Exploring Bodhi Linux 5.0.0

Enlightened

Article from Issue 217/2018
Author(s):

Bodhi is a lightweight Linux that features Moksha – a simple but colorful desktop based on Enlightenment 17.

An open source project is a living entity that evolves and expands based on the collective efforts of a community. For some users, the project keeps on getting better, but sometimes a portion of the community is left behind. In particular, for many users, progress means adding more features to the software and building in more complexity to accommodate advances in the hardware. Other users, however, find elegance in simplicity, and the gradual expansion and evolution of a codebase eventually leads to untenable levels of complexity, bugs, and bloat.

When this happens, the developers often part company and "fork" the codebase. The project thus becomes two projects, with two development teams pursuing different visions.

One well known example of this phenomenon in the desktop space is the Mate desktop, a fork of the Gnome 2 codebase, which was created for users who didn't like the change from Gnome 2 to Gnome 3.

Fewer users are aware that the Enlightenment desktop (also known as E) [1] went through a similar rift with the E19 edition. Enlightenment has a loyal following of users who appreciate its unique blend of performance, simplicity, and visual appeal. The E19 release, however, caused some ripples within the community that were similar to the controversies over Gnome 3.

Developer Jeff Hoogland launched Bodhi Linux [2] back in 2011 as a lightweight Linux distro based on Enlightenment. Hoogland felt the E19 update gave up some of the simplicity he needed to run Bodhi on older hardware. According to Wikipedia, "The rationale for forking the [Enlightenment] project from DR17 was due to its established performance and functionality, while E19 possessed 'optimizations that break existing features users enjoy and use.'" Hoogland forked the Enlightenment project to create the E17-based Moksha desktop [3], which is now the default desktop and the most distinguishing feature of Bodhi.

According to the Bodhi Linux website, Moksha "… consists of the back porting of bug fixes and features from future Enlightenment releases, as well as the removal of half finished/broken things E17 contained." If you are fan of Enlightenment, and you miss the good of days of how it used to work in the E17 era, you might want to take Bodhi for a test drive.

Introducing Bodhi

Bodhi Linux is based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and is available in three variants: Standard (706MB), Legacy (725MB), and AppPack (1397MB) [4]. For installation on current computers, or machines from this decade at least, you can go for the Standard ISO or the AppPack version. These variants install a 64-bit kernel and thus make optimum use of system resources. The AppPack version differs from the Standard image by virtue of its extended choice of software; for example, the system automatically comes with LibreOffice and the OpenShot video editor, the Pinta image editing tool, and the Geany development environment.

The developers provide the Legacy version for significantly older systems. The Legacy edition uses a 32-bit kernel and also does without Physical Address Extension (PAE), which means the system supports a maximum of 4GB RAM. However, the Legacy edition does offer maximum compatibility with much-loved but aged computers. The Standard and Legacy editions do not differ in terms of software features. This article focuses on the AppPack version, which should be suitable for most users.

Bodhi does not require up-to-date hardware. The developers specify a PC with a single-core CPU (500 MHz), 256MB RAM, and a hard disk of at least 5GB. I recommend a system with a CPU of 1GHz or faster, 512MB RAM, and 10GB disk capacity [5].

For systems with little RAM (1GB and less), the developers recommend splitting the hard disk before the actual installation and setting up a SWAP partition. The live system automatically accesses the SWAP partition, which improves performance for the installation routine.

Installation

After booting from a USB stick or DVD (Live option), Bohdi launches into a graphical desktop, which automatically opens a quick start guide in the browser. If the desktop environment start should fail due to the graphics card, the boot manager offers the xforcevesa option, a variant with reduced graphic requirements. The desktop itself only speaks English in the Live version, but the layout is similar to other desktop Linux systems, so even newcomers who prefer a different locale should quickly find their way around.

The installation option is hidden in the depths of the menus: You can find the installation routine under Applications | Preferences | Install Bodhi Linux 5.0.0 AppPack. The Bodhi installation is very similar to the installation for an ordinary Ubuntu system. The setup wizard guides you through the installation step by step. At the end, you need to configure a user account and reboot into the freshly installed system (Figure 1). If you wish to upgrade from a previous version of Bodhi, you're out of luck – the installer doesn't provide an upgrade option and only supports full installations (see the box entitled "No Upgrade.")

Figure 1: A minor bug on first starting Bodhi Linux 5.0.0: The quick start guide opens in the Geany editor instead of the browser.

No Upgrade

If you have been using Bodhi Linux for some time and are planning to upgrade to the latest version 5.0.0, I have some bad news: The developers don't support updating from one version to the next (despite the reliable Ubuntu substructure) [6]. In such a case, you have to save your data and completely reinstall the Bodhi system. You don't have to hurry to install though; the Ubuntu-16.04-based predecessor Bodhi 4.5.0 will be supported with security updates until April 2021.

Looking Around

After you log into the system, Bodhi is immediately available. Use the menu button at the bottom left to open installed applications or the settings. Alternatively, you can also access this menu by left-clicking on the desktop. The system speaks English by default with keyboard mappings to match. Unlike its Ubuntu role model, changing the locale is a little more complicated.

The AppPack image installs all the language packages required for English and German. If you prefer any other language, however, you first need to import the corresponding components from the package sources. See the Bodhi Linux wiki for more on changing the system language [7].

The Moksha desktop looks playful and colorful with its animations in the menus and the mouse pointer, as well as the green/gray contrast, but the playful appearance does not affect the functionality. You won't find wobbling windows flying over the screen. The panel can move to any edge, and you can configure it to fade out automatically. Virtual desktops, the practical PCManFM file manager, and many other useful applications in the default configuration make Bodhi a complete system.

Common hardware such as WiFi and Ethernet, webcams, and USB devices work out-the-box. Even entertainment is included: PlayOnLinux and Steam for Linux are preinstalled. If you don't like the design chosen by the developers, you'll find a few alternatives below Settings | Theme. However, the choice seems to be restricted to dark themes with light fonts. The system comes with the Midori browser, as well as Chromium. You can install Firefox directly via the package manager, or you can use the DEB packages provided by the manufacturer.

Bodhi complements the conventional tools for package management (Synaptic and the GDebi package manager for installing individual DEB files) with an update tool and the Bodhi AppCenter, which you will find in the panel or below Applications | System Tools. The updater acts as a graphical front end for apt and therefore does not do anything surprising. The Bodhi AppCenter itself is not a standalone program; the launcher simply opens a web page in the browser, which presents further resource-saving applications and typical Linux classics like Gimp or extensions for the Moksha desktop, together with screenshots and a description (Figure 2). The installation itself is then handled by the conventional package manager and APT links.

Figure 2: The Bodhi AppCenter is not a standalone program, but only a website with information about lightweight and useful applications. A click on Install opens the Bodhi Application Installer.

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