Updated: December 7, 2016
Blade Runner? Say what. Nope. Netrunner. But not the Netrunner distro as you remember it. There are changes in the land of sprinters. The old system, which used to be based on Ubuntu LTS, is now a different fork and a separate entity called Maui, and it shall bear the scrutiny of my wits, senses and taste very soon.
This means, today, we are testing Netrunner 16.09 Avalon, the latest semi-rolling edition based on Debian Stable. Now, my previous testing experience does not agree with this model. Netrunner 17 Horizon was a pretty good product, in fact good enough to be the honorable mention in the annual Plasma/KDE vote, but the rolling 2015.11 was a disaster that would not even install, and got a zero score. So, with less than high hopes, we proceed.
The installer quit button reboots the whole thing!
So, this may seem like a strange heading for a section of a review, but it is what it is. As it happens, I successfully completed this part of my testing with some two dozen lovely screenshots to accompany my story. Normally, I wait for the end of the installation to copy the files over the network before resuming the post-install work. The installer even clearly said I could reboot or continue testing Netrunner. Except ... when I hit the quit button, the distro restarted. No warning. Boom! All your screenshots are belong to us! Fedora did this a long time ago, probably version 17 or so. Haven't had this since.
And so I will have to verbally share what I did, without any visual aids. The live desktop stalled while connecting to the Wireless network. It was completely unresponsive, then KDEWallet launched, and finally Plasma asked me for the access point password a second time. This is a bug that also affects Kubuntu Yak. Ah well.
Things what worked
Samba sharing as well as printing. However, there are two printer entries in the system menu - printers and print settings. The former does nothing. It's a zombie entry. The second one launched fine, and I was able to connect to my network printer.
Media wise, I was also able to play MP3 songs and HD video. You have a whole range of players at your disposal, so you can go wild as you please. There's no system area integration, though.
Things what wonked
If you type Bluetooth in the system menu, you will get an entry that reads Adapters. However, this one told me that no adapters were found. W00t. Seems like a bug, or bad hardware compatibility. I was also not able to launch the Mouse settings utility, and the mouse cursor was horribly laggy.
I should also note that I almost completely did not have any luck with this distro. The first couple of times it just showed a black screen rather than a desktop. The third time, it reached the live session environment successfully, but the whole thing was very slow, very sluggish. It took probably 3 minutes to get to Plasma, and we're talking a USB drive.
Start fresh, they said. So I did. Netrunner 16.09 Avalon reached a pretty, neon-colored desktop session, and this is where my woes truly started. If you think the live session was not quite as silky smooth as it could have been, then here are some lemon-infused hemp napkins for you.
I do not like shortcut icons that display text in the bottom panel. This is not the
most elegant solution. The visual arrangement of things changes depending on
the use, and stuff shifts left and right, and this is annoying and not well
balanced, and it makes my OCD pixies go mental.
I tried connecting to my Wireless access point, as I always do. The desktop froze. Nothing was responsive while it was trying to connect, and then it failed. For no good reason. At this point, I tried to repeat the action. The desktop would turned honey-slow, and almost nothing would respond to my mouse clicks. I could not open the system menu, and this phenomenon would last for about 2-3 minutes each time. Eventually, I had a Konsole window open, and I tried to monitor the system behavior while trying to use my network.
It turns out that WPA supplicant was using 100% CPU, and that the system load had climbed to roughly 6. This is insane. Then, left with no alternative, I removed the network drive from memory, as we're talking my glorious Realtek card on the Lenovo G50 test laptop. After reinserting the module, Netrunner refused to connect to any Wireless access point, and the Network Manager was eating 100% CPU, but to be fair, it had refused to connect anything beforehand, so I doubt this is purely network card related. Worse, this sort of worked in the live session, which makes the whole experience even more bizarre.
I realized there was no way I could actually complete the testing. Really no. So I quit at this point, feeling very angry and frustrated. Difficulty getting the distro to boot, a slow live session, all my screenshots gone, Wireless problems, a non-responsive desktop, there's only so much reasonable effort one can dedicate to a system before summoning the forces of napalm.
I know that Debian is the sweet, secret fetish of the open-source community, but from my testing in the last billion years, pure Debian-based distros, especially those of a rolling nature, are usually a hit or miss gamble. Not quite as consistent as you would expect.
Netrunner 16.09 Avalon failed to deliver. So sad. But then, not all is lost. We have Maui, and this is a Ubuntu-based long-termed splintered off the main branch of Netrunner. Probably for a good reason. And so we shall test soon. As far as Avalon is concerned, it's all misty promises of a myth, and maybe dragons and other nefarious beasts that may bite you or something. Not recommended at this point, I'm afraid. Maybe bad luck, perhaps a jinxed install. Not dangerous. Just not usable. Next time.