Sunday, April 6, 2014

Netrunner OS 2014.04i Rolling Release Review: Based on Manjaro, ships with non-pae kernel but PAE kernel can be installed from Arch repositories

I rated Netrunner as the best KDE distro I've used in 2013. Like many other distros around, Netrunner is developed on Ubuntu base and ships with an attractive interface. In April 2014, Netrunner OS released it's first Manjaro based rolling release distro - named as 2014.04i ("i" as in infinite). It is a pleasant surprise indeed and I didn't want to miss reviewing it at any cost.
The download section on the Netrunner website has only 32-bit ISO listed and they are yet to release the 64 bit ISO. I downloaded the 2.1 GB 32-bit ISO for this review. I used Linux Mint Image Writer to create a live USB on a 4 GB pendrive and installed it on my Asus K55VM laptop with 2.3 Ghz Core i7 processor, 8 GB DDR3 RAM and 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphics. Netrunner Arch has KDE 4.12.3 as the desktop environment along with Dolphin 4.12.3 as the default file manager.
The issue of 32-bit distro: upgrade to PAE kernel
Now the laptop I used was a 64-bit machine with 8 GB RAM. I expected a 32-bit PAE kernel in Netrunner. But, to my dismay, it was a 32-bit non-PAE Linux 3.10.x series kernel. It detected only 3.1 GB of RAM. 
So, I decided to do some research and install a latest 3.13.x series PAE kernel. I followed the following steps to successfully install a PAE kernel in Netrunner OS without impacting it's stability:

Step 1: Change pacman.conf to include pae-kernel repo
$ sudo nano /etc/pacman.conf

I added the following lines at the bottom of the pacman configuration file.
SigLevel = PackageRequired
Server =

Once added, save the pacman.conf file by Ctrl+x and update.
$ sudo pacman -Syy

During update, it will throw an error that signature from Tom Wizetek is unknown trust and all. Ignore it and import Tom's PGP key by:
$ sudo pacman-key --lsign-key BADC156D

Now things should work. If they still don't work, please refer to this ArchLinux (CA) blog.

Step 2: Install PAE Kernel
$ sudo pacman -S linux-pae linux-pae-headers

It will download the latest available pae kernel and take  a bit of time to install.

Step 3: Update GRUB2 to add the latest kernel as Root
$ su
# grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

It will detect the newly installed 32-bit PAE Linux kernel in the next boot.

Reboot and check in System Monitor the RAM detected. In my case, it worked and the OS was able to detect 8 GB RAM when I chose to boot the PAE kernel.
From Netrunner 2014.04 Arch

Now coming back to my regular sections.

It is Netrunner OS and has one of the best themes in the KDE world. The default Netrunner Arch wallpaper blends superbly with the Enlightenment desktop theme. I tried the clock but it looks a bit ugly. The menu is simple and functional requiring minimum clicks to open an application.
However, there are other cool looking themes available. I really liked the Orange Lightning desktop theme, it looks similar to OpenSUSE theme.

Netrunner ships with good artwork in overall. The wallpaper section has some really good looking wallpapers in addition to the default one.
From Netrunner 2014.04 Arch

The boot splash is graphical with a Netrunner logo. Login screen has 4 different options of which Maui is the default one. It is pretty good and unique.
From Netrunner 2014.04 Arch

Font rendering is similar to Linux Mint and very comfortable to the eyes. The icons and folders appear a bit large but it can be adjusted as per user requirement.

Desktop effects like cube, etc. are enabled by default. It is good that the developers avoided over animation of the distro and chose subtlety.
From Netrunner 2014.04 Arch

I go with 100% marks as far as aesthetics are concerned. Netrunner OS has the right blend of attractiveness and functionality for daily use, in my assessment.

Score for Aesthetics: 10/10

Hardware Recognition
Except double tap function, rest of the things worked pretty flawless on Netrunner Arch. It detected the screen resolution, WIFI, LAN, sound card, touch pad, etc. without any issue and things worked right out of the box.

Score for Hardware Recognition: 9.4/10

Like Manjaro, installation is similar to Ubuntu and no hassles there. It takes only 10 minutes to install Netrunner Arch and should not challenge even a Linux novice.

