Until recently, most desktop Linux distros were about the same on the surface. What differentiated them were things like configurability. Some distros, those preferred by Linux purists or designed primarily to be used as servers, required users to open a terminal and change settings with a text editor. Others sought to be newbie friendly, and had devised schemes so that most systems settings could be done point and click, just like with that evil operating system from Redmond.
On the surface, though, whether newbie friendly or designed for geeks, the user was mainly offered an out-of-the-box desktop, usually KDE or GNOME, that was maybe dressed-up a bit with the distro’s logo but otherwise seemingly added almost as an afterthought.
That’s changing. These days many distros look and feel like unique stand alone operating systems–not like just slightly different flavors of GNU based Linux. For example there’s Ubuntu with Unity and Mint with Cinnamon. In both cases, the distros have used GNOME to design an experience for their users that is unique to that distro.
Then there’s Bodhi Linux, which takes a completely different approach.
The developers at Bodhi have created a desktop operating system in which the elegant but lightweight Enlightenment window manager is used as the desktop environment and have wedded it to the nuts and bolts of the operating system so completely that desktop and operating system are truly “one” in the classical metaphysical sense.
You could install and run KDE, GNOME or any other desktop on Bodhi if you wanted, but there would be no sense in that as Bodhi Linux’s only reason for being is to be the perfect platform for Enlightenment. If you want KDE or GNOME, I would politely suggest you look elsewhere.
Like Enlightenment, Bodhi Linux is small, mean, lean and powerful. It’s also nothing if not elegant. You can clutter-up the desktop with icons, if you like, but the desktop is really designed to be kept clean. There’s no start button or big “K.” The menu is accessed simply by left-clicking anywhere on the desktop. Want to access one of your most used or favorite applications? Right-click instead.
To keep it mean, lean and elegant, hardly any programs are installed by default, just what you need to get started, basically a terminal, the super lightweight but highly capable Midori browser and a file manager that really doesn’t work well yet. That’s okay, install your favorite–I’m using Dolphin. While you’re at it, you’ll probably want to install Firefox or Chromium–though the more you use Midori, the more you’ll like it. However, you might find a few mission critical websites where it won’t work well for you.
Don’t be confused by the minimalist philosophy behind Bodhi Linux and Enlightenment. This isn’t watered down crippleware, designed just to get your old 386 up and running. As far as I can tell you can run any program you want–no matter how bloated. But you’ll do so knowing that your OS and desktop aren’t wasting a lot of resources. With Bodhi, my old Dell laptop runs like a firecracker. It boggles my mind to think how fast this distro would be on a new state-of-the-art box designed to run the latest bloated operating system from Microsoft.
Bodhi’s based on Ubuntu–which is another plus. It’s stable with relatively few bugs, especially in it’s most recent incarnation, which utilizes E17, the latest and greatest ready-for-prime-time version of Enlightenment. Apt and Synaptic connect to the Ubuntu repository, meaning just about anything you want to install is available to you. You can also go to the Bodhi Linux AppCenter for easy-as-pi installation from a browser, though the selection there is somewhat limited, in keeping with the Bodhi folks minimalist approach.
Is Bodhi for everybody? Probably not. Some people like bells and whistles. Some don’t.
Enlightenment is extremely configurable, but you’ll have to learn the Enlightenment way–which isn’t hard. It’s pretty intuitive, and the folks on Bodhi’s forums are helpful and polite. As with any Linux distro, you might want to check and make sure it’s going to play well with your hardware first. I ran the live version from a USB stick, just to make sure it wasn’t going to put me in driver hell. It didn’t.
As far as I’m concerned, I’ll be using Bodhi Linux for a long while. I’m not a distro hopper–and I really like this distro.