Updated: May 14, 2014
Normally, Netrunner OS is a Kubuntu-based distribution, and it comes out to the market about a month after its papa is released, twice a year. Now, this time around, the dev team has done something interesting, they have released a rolling version of the distro, based on Arch and Manjaro. So the big question is, should you take our your obsidian ax and start sacrificing virgins unto the deities of command line?
To answer that question, let's do a review. I will be installing and testing Netrunner Rolling 2014.04 edition on my T61 laptop, which has Intel graphics and Wireless, two SSD, and already houses four distros. We will displace one, to wit, you keep on reading.
The desktop booted fine, without any problems. It's a typical Netrunner KDE session, well branded and familiar by now, but just to help you, in case you had any doubts, there's a wallpaper to tell you what you're using.
The menu is okay, but it comes with a few quirks. One, it does not close, unless you choose an action, so it remains there, waiting for you. Not the case in the standard edition. Two, the search is still somewhat wonky. Three, search results are featured at the bottom rather than the top. It makes sense mouse-wise, but not for people who expect things in a certain way.
The distro was behaving well overall, but there were a few stutters while loading data from the USB drive, which are not noticeable in most distros. You also don't get any smooth scrolling in the browser.
Both were fine, including 5GHz network. However, unlike most implementations of Samba, Netrunner Rolling set a single filestamp for all files copied over, so it appears as if they were taken at the same time. Not nice for a distro reviewer, like me, who wants to sort things chronologically.
No problems. Almost. The codecs played well, Flash, MP3 and HD video. The thing was, when I right-clicked on a music file, and fired up Clementine, it stalled. It didn't play the file. But if you open the GUI, open a file, all is well. Moreover, the default music thingie is qmmp, and it's not pretty or consistent with the overall KDE session.
Curiously enough, the installation is almost identical to the standard Kubuntu deal. It's a wizard, with a few short steps. There were no issues. When you fire up the installer, it warns you that this is beta software, so you should be careful. All right, fair enough.
Unlike most installers, this one does not acknowledge the presence of other distributions. Furthermore, it says erase disc, but which one? There are two hard disks in this box, so it's not trivial. You must go with the advanced mode.
The partitioning step is a little different, because it also displays tiny free space alignment in between partitions that really serves no purpose whatsoever, and the Extended partition is shown, too. You also get those dev/zram thingies, which is silly. You can't possibly install there, so why list them? The same applies to 807K and 161K free space and all the rest. There's also a column that reads SSD, and then corresponding checkmarks for devices that match this. Why? I have no idea. Anyhow, other than that, you will find your way around.
The timezone is set for Berlin, and it does not auto-adjust to where you are. Then, you have the slideshow. The text is not written or rendered on the fly, it's actually an image, and so the text shows with a non-native DPI/resolution whatever, and feels somewhat cheap.
The installation wasn't very quick. It took about 25 minutes to complete. After that, I rebooted into the Ubuntu Salamander instance, which controls the startup sequence of this four-boot system, and updated the GRUB bootloader. After that, Netrunner Rolling showed up in the menu, and we could test some more.
Now, should we start using that obsidian ax? Well, not just yet. Netrunner, despite its Archy and Manjaroish legacy was behaving like a cultured operating system, without forcing you to do any of the sisyphic steps normally associated with the would-be advanced distros.
I was expecting a nightmare, a-la Gentoo. Nope. You have a decent package manager, which comes with the pacman logo, but it's called Octopi. It works fine, even though it could be a little more intuitive when it comes to upgrades. During one of the upgrades, there were a lot of repos that failed to return the needed packages, and that worried me a little, but then, the procedure completed successfully, with all the stuff installed. The repo thing is ugly, but it does not cause any issues.
The default collection is rich and colorful. Maybe a little too much. There's everything, and then some. Too many multimedia programs, including unnecessary stuff like Kdenlive and something called vokoscreen. Don't get me wrong, I love Kdenlive, but it does not belong in a default set for pretty much any distro.
You have Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, GIMP, Clementine, VLC, Kamoso is there and the web cam works fine, Skype, and such like. It's really nice, but it can be polished a little bit.
Yes, yes and yes. Very surprising. Compare this to Manjaro. Well, there were no bugs or crashes, nothing too visible. Suspend & resume also worked fine. As far as resource utilization goes, Netrunner Rolling is rather hungry, but only memory wise, consuming approximately 800MB raw. The CPU dances in the low single digits, about 4-5% on average, and the responsiveness is quite good.
Did not work, I'm sorry.
No Samba printing, damn.
So the following stuff bugged me. I marked autologin during the install, but this did not happen. Firefox scrolling remains chopped. Firefox also opens new tabs and switches focus to them, immediately, so you will need to change this, if you prefer to stay where you are when launching new tabs. The Netrunner logo aspect ratio is scrunched a little on 16:9 screens.
This being KDE, and the splendid openSUSE Plasma theme lurking nearby, you can pimp up the distro to the max. The end result of three minutes and sixteen seconds of hard work, and it fits the overall mojo well, no?
Surprise, surprise, you need not shed blood, burn virgins or anything of that sort to get Netrunner Rolling working properly. And it does not really matter what it's based on, because the nerdonics do not come to bear. This is a very decent distro, and just as easy as any out there. Now, take a moment for this to sink in. Dedoimedo expressing solid enthusiasm for what is essentially Arch or Manjaro. As probable as you winning a month of vacation at the Playboy mansion, together with your significant other, plus free massage.
Netrunner Rolling 2014.04 is a good product. It's not perfect, though. Desktop effects, native fonts in the installer, printing, browser preferences, auto-login niggles, extra software, and such. All of these can be refined. But there are no killer issues whatsoever, and the overall experience is quite positive. I guess a nice 8.5/10 is warranted here, and definitely a product to watch and test. There we go.