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I am a amateur+ administrator (use Linux since 1993 on a number of machines (from 1 to 50)), this is to say that I never went deep-neck into gory details of the differences between distributions and was rather concentrating on the higher-level layers (services).

I usually used Debian with its variants.

For some time now I have to deal with the Redhat family (mostly CentOS) which does not make much of a difference to me, from the services perspective.

There is one thing, though, which is problematic: the level of freshness of packages in CentOS. I currently have a CentOS6 machine, which may be upgradeable to CentOS7 but a previous upgrade (same case: CentOS6 to CentOS7) was horrendous. This may have been our fault (though we religiously read the docs, preupgrade checks etc.) - never mind.

The point is that the version of packages is craved in stone, there are no "testing" repositories (even the EPEL testing is old) and I end up with archaic versions of packages I need.

How best approach this for this family of distros?

  • upgrade?: beside the psychotic fear due to the previous update -- in some time we will be facing the same problem
  • compile from sources? I do not want to "go gentoo" anymore, I like packages which enormously simplify the life of wannabe admins like me. This may be acceptable fo some well-contained packages (I did that to break free from Python 2.5) but others which are deeply rooted in the system will be a problem.
  • get an RPM with the latest version? I tried (unsupported) packages but right at the start they require zillions of dependencies (including scary ones like glib) - that would have been fine (I have it all the time on Debian) but I fear the conflicts.
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  • Maybe this will help you out: CentOS 7: Upgrading from CentOS 6.x In Place. – devnull Feb 6 '15 at 12:33
  • Well, we did that (this is what I mentioned in the question) but the upgrade failed anyway (libg was wrong). But as I said, beside the problems with the upgrade, within x months we will have the same status: CentOS7 will live its frozen life while the packages evolve. – WoJ Feb 6 '15 at 12:47
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You're using the wrong distro if you cannot accept that you'll be starting with "outdated" packages even on the first day of a new major CentOS version release, and that they'll only get older. CentOS is that way on purpose.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 — on which CentOS 7 was based — was forked from Fedora 19, which was released about 15 months prior to the release of RHEL 7.0. We aren't likely to see RHEL/CentOS 8 for another three years or so, by which time we'll be running 4+ year old versions of software.

Those of us who manage a lot of systems appreciate this sort of distro, because it means we aren't constantly chasing OS changes. We can get our software working on top of a stable platform and then go do something else.

Some of us even skip over a major version. The RHEL product life cycle purposely overlaps versions so that there are 3 or 4 versions of the OS being supported at once. RHEL/CentOS 5.11 came out about the same time as RHEL 7.0, meaning that it was possible to skip entirely over version 6 while still using an ISO that was cut no more than 6 months ago.

There are many alternative distros that do their best to offer only the most current software in their package repo. In fact, this is probably the more common sort of Linux distro. The downside is that on every upgrade, you risk something breaking.

Both release philosophies have their advantages, which is why we have both kinds of Linuxes.

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  • I completely understand this, as well as the need. You have the same in Debian where you have super stable and super old packages - if you need to have something running you are sure it will not break. You also have the testing branch which is up-to-date. You get to choose. I would like to understand i) whether this is possible on CentOS and if so ii) how to do that – WoJ Feb 6 '15 at 12:51
  • There simply is no direct equivalent of Debian's testing branch. If you want Debian, you know where to get it. – Warren Young Feb 6 '15 at 12:57
  • @WoJ: Perhaps Fedora Server would split the difference better for your purposes. – Warren Young Feb 6 '15 at 13:00
  • (this is regarding your first comment) I specifically avoided any wording which may suggest a flame war between distos. I would leave that to teenager-minded people (from 10 to 120 yo). I understand the needs of various type of admins, what I was looking for is "CentOS with testing". If it does not exist - fine. I have to use CentOS, this is a perfectly fine distro except for my case (need of current versions). – WoJ Feb 6 '15 at 13:00
  • (regarding comment 2) I have no choice here, this is some sort of inherited system. – WoJ Feb 6 '15 at 15:39

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