Bodhi Linux 2.0.0 32 bitI've been looking forward to trying Bodhi Linux for quite some time. My preferred environment for playing WoW is generally an Ubuntu-based distro with as light a GUI as possible, since Ubuntu makes getting things like captive drivers for my GPU, the captive Adobe flash plugin, and captive codecs so easy, and lightweight because my hardware is so far behind the curve. GUIs don't come much lighter than Enlightenment (e17 henceforth), the environment used in Bodhi. It was considered outrageously featureful and bloated with eye candy back in 1997, when my brother-in-law the linux guru first demonstrated it to me. It remains featureful and beautiful. But by today's standards, it is airweight. Typically, only window managers not noted for aesthetics, like Fluxbox (the ugliest GUI I've ever used), manage to be anywhere near as light as E17, only without all its features.
Jeff Hoogland builds Bodhi only on LTS releases of Ubuntu, which seems reasonable to me. However, Lucid's version of X doesn't support a more advanced version of fglrx than pre-9, so I had to wait until he got his Pangolin-based version released. The download links on Bodhi's site were all broken when I got there, so I joined the IRC channel (#bodhilinux on irc.freenode.net), got a link to the torrent seed from a friendly person in the chat, and read Bodhi's get started guide for E17 while downloading and burning ISO. This turned out to be a very good idea, as we will see later.
Live System: Not for the faint of heart
My system is built on an ABIT KN8 Ultra v1.1 motherboard, running an AMD Athlon dual-core 3800 socket 939 CPU, with 3GB of RAM and a 512 MB ATI Radeon 4670 PCIe GPU. I tried the Radeon safe boot first. Errors scrolled past faster than I could read, except that they strobed to where the same error was in the same spot often enough to form some continuity of vision:
Failed to allocate
size: 7680000 bytes
alignment: 0 bytes
After that, more highspeed error scrolling, something about drm:radeon_ttm_backend_bind, if I recall correctly. It eventually stopped after about 45 seconds.
The system eventually got to a tty, but startx wasn't installed, so that was a no-go. Same errors and results for the xvesa boot option. The standard live boot did eventually reach a desktop--sort of (while also scrolling the failed to allocate and drm:radeon_ttm_backen_bind errors). I got a message: "Enlightenment crashed early on start and has been restarted. All modules have been disabled and will not be loaded to help remove any problem modules from your configuration. The module configuration dialog should let you select your modules again." In practice, this meant I got an empty panel (shelf, in e17 speak) and a dialog box to add modules. There were eight tabs, with 5 showing. I added the menu, task bar/window list, system tray, pager, and clock. I couldn't find the installer. But I haven't been messing around with Ubuntu and its multitude of derivatives for years without learning anything of use. For example, Ubuntu's default installation program is called Ubiquity. So I started the Everything module (which has functionality rather like Gnome-Do and Beagle, as well as acting as a run dialog) and started typing "ubi" and there it was: "Install Bodhi Linux." The Run Everything module is bound to Ctrl-Esc and Win-Space, rather than the Alt-F2 or Win-R bindings I'm used to. I later found the installer in the Enlightenment menu, at Settings > All > System > Install Bodhi 12.04
After selecting language and ticking the "download updates while installing" box Ubiquity asked me if I wanted to unmount the mounted partitions on my disk. I did, as it is not possible to create, edit, or format partitions on a disk with any partitions mounted. If I recall correctly, this is the first live CD to mount my partitions by default. This behavior of mounting everything carried over into the installed distro. I installed Bodhi into my Lynx partitions. Ubiquity was flawless, as usual.
Leafpad had picked up a quirk or two (or rather, there are some quirks in e17 that affect conventional GUI text editors). I could not use ctrl-shift-left or ctrl-shift-right to select words of text. Ctrl-left and ctrl-right worked as expected, as do ctrl-shift-up and C-S-down. Alt-f4 shifted me to the 4th virtual desktop instead of closing the app with focus. Using E17 was clearly going to involve either lots of reconfiguring, or re-training myself. My first impression was that having mouseover focus was going to be bad, as I run WoW in a 1280x960 window on a 1600x1200 desktop. My second reason for disliking mouseover focusing is that anything that requires me to use a mouse costs productivity.
Post-install, I needed about 25 updates totaling about 17MB, not bad. Bodhi really is minimalist. The Bodhi Linux Appcenter is a set of web pages, and as with the Mint and Ubuntu app centers, you have to provide your password to approve every installation request. I despise that sort of behavior, which is why I continue to prefer Synaptic. So I started Synaptic back up, and went to get my "must have" apps: ace-of-penguins, chromium-browser, conky, firefox, galculator, the GIMP, irssi, LibreOffice, mousepad, nethack, pidgin, xchat, ubuntu-restricted-extras, and w3m. Bodhi's default file manager was PCManFM. I did not find Enlightenment file manager on my system or in Synaptic.
