2012-06-21

Review: Netrunner 4.2 LTS "Dryland" SE


Main Screen + KMenu
The first and most recent time that I tried out Netrunner, it was in comparison with Linux Mint 12 "Lisa" KDE. At that time, I felt like although Netrunner had a few quirky design choices that I didn't agree with as much, I felt like Linux Mint with KDE just felt too generic, while Netrunner made a conscious effort to improve the user experience of KDE. Now, Netrunner has come out with a new release based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin", and I am in search of something to eventually replace my installation of Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora" GNOME, so I am trying out this latest version now.

Netrunner hasn't had a particularly long history, but it has grown quickly. It aims to offer a spruced-up KDE experience, and true to its name, it aims to offer a lot of cloud-based applications as well. The organization behind Netrunner has also sponsored Linux Mint with KDE, and has more recently taken over Kubuntu from Canonical. Given that these three distributions now fall within the same organizational umbrella, and given that I was pretty excited about the prospect of Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE, I'm trying Netrunner to predict what may happen when I try Linux Mint with KDE in (hopefully) the near future.

Given that this could be the distribution for which I have been searching, I tried the 64-bit edition of Netrunner 4.2 LTS "Dryland" SE as a live USB made using UnetBootin (because it seems like MultiSystem on my installed OS is no longer able to reliably create live USB systems, which is a little disappointing). Follow the jump to see what it's like.

After getting past the boot menu, I was greeted by a blank screen for the boot splash. That said, when I first tried this with MultiSystem, I did see a nice Netrunner-branded Plymouth splash screen with the usual 5 dots underneath before the system gave a kernel panic (and remember, this was the system as done by MultiSystem, not UnetBootin). This is not the first time I have seen such an inconsistency in the boot process, and I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed that this inconsistency seems to pervade the boot processes of the live sessions of almost all Ubuntu-based distributions (except for Linux Mint, which now consistently displays a blank screen during the boot process). After that I was taken to the desktop.

Mozilla Firefox + LibreOffice Writer + Desktop Cube
The desktop is essentially the same as before, so I won't dwell on describing that too much. There are some new cloud-based applications for Netrunner; I'm not much of a cloud-type person (yet), so I'll refer you, the reader, to the Netrunner website for more information on that. There are some issues that I had, though. One is with the KMenu on the left side of the panel. Every time I click it, it disappears after about 5 seconds even if I have not clicked anywhere else, and even if the cursor is still hovering over the menu. It's almost as if it's rolling out a nice carpet for my arrival and then pulling it out from under me 5 seconds later for no apparent reason whatsoever. The other is with the Lancelot menu; that is not included by default, so I had to install it from the Synaptic Package Manager. One of the things that I liked about it was that its "Classic Menu" behavior meant that I could hover over a Lancelot category or an application category to switch to said category without clicking, whereas I would still be required to click on an application to launch it as usual. Unfortunately, that behavior has been lost, because while I can still change Lancelot categories by hovering the cursor, I need to click now to change application categories. This means that in my eyes, the Lancelot menu is no longer a good substitute for the Linux Mint Menu and is now just another slab menu, which is unfortunate. I like being able to browse through applications by simply moving the mouse through categories without having to click a bunch of things along the way. Plus, given that I have found that searching in Lancelot and in the Kickoff menu is very inconsistent, such a feature would actually be most helpful in KDE.

Mozilla Firefox is the default browser. To be honest, I'm not a fan of the Microsoft Internet Explorer-ification of the interface; I'm also not a fan of Google loading for each new tab (instead of a blank page) or of Mozilla Firefox automatically switching to any new tab opened. Those are just my personal preferences though, and they can be pretty easily fixed. Most proprietary codecs seem to be included, as YouTube and Hulu worked, as did my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts.
LibreOffice is the default productivity suite. Interestingly, though, Calligra Flow is included for flowchart creation; I wonder if LibreOffice Draw couldn't have done the same thing, but I don't know enough about those two programs to make a call about that.
Other installed applications include Mozilla Thunderbird, Pidgin and KDE Telepathy (the successor to Kopete), KDE games, various multimedia applications, and others. There are also whole categories for web applications, befitting the distribution's name.

Skype is already installed at version 4, so I did not have to do that myself. Unfortunately, when I tried calling another contact, Netrunner refused to recognize my laptop's mic, so the other contact could not hear me at all (though that person was able to see the picture from my laptop's webcam).
I had to install Google Talk myself, and that went smoothly. Unfortunately though predictably, it too had issues with the mic, because it seems like the whole system has issues with that mic.

I was able to install Mupen64Plus 1.5 from the binary package. I was able to launch and configure the GUI from KRunner, but it wouldn't appear in the KMenu, which was odd. I though that in general, GTK+ applications that trigger GNOME menu positions can also trigger KDE menu positions, but apparently that is not true.
I was also able to install Redshift from the repositories. Running it worked fine too.

Desktop effects worked, but a rather weird minimal set of them seem to be enabled out-of-the-box. For instance, the desktop cube effect was enabled, but not the effect to show the cube rotating when switching workspaces. For that, the sliding effect was enabled. Unfortunately, here I ran into another inconsistency: I tried enabling the effect to rotate the cube when switching workspaces, and sometimes that would work, but some other times KWin would revert to the simpler sliding effect. That was really weird.
Netrunner used about 750 MB of RAM at idle. That is really, just, inexcusably high, and I'm not sure why it should be that way.

