Bodhi Linux recently released their latest version 6 based on Ubuntu 20.04.2 LTS. I have never tried any of their previous versions so this will be a first for me. Bodhi is a light-weight distribution that uses the Enlightenment-17 based Moksha desktop. Bodhi has been around for a long time and has a loyal following. Let’s see how it fares as a daily driver.
True to its claim, the ISO was a mere 870 MB in size. I moved it onto a thumb drive using Etcher and proceeded to install it on my test Dell E7240 (i5-4300, 8 GB, 128 SSD, 1366 x 768). Bodhi uses Ubuntu’s installer and it offered to install it alongside my previously installed Ubuntu Remix Flavors. I agreed and got the choice to resize the largest of the three available partitions. All went fine and the system finished installing in roughly 5 minutes. A good figure.
Bodhi has a fancy splash screen and boot times are very good at around 7 seconds to the log-in screen. Shut-downs are also very quick.
I installed htop as usual and rebooted with WiFi off for the following results:
- 233 MB RAM !
- 41 Tasks !
- 54 Threads !
These are incredible figures, especially considering how fancy everything looks. Let’s see if there is enough substance and how well everything performs.
It is green. Very green, almost to the point you feel the need to water your desktop! Humor aside, the overall set-up is quite traditional. We have a panel at the bottom with the menu on the left and the system tray on the right. Out of the ordinary is the clock/calendar widget on the top left desktop and the four virtual desktop widgets on the right side of the desktop. There is an air of fancy playfulness about this desktop that users will either like or not. I’m still undecided. Let me explain. When you log-in, the desktop appears and the text: “Bodhi Linux” moves into place from behind the desk of the wallpaper – fancy. Then you’re notified of available WiFi networks that make the notifications icon jump for a while. It also jumps every time we adjust the volume. When we hover over the file manager icon or any other pinned app on the panel the icons start pulsating in a fancy way. To be honest, this is quite impressive considering how light the system is and I am sure many would love this. I tend to prefer subtle. When we right-click on a window to move it around, we get a green square jumping around the cursor – again, fancy but maybe a bit over the top? Terminology, the terminal, also has a fancy pulsating courser and an overall very geeky computer aesthetic.
The more I play around with it the more it feels niche but in a good way. The overall theme is dark. In a similar fashion to the Openbox window manager, Moksha lets us access the menu anywhere on the desktop. In this case by using the main left mouse button. The menu doesn’t offer text to search but there is a launcher included for that end which can be invoked with ctrl+alt+space.
The system comes with two themes preinstalled. The green one mentioned above and a more traditional default one. The default theme uproots all the greenery and provides us with a more usual grey/blue desktop. It also uses different icons. The icons can be chosen in the settings panel and there are a few preinstalled. I couldn’t find any other wallpapers to choose from but we can also set whatever color as a background too. That fits better to the light-weight approach anyways. The window controls can also be moved around. There is also a scaling option for the text that will also affect the size of application windows and panel items – neat!
The virtual desktops widget can be placed anywhere. On the desktop or on the panel. We can choose the size and how many to display. The same goes for the clock. The panel itself can also be moved to any side of the screen.
Overall I found the desktop fine and fully usable. It has a nice old school feel to it and I would never have guessed it uses that little ram.
Bohdi comes as a minimal installation with not much more than a file manager, a terminal and a web browser. So in order run a few usability tests we need to install some apps. This gives us the chance to test the Bohdi App Center as well. The Synaptic Package Manager is also available. Interestingly the App Center is just a website tied to the default browser.
I decided to install SMPlayer as it promised to play both audio and video files with no codecs issues. It installed just fine, however, it also installed MPV which it uses as its engine. Files can then be played in either MPV or SMPlayer.
For a change, I used the Synaptic Package Manager to install AbiWord. It installed fine and it was also available in the online App Center. If something isn’t available in the online app center it can always be installed through Synaptic or the terminal. Remember this is based on Ubuntu 20.04 and most apps available to Ubuntu should run here too.
I noticed there was no Bluetooth available so I installed Blueman from the App Center in order to test it further below with my JBL speaker.
Multimedia Playback: MPV played any type of media file I threw at it. Very good!
Bluetooth: After installing Blueman I was able to find and connect to my speaker. Music played instantly over the speaker and volume could be adjusted with the volume icon in the system tray.
Display Scaling: Expecting fractional scaling would be a bit much out of this system. The font scaling, however, was very useful and is a good simple solution. I connected it to my dock with external monitor and nothing happened automatically. We need to go into the settings panel and configure the screen layout editor for our set-up. That worked fine, just not automatic.
As we can see, everything seems to run on Bodhi. It just requires some manual intervention by the user.
This system really grew on me. I was a bit put off by the aesthetics at first but a simple switch to the default theme took care of that. The fact that everything just worked with those RAM usage values baffled me. Sure, it required more manual input to get things done but I quite enjoyed that to be honest. I expected the missing Bluetooth to be an issue but it installed fine and just worked. All my media files played fine too. The default Chromium browser is my favorite as well. The bare bones approach where I can install only what I need is just the way I like it. I kept an eye on htop the whole time and was surprised RAM usage always went back to under 300 MB when idle. The highest I saw was around 800 MB with a few tabs in Chromium open and MPV playing a music video. The system felt snappy at all times and left me wondering why I have never tried it before. I am giving this a solid thumbs up! I probably wouldn’t recommend it to a beginner but if someone still has an older machine with 2 GB of ram or less laying around, this could possibly be a perfect match.
I will keep it in its partition for a while longer and fire it up on occasion. Any Bodhi fans out there that want to share their experience? Feel free to use the comments section below.