Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

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Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby mintnoob on Tue Jul 20, 2010 3:03 am

I'm trying to decide which direction in a distro I want to go next. I've gotten over my kid-in-a-candy-store phase of trying out all the flavors (I've chosen KDE :P ) and am thinking more long term. I'm debating between an LTS and a Rolling Release version.

I'm excited to hear that Mint might get a Debian addition that's a Rolling Release. I've never used an RR distro. Are there any drawbacks? You'd think with never having to do a fresh install again would be appealing to the majority of Linuxers for their main distro.

So what are the drawbacks of a Rolling Release, if any?

Does a Linux RR get plagued like Windows where, over time, becomes slower and slower with all the junk that collects in the Window's registries and stuff like that? With XP, I'd usually do a fresh install at least once a year because it would get so bogged down with unwanted crap.
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby mick55 on Tue Jul 20, 2010 4:13 am

mintnoob wrote:So what are the drawbacks of a Rolling Release, if any?


Advantage = You are always running the absolute latest software. :)

Disadvantage = You are always running the absolute latest software. :cry:

Things could "break" unexpectedly. :P

If you are not comfortable recovering your system from the CLI when this happens,
then I would pass on installing a rolling release and stick with an LTS,
which offers tried and tested software and a 3 year window of support.

mintnoob wrote:Does a Linux RR get plagued like Windows where, over time, becomes slower and slower with all the junk that collects in the Window's registries and stuff like that?


No. There are simple CLI commands to remove outdated and obsolete junk.

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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby mintnoob on Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:26 am

Thanks for the response Mick.

Can you choose what and when to update on a RR, or is your computer at its mercy?
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby proxima_centauri on Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:30 am

Typically you would want to update everything, and fairly regularly on a rolling release - but yes - holding back particular upgrades should be possible (thinking about Debian testing and archlinux).
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby MALsPa on Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:51 am

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_release

That article draws a distinction between "true" rolling release distros (like PCLinuxOS) and those (like Debian) that "maintain a development branch between releases" with the development branch being "intended to be the next release"

Some pros and cons (from http://jonreagan.wordpress.com/2008/01/ ... microsoft/):

First, the rolling release:

Pros -

1. New applications available as soon as they are uploaded, without needing to upgrade, since you are at the current version (the only version for that matter…)
2. New features are also uploaded, so you get the latest-and-greatest.

Cons -

1. Applications are often left untested, so instability is an issue.
2. Application dependencies can also be compromised, as I recently found out.

Now for the fixed release:

Pros -

1. Stable releases with fewer compatibility issues.
2. New features on a timely and predictable basis, a complete experience.

Cons -

1. You do not always get the latest-and-greatest applications.
2. You must do a full upgrade (depending on the system, this isn’t really a bad thing, but it does take a little while.)


I use Mepis (definitely fixed release) and I've used PCLOS (rolling release).

PCLOS, I'd have the latest apps, and that was nice. But with PCLOS, I've had a few times when I updated and the system got borked. I ended up not doing all of the updates when they came down the pipe, waiting awhile until I saw what folks were saying at the forums. That approach worked pretty well (to answer your question about choosing what and when to update) but it seemed like the PCLOS folks always recommended doing ALL of the updates (because, I think things were inter-related and supposedly the system was designed for all packages to be up-to-date).

With Mepis, I never worry about keeping the system fully updated, nothing's gonna break if I pull in all the updates. That's also why I prefer Debian Stable over Testing, but that's just me.
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby MALsPa on Tue Jul 20, 2010 6:01 am

mintnoob, you might be interested in this Ubuntu thread:

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1385254
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby altair4 on Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:06 am

My only experience with a rolling release distro was PCLinuxOS so I'm not sure if it's typical of all rolling release distros or just that one. There are a lot of negatives that for me far outweighed any positives:


This type of update mechanism requires the packagers to keep on top of things or you have a PCLOS "Big Update" type of event which disabled many users PC's. Too much was updated all at once and things broke. Small, well managed, incremental changes over time might have worked out better. There were package conflicts and failed dependency errors caused by out-of-order installation. The repositories and order of update have to be tightly managed and it was too much for PCLinuxOS.

The second problem with PCLOS was that the install CD remained static. Depending on how long it's been since the LiveCD was released and when the user downloaded it, you ended up downloading a 685 MB LiveCD and then after installation, downloading another 500+ MB's of updates. It's my understanding that they now have quarterly updates to the LiveCD so I guess that eliminated the out of date problem but then that requires more resources from the staff of the distro.

