Netrunner – The Best Distro You’ve Barely Heard Of


In my quest to find a professional and polished distribution of Linux that used KDE as the default desktop…I tried out quite a few flavors:  Kubuntu, Salix, Manjaro, PCLinuxOS and even OpenSuse.  All done in the past few weeks.

Each time I installed these distributions on this Dell Latitude D630 I pretended I had no idea how Linux was supposed to work.  I’d step through like a less than technical person would do.  How do I connect to wireless?  Is it easy?  Can I stream Youtube videos?  Will my mp3 collection play?  How do I manage that mp3 collection?  Will DVD’s play?  Do things ‘just work’ out of the gate?

I blogged about the beginning step in Manjaro Linux…it wasn’t as polished as I’d like.  I jumped next to Salix and found that Wicd, the default network manager…makes you jump through 9 different hoops to connect to a hidden network.  PCLinuxOS came next but it was so slow on this laptop that it lasted less than a day.  OpenSuse repeated the PCLinuxOS slowness.  Kubuntu was last and it was fine and polished…but once again, slow…random hangups when doing things like file browsing/web browsing.  Kubuntu was the closest I came to a great KDE flavored distribution…it stayed on the laptop for a couple of days.  So the question remained:  Can the distribution I am running be considered professional and polished while getting out of the way

The majority answer for most of these distributions is a resounding “NO”.

One distribution however, stood above the rest of them.  Instead of stopping on one of the above questions…I found myself having to create new and more intricate ones.  This distribution wasn’t holding me up…it was pressing me forward.  THAT is what a distribution of Linux should do.  It should be out of the way and allow you to get on with your business.  The distribution that does this the best out of that handful mentioned above is Netrunner.

The Hardware

I have an old Dell D630 Laptop which was a standard business line laptop from Dell circa 2007 or so.  It’s got an Intel Centrino and I loaded it up with 4 GB of RAM.  It has a 40 GB Hard drive in it and an Nvidia Quadro graphics card.  Overall, nothing special.  It’s very Linux friendly overall and I’ve used numerous distributions on this laptop since I picked it up at a liquidation sale.


netrunner2Netrunner uses the Manjaro installer.  Manjaro is based on Arch Linux.  Normally when people think of Arch Linux, they think of a very technical distribution that is only for the Linux elite.  The installer for Netrunner shuns the idea that you need to speak binary to install it.  Simple choices are laid out for you…I was able to encrypt my hard drive and didn’t need to know how to partition anything to get it moving.  The wizard was, simply put, phenomenal.  It was a well put together and excellent installer.


Day to Day Use

I’ve found Netrunner to really and truly be out of my way.  I don’t have to think to use it.  I open up music and play it.  I watch movies with no issues.  I browse Youtube videos without a thought.  Flash video just works.  When I pop in a USB Drive, it detects and mounts like I’d expect it to.  Overall, the operating system gets out of my way.  I normally use Openbox for my Linux laptop and I’ve actually gotten used to using KDE because of how polished Netrunner rolling is.

One of my favorite things about Netrunner rolling was Octopi, the graphical front end for pacman.  This tool allows you to manage all the packages on your system and to search out new ones.  It also allows you to manage AUR packages as well.  While this might not be something the average user would dive into right away…having been an Arch and Manjaro user before…I found it fantastic to have a “one stop shopping” experience via Octopi.

The overall speed of the distribution is fantastic.  I found none of the slowness that plagued the laptop during the testing of other distributions.  Things were quick and crisp when opening.  The only time I experienced slowness was when I had about 15 browser tabs open and was trying to open GIMP (I also had KDE Telepathy, Konversation, and dolphin open in the background).  Overall, I’ve found the speed quite acceptable.


My overall conclusion with Netrunner Rolling is that there is no better Arch platformed Linux distro with KDE as the default environment out there.  It just works.  It gets out of the way and it gives the end user a clean, crisp and efficient desktop right out of the gate.  You don’t have to know binary to get it installed, updated, and running.  You don’t have to sacrifice a goat to Cthulhu (I’ve heard that comes later?) to have a pleasing KDE experience for your desktop.  I keep saying this, but it just works.

I found it really odd that I hadn’t heard very much about Netrunner in the past but I readily admit that I hadn’t kept up with KDE based distributions in the past few years due to my fascination with Openbox.  Netrunner has won me over though…I will definitely be paying attention to this fine distribution in the future as it has taken its place as the top KDE distribution I’ve ever tried.  I hope you’ll give it a try in the future (if you haven’t already) and kudos the developers and community of Netrunner!


