Here is another wonderfully simplified way for less advanced users to get a taste of Arch Linux. This time I will be looking at the powerful but less-known Bridge Linux distribution. With Bridge Linux it seems that very little has been neglected, and of course there is no shortage of variety. You can try Bridge Linux with Xfce, Gnome Shell, Cinnamon, KDE, or the lightweight LXDE desktop.
Bridge Linux, like Arch Linux follows a rolling release model meaning users are not required to reinstall to receive all of the latest updates. Although several desktop versions are available Xfce seems to be the unofficial figurehead for the Bridge Linux project.
To review Bridge Linux I decided to try the Xfce desktop release, using the 2012.5 version. This may be Xfce at its best, users will surely enjoy the creatively enhanced look.
If you are ready to cross the Rubicon and not look back perhaps it is time to install Bridge Linux. If you are finally ready to take a leap into the unknown then here we go.
Waste no time, first download one of the many LiveCD's that are available from the website. When ready simply click install Bridge Linux after you arrive at the Live desktop. This will launch a convenient Arch Linux installer that you may have seen before.
Users can then follow the onscreen checklist to finish the installation. You will first need to setup the time and date and prepare your partitions. You can then install the base system, and set your basic configuration. The final step is to install the boot loader, preferably on every existing HDD. You can then reboot your system.
I am happy to note that the installation went forward without any problems to speak of. The overall speed of the installation was also satisfactory. You should also note the readme file on the desktop which also contains several post installation tips.
LXDM has only recently replaced LightDM as the default login manager for the Xfce version only. The reason for this I am actually unsure of.
I was shocked to see the sleek customization tweaks that have been given to the Xfce desktop. With the latest round of Xfce updates many long-awaited features have finally been added.
You will first notice the Xfce 4 panel in all its new-found glory. Xfwm 4 is also utilized to power all the desktop effects, and stylish window decorations. Thunar also appears to now be responsible for many of the desktop management tasks, Xfdesktop appears to be getting slowly phased out.
I myself have never been happier with Xfce, all of the new features give the desktop a real facelift. The whole desktop is extremely responsive, and things are really designed for efficiency. It's nice to be back in the embracing arms of the Xfce desktop.
The menu can be found on the left side of the top menu bar. This menu is provided by a convenient panel applet that can be moved around or configured as needed.
From the main menu you can launch all of your installed tools and applications. You can also run custom commands or find applications using the new and improved Xfce4-appfinder.
You can find an alternative menu with many similar items by right clicking on the desktop background. This menu also offers several desktop management shortcuts which seem to be controlled by Thunar. But all of the same launchers from the panel applet menu are still available as well. From the menus you can also find all of your system settings.
Users will find a menu editor included in the system settings area which is also helpful. With this tool you can add any missing launchers or custom commands to your menus at any time. Unwanted items can also be removed from your menus. These features appear to be offered by the LXMed tool, also known as the LXDE menu editor.
As I have already briefly discussed, you will find two highly customizable panels on your desktop. One on the top of the screen and one on the bottom. You can control how many panels you would like to display.
The top panel is reserved for launchers, open windows and the notification area. The bottom panel simply holds extra items that you may find useful. Many more launchers and applets can be added to the panels at any time.
From the panel right-click menu you can select the add new items option, this will let you add add applets to your panels. All of the usual panel applets are available for users that are already familiar with Xfce. For those of you who are not, here are some of the best panel applets. There is system and battery monitor applets, window or workspace switcher applets, and naturally, a network manager applet.
By right clicking on a desktop panel you can find the panel preferences dialog where all of your panel options can be found. Here you can customize the location and look of your panel. The panel background can be configured and transparency options are available as well.
Next lets take a look at Xfwm4 which happens to be the window manager for Xfce. This is a fairly light and well designed window manager with loads of features as I will point out.
Xfwm4 is responsible for window decorations and themes which Bridge Linux surely does not neglect. I believe the Xfce 4 themes package is installed which offers a vast selection of window themes.
I am not sure if all of the available themes are from the Xfce project or if any have been contributed by Bridge Linux. Either way the default theme, Orta, is a fantastic choice.
Because of the fairly recent Xfce 4.10 update Xfwm4 now makes better use of the built-in compositor. Enhanced transparency options are now available for the panels, window decorations, active or inactive windows, even notifications.
The Bridge Linux Xfce release also employs the Thunar file manager as you may have guessed. Similar to all of the other Xfce components, Thunar is light and very efficient.
Users can start Thunar with one of the launcher icons on the left side of the top panel. Rumor also suggest that Thunar may be taking over for Xfdesktop for all desktop management tasks.
Bridge Linux it seems has chosen not to employ a graphical user interface for software installation. Pacman is available for command line use, this tool is fast and efficient, it even looks great.
Personally I prefer the progress bars that are displayed when using Pacman package manager, this seems to look better than simply displaying a percentage.
Pacman may seem intimidating for new users, I expect some users may be left in the dark. With a brief look at the man pages most people should be able to handle Pacman for basic tasks in my opinion. We also have a brief tutorial which may help users understand the basic operations for the Pacman package manager.
The convenient Superuser-Do, or sudo, application has also been included. This tool helps with increased security when configured correctly, and it may also save you some time in the long run. You can use the Sudo tool to gain administrative privileges to your system for a brief time, usually a single command. This will also speed things up because you will no longer be required to completely login as root to complete a single command.
To customize your desktop, hardware, and all of your preferences you can turn to the Xfce 4 system settings manager. This tool comes loaded with all of the common settings modules that Xfce usually delivers.
The Xfce4 settings editor is also available if you want more manual control of the hidden system settings. Naturally this tool is only recommended for more advanced users.
The awesome Bridge Linux wallpaper matches the default theme almost perfectly, but if users want a change other wallpapers are certainly available. The Xfce4 artwork package comes already installed delivering a vast number of stylish wallpapers.
Though I did encounter a few minor inconveniences along the way, Bridge Linux was certainly worthy of the review. I expect most of the problems were due to my lack of familiarity with Arch Linux, this however is slowly being resolved. Please be patient!
Bridge Linux 2012 Xfce preformed exceptionally for the entire review, despite a few errors on my account. The software selection is partially hand-picked for efficiency. Many of the popular Xfce 4 applications and tools have also been included. All of the basic software that users will need for every tasks comes pre-installed.
I enjoyed the fact that the Bridge Linux Xfce version is actually somewhat customized, I cannot speak for the others. The icons, the desktop, the customization, everything is quite unique, even the selection of software. It bothers me sometimes, when I see a distribution that is simply another distribution disguised with a new wallpaper. I am happy to say that Bridge Linux certainly has potential. Especially considering the development team consists mostly of a single person if I am not mistaken. Much credit is due!!