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I was browsing DistroWatch and was looking for a list of distributions that offer rolling releases and a little bit more about them. However, it doesn't seem to be possible to select only the rolling releases on DistroWatch. Perhaps the Linux community can offer some insight into what distributions are available that offer rolling releases.

I've made this question a community wiki with the hopes that I'll get one distribution per answer with a brief description of the distro and what it offers and a link to the distribution's home page and/or DistroWatch entry. Then, people can vote up/down the distributions to rate them in terms of something (best/worst, pure popularity).

(Also, if someone can clean up the tags on this, that would be great. I wanted to create the "rolling-release" tag, but can't.)

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closed as too broad by slm, jasonwryan, Ramesh, strugee, Mat Jun 2 at 5:31

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Out of curiousity what other questions do you think would benefit from a 'rolling-release' tag. I can't think of others. Well nothing that would get past more than a dozen or so questions. –  xenoterracide Aug 19 '10 at 0:48
Perhaps something more generic then, relating to release cycles? That distros tag is just sitting there awfully lonely. –  Thomas Owens Aug 19 '10 at 9:57

7 Answers 7

Gentoo and Arch provide full rolling releases, for every part of the system. openSUSE nowadays provides a rolling release as separate option (openSUSE tumbleweed)

Debian and openSUSE provide a stable base system, and for specific parts (e.g. KDE, X11, Firefox) you can add additional repositories which do have rolling releases. It allows you to keep a stable base system, and yet use the latest software you like.

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Should development releases such as Debian Sid or FreeBSD Stable and Current be considered as rolling releases too? –  Legolas Mar 28 '12 at 11:16
If every update brings new packages, including a kernel/glibc/whatever, I would call it a rolling release. If they have a fixed base system, it's not. –  vdboor Mar 28 '12 at 12:31
than it is certainly true for those FreeBSD branches, given that FreeBSD does not contain non-base packages, whereas a Linux distro does. So, you are really following a source branch of the "base" system, to translate it to Linux terms. –  Legolas Mar 28 '12 at 13:22

Debian's Testing and Unstable ('Sid') branches can both function as rolling releases.

I've run Sid as my desktop for many years, with regular package upgrades, and had problems with it less frequently than I would have had to do release upgrades. The 'unstable' moniker refers to the fact that package versions come and go as the distribution developers upload them. The individual pieces are almost always stable upstream releases or release candidates.

The Testing branch acts as the staging ground for the Stable release. Packages migrate into it from Unstable if they don't pick up any release-critical bug reports after a delay period of a few days. It's generally a little bit behind on the latest versions of software, but users can trust that at least the brown-paper-bag bugs have been flushed out.

Note that many Debian Developers run one or the other of these on their primary systems. This generally means that they're careful not to introduce packages that will break things, because there's an expectation that the system as a whole will work after upgrading. It has actually also led to complaints that the Developers don't care enough about Stable releases actually happening, because they're generally not users of Stable.

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From my limited experience, Testing seems more problematic than Unstable, because broken packages can remain for more time in that state, while Sid's are more regularly updated. –  André Paramés Dec 24 '10 at 14:40

Arch Linux "Arch Linux is an independently-developed i686/x86-64 community distribution, based on a rolling-release model and targeted at competent GNU/Linux users which offers large binary repositories and full-featured package management as well as a ports-like packaging system. Development focuses on a balance of minimalism, elegance, code correctness and modernity. Version 0.1 (Homer) was released March 11, 2002. " from the Arch Linux wiki

The Arch wiki, download page are at http://www.archlinux.org/

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I posted a comment on DistroWatch suggesting a list rolling release distros.

Let's start our own page on Wikipedia!

They have a very small page for "Rolling Release" only.

Let's start a page "List of Rolling Release Linux Distributions".

I would be happy to help with such as I too have been trying to find a good guide to all rolling release distros.

If you would be willing to help me do such either create the page & I will contribute to it or email my screen name at gmail if you like the idea.

I will get myself a Wikipedia account so that I can contribute and help start the page.

I would like to collaborate on the page though as I've only used Linux for a year or so & am still something of a newbie.

PS In regards to the question, here's a short list; [?]=not-sure BTW:

Arch based: Chakra; ArchBang; KahelOS; & Arch of course.

Debian based: Aptosid [f.k.a. Sidux]; antiX; LMDE (Note: antiX & LMDE are based on Testing so "cycle" rather than "roll").

Mandriva forks: PCLOS; Unity; Mageia[?] (Mageia is still discussing whether to roll).

Gentoo base: Funtoo; Sabayon; Toorox*, Calculate[?]; & Gentoo of course.

[*BTW I emailed the Toorox dev. & he said the Toroox wrapper is not rolling]

Misc source based: Lunar; Sorcerer; SourceMage [described as a wrapper around LFS].

Others: Yoper; Foresight; OpenSuSE-Tumbleweed.

Also: Most dev. branches are "psuedo-rolling".

Future: Debian & Fedora may at some point release a seperate rolling distro. There has been some slight talk on their dev.-wikis about this. With LMDE, OpenSuSE-Tumbleweed (and maybe Mageia), Debian & Fedora may decide to go ahead with such...

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Gentoo is a source based linux distribution that will seemingly run on anything (as long as you're willing to compile it). It's package management system portage is based on FreeBSD's ports, and has a unique concept of use flags which allow you to customize how things are configure-ed easily as well as what files are installed and a few other things.

Gentoo is a ... upstream distribution. Meaning that it is not derived from another distribution (e.g. like Ubuntu is derived from Debian, and Debian is the 'upstream distribution'). It has derived distributions that I'm aware of Sabayon and Funtoo. Sabayon is rolling and Funtoo is also rolling.

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I used Gentoo from 2003 to 2009. I now use Arch Linux. –  xenoterracide Aug 19 '10 at 0:34
I also was a developer on Funtoo for a time –  xenoterracide Aug 19 '10 at 0:41
Can Arch Linux be used as a totally source-based distribution like Gentoo? –  Dan Moulding Aug 20 '10 at 21:38
@Dan not as easily, it's pretty easy to build any single package from source either from abs or the AUR, and the aur helpers allow you to resolve full deps from AUR so you can install multiple's to once... but as far as I know there's no command to allow you to build a series of packages in abs (core, extra, community) and install them. I don't think it'd be that hard to write though. –  xenoterracide Aug 21 '10 at 1:55
@Dan hmm just found makeworld - a makepkg wrapper to build multiple packages.... maybe that could help... possibly some other tools I don't know about too. –  xenoterracide Aug 21 '10 at 9:48

Another semi rolling release is Solydxk which uses quarterly update packs, it's based on Linux Mint Debian Edition orginally, has both XFCE and KDE desktop enviroments, and was recently featured on Jupiter Broadcasting show The Linux Action Show and Linux Unplugged. Its URL is www.solydxk.com. They offer both a home edition as well as a business edition for download. I hope this helps.

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Fedora rawhide is a rolling release. As mostly testing ground for new packages, it isn't for the faint of heart. It is warned that it may break at random, but in practice has rarely done so for me.

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