All in all I'm not a fan but my use of Linux may be different from yours. I no longer see Linux on the desktop as a hobby but as my default OS. Stability is paramount to me. Again, this is just my experience with one distro and may not be a fair assessment of all distros of this type.
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby randomizer on Tue Jul 20, 2010 10:22 am

Drawbacks? You don't get that "wow a new OS!" feeling every 6 months :lol:
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby linuxviolin on Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:03 pm

I post here just to thank those who have posted here things such as:
I no longer see Linux on the desktop as a hobby but as my default OS. Stability is paramount to me

There are a lot of negatives that for me far outweighed any positives

Applications are often left untested, so instability is an issue

I've had a few times when I updated and the system got borked

etc etc Just another exemple, in Arch, one day the Arch GNOME users have had the surprise to have an update which broke GNOME... Nice, no? :roll: :mrgreen:

This is one of the things I have often said here and elsewhere. Even if some people like the rolling releases, they are a broken model by design for me.
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby MALsPa on Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:07 pm

People say that if you're going to use a rolling release distro, Debian Testing is the most stable one out there.
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby linuxviolin on Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:27 pm

Debian Testing is not a true rolling release and I have seen also some problem with it, even if "it is the most stable", which can be true, for instance a problem with Metacity. The fix is arrived not before 12 or 15 days... This is why I guess the Parsix model is a good one to make a rolling release, at least one like Testing, more stable...
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby DrHu on Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:55 pm

mintnoob wrote:So what are the drawbacks of a Rolling Release, if any?
Does a Linux RR get plagued like Windows where, over time, becomes slower and slower with all the junk that collects in the Window's registries and stuff like that?

Rolling Release
I can't think of any real disadvantages, except for developer slips, that may break the system, however since it is rolling and released, these are usually fixed quite quickly
--you might not use it as a production server for that reason, but as a desktop where some minor glitches can be acceptable, it should be no problem..

Does a Linux RR get plagued like Windows where, over time, becomes slower and slower
Nope
-- this is nothing to do with a rolling release distribution style, Linux vs Windows has the same advantages, less cruft over time on the system or cruft that can be easily managed..

The reason, Linux doesn't keep adding to a central registry (DB like utility) that appends data constantly and never really cleans it, in dbase terms (I know old terminology, re-indexing the DB)
--so cruft in a Linux system doesn't accumulate as quickly nor as easily infect the speed or parameters of specific software, either the system or the the user applications.

Additional, a major difference is that Linux uses mainly *.txt files for system operations, not binary files, which are bigger
--Linux has many small files, and since they are text, they can be compressed easily (lots of white space), but the files themselves do not take up much space

Compare a newly installed windows OS with a newly installed Linux OS, just the system, no applications
--check the file space being used by each OS: you should find that Linux has a smaller hard drive space requirement, this is the usual case

Neither Microsoft nor a Linux distributor can control user application resources needed, except Microsoft can control their own applications, such as the Ms office suite

And I don't know the difference in resources used by ms Office vs OpenOffice, as an example. Although direct comparisons would be difficult as you would have to consider functions available (sometimes mistakenly called features, that is only advertising hype, it suggests something good, a positive, whereas in fact it is only something that is included or not included: a function).

Calling a function a feature is always a matter of personal interpretation.
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby randomizer on Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:59 pm

MS Office generally uses less resources than Open Office in my experience. At least comparing Excel and Calc it's also alot faster than Open Office. The other components probably won't show as big a difference since realtime performance is not as critical.
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby mintnoob on Wed Jul 21, 2010 3:52 pm

Thanks for all of your replies and links to info.

I've decided to stick with fixed releases for now, especially since the Mint 9 will be a LTS.

I was thinking that a Rolling Release Distro would be more convenient since I wouldn't have to do fresh installs as frequent (essentially never), but I also want to install a distro and be done with. I've been reading that with RRs, you have to stay on top of things since updates come so frequently to avoid breakages and other problems and with fixed releases, you rarely have to worry about those problems. I don't mind doing fresh install if it's every couple of years, so an LTS seems like the more convenient choice for me right now. I also have already been downloading certain apps directly from the developer's website (such as Firefox) to get their latest versions, so won't be stuck with "outdated" apps on fixed releases.
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby linuxviolin on Wed Jul 21, 2010 4:17 pm

mintnoob wrote:I also have already been downloading certain apps directly from the developer's website (such as Firefox) to get their latest versions, so won't be stuck with "outdated" apps on fixed releases.

Well, sometimes this is not always possible because sometimes the apps have as dependencies some libraries in versions more recent than those provided by your distro. On some bleeding-edge distros this is not really a problem because they provide usually one of the last versions of those libraries but in other, and here we speak about a LTS, so a version with longer support and therefore with libraries that can be outdated after some time, for some apps sometimes you can not be able to have the last version...

mintnoob wrote:I