Manjaro KDE Notes

manjaro kdeThis week I decided to step up from Window Manager Manjaro Openbox and give the latest version of the Desktop Environment in KDE try.  I’m one of those odd people who love minimalist desktops like openbox, xmonad, and i3 but still have a soft spot in their hearts for KDE.  We’re few in number and many with insanity. 🙂

So I downloaded Manjaro KDE edition and installed it onto my Dell Latitude D630 laptop.  Upon first boot, everything looks professional and nice.  The bootscreen is professional and the desktop has a common theme that is pleasant to look at.


Then I went into the menu to see what programs come installed by default.  Bleh…everything with a bag of chips, the receipt, and then even more.  Too much mess.  Multiple entries for single programs.  It’s a mess in there.

4 entries for the ‘Marble’ program greet me inside of the ‘Education’ area.  FOUR?  This is very simple to fix…you simply right click the menu button and choose ‘edit applications’ but how does something like that make it past the QA process?

Sound was muted across the board by default….I’m pretty sure this is just due to my sound hardware but it’s important to note that not everyone will know to look for that.

Desktop effects enabled by default means that things were DOG slow until I installed a video driver.  Not a good first experience.

I attempted to download a few torrents out of the gate to see what kind of throughput KTorrent would give me.  I use magnet links mostly and upon grabbing my first torrent I realized that nothing was happening.  The metadata wasn’t even downloading.  So I attempted a restart of the application with no fix.  I tried logging out and back on with no fix.  Then I tried a restart of the entire PC with no fix.  No matter what I did…torrents wouldn’t download.

So I switched to qBittorrent.  Still no fix.  No matter what happens, torrents don’t work for me with this version of Manjaro.  In my previous version they worked just fine.

About this time, i started to get rather irritated and stopped looking around for things that were wrong.  No offense to the Manjaro KDE guys…but this isn’t a very good implementation of KDE in my opinion….there is just too much installed by default and what is installed doesn’t seem to work well.  There were quite a few other oddities I experienced while exploring the desktop including multiple KWin crashes when launching specific applications.

Overall, I wasn’t happy.

So I’m heading over to Salix KDE now to see if a simplified approach to KDE will cleans the palate so to speak.  I neglected screenshots when testing Manjaro KDE out but I’ll take many with Salix and follow up here.

Sony Violates the LGPL3 and Steals KDE Icon

Looks like Sony has gone from prosecuting pirates to becoming one.  Only days after the PS4 announcement too.

Over at the KDE Blog, Jonathan Riddell explains that Sony is using a KDE icon in violation of the LGPL3 license under which it is released:

“Nowhere on their website terms of use does it list the LGPL 3 licence it may be copied under (It does say “Any unauthorised use or copying of site content, or use of site content which breaches these Terms (or their spirit) may violate trade mark, copyright and other proprietary rights, and have civil and criminal consequences” although it also says “You must seek and obtain the written consent the operator of this site before creating any link to this site” so I don’t give that page any legal credit.)”

The page in question is a ‘Choose your Vaio‘ webpage on the Sony UK site.

What does one do in cases like this?  It seems that legal action would be a waste of time and money…hopefully, Sony takes note of this and corrects the issue.  They’ve been heavily invested in Linux and Open Source for many years now with their platforms and I’d like to think they’d have learned from their rootkit debacle that you should act quickly to fix things before they blow up on the internet.

Comic Books, Linux and KDE 4

Sometimes I read comic books.  I would hope that some of you do as well.  I collected the paper version of comic books when I was a kid (Mostly Superman and Spiderman) and I’ve graduated up to the digital version now.  Comic books in digital format usually use the .cbz or .cbr file extension.  To read these in Windows or on my Linux desktop (I was running XFCE for the year or so) I had to use a specialized application…a comic reader…to do this.

The program I used in Linux was called Comix and it did a great job when I used XFCE.  I know you can also use Evince and I’m sure it does every bit a good job as Comix does.  Both are GTK applications though.  Since I now use KDE 4 on my primary workstation, I wanted to see if there was a Qt application that I could use and I was very disappointed when I didn’t find any.  So, there I was with comics in my Home Directory collecting dust with nothing preferable (read: Qt based) to open them up to read them.  I double clicked on one of them in frustration….and I was surprised when it opened right up.

Okular, the do-it-all reader for KDE4 opens up every comic book I throw at it.  I was saved…rather, my comic collection was saved.  Very handy that the KDE4 devs put in such a great tool to open so many formats.  So if you’re looking for something that can handle your comic collection, look no further than Okular which comes preinstalled with most KDE4 based distributions.

Okular with PDF

Foresight Linux and KDE 4.2

UPDATE:  Foresight Linux 2.0.6 has recently updated the stable branch with python 2.6.  Therefore, much of this post is not needed to get Foresight KDE 4.2 running.  I’ve crossed through the portions not needed.  Thanks for reading!

I’ve been working with a lot of different distributions out there the past few days and haven’t found one that I like that has KDE 4.2 packages.  Experimenting further brought me back to my old friend Conary and Foresight Linux.  For those of you that don’t know what Conary is, I’ve written a Part 1 (I never finished Part 2 as I changed jobs and haven’t found the motivation) on what Conary attempts to accomplish and a bit of background on how it does things.

