Netrunner OS is a KDE plasma based Linux distro. Netrunner comes in two flavours – the standard release based on Kubuntu and a rolling release based on Manjaro Linux. Besides the obvious cosmetic changes, like unmistakable branding and new looks and styles that are often introduced, the Kubuntu based Netrunner 16 aims to improve the system with more than just a nice wallpaper.
The OS is sponsored by Blue Systems, the company that also sponsors Kubuntu, the KDE Plasma 5 development and various KDE projects. The aim of Netrunner OS is to provide a desktop system for everyday use. It comes preloaded with many useful applications besides the usual Kubuntu offering, trying to make everything work right out of the box.
Installation in a VirtualBox VM was not straightforward. The live environment booted up, but after starting the installer hung. There is no option to skip the live system at boot time. Fortunately, Compatibility mode worked as expected, apart from the mouse being constantly misplaced, and the installer had to be navigated with the keyboard. The problem was resolved after manually upgrading the modules from within the installed environment. The shipped version of Virtualbox kernel modules was 4.3.26, which did not play nicely with Virtualbox 4.3.28 that it was running inside. This should not affect a normal installation in any way.
The installer itself was as simple and straightforward as we expect from a Kubuntu-based system; accepting the default options was usually enough. The installation itself took about 5 minutes.
KDE Plasma 5.3
Netruner usually brings some updates that are not necessarily available in the base Kubuntu system. This time, as was the case with Nertunner 15, it happens to be a newer Plasma version. While Kubuntu 15.04 (on which Netrunner 16 is based) ships with Plasma 5.2, Netrunner 16 made the newer plasma 5.3 the default Desktop environment, with all its advantages and rough edges.
The Netrunner website only specifies three minor issues:
- Some language translations for new settings can be missing or broken.
- UEFI installation can require some additional steps when installing alongside a non-UEFI system (you can find the instructions here).
- Kontact is still based on the old KDE 4 framework, as its development has not yet run a full cycle.
If you can live with these minor problems you can get a fully functioning and quite well-built system running the latest Plasma Desktop. Plasma 5.3 is a major step forward and has many improvements over the previous version, and Netrunner is known to further tweak ts desktop systems to be as snappy and responsive as possible.
The desktop itself looks nice. If you like KDE and Plasma systems, you are definitely going to enjoy the newest release which appears to finally have done away with the much criticized neon blue halo around active objects. The additional Netrunner specific artwork is the best-looking so far.
Unlike what we usually see from Netrunner, the latest OS has reverted to the rather default-looking “Oxygen” window decorations by default, although as always more are available.
Netrunner’s major strength, besides the usual usability tweaks and a snappy, fast desktop experience even on lower-end machines, is its choice of default applications. It comes preloaded with everything one needs to have a well-equipped Desktop OS, without needing to tweak or install many new packages.
Its choice software includes:
- Kernel 3.19.0~16
- Plasma 5.3
- KDE Applications 15.04
- Firefox 37.0
- Thunderbird 31.6
- LibreOffice 4.4
- VLC Media Player 2.2
- Gmusicbrowser 1.1.14
- Audacious 3.5
- Krita & Karbon 2.8.5
- Gimp 2.8.10
- Pidgin 2.10.9
- vokoscreen 2.1
Why anyone would want to skin the otherwise excellent Audacious Music Player to look like Winamp remains a mystery. Nevertheless, Audacious in Netrunner 16 looks just like that…
And a little pathos…
The Netrunner 16 release name “Ozymandias” was inspired by the similarly titled poem by Percy Shelly written for the occasion of the British museum receiving a massive stone statue of Ozymandias, better known as Ramses II.
All the artwork in the OS is Egyptian-themed and the release notes even include a little piece of verse, based on Shelly’s poem:
I met a traveler from an antique land…
And he told that there once was a mighty king in the land of ancient desktops, called KDE – The King of Desktops!
The pathos continues in the release notes …
(You can also read the original poem by Shelly here.)
If you are ready to make to plunge into the world of Ozymandias’ Plasma 5.3 reincarnation, you can download Netrunner 16 from the official download page, or if you are already running Netrunner 15, just download the upgrade script and follow the instructions.
Netrunner is the most polished KDE distro today, and its latest iteration is truly noteworthy. If you like KDE systems, installing Netrunner 16 will be an experience you will not regret.