Bodhi Linux 6.0.0Bodhi Linux is a member of the Ubuntu family which features the Moksha desktop environment. Moksha is a fork of the popular Enlightenment window manager which has been customized to better fit with the Bodhi Linux project. The latest release of Bodhi is version 6.0.0 which is based on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS. Bodhi is available in several flavours, including one regular, fairly minimal edition; a hardware enablement (HWE) edition which features a newer kernel; and an AppPack edition with extra applications installed. A Legacy edition is planned which offers support for older, 32-bit machines with no PAE support, though at the time of writing the download link for the Legacy edition is not working.
I decided to download the default edition for 64-bit computers. The ISO I downloaded was 832MB in size. Booting from this media brings up a menu where we are invited to Try or Install Bodhi. There is also an option to try the live desktop environment in safe graphics mode.
Taking the Try option brings up a graphical environment. A window appears and shows us a list of languages accompanied with country flags. We are asked to pick one. Then we are shown another list of country flags and languages and asked to pick one that matches our keyboard's layout. After our selection is made the Moksha desktop loads.
The default theme uses a lot of flat, green icons on a charcoal background while text is mostly white on charcoal. I typically don't like flat icons, but Bodhi tends to make icons rather large and typically matches icons with text or tool tips which make the interface easier to navigate.
The Moksha desktop places a panel at the bottom of the screen with an application menu to the left and a system tray to the right. A list of open windows is displayed in the middle. Icons on the desktop offer to launch the system installer and provide help. Over to the right side of the desktop are two widgets, one for switching between virtual desktops and the other provides clock and calendar information.
Bodhi Linux 6.0.0 -- The Moksha desktop and application menu (full image size: 1.2MB, resolution: 1360x768 pixels)
The Help icon on the desktop opens a web browser to display local documentation pages which explain what Bodhi is, how to navigate the Moksha desktop, and get connected to the Internet. The documentation offers additional helpful information pages and links to an on-line wiki. The documentation provided is clear and nicely laid out.
Bodhi uses the Ubiquity installer which is used by most Ubuntu-based distributions. The installer asks us to pick our preferred language and offers us a link to the project's release notes. We are then walked through confirming our keyboard layout. We're asked whether we wish to download available updates and third-part packages for wireless networking and media codec support. When it comes time to partition the hard drive we can take a friendly, straight forward manual partitioning screen. Alternatively we can use a guided option. The guided option offers to take over all available free space and set up an ext4, LVM, or ZFS volume. The default is to use ext4 and the guided option also sets up a swap file for us. We are asked to select our time zone from a map of the world and make up a username and password for ourselves. The distribution is then quickly copied to the hard drive and Ubiquity offers to restart the computer. The whole process with Ubiquity was pleasantly painless.
Bodhi boots to a graphical login screen with green wallpaper. Signing into the account we make through Ubiquity quickly loads the Moksha desktop. The desktop is pleasantly responsive, uses large icons, offers tool tips for most things, and features a classic tree-style application menu. There are not many applications installed, but I will explore what is available later in this review.
I started my trial with Bodhi Linux in a VirtualBox environment. Bodhi ran quickly in this test environment. The distribution offered short boot times, the desktop was unusually fast to response, and tasks completed quickly. My only concern was that the Moksha desktop did not automatically resize to match the dimensions of the VirtualBox window. There is a display settings module in the application menu which will change the resolution of the desktop. This display resizing module appears to be available only through the application menu; I did not find it in the settings panel.
When I tried Bodhi on my laptop the distribution ran smoothly. All my hardware was detected, the distribution could boot in UEFI and Legacy BIOS mode, and the operating system was perfectly stable the entire week.
The Bodhi distribution is unusually lightweight. It requires about 160MB of RAM to login to Moksha and a fresh install only consumed 3.6GB of disk space, plus any swap area we enable. This makes Bodhi one of the smallest (in RAM) distributions I have used which also offers a feature-rich desktop environment.
The Moksha desktop
The Moksha desktop is different in a few ways from most other modern desktop environments. Some aspects, such as the panel, application menu, and system tray are similar. Unlike most other desktop environments clicking on the desktop opens an application menu.
Moksha makes use of desktop widgets, which it calls gadgets. These gadgets can be placed on the panel or around the desktop. Right-clicking on a widget usually provides access to settings and the option to move or close the selected widget. Sometimes when a widget is near the edge of a screen its menu is not displayed properly and this can make it difficult to adjust or remove the target gadget.
At first I had trouble finding a way to add new gadgets to the desktop. I never did find a way to do this directly. I discovered I could right-click on the desktop panel, then click "start moving gadgets", then select Contents, and then select a new widget to add to the panel. Then I could right-click on a gadget to move it to the desktop. This is quite indirect and I suspect there is an easier way to perform this action, but it was not immediately obvious.
Bodhi Linux 6.0.0 -- Adjusting the clock gadget (full image size: 899kB, resolution: 1360x768 pixels)
Menus and options screens, particularly those for gadgets, work differently on Moksha than when using other desktop environments. Such windows often do not have a Close button. Instead, clicking outside of a widget usually closes its options window. However, if we end up clicking on an empty part of the desktop then it will open the application menu without closing the options window and then we end up with two components cluttering the screen. This takes some getting used to and I often found exploring application and widget menus awkward as a result. It's not that Moksha's approach doesn't work, but it works differently from virtually every other desktop interface and that takes a period of adjustment.
