PCLinuxOS Bonsai -en-

It all started at the beginning of July 2010, after a request to make a core version was published on the community projects forum « mypclinuxos.com/forum ». After this request, a member of the PCLinuxOS community, known as « etjr », created a minimal ISO, a core version without a gui, built with the PCLinuxOS rpms from the repository.

I stumbled upon this chance, to create a tiny PCLinuxOS Openbox version. This kept numerous days busy, for myself and several willing testers at the PCLinuxOS.com forum. We now have a minimalist version of PCLinuxOS Openbox in English, and one localized in French, with the code name « bonsai ». This smallest version of PCLinuxOS has a gui and is installable.

It is available here:
pclinuxos-openbox-bonsai-2010.11.iso
pclinuxos-openbox-bonsai-2010.11.md5sum

and also here, incase the first link would come to be unreachable:
pclinuxos-openbox-bonsai-2010.11.iso
pclinuxos-openbox-bonsai-2010.11.md5sum

The size is 261 MB for the English version and 290 MB for the French version.

Here is the list of the programs and the main features:

Kernel:
*Kernel 2.6.33.7 pclos.6.bfs

Panel:

  • Lxpanel, with shutdown-dialog.py for the control buttons « Restart/Shutdown/Logout ».

System:
*Control Center PCLinuxOS (PCC = Central Graphical User Interface to configure the system)
*Synaptic to manage the programs and system updates
*Openbox to manage the windows, with the theme Island Caye
*Obconf to configure Openbox
*Openbox-menu to provide an application’s menu always up to date in the right-click (pipe menu relying on menu-cache library, from the Lxde project)

  • GTK2 theme Elegant Aurora

User programs:

  • Midori 0.2.9 to surf the web
  • PCManFM 0.9.9 to manage files and destkop
  • Geany to edit texts
  • mc to manage files and edit texts (with mcedit)

Monitoring:

  • net_applet
  • htop

Other programs:

  • ssh
  • lftp

To keep the system clean:

  • Bleachbit

Particular program:

  • rzscontrol, from the Compcache project, installed and configured, to create a RAM based block device (named ramzswap) which acts as swap disk

Optionally, it is possible to use feh to manage the background and also possible to not use icons on the desktop. In addition, it is possible to change the default configuration files from ~/.config/openbox : autostart.sh, menu.xml and rc.xml. (As a guide, please take the time to read the comments in the files.)

At last, there is also a sprinkle of fantasy, with desktop effects : transparency, fadings, shadows.
Theses effects are provided by the program xcompmgr-dana, thanks to the patch from Dana Jansens (Openbox project), which brings transparency to xcompmgr, and thanks to CalimeroTeknic’s configurations (ArchCtk project) from whom I borrowed the script and the configurations.
This is where you can activate these effects from the (right-click) Preferences menu. They can be activated or deactivated on the fly.

A few screenshots to show how the desktop looks

With the right-click menu:

With the Lxpanel menu:

Icon launchers in PCManFM 0.9.9:

Compcache ramzswap control:

The goal was to make a version as small as possible, and then to be personalized by whatever the user wanted to add. This would allow for “creative customization”. But this could be rather easy if you would consider using directly the cli.iso created by etjr : the ISO, 175 MB large, could perfectly fit this use. However, experience shows that starting from cli.iso is a hard task and needs more than average knowledge and also some research. Therefore the next criteria has been to change it so that it works easily for most users. Yes, but up to what limit ?

This limit is reached BEFORE installing non free drivers and firmwares. There are two reasons for this : the first one is that it takes much space, and the second reason is that the people who will need them will find it easy to install one that they need, or to recreate a version containing several, using the « mylivecd » script. (The script – mylivecd – is a program meant to create a bootable iso image from within a running PCLinuxOS, which is provided in all PCLinuxOS versions).

Another reason for limiting the amount of installed programs in PCLinuxOS Openbox Bonsai is that the components installed in it can also be removed easily in order to create for example, a web server without X, a file server, or a version yet smaller… and still containing the pinch of additional programs that make it work well on the machines where the distribution has been tested.

So, what makes this version easy to use for most people ? What makes it easy to handle, is the fact you can install it with the graphical mode, as in any other PCLinuxOS version, because the distribution doesn’t provide a text mode install actually, and what makes it easy to start with is because of the numerous days of testing by users from numerous countries who were interested in the project. These beta testers have been testing and have brought feedback to the main PCLinuxOS forum during several months.

These have been reviewed – wired and non wired internet connections with mandi, ppp and pppoe, Ntfs partitions access. Also thoroughly tested is the ability to install and use the printing packages, and the bugs in the PCManFM file manager which is still in development, and many more that will not be listed here.
All of this feedback, while bringing issues to solve, have led to deep researches from an « advance beginners » team, searching step by step, where the problem could be located and all the issues have been solved.

Even Texstar, the creator of the PCLinuxOS distribution came and gave helpful information on the way.

You may wish to visit the thread: PCLinuxOS Openbox Bonsai 2010.11.13 – who wants to test ?

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