Netrunner is produced by Blue Systems, a company which sponsors the Mint KDE version, and has taken over maintenance of Kubuntu (the Ubuntu KDE spin) from Canonical. Blue Systems definitely favors KDE, and Netrunner reflects this. It’s based on Kubuntu, and doesn’t offer any other official desktops for download (although like any Linux distro, you can add additional ones easily using the repositories). Netrunner isn’t a “pure KDE” distribution – like most other distributions that feature the KDE desktop, Netrunner 12.12 contains other software in addition to the KDE Software Collection.
The version I used for this review is the 64-bit version of the 3rd edition (Dryland). I’m using my 2009 HP Pavillion laptop that has 4 GB of RAM and an ATI Radeon 3200 graphics card (and a nonworking optical drive).
Installation was simple – as it usually is these days – and Netrunner uses the same Ubiquity installer that other Ubuntu-based distributions also use. This means that like other Ubuntu forks, the wireless security password is not carried over after installation.
Like Mint, Netrunner installs all the codecs that you need to watch and listen to most media files out of the box.
There are several themes in “Window Decorations” that seem unique to Netrunner…”seven”, Smaragd, MetroDark, FormaN.
Netrunner has several additional features that distinguish it from other Ubuntu derived Linux distributions. For one, it includes a few addons in Firefox installed out of the box, such as Adblock Plus and Download helper. For another, the default installation gives you Oracle’s Virtualbox and the Wine application, as well as such useful programs as Inkscape, Krita, Skype, the Telepathy IM client, and quite a few games.
Also installed are 14 Web-Apps, ranging from Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and Dropbox stand alone windows to 5 of the Google applications. This at first seemed very cool, similar to Peppermint’s Ice single site browser windows, however they all use Firefox and you can’t have more than one open at the same time – which takes away some of the usefulness of the feature.
As you notice in the screenshot above, the desktop is pre-populated with 5 icons: My Computer, Runners-ID, Add Web Accounts, Add Network Drive, and Welcome Introduction. My Computer actually gives the details of your hardware, Runners-ID is a cloud storage solution provided for Netrunner, Add Web Accounts and Add Network Drives are links to the appropriate sections in System Settings, while Welcome Introduction brings up a “Read Me” file to help get you started.
The version of KDE installed is 4.9.3.
In addition to Synaptic, you can use Muon Discover to add software, which is brought over from Kubuntu for Netrunner.
The Oracle Virtualbox program is ready to go out of the box, as are Skype and Dropbox.
My HP wireless printer was identified promptly, but you still need to select the correct one from a long list before you can add it. So in terms of ease of use, very good but not the best I have seen.
You update your system using the Muon update manager:
Since it uses Ubuntu’s repositories, Netrunner has the usual long list of games in all categories. You don’t need to use Synaptic, Muon lets you easily look for well reviewed games.
Netrunner installs 14 casual games including Frozen Bubble, Mahjongg Solitaire (tile matching), the AisleRiot card solitaire collection, KDiamon, KSudoku, and KMines. The Wine software is also installed (along with Winetricks). At this time, Wine 1.5.20 was the version installed.
Unlike Linux Mint, the GetDeb and PlayDeb extra repositories aren’t included in the sources by default. So there are some games that you won’t be able to install.
Help and Support
The installed default browser (Firefox) includes 4 bookmarks: Netrunner’s home page, the Netrunner MAG, Runner-ID (a cloud storage solution), and Jack’n'Joe (a online software store). Netrunner has a forum page, that is very new and looks bare, but only because the old page is no longer active. The dev-news page has a link to the old forums, which do seem to have had decent posting activity. There are video tutorials for the desktop icon applications.
I definitely like the extra applications included (in only 2 gigabytes!).
I like that it’s a mostly KDE focused distribution.
A “Guest” user account is set up automatically, and does not get wireless connection unless you configure it to do so. Files created in it are stored in a special /tmp folder, which gets deleted when you log out of the guest account.
The “web apps” don’t seem as useful as they really should be, since you can only have 1 open at a time (a limitation of Firefox I think). They do remember your sign-ins, though.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by Netrunner. Although it seems like “Yet Another Ubuntu Fork”, it does add a lot of software by default that even Mint does not, while staying reasonably small in size (around 2 GB). Netrunner manages to strike the balance between having the best KDE software and including the other programs (e.g. GIMP, Firefox, LibreOffice) that people are used to. The added Guest account can definitely come in handy for friends who visit.
Netrunner is not going to replace Linux Mint as my favorite version of Linux, but it isn’t for lack of trying. I guess it’s because there’s nothing compelling in Netrunner that I can’t get from Linux Mint by installing extra software. It does look really good, though, and has plenty of customization options because of its KDE base. I didn’t have any issues during the week and a half I used it.