Updated: January 7, 2017
Netrunner is dead, long live Maui. Well, not quite. But the old Ubuntu-based Netrunner as you've known it (AKA somebody I used to know) once is now a different distribution called Maui Linux. I think for a good reason, as Netrunner is a semi-rolling system that has never quite worked for me.
I did hint at this in the Avalon review, and here we are, about to test Maui. The distro combines the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS base with the KDE neon presentation layer, so this should be an interesting experiment. In other words, it's what Kubuntu should be, plus some fresh new apps straight out of Plasma forges. Test box: Lenovo G50. Let's.
Booted fine from a USB drive, no issue with UEFI and whatnot. I was surprised by the over-sized bottom panel and the full-scale application dashboard menu, which together with the fish wallpaper, made me feel as if the resolution or desktop scaling were all wrong. But it was in order, and after some small visual games, I was liking.
The application dashboard is weird - and should not be transparent - or less so.
Panel scaled down to more palatable proportions.
One of the things you will immediately notice - Maui comes with a non-conventional menu and taskbar setup, but then also gives 2-3 alternatives in each case, allowing you to change and customize the layout as you see fit. Quite all right. Plus, you get the usual, happy-orangey Plasma stuff. Except Spectacle, which cramps everyone's style with the unnecessary alpha border around windows screenshots, with the asymmetric positioning that makes me wanna cry.
Given the kernel is only 4.4 and not the enlightened 4.8.7 or what we get in Fedora 25, the Realtek RTL8723BE Wireless predictably died and I had to revive it, but this was a simple modprobe trick, and no need to fiddle with the Network Manager or anything like that.
Bluetooth also works, rather spotlessly I must say. Samba sharing also worked well, including share names and not just IP addresses, but the copy function is still annoying as it does not preserve time stamps. I was not able to print because the printer applet just would not launch. At all. So it's not the matter of doing it with Samba. Everything.
Very good, no complaints. I had MP3 playback, HD video, and Youtube was behaving nicely. You can't play media directly from Windows shares, and this is a long, outstanding KDE problem. I've shown you how to fix this in a separate tutorial a few days ago. For that matter, speaking of Youtube and media and such, Firefox was behaving nicely, even though multi-processing is disabled because of the browser extensions. Adblock is the only one that works well with Electrolysis. So there's that to consider as well.
I tested with Ubuntu Phone and iPhone, both worked fine, the latter in PTP mode, but I do not recall it showing up in Dolphin. I was also able to play music off of the Ubuntu Phone, but you do not get any meta data, hence the context menu in the system area shows empty as opposed to the files stored on the local disk.
Installation - Shrimp me up, Scotty
It's Calamares, fresh from the Azores, and lightly buttered. Or something. The installer indeed comes from the Arch world or so, and we've seen it in action with Manjaro, realized decently, although things can be improved. The partitioner does not label devices, so you will need to do some guessing, and you also have to manually choose the /boot/efi mount point. The whole region and language thingie can also be streamlined.
Furthermore, the installer seemed stuck on the summary page, and the progress bar lingered at the 22% for a long time before moving forward, but this kind of thing can erode one's confidence in the process.
And then, on my personal wishlist, being able to preserve the contents of the live session the way MX Linux does it. Maybe one day. The slides are very slick, very pro. I've always had complaints in this regard, but this is as elegant as I've seen. Most importantly, there is a checkbox for the system reboot, so you don't lose your live session stuff.
Well, so here we have the desktop, and it chainloaded all the other distros and the resident Windows 10 fine, no sweat. The boot isn't the fastest, but then you don't get the double prompt for Wireless like in the live session. A single one, plus KDEWallet, but no other annoyances.
Package management & updates
Maui comes with a simple setup - Synaptic. No fancy frontend, no suggestions. This is not optimal for new users, but then it works better than crippled GUI solutions the likes of Discover and Gnome Software, which are just broken. The update manager comes from Linux Mint, and it works fine, but level 4-5 updates are not automatically selected, and you will have to do this manually, or just use the command line interface.
Blue Tang comes with a healthy basket of programs, which fit nicely into its 2GB image size. But the assortment is quite colorful and varied. Some of it's rather unneeded for most people, but the bulk is practical and useful. Firefox, Thunderbird, VLC, LibreOffice, Steam, Skype, Transmission, GIMP, and more. You also get Handbrake, Kamoso - which would not launch at all, KDEnlive, and several other tools and utilities. Very handy.
