here and let us know your take.