The pros and cons of a rolling release

Every now and again someone suggests the possibility of running Ubuntu like Arch — rebuild new packages as they are released upstream, distribute them in a master repository and synchronize individual machines against those packages. No stepping releases like Ubuntu, just one distro. Not even a version number, so to speak.

The problem is … well, let’s just say I’ve got a bitter taste in my mouth over the 1.3 version of Audacious. I don’t blame Arch linux or the package maintainers at all. From what I’ve read on the Arch forums and the Audacious forums, this is something that’s happening upstream and can’t be helped.

For my own part, I lost all mp3 support, and streaming audio was completely obliterated in 1.3. I messed with it as much as I was willing and able, then downgraded to 1.2 so I could go back to listening to Shoutcast streams. Having the newest version is hardly useful if you can’t do the things you want with the new version.

And that’s the weak spot in a rolling release, over a stepping release with stable intervals. At some point, something is going to break and prove unusable, and downgrading is a bit cumbersome. It was hard to even find an ftp mirror with the 1.2 version, since the newer version had supplanted it.

In that sense, it makes it a little like using the development version of Ubuntu. Things are updated constantly, although I have noticed that using alpha Ubuntu software is a good deal more risky than using Arch.

But don’t misunderstand me. I love Arch linux almost as much as Ubuntu. I learned so much from Arch that it has made my Ubuntu experience all the better. For all the effort and work Arch forces me to do, Ubuntu is all the more savory for being easy and automatic.

I could hardly pick one over the other, since from my perspective, each has made me appreciate the other all the more. Arch is everything Ubuntu isn’t — lean, fast and cutting edge. At the same time, Ubuntu is everything Arch isn’t — easy to set up, comprehensive and full-featured with almost no effort involved.

Of course, I won’t even get version 1.3 of Audacious in Feisty, so it will be a while before the Ubuntu juggernaut catches up with Arch in that category. And that’s the benefit in a rolling release — it takes a long time for the stepping releases to catch up.

Regardless, I’ll be keeping 1.2 on both my machines — the Arch and the Ubuntu — until the bugs are ironed out, and everything is back to normal. ;)

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5 Responses to “The pros and cons of a rolling release”


  1. 1 mrisi 2007/03/16 at 7:52 PM

    I REALLY wanna like Arch. Really.

    I’ve been trying to install the darned thing for 3 days now! Specs of machine in question: 566mHz Celeron, 256mb RAM, 7gb HD. Not a high flier by any means, but certainly suitable for a minimal arch install. Trying to get xorg to install is the hugest pain in the butt of my Linux experiences (aside from getting my bcm4311 network card to work on this laptop of mine).

    When I try to load xorg, it gives me the error that the driver “i810″ could not be loaded, or was not found. If I run xorgconfig, and then move the new file over the /etc/X11/xorg.conf (replacing it), it boots xorg but the refresh rate or something must be screwy, because the picture’s a mess. Any ideas?

  2. 2 K.Mandla 2007/03/16 at 8:31 PM

    Did you install the i810 driver package before you fired up X? It might be having a conniption if it’s using a completely wrong driver.

    I also get a lot of strange xorg.conf behavior, depending on the machine I use. Sometimes X -configure works best for me, sometimes it’s xorgconfig and sometimes I have to download hwd and run hwd -xa to get it working. You might try one of those methods instead.

  3. 3 Tyler Rusk 2008/04/06 at 8:46 PM

    awesome stuff. I like the rolling release of PCLinuxOS, but I really like the community of Ubuntu. Plus, there are the excitements of the next release every six months.

  4. 4 poulpillusion 2010/05/03 at 4:09 PM

    Did you ever try Sidux ?

  5. 5 txwikinger 2010/11/26 at 6:26 AM

    Ubuntu is primarily a distro that should be easy to use for anybody. Rolling releases for a distro make sense for developers, and enthusiasts with lots of knowledge, but not for such a general purpose distro. Therefore Ubuntu will not change to rolling releases but rather allow upstream projects to have rolling releases for some of their applications. See also http://drupal.txwikinger.me.uk/content/rolling-releases-make-no-sense-linux-distribution-ubuntu


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