From Netrunner 2014.04 Arch
Score for Installation: 10/10

Pre-Installed Packages
Like Manjaro, Netrunner OS 2014.04i ships with a rich ensemble of pre-installed applications, like:

  • Office: LibreOffice (Base, Calc, Draw, Impress, Math, Writer), Okular Document viewer
  • Internet; Firefox 28.0, KDE IM Contacts, Kontact, Konversation, Qtransmission Bit torrent client, Skype 4.2, Thunderbird email client
  • Graphics: GIMP 2.8.10, Gwenview, Kamoso Webcam, Karbon, Krita, Ksnapshot, Simple Scan
  • Multimedia: Clementine music player, Kdenlive, Qmmp, VLC 2.1.4, Vokoscreen desktop recorder
  • Accessories: Ark, K3b CD/DVD recorder, Kate text editor, Kcalc, Klipper, KPPP, Sweeper, gparted, Grub customizer, Konsole, Yakuake
  • Others: Steam, Oracle Virtualbox
Multimedia codecs and Adobe flash plugin are pre-installed and multimedia files work right out of the box.
I guess Netrunner ships a good blend of KDE and non-KDE packages and hence, I go with a 10/10 on applications.

Score for Pre-Installed Packages: 10/10

Settings Managers: Manjaro and KDE
Netrunner OS ships both Manjaro and it's own KDE Settings Manager. Manjaro Settings Manager has limited option of selecting system language, downloading additional language packages and controlling hardware specifically graphic card options. Users can download free and non-free Nvidia/ATI graphic card drivers through the Manjaro Settings Manager.
I didn't have to download Bumblebee for Arch/Manjaro as it was pre-installed in Netrunner and worked quite beautifully out of the box. Only thing I did was to reinstall bumblebee and bbswitch once I changed to PAE kernel.
From Netrunner 2014.04 Arch

KDE System Settings is slightly tweaked and rearranged in Netrunner OS. In overall, it provides a similar service but misses out on touchpad configuration.
Mostly the packages are sourced from Core, Extra and Community Manjaro Repositories. In addition, there is a Blueshell repository from Netrunner OS to provide Netrunner specific packages. AUR is pre-configured and works pretty well with Netrunner.

From Netrunner 2014.04 Arch
Packages can be browsed and downloaded via a Add/Remove Software GUI (Octopi, similar to Synaptic). I downloaded Chromium browser quite easily from the Manjaro repos using the same.

From Netrunner 2014.04 Arch
Octopi may not be as easy as Ubuntu/Mint Software Center for a Linux newbie but, never-the-less, works pretty fast and does the job.

Netrunner OS 2014.04 Arch with pae kernel gave a performance similar to other KDE distros I have used in 2012-13. For last 6 months, I haven't checked RAM/CPU consumption of any 32-bit distro and hence, it is a bit difficult to compare. However, Netrunner's RAM consumption of about 450 MB at steady state with system monitor running seems at par with other KDE distros.

Netrunner takes about 50 seconds to boot with autologin enabled, which too is at par with what I recorded for 64-bit KDE spins.

Numbers aside, I got very good user experience with Netrunner. The OS is very smooth to use, fast and works exactly what you would expect it to work. It feels a bit lighter than the Ubuntu spin and is very stable. Even after I installed PAE Linux kernel, it didn't show any kind of instability.

Score for Performance: 9/10

Unarguably Netrunner OS is aesthetically superior to competing rolling release distros like SolydK, PCLinuxOS and even, Manjaro itself! It gives comparable performance and user friendliness as good as any other rolling release KDE spin I have used. However, Netrunner not supporting a pae kernel is a big let down for me. But, I guess, things won't be that bad with a 64-bit spin around. Also, Netrunner supports the latest Linux PAE kernel is a good thing that experienced users can easily upgrade it as per system requirement.

I wholeheartedly recommend Netrunner OS 2014.04 infinity Arch spin to anyone who is interested to look beyond Ubuntu / Fedora. Even the Manjaro users can try it out to add variety. You can download the 32-bit version from here.

Overall Score: 9/10
Installation (20% weight): 10/10
Aesthetics (20% weight): 10/10
Hardware Recognition (20% weight): 9.4/10
Pre-Installed Packages (10% weight): 10/10
Performance (30% weight): 9/10
(1 mark penalty for supplying only non-pae kernel)


  1. What about the best xfce distro and comparing of openbox distros? :)

    1. I guess in 2014 Year End :). Missed the train for 2013.

  2. So glad you got on this so fast. Great review, covered all questions i had. Looking forward to a weekend to us it once 64 bit comes out. Also looking forward to more distro comparisons as well.

    1. Thanks for liking my blog. Netrunner Arch is impressive, no doubt.

  3. Manjaro refuse to boot in my Asus K43SA while Netrunner easily past it, Netrunner rolling is even better than Manjaro itself, Kudos to Netrunner Team!

    1. Good to know that Netrunner is working for you. It is one of the best semi-rolling release distros I've used.


    can't wait for the review

    1. Thanks for the link, I am working on the 64-bit Netrunner rolling review. Please keep watching my blog :).