NetRunner Rolling 2017...
After a nice cup of tea and a few quality biscuits, Jonni Bidwell has finally got over his irrational fear of rolling release distros – and thinks you should, too.
Jonni Bidwell has long abandoned his irrational fear of rolling release distros and thinks you should, too
Arch-based distros are becoming all the rage now. And it’s easy to see why: it has repos bursting at the seams ( repositoriesdon’thave seams–Ed) with the newest packages and it’s highly customisable. It’s also much more stable than people give it credit for, so once you throw in an installer (the popular Calamares in Netrunner’s case) and a ready-to-roll desktop, then there’s potential indeed for Linux greatness.
The Debian-based, fixed release edition Netrunner has been popular for a long time, but it’s Manjaro-based, rolling release sibling hadn’t seen any development since January 2016. Such was the length of this furlow that it was forked, giving rise to the Nurunner project. But Netrunner Rolling (NR) has recently been rebooted, and now Nurunner is no more. Such are the hatches and dispatches of Linux distros, (and may this serve as a warning to proponents of sensational spellings).
In January, Netrunner rebased its fixed release distro on Debian’s testing branch. This assuaged users frustrated by old versions of software in Debian’s stable repos (historically Netrunner was based on Ubuntu, but this was forked and became Maui Linux). This Manjarobased rolling release will enable things to be even fresher, though not quite as fresh as Arch, since there’s some paucity in getting packages from there to Manjaro to NR. At the time of writing Netrunner sports Kernel 4.9, whereas an updated NR gives you 4.11.12, and Arch has 4.12.6.
The vanilla Plasma setup that’s on Arch is certainly inoffensive and intuitive, but we like to tweak it here and there for optimal satisfaction. Manjaro’s KDE edition features some stylish themeing, but doesn’t make any substantive changes beyond the Arch config. NR has opted for a striking dark theme, and the fullscreen application dashboard rather than the traditional menu.
This is entirely reasonable, and will help Unity refugees feel a tiny bit more at home, but perhaps more could’ve been done to showcase Plasma’s capabilities. Then again, maybe it’s better to leave this fine tuning to your users – that is the Arch way, after all. A nice touch is the inclusion of the popular KDEConnect applet, so you can see phone notifications from the comfort of your desktop.
NR comes with lots of software that Arch users would have to invest effort to install and maintain: Skype, Flash, the b43-fwcutter package (for extracting firmware from Broadcom drivers), Steam. The latter adopts Arch’s favoured approach of using a native runtime rather than Steam’s bundled one (which is still based on Ubuntu 12.04). This may cause problems, but may equally well improve performance. Any Steam issues you encounter will likely have been encountered by gamers in the parent distributions’ communities, so you shouldn’t be stuck for too long.
Firefox is the default browser in NR, and it ships with some preloaded addons, namely the AntVideoDownloader and uBlockOrigin. Plasma recently added support for icons on the desktop and NR comes with some (including the dreaded My Computer) to get you started. We can’t condone this heathen practice, but each to their own. We did like that Yakuake, the drop-down terminal, was enabled by default, so any time you’re feeling lost, F12 will bring you command-line solace.
Marble, included in the install has some features you won’t find in Google Earth. This is Behaim’s Erdapfel (earth apple, literally). Something is missing.