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Stable release, cutting edge scheduled release, or rolling release?


Again, choosing the Linux distro, based on different philosophies, we may choose a different distro, though they are all using Linux kernel.

I would like to use Debian to represent stable release Linux distros, Fedora to represent cutting edge Linux distros with scheduled release, and Arch Linux to represent the rolling release. If you visit DistroWatch.com, you can see the difference of the packages version (Debian, Fedora, Arch Linux), where Debian has very few green colour packages, Fedora has a lot of green colour with some red colour packages, and Arch Linux has a lot of green colour but no red colour packages. The green colour indicates the latest (stable) release version of the package; red indicates the beta version (development or testing).

The stable software is normally what an end user always wants. If you are looking for the performance, stable Linux distros is always what you need. Especially if you are choosing a Linux distro for server use. The more stable a software, the less bugs it has, because they are fixed. However, the drawback is that the user may not experience the latest features of the packages. For example, a new web technology is introduced which can be run by the modern web browser, as a result the users cannot try the technology immediately.

The Linux distro like Fedora, which contains latest stable release and also the beta release, is also important. Because we need to know that, the software needs to be tested to discover the bugs, and then fix the bugs. If there is nobody test the software, the bugs will not be found, and if the developers release it, it is still buggy as the beta version. That is why, Linux distro like Fedora is very important to experience the latest packages.

The rolling release becomes more and more popular recently, such as PC-BSD adopting the rolling release. The rolling release like Arch Linux, allows the users to upgrade the system to the latest stable release, without a full installation like Windows, Ubuntu, and else. That is why rolling release is also cutting edge. Unlike Fedora, it does not have the beta versions as in the DistroWatch.com. However, since it is cutting edge, some users may claim that it is not suitable for server. Yes, we need to know that, the bugs are everywhere, the only difference is the criticality of the bugs, whether it affects the whole system to function or not. Because it is a rolling release, most of the bugs are come from the upstream (original developers). As a results, this can help in the bugs report for the upstream to fix them.

Even you are not using rolling release, most of the Linux distros allow the users to access the repositories for testing. This also allows the users to have a look on the latest packages.

So, if you are looking for the latest packages, you may try rolling release distros, if you are afraid of bugs, you can  try stable distros, and if you are a developers and not afraid of bugs, you can try to use the beta version or testing version from the repositories.

In my opinion, if you are targeting a server, stable and non-rolling release is more preferable.

About Allen Choong

A cognitive science student, a programmer, a philosopher, a Catholic.

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