Then I installed Wine 1.4, the stable version in the Ubuntu repositories. It will probably break when Mists of Pandaria launches, but I want to see how it compares, and I want to have a different version to use in case the development branch breaks again, as it did in 1.5.5. That's about 147 MB of download. Starting RAM use with Conky and a second shelf carrying the cpu, mem, and net gadgets was around 150-160MB.
E17 first impressions
I chose the A-miguel theme to start. It provides a very fine green line around the sides and bottom of the title bar of the window with focus, and green vs. grey window control buttons. Menus used fuzzy effects on the text, blech! Of those provided in the default installation, my preferred theme was bodhi-detourious. One of the really handy things in e17 is the ability to lock windows so that I cannot accidentally resize or move them. Such locks are usually removed when I change themes, but no big deal.
So here's what I think a good theme has: Good contrast between text and its background, regardless of whether we're discussing title bars, app windows, buttons, menus, disabled options, or anything else; light text should be on dark backgrounds, and vice vera, and backgrounds should absolutely NEVER be both bright and dark. (This is the primary reason I miss the Varmint Vapor Vestry, absolutely the worst offender ever on this count.) Sharp-edged text using legible fonts. Very obvious differences between the window decorations of the focus window, and other windows (or at least between the title bars of the focus window and other windows). Fairly bright, cool colors. I like combinations like green and white, green and gold, red and gold, purple and white, and (though it's not easy to get the sort of contrast I like) gold and white or gold and black. One of the great things about e17 is that it's been around a good long while, and its community LOVES designing themes. Just check out e17-stuff.org for some idea. I just have to figure out where they should go.
The AppCenter has a metapackage with about 320 MB of e17 themes. Agust, who builds most of these themes, differs from me in that he tends to make unfocused windows darker and more legible than focused windows. He thinks that slight changes in saturation are all that are needed to make it perfectly clear which window has focus (or else he adds a shiny gradient, which I like better). He probably works with a lower resolution than I do (or has sharper eyes; I'm starting to get presbyopic), as a number of otherwise serviceable themes have title bars with fine print text. But some of the effects he throws in, like the animated red "zing" that zips across a menu item when you select it in the A-Red-Night-Bodhi theme, are so cool that it's almost a crying shame not to use them. Or the animation that flashes across a titlebar left-to-right when a window gains focus in some of the Apple-esque themes. There are a lot of them I would really, really like if the text wasn't so tiny. Or so close in color to the background. Or both. Who would have thought that there would be disadvantages to a 19" 1600x1200 monitor? No doubt all of this is configurable, but I haven't drilled down enough into e17 to figure out how. (Edit: The fonts module WAS able to assign new fonts, once I ticked the box for custom font classes. Unfortunately, elements like buttons and title bars do not resize themselves to accomodate.)
Conky annoyed me. The own_window_transparent part did not work. Neither did some other settings when launched from the everything module. But you can set up an e17 shelf with clock, CPU, memory, and networking gadgets. You can't get the graphs you can in Conky, though. Getting good contrast can be an issue. I absolutely despise text on a varicolored background, but apparently a lot of gadget designers don't.
According to a conversation with Jeff Hoogland in #bodhilinux on irc.freenode.net, Jockey doesn't work in Bodhi, which does not use the default Ubuntu kernel. There's a howto for installing fglrx on their forums (see http://forums.bodhilinux.com/index.php?/topic/5769-ati-on-bodhi-200/), and a script for installing the nVidia drivers. But Synaptic told me otherwise; the only kernel installed was the generic kernel from ubuntu's repositories. So when the manual install method resulted in fglrx v8.97.100, I decided to install Jockey-GTK and use that. It too installed fglrx v 8.97.100, which turns out to be the version I'm using in Madbox. I am now officially annoyed with myself for having overwritten my install of Lucid Lynx. Next time around, I think I'll try the open source radeon driver first. It does at least let me run my preferred resolution properly.
Framerates were lower than in Madbox. My benchmark spot in Grizzly Hills (29.7, 50.2, facing north, with the base of the falls lined up with my shoulderpads) gave me a framerate of 27-28 fps. (Madbox's framerates are also lower than they were at 27-30 vs 32, but I have more addons now. And yes, I'm still running around in Northrend. I want some heirlooms, and I'd rather get them through the tournament.) I can't say for sure whether the lower framerate is due to e17's endemic animations, gradients, and other eye candy taking more RAM and processor cycles, or that up to date development versions of Wine have an edge over stable versions. I also need to double check if it's due to some weird graphical options settings reset.
Bodhi is a suitable distribution for playing World of Warcraft in Wine, and the stable version of Wine works well for World of Warcraft. But be prepared to either play fullscreen, or change a LOT of settings in e17. And alt-tabbing into and out of fullscreen can be problematic.
Things to try in the near future: Kororaa 17 "Bubbles" (Fedora plus codecs & Jockey), Stella Linux 6.3 (CentOS configured with third party repos for codecs, flash, & other captive software, for doing real work), and openSUSE 12.2 (delta updates, something I really wish they'd put into apt).