I've updated this ticket to be more focused on a solution rather than brainstorming the problem ...
Problem: The use of old tests (i.e. those that use mapred) can cause issues. Bigtop gets its hadoop mapreduce tests from the underlying mapreduce library, which in some ways is good - it is expected to match the distro - but other ways , its bad, because if takes control away from the person running the bigtop smokes.
Solution: Should bigtop have a specific version of mapreduce smokes which it runs by linking to the hadoop-examples as maven deps instead of by referencing the hadoop-examples jars in the distribution?
Any thoughts? A patch that implemented this would simply add a pom file dependency snippet referencing hadoop-examples, or else, pull the jars down some other way, and run them directly rather then referencing HADOOP_HOME/examples*jar