I think I’ve maybe figured it out.
I love trying new distros, but I’m drawn to the ones with the really simple interfaces, the ones with the fewest bells and whistles. (I’m not too inclined to try Unity or the newest KDE and Gnome offerings, for example.) This is quite odd because I am not a geek. I get frustrated pretty quickly with the really hardcore distros like Arch and Debian. On the other hand, CrunchBang is right up my alley. Blank desktop, but easily accessible menu. Heavy on the keyboard, light on the mouse. But pretty self explanatory.
I can say that there are lots of user-friendly distros out there – LinuxMint, Ubuntu and so forth. Easy to install software, vibrant community, great podcasts for all levels of user (and all profanity tolerances). I generally can’t break through, though. Because all that user-friendliness is generally more than I want in my OS environment. When I start getting all excited to people about CrunchBang’s lovely blank desktop, I get blank looks in return. If I’m talking to two people about it, they look at each other and make gestures of calling the loony bin.
I recently posted an entry on Salix and my difficulty getting it installed under VirtualBox. Last night I spent a couple of hours getting a handle on VB (with the help of this recent MakeUseOf guide) and playing with Salix 13.37. (With that version number, does one need to indicate it’s based on the latest Slackware release?), in the Ratpoison and Xfce editions.
I’m digging Ratpoison – it’s a bit of a trip in the WABAC machine, given that much of the navigation uses Vim-derived key bindings. I used Vim briefly about 10 years ago when I joined a firm that did all its documentation in XML, but hadn’t used it since. The bundled browser is Vimprobable2 which is also all keyboard (and has a very amusing FAQ), and obviously Vim-based.
However, the full install (a few installed applications, as opposed to the basic install which provides only the browser to start with) doesn’t provide a lot to go on, for me – I need to add at least one writing application that isn’t Vim. Abiword’s my word processing tool of choice these days. (Part of Salix’s philosophy is ‘one application per task’ on the installer, which I can appreciate. Keeps things small. Bodhi has a similar approach. Some of those apps just aren’t the ones for me.)
I found the install took a rather long time, this may have something to do with only assigning 512MB RAM to the virtual machine. I wanted to be able to do other things while installing and my current machine is a 6 year old HP Pavilion ZX5000 maxed out with 2GB of RAM. For most of my activities (browsing, listening to music, writing), this is just fine. I found myself hitting a wall, however, running even this distro under VirtualBox. I think a new machine is in order in the new year. Laptop recommendations (€500 or so limit) with 12-16GB RAM capacity much appreciated.
ETA: Distrowatch article on Salix/Ratpoison: http://distrowatch.com/weekly.php?issue=20110919#feature