Netrunner 4.2: It's an Everything but the Kitchen Sink Kind of Distro (Review)

Posted by Jonquil on Jun 24, 2012 7:13 PM EDT
xjonquilx | Sabayon, Ubuntu, Fedora, Linux, Oh My!; By Jonquil McDaniel
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Netrunner 4.2 has turned out to be the kind of distro I love and hate at the same time. While syncronization with services such as Google and Facebook is a welcome addition to KDE, I can't stand the fact that Netrunner chooses to include almost every piece of imaginable software. This makes it confusing for me; I can only imagine how confusing it would prove to be to a new Linux user, which this distro seems to be aimed at.

Netrunner 4.2 came out on the 21st of this month. Perhaps I just haven't been paying attention, but this is the first time I've seen Netrunner mentioned on Distrowatch.

According to Distrowatch: Netrunner is an Kubuntu-based distribution with a focus on desktop computing. It boasts a carefully tuned KDE 4 desktop with many integrated GNOME applications to offer users a selected mix of popular and powerful programs. The Netrunner download is about 1.7 GB, so this is definitely a distro you want to steer clear of if all you got are CDs. It is based upon Kubuntu 12.04.

The default desktop isn't the most beautiful default desktop I've seen, but it is fully functional. There are a few links on the desktop that immediately caught my attention:

Runner-ID is Netrunner's personalized built in cloud storage service. You get 1 GB free with the creation of a Runner-ID account. I wish I knew why they only offer 1 GB free when most cloud services offer 2-5 GB free, but this is still a nice addition to the desktop, especially when you consider Kubuntu doesn't come with Ubuntu One.

Another link that caught my attention on the desktop was Web Accounts. I have mentioned my frustration before with getting Google synchronization working in KDE. This application makes the synchronization process painless:

Another feature I noticed about Netrunner is the My Computer link. This takes on a very different look from the My Computer I'm accustomed to:

I really like Netrunner's implementation of this. It makes getting the list of devices and system information a lot more welcoming and easy to access.

Something I don't understand about Netrunner is it seems to have an application for everything. I know some power users may prefer this kind of approach, especially if they're the type that dabble in a little bit of everything. But Netrunner seems to be a distro geared towards new Linux users, and I don't understand how including so many applications can be called being select.

Here are some screenshots of the applications in this distro:

This is actually a part of the distro I can agree with.It's all part of Netrunner's attempt to be a Google, cloud, and Facebook friendly OS. The only thing I would suggest adding is a link to Google Drive.

Ok, so I understand this is an everything but the kitchen sink kind of distro but I don't understand the need for three music players.

Look at that system menu.... ouch! Even worse you have to move your mouse pointer all over the screen to select items in the menu. I don't understand why Netrunner went with this kind of old school Windows XP approach with the application launcher. The regular KDE application launcher works so well on its own, with both a list of applications and a search box. Still, the regular KDE application launcher can be easily added on if you don't like the default.

There are a few problems I noticed with Netrunner: Bittorrent magnet links open up Qtransmission, but the torrent doesn't load. There was no sound on my install. I don't know whether I should blame the virtual machine for this or not, but I normally do get sound on my Linux installs. This was not part of the known issue with sound being turned all the way down. Netrunner experienced errors with various applications constantly while it was running. The default plugins, Lightning and Oxygenate, weren't compatible with the installed version of Thunderbird (no biggie, there were updated versions available). Users can't benefit fully from the Google synchronization because Kmail has been removed. Kopete doesn't show the list of contacts.

Despite these problems, I look forward to seeing how Netrunner matures. With just a few fixes it could very easily be in one of my top ten distributions thanks to its inclusion of synchronization and cloud services in KDE. However, I feel that Netrunner needs to either improve on its efforts to reach out to new Linux users or it needs to redefine its audience. Currently the distribution ships with way too many applications to be considered a "newbie" distro. Netrunner could also use some improvements to its stability. Overall, I give Netrunner a 6/10.

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