Bodhi ships with a small collection of applications. The Chromium web browser is included along with the Leafpad text editor and the Ephoto image viewer. The Thunar file manager is installed for us along with a bulk file renamer. The distribution provides manual pages and the GNU Compiler Collection. In the background Bodhi runs the systemd init software and version 5.4 of the Linux kernel.
The applications which ship with the distribution all worked for me. I did make a few notes during my trial of interesting aspects which stood out. For instance, the Terminology virtual terminal flashes red when the terminal bell sounds. This visual and auditory notification gets annoying quickly as it happens any time the terminal wants attention or the user presses Backspace one too many times at a prompt.
When running software from the command line, if a program we tried to run is not found on the system, Bodhi will try to find it in the distribution's repositories. When the proper package is found we will be shown the command required to install the missing package. This happens quite quickly and there is almost no delay most of the time.
Chromium's default home page shows local copies of the project's documentation. The provided documentation offers tips for, among other things, setting up network connections. This is a thoughtful touch - making sure people can get on-line when they want to use the web browser, and gives a good early impression of the distribution.
Bodhi Linux 6.0.0 -- Opening Chromium to find documentation (full image size: 659kB, resolution: 1360x768 pixels)
The Moksha desktop includes a settings panel. This panel places categories of options across the top of the window. These categories include such items as Look, Screen, Windows, and Language. Clicking one of these category buttons shows settings modules listed below for that category. Clicking a module in the list opens a separate window to display the individual options.
Bodhi Linux 6.0.0 -- The settings panel (full image size: 621kB, resolution: 1360x768 pixels)
Modules usually use text to convey information with check boxes to toggle a feature on/off. The modules have a sort of classic look to them which I think would feel at home in an operating system from the 1990s. It took me a while to get accustomed to the way some modules display information. There were times I wasn't certain if an indicator was meant to be clicked or was showing me status and was non-interactive. Despite these initial stumbles once I got used to the settings modules they all worked quickly and functioned properly.
Apart from the APT command line tools, Bodhi ships with two utilities for managing software packages. One is the Synaptic package manager. Synaptic is a classic package manager which gives us low-level access to working with software. It offers tools for updating, installing, and removing packages. It can also manage repositories. Synaptic mostly pulls software from Bodhi's package mirrors and it also grabs security updates from Ubuntu's repositories. Synaptic is a little awkward to use because of way it defaults to displaying massive amounts of low-level packages. However, it did work quickly and successfully.
The second tool included in the distribution is the Bodhi AppCentre. Clicking the AppCentre's launcher opens a web browser and brings us to a website that features 19 categories of packages, each one containing just a few applications. This website offers a mini curated repository with popular desktop applications. Available items include LibreOffice, Firefox, the GNU Image Manipulation Program, and the Transmission bittorrent client.
Bodhi Linux 6.0.0 -- The Bodhi AppCentre (full image size: 676kB, resolution: 1360x768 pixels)
We can click a category, then click an entry in the category, then read its description and click an Install button to download the item. Once we click the Install button, the browser asks us to confirm we want to open the item, then we are asked to confirm we want to install the package, and then we are asked for our password. This happens with each download and we cannot queue downloads. We need to wait for each one to finish before installing the next item. This makes working with the AppCentre slow, but the minimal number of programs and the clean interface means it is quite easy to navigate. One of my few complaints with the AppCentre is its text tends to be grey on white (or sometimes bright orange on white) which I find difficult to read.
The AppCentre appears to include programs available through Synaptic (and APT) so it doesn't offer additional software, just a more user friendly way to browse and find popular applications.
In the past, when I have reviewed Bodhi Linux, I've typically stated that whether you enjoy the distribution or not will depend largely on what you think of the Enlightenment (or these days Moksha) desktop. If you like Moksha, like its quirky approach, its super lightweight nature, and its unusual green-focused style then you will probably love Bodhi Linux. However, if you find using Moksha frustrating or just too alien compared to other desktops, then Bodhi will probably leave you with an unpleasant feeling.
I believe the above statement is probably still true - whether you enjoy Bodhi will depend largely on whether navigating Moksha feels like coming home or like you're trying to learn an alien language from a Martian with a lisp. However, maybe I'm warming up to Bodhi or maybe the distribution has polished some of its features because I found myself more at home with it this time around. I liked that Bodhi was so lightweight (with a surprisingly small resource footprint). I like that the distribution is easy to install, thanks to Ubiquity, and I like that an effort is made to provide access to popular applications through the AppCentre. I'm still not a big fan of Moksha, but I do think the new theme and default widgets are making it more appealing than the last few times I ran its parent desktop, Enlightenment.
All in all, Bodhi offers a lot of good things - ease of use, easy to install, light, fast, good hardware support - while having few negative points. I had a mostly good experience with the distribution and, apart from wrestling with Moksha's unusual approach to some tasks, enjoyed my time with the operating system. I especially think it is a good option for resurrecting older computers.
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Hardware used in this review
My physical test equipment for this review was a de-branded HP laptop with the followingspecifications:
Processor: Intel i3 2.5GHz CPU
Display: Intel integrated video
Storage: Western Digital 700GB hard drive
Memory: 6GB of RAM
Wired network device: Realtek RTL8101E/RTL8102E PCI Express Fast