Overall, Maui looks pretty decent. It comes with Windows 8.1-like flat decorations, its own customized theme and the standard set of icons. Since I've recently discovered the magic of Moka, firstly through my Chapeau review, I started using them in pretty much every distro, and Blue Tang is no exception. The icons work well with Plasma, but I did need to create a custom icon for Spectacle, as it does not have its own. And you need to log out and log back into your session to see the effect. Plus the menu and panel games, finding the optimal look & feel, and also functionality.
Moka in action, almost there.
All my icons
This is a Beatles song. But what happened, I changed the taskbar to a classic layout then back to icons only, and all my icons were gone! I had to recreate the setup, which was just annoying. Moreover, you can pin apps only after you've launched them - and if you do the menu right-click trick, they will be added to the panel, but in the conventional fashion, which means they will not cooperate with the icons-only configuration. Needs polish.
But overall, Maui looks very pretty. Relaxing. Still, it's funny how customizable KDE/Plasma really is, and yet, sometimes things can be so tricky and convoluted. But then, with the right set of theme, decorations and icons, it can look the part. It just takes more than a few easy clicks to sort out.
Resource utilization & performance
Well, well. Maui 2.1 Blue Tang is fairly quiet. Memory utilization is low, at about 500 MB, and the CPU normally ticks at just 1%. Indeed, the system is fairly responsive, and truth to be told, it is probably one of the leanest Plasma systems that I've seen and used in a long while. Such a difference compared to my openSUSE experience.
Maui is like a little piranha. Voracious. I like the power management profile. Quite solid. Very sensibly, it immediately reduced the brightness to about 65% right away, and without any big activity, it offered 2.5 hours of juice on a battery that has lost about 13% of its total capacity. So let's call it another 15-20 minutes in the best case. Will scratch about 3 hours on a new pack. With the brightness adjusted to 50%, there wasn't any big improvement, so the sweet spot is somewhere there. All in all, 2.5-3 hours, which is okay but not stellar. Hence my fishy analogy. Hue hue.
Hardware support, stability, suspend & resume
No crashes, but there was a glitch or three here and there. The system was robust and stable, and everything worked - except printing and the web camera program. Suspend and resume also worked fine, and I had no issues with my Wireless card after setting up the modprobe config file, and this also did not affect the laptop when waking from sleep. Neat, I would say.
Let's discuss some of the issues that I faced during the testing. Well, firstly, the printer applet still remains DOA. It would never launch, and for that matter, neither would Kamoso, and this ain't no Wayland issue. It's a pure segmentation fault:
Invalid Context= "Mimetypes" line for icon theme: "/usr/share/icons/Faba/symbolic/mimetypes/"
Icon theme "elementary" not found.
new gamma 102
Slider.qml:203:5: QML RangeModel: Binding loop detected for property "value"
New saturation 100
New contrast 100
The system update is very slow due to the bootloader config. If you log out of the session, you are automatically logged back in. Once, after logging in, I lost my decorations, and I actually had to do it again. This could be a silent KWin failure.
There were also a few cosmetic glitches, like icons and text overlapping in Open and Save dialogs in Dolphin and such. For me, the application dashboard remains unusable, as the size and height of items are just wrong. Lastly, waking up from suspend, I actually saw the desktop contents before being prompted for password.
Maui Linux 2.1 Blue Tang is a surprisingly and yet expectedly good Plasma system, using some of that Mint-like approach to home computing. It's what Kubuntu should have been or should be, and it delivers a practical, out-of-the-box experience with a fine blend of software, fun and stability. That's a very sensible approach.
Not everything was perfect. Plasma has its bugs, the printer and the web cam issues need to be looked into, and on the aesthetics side, a few things can be polished and improved. The installer can benefit from having some extra safety mechanisms. But I guess that is the sum of my complaints. On the happy side, you get all the goodies from the start, the application collection is rich, the distro did not crash, and the performance is really decent for a Plasma beastling. A fine formula, and probably the best one we've seen in the last eighteen months or so. Good news if you like KDE. And indeed, this is definitely one of the distros you should try. 9/10. I'm quite pleased. Have a maui day.