That's where my time with Netrunner ended. I won't be using it for sure because of the mic issues. I can sort of recommend it because it seems like a decent distribution, but be aware and mindful of the quirks and inconsistencies that pop up all over the place, as those seem to make up the defining characteristics of this distribution. More importantly for me, though, this does not bode well for Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE. Of course, I'll have to try it to make sure, but I am much more hesitant to dive into using that now than I was even a few days ago. Well, I guess if that doesn't end up working, I may have to look more into SolusOS or something else entirely.
You can get it here.

17 comments:

  1. hi,
    the mic issue seems to be a known problem in ubuntu/kubuntu and is related to settings, so maybe these solutions help with correct setup:

    http://askubuntu.com/questions/142670/skype-no-mic-under-kde

    http://community.skype.com/t5/Linux/microphone-does-not-work-with-skype-on-kubuntu-11-04/td-p/73304

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    1. @starbuck: The issue here is that it seemed to work fine in Kubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin"/Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" MATE, so I'm not sure why it doesn't work similarly under Netrunner. Anyway, thanks for the tip!

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  2. Thats indeed a bit odd, since we all share a common base, so we will have a look into this, thanks.

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  3. Working great for me. I think it's a beautiful distro. Glad I found it.

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  4. Not sure why things were quirky on the authors laptop, but on mine it runs smooth as silk, everything just works and I've been using it since the RC came out. Of course my laptop is 4 years old.

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  5. I think this sounds more like an issue with the blogger's hardware, tried in live mode with a really crappy usb drive and yet performance was quite good. Everything worked out of the box and this in a 5 yr old laptop. The only downside i felt with the distro was the bundled packages/apps, it surely will help newbies and make them feel comfortable, but for regular users it's a pain to uninstall unwanted programs. Also the memory usage was quite reasonable for a kde distro about 320mb on bootup, with an installed system and turning off desktop effects, nepomuk and other tweaks it should go even down.

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  6. Other screenshots of Netrunner 4.2 here: http://linuxscreenshot.netsons.org/netrunner-4-2/

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  7. The KDE 4.x series has been tuned and revised a lot from version to version, especially due to plasma active, actually getting faster with each update, so here might be a possible explanation of the resources during testing:

    If suddenly your system becomes slower, starts acting weird or sluggish and perfomance seems way up, look out for the "nepomuk" icon in systray: It could be that nepomuk has just started indexing your files, which is especially resource hungry in case you just mounted a NAS storage permanently over samba-network with samba-mounter. In this case, you can either suspend indexing or leave it on for your network overnight.

    Other than that, Netrunner 4.2 runs exceptionally smooth and snappy on my samsung netbook n110 atom with 1GB ram.

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  8. @starbuck: Are you a Netrunner developer? If so, I really appreciate you taking time to investigate this.

    @Anonymous 1, Gerhardy, Anonymous 2: It's great that it has worked well for all of you. I think that your computers being a bit older may be significant, but my bigger question is why Netrunner had so many issues where Kubuntu and Linux Mint had none.

    @F1L0: I appreciate you taking the time to fill in for my dearth of pictures.

    @Anonymous 3: I will definitely look into that. That said, I don't have any NAS or Samba shares, so I don't think that's the issue.

    Thanks for the comments!

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    Replies
    1. Hello PV,
      if you like to help us find the source of what is using up 700MB RAM on your computer in idle mode (if it's not nepomuk, virtuoso-t, or akonadi) could you please make a simple screen-recording of the process list like in this video:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1Y0yJe20xU

      This actually shows a fresh install (not tweaked) of Netrunner 4.2 with full effects on and nepomuk (virtuosos-t) running (as seen in the process-list) on an atom 1.6 1GB RAM samsung netbook - the memory never goes up over 200 MB max in idle.

      For nepomuk hogging up the system, that is also known behaviour on some machines in idle:
      http://forum.kde.org/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=98892

      Thank you for your help!

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    2. @starbuck: I was able to kill Nepomuk, and that reduced idle RAM consumption by about 100 MB. That brings it down to 600 MB, which is definitely more reasonable though still a bit on the high end. Thanks for the tip!

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  9. Netrunner is based on Kubuntu, according to Distrowatch.
    As far as I remember, Clement ( Founder /Developer of Mint) works in Netrunner project as Blue Systems is the main sponsor of Mint project right now.

    So I think LM Maya KDE 'll not be a huge difference with this.

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    1. @Psychover: That's what I think too, but I don't want to make a judgment call about that before I actually try it out. Thanks for the comment!

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  10. We best linux I found so far!!!
    I like Mint but to much bugs (something like my english:)

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    1. @Anonymous: It's great that Netrunner has worked for you. Thanks for the comment!

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  11. strange that some people have problems with installation process
    I installed about 20 times from usb and from DVD-R and never have any crash or bugs

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    Replies
    1. @greltas: Sometimes, different hardware can produce different issues both from normal installations and from each other. Thanks for the comment!

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