Updated: March 23, 2015
Netrunner 15 Prometheus is the last edition of the Ubuntu-based branch of the Netrunner family, as opposed to the rolling siblings that come with more Archy and Manjaroy DNA. While the release itself definitely begs attention and review, what makes it special is the fact it's the first distro, that I know of, to officially feature Plasma 5 as its desktop.
So we will be testing, not only the desktop itself, but also the new environment. We will be doing that on my older LG laptop. But the beauty there is that it comes with the Nvidia graphics card, so it should be extra interesting. Please follow me.
Rather than going for Breeze or Dark Breeze, Netrunner 15 serves its users with its own custom theme, which comes with some of the olden KDE4 elements in order to retain familiarity. This is not bad, but not as powerful as having a fully fledged Plasma 5 setup blasting its photon into the user's face. Still, you can easily change or replace the theme as you see fit.
However, if you fiddle with the menu layout - as you can switch between several alternative views - Netrunner logo will have been replaced by the stock K letter, but you won't get it back if you once again revert to the default distro looks. Somewhere, the custom image goes away.
If you ask me, the Launcher type is a more visually appealing option for the distro.
Overall, things were working fine. However, the desktop crashed a few times while trying to drag & drop icons from the menu onto the bottom panel. We've seen this before, and the Netrunner distro is also affected, at least in the live session.
Network connectivity and such
No problems here. Wireless, Bluetooth and Samba worked fine.
Worked fine. Well, you get VLC, so it's basically a done deal. However, one thing you can notice immediately is the little window title artifact, probably caused by some sort of conflict between the hardware, Nouveau drivers and OpenGL wossname.
The default recommendation by the operating system is good enough. But I decided to go with my custom install, and that also meant usurping the Kubuntu install and reusing its home directory and user settings. Another interesting spin, if you will.
The slideshow is quite all right. Elegant and rich with info. You might as well immerse yourself into it, because the installation is quite long, but it completed without any problems.
In the land of Greek Titans
The first that I noticed was that I had the stock theme in place - the reason for this was the fact I reused my home directory and all its settings. Not bad, but then it took me some time fiddling with themes and icons getting the Netrunner 15 Prometheus looks in place.
Package management & updates
Muon worked fine, but it is just not as refined as Ubuntu Software Center. The update process was rougher. I was not able to do an automatic update, because some of the dependencies were broken, and I had to manually resolve the conflict before the update tool would work. This isn't nice. The update facility must be rock solid, otherwise users will never be able to fix problems. It's the gateway to Catch 22.
With its hefty 1.8GB download, Netrunner 15 comes with a wagonload of programs. It's a bit of an overkill really, and I have talked about this before. Most of the software is quite useful for a large userbase, but then there are some really unnecessary extras that waste the image space. On the positive side, Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, Skype, Steam, PlayOnLinux, GIMP, VLC, and some more. On the negative side, KDEnlive is cool but not really needed, and the same applies to Marble. Virtualbox, too. Now, Firefox has been too heavily modified with configuration changes as well as too many addons. This takes a rather personal spin, if you will.
Moreover, Steam complained about OpenGL - and this explains why we saw those artifacts earlier. Indeed, there's the subtle question of getting Nvidia graphics drivers setup. So we shall.
This went without problems. And Steam stopped complaining.
Doing my little Samba printing trick did not work. Initially, it was utterly broken with a bad file descriptor thingie that we've seen before, with Chakra.
A system update fixed this, and the applet started working, but there was no Samba option. Worse yet, even after installing the py-smbc package, the relevant network component was still not available. So it's a no, and it's a shame really.
Netrunner 15 Prometheus is a hungry distro, and it's not best suited for older laptops, even with a decent graphics card. Another thing that bears mention is that the DPI setting is not optimal, and some details might be hard to see. I am not sure if you can spot that from the KSysGuard screenshot, but do try. Memory wise, 1.2GB, and the CPU chirps like a canary at about 10%. Responsiveness is good, but nothing to brag about in the local pub.
Here's what we have. Lovely jubbly. It took a few attempts to sort everything, including small glitches with the menu, icons and such, but overall, Prometheus comes with excess beauty, and it definitely tries to cover up its shortcomings with spoonfuls of aesthetics.
Netrunner 15 Prometheus is an interesting, colorful, promising distro. It's also very beautiful and highly versatile, and overall, it worked well. But there were some serious problems along the way, including a bunch of crashes, issues with updates, graphics card niggles, Samba printing, and similar. Memory usage is also quite heavy. None of these really build confidence with new users, the target audience for the distro.
Going with Plasma 5 is a bold statement, and the dev team must be lauded for taking the pioneering trail to the top. But there's more work needed polishing the system, to make sure it shines spotless for users, and so that issues we've seen today never crop up. Indeed, all of them can be relatively easily fixed. Netrunner 15 is a decent alternative to Ubuntu and Mint, but it is just not as refined as the other two. Sometimes simplicity wins over quantity. But not bad. Definitely worth the try, if only to lay your hands on the cool, awesome, kickass Plasma desktop. There. Grade, 7.9/10.