When I think of Foresight and rPath Linux along with Conary, I come to a direct comparison to Arch Linux…because pacman is quite similar.  The main difference is that Foresight does a lot more for you out of the gate than Arch does…and arch is quite a bit faster than Foresight.  Still, I decided to give KDE 4.2 a go on Foresight to see how it’s been progressing.

 The first thing I needed to do was to change from the 2 branch of Foresight to the 2-qa branch.  The reason for this is that 2-qa houses python 2.6, which is needed for KDE 4.2.  Until python 2.6 is pushed into the stable branch of Foresight, you’ll need to move your installation to the 2-qa branch.  First, using your favorite text editor, edit /etc/conary/config.d/foresight file.  Inside that file, you’ll see next to the line InstallLabelPath the following:


change this to the following:


or you can substitute 2-devel there if you’d like to move to the 2-devel branch:


Now, let’s migrate the system.  Migration to a different branch will result in moving your system to become EXACTLY like the branch you’re migrating to.  That means that any custom applications you have installed may be removed…conary will make your system become EXACTLY what 2-qa says it should.  This is the reason I recommend performing these tasks with a fresh install before customizing.

Change with the following command:

sudo conary migrate group-gnome-dist=@fl:2-qa --keep-required --resolve

Don’t worry, 2-qa is not as unstable as it sounds…the most unstable branch of Foresight is 2-devel.  To compare these branches to Debian, 2-qa is like testing while 2-devel is like unstable. 

I installed Foresight Linux 2.0.6 Gnome using a DVD on a Dell D630 Latitude.   Next, I like to uninstall the stuff that is extra in Gnome that I don’t use (you could say, I strongly do not like these):

sudo conary erase transmission f-spot evolution evolution-exchange tomboy banshee

With those packages out of the way, I did a full update.

sudo conary updateall

Some early Foresight 2.0.6 kernels cause random disconnects for my wireless chipset on the Dell Latitude D630 (Intel Pro Wireless) but after the upgrade this symptom isn’t present.  The default kernel made way for the and it seems to work for me quite nicely.  I did notice that the kernel had some sound abnormalities for me with the Intel HDA sound card…so I rolled back to the and things worked great.  See this issue for more information on this sound issue.

Now we have a completely “useable” Gnome system on our hands…but we can’t have that unusable system now can we? (easy Gnome supporters…tis only a joke).  Let us get a real desktop like openbo…er…KDE on there!  Before I got too far though, I wanted to make sure I could play mp3’s and other restricted format items so I installed the codecs needed:

sudo conary update group-codecs

Once this has finished, let’s get KDE 4.2 up and running.

sudo conary update

Once that command has completed, you should be able to logout and log back in to KDE 4.2.  The most recent builds of KDE 4.2 include python 2.6…something that Foresight Linux has been slow on the uptake with due to conary being written in python.  I’m still working on testing everything…I’m not sure how well this newest build works.  Look for a status update in a few days on this…

Is Usability Really Simplicity?

What usability reasons do you have for using Gnome vs. KDE? I’m looking for usability issues here and not specific bugs that cause you to drop one on its head. Bugs can be fixed. I’m talking about hard features that lack from one environment to the other. What makes you use it in Ubuntu versus KDE? Remember, not bugs…features!

I prefer using KDE or Openbox as my main desktop when using Linux.  I’ve used Gnome quite a bit too when working for rPath last year (Foresight is THE Gnome distro).  Still, I prefer KDE…I really like the direction that 4.x is going also.  Sure, they’re not there yet, but I trust they will be because I haven’t been let down in the past 🙂  I have a little faith (Plus I’ve run snapshots of 4.2).

The thing that boggles my mind is that everyone says Gnome is better for a Windows convert taking his/her Linux steps for the first time.  I have to disagree based on the experience I’ve had with conversions of new users from Windows.  I think KDE gives the best experience for a new Windows user…it’s familiar or at least feels familiar…things are in similar places to Windows.

I’d say that 80-90% of the users I convert across to using Linux prefer KDE to Gnome.  I always wonder why people think Gnome is so new user friendly.  Since I’ve always wondered, perhaps some Gnome users can tell me, what usability reasons do you have for using Gnome vs. KDE?  I’ve often heard that Gnome has integration and simplicity as the main reason…but could I not argue the same for KDE?  I’m looking for usability issues here and not specific bugs that cause you to drop one on its head.  Bugs can be fixed.  I’m talking about hard features that lack from one environment to the other.  What makes you use it in Ubuntu versus KDE?  Remember, not bugs…features!  Please let me know which desktop you prefer below and don’t forget to let me know the reason in the comments section below.

[poll id=”1″]

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