Netrunner 16 Ozymandias review


Updated: June 8, 2015

A trippy name notwithstanding, Ozymandias is the 16th edition of Netrunner, a Kubuntu-based distro with all the trimmings needed to make the latter better. But noble mission aside, there's the execution we need to think about, hence we are gathered here for this be review, and may the spring season continue.

I will test Ozymandias on my G50 laptop, and 'tis interesting, 'cause UEFI. Then, since I've already tried Prometheus on this box, plus the recent bevy of freshly releases Ubuntu siblings, it ought to be even moar fun. So please, after me.

Teaser

Live session and such - Goodie

Ah, greatness abides. Unlike its predecessor - and unlike Kubuntu Vivid really, Ozymandias did not struggle with the UEFI + Secure Boot combo, and it sped happily into a pretty and cheerful live session with ancient Egyptian gold-hued motifs. The old, familiar look and feel is there, and while not as mighty as the stock Plasma looks, it's handsome enough while retaining familiarity and practicality.

Live desktop

Network connectivity and friends

Well, Wireless worked and did not get stuck, despite a looming Realtek bug, but perhaps it's been fixed under the hood. Bluetooth works, too. Samba sharing, yup, with good speed no less, but with a funky file stat thingie that tarnishes the copied files with the stamp relevant for the moment the copy operation was completed rather than the original creation time.

Printing did not work at all - the applet would not launch. I am wildly guessing this has to be the bad file descriptor bug that we've seen in several KDE distros recently, like Chakra, for instance. Perhaps this will be solved after the installation and some updates.

Multimedia playback

You get all the stuff that makes life worthwhile and full of meaning in the live session. Including but not limited to Flash, and we hope it dies one day, MP3 and HD video in WebM format, with more lovely codecs inside the container. No probs.

Flash

HD video

Music, MP3

However, I keep wondering about the default music player choice. It says Winamp, but it's actually Audacious with a special skin. Speaking of skins, there's also gmusicbrowser, however here, unlike Xubuntu, it comes with no additional themes and you can't change the layout, which makes it somewhat meh. Moreover, there's no integration between the music player and the system volume/audio function. There could be more wax and polish involved.

Winamp actually reads Audacious

Installation

I decided to expand the current six-boot setup. At the moment, we have the Windows 8/10 combo, plus Trusty plus the recent three K/U/X buntus, one after another. Netrunner 16 makes the seventh entry, and it worked fine, with some exceptions.

One, Netrunner is not very considerate toward other distros, and it does not offer any side-by-side setup, which makes it somewhat destructive by nature. Then, it also suggested the mounted SD card as the first choice rather than the internal hard disk.

Default partitioning

I was able to create a new partition (number 14) in the available free space, and pointed the bootloader to the same device, unlike the default option, which was the SD card, again. There were no error messages we saw in Prometheus and Vivid, but still.

Create new partition

Partitions ready

The slideshow is much nicer than ever before, highly elegant and polished, and the overall procedure took less time than before. These are cool little touches overall, but I'm still offended by the fact Netrunner fails to acknowledge its neighbors in a multi-boot setup. All distros should aim to achieve this, with openSUSE still being the white prince of partitions.

Slide 1

Slide 2

Slide 3

Roaming the Nyle Delta

Indeed. Netrunner 16 launched fine, after taking over the boot sequence from Xubuntu. This is the EFI thing, so no matter which partition you choose to install the bootloader to, you'll effectively get a new active EFI image. No biggie overall, but worth paying attention when setting up multi-boot systems. Then, the splash screen is awesome. You also don't get pestered with any KDEwallet stuff later on. Remains cool and pretty, too.

Desktop

Notifications

Package management & updates

Well, this really remains the weak point of most KDE releases. Muon just isn't fast or robust enough. It does not prompt for updates, like Ubuntu and Xubuntu do. The first time I tried to update, it got stuck. The second time, it worked, but then the functionality is not that intuitive. Check for updates actually means expanding the little arrow thingie button on the left bottom side. This breaks the overall workflow. There are many superior implementations, and Kubuntu and Netrunner should use them.

Muon got stuck, not intuitive

Updates, finally working

Updates working

Applications

The default set is very impressive. I think the Netrunner team is still experimenting with the ideal offering, and it's going head to head with Linux Mint. However, they seem to be converging toward the optimum. For an image that weighs a handsome 1.8 GB, you get a decent bunch, like Firefox, Thunderbird, VLC, LibreOffice, Steam, Skype, GIMP, GwenView. There are some other extras, including Handbrake, KDEnlive, and more. Jolly good, but it can be slimmed down a notch. Still, an improvement, and for all practical purposes, it's a colorful and highly useful set for most people.

Apps

Resource usage & performance

Netrunner is a heavy weight with 1.3 GB of RAM tolled without any great effort, plus small but not insignificant CPU percentage. Overall, the distro isn't the leanest or fastest, and things take a bit time happening. Updates were rather slow, for instance. Quite so, in fact.

Resources

Stability & hardware compatibility

The distro worked well, but there were some issues. Firefox froze once or twice trying to play Flash. Muon did its thing. Apart from that, most of the stuff behaved well. In general, the hardware compatibility has improved slightly from the previous release, and that's an encouraging sign. In a nutshell, suspend & resume, webcam, Fn keys, the rest. No weird prompts for proprietary firmware and such the way we saw in Kubuntu 15.04.

Smartphone integration

Alas, this new little challenge that I've added to my usual list of review tasks, well, Ozymandias did not cope that well. Dolphin did see and mount Windows Phone, Ubuntu Phone, and Android, but it did not handle iPhone well. We're gonna discuss this in the near future.

Desktop effects

They work in all their color and might!

Desktop effects 1

Desktop effects 2

Printing

Still borked. Bad, very bad.

Final desktop

Some extra screenshots and such:

Desktop, ready 1

Desktop, ready 2

Desktop, ready 3

Conclusion

Netrunner 16 Ozymandias is a better distro than Prometheus, and it is also a more refined offering than Kubuntu Vivid. It comes with that much more finesse, style, useful extras, software, fixed or removed bugs, and in general, it gives a more complete out of the box experience. I am pleased to see distros evolving while holding true to their core identity. Just look at how far Xubuntu's come in just a few years.

There are some problems still, including several hardware niggles. Now that we've bridged the UEFI bridge, the next step is to make sure nothing goes wrong with peripheral device support, which is a difficult but critical task. Then, printing. Then, package management. On the software side, those are two big ones. But overall, Ozymandias is a slick and joyful offering, with a colorful arsenal of goodies, very lovely looks, and tons of exciting software. You might as well give it a try. Grade wise, something like 8.5/10.

Cheers.

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