For a while now, the new thing in Linux is “rolling” release. It’s not hard to see why users are attracted to this type of release. Some users find it very annoying having to go through an update process every 6 to 8 months, and would rather get little updates forever. Rolling release Linux distributions also attract more advanced Linux users who find the idea of getting newer, more unstable software attractive.
Due to this new trend, many rolling release Linux distributions have popped up. So, what ones are the best to use? Let’s find out!
1. Arch Linux
If you love the idea of having a rolling-release distribution, Arch Linux is one of the best to go with. Arch Linux isn’t the first ever Linux distribution to let users “build from scratch”. That said, its implementation is probably one of the best. It offers pre-compiled binaries to make sure that packages install fast. This means you won’t waste time compiling software by hand, one by one. Building from scratch means that users can pick pretty much everything when it comes to their desktop.
Arch developers give their users the latest and greatest packages as soon as possible, as quickly as possible. It often is one of the first to see a new Linux kernel version, a new release of the Gnome Shell desktop environment, and etc.
In addition, Arch Linux has the Arch Linux User Repository. This allows any user to create a package and distribute it even if the developers don’t support it. This single feature makes Arch have one of the broadest software selections on all of Linux.
It is true that this distribution has a bit of a learning curve, but if you’re looking to get a great rolling release distribution that emphasizes on speed and new software above all else, Arch is a great choice!
Gentoo is by far the most famous source-only rolling release distributions. Each piece of software is built and compiled specifically for the operating system, rather than using pre-built binaries. Doing it this way allows users to customize the software at build-time so that it is more optimized.
Source-based distributions are a touchy subject, but if you’re looking to get the best out of your OS, it’s a no-brainer. Like Arch Linux, Gentoo is built entirely from scratch, and users can build and customize everything from the desktop environment to the Linux kernel itself.
One of the main draws to the Gentoo operating system is the Portage package manager and their implementation of “eBuilds”. It is incredibly versatile and allows users to hide any packages they don’t want and isolate them from the system. In addition, because everything is built, even though it’s a rolling release (something usually unstable), Gentoo is instead, very stable.
The learning curve for this operating system is about as high as it comes, but if you really want to learn everything about Linux, there is no better choice than to use Gentoo.
3. OpenSUSE Tumbleweed
Tumbleweed is the answer for Suse users who love YaST, RPM and the underlying technology of the operating system, but really dislike how slow-moving Leap is. With this distribution, users can enjoy the real benefits that Suse Linux has to offer (like a solid beautiful branded desktop with a great set of default applications, a powerful GUI administration tool) without having to stay on aging versions of the Linux kernel, and etc.
The single strongest reason to consider OpenSUSE Tumbleweed for your Linux rolling release distribution needs is this: their Open Build System. With the OBS, anyone can easily port software to multiple Linux distribution with incredible ease. This makes it so that a grand majority of software users want finds its way to Tumbleweed.
Another solid reason to consider this distribution is that they have two types of distributions. The people over at Suse let its users try Tumbleweed at any time. In fact, it’s very easy to jump from a stable system to Tumbleweed, or go back and still keep the core things you love.
The Solus operating system is a rare one: it’s a rolling Linux distribution that is inherently stable. Instead of the “bleeding edge”, they opt to instead give their users fresh, stable software as soon as possible. This concept has made this operating system perfect to recommend to beginner Linux users who simply want to stop having to go through the annoying distro upgrade process every 6 months.
Out of all the distributions on this list, Solus, by far, has the best third-party support, and it’s a major reason anyone looking at rolling release Linux distributions should consider it. In fact, it is very difficult to find a program (no matter how unknown) that isn’t on the OS in some fashion.
All and all, Solus is a fresh operating system, with an interesting take on rolling release. It is quickly making a mark on the community, and it has a lot to offer for beginners and advance users alike.
5. Manjaro Linux
Manjaro Linux is a derivative of Arch Linux proper, with a twist. It is trying to take and tame what some view as an “unstable” desktop environment. When users install Manjaro, they’ll get the traditional Arch setup (minus a few theme changes) with less un-stable packages, to make sure that crashes and annoying bugs are less common. The attempt is to make a rolling release Linux distribution, based on Arch Linux, but for beginners.
While the subject of Arch Linux derivatives is a very divisive subject, one thing is sure: if you love the core underlying technology in Arch Linux but find it too intimidating, or unstable (for whatever reason), Manjaro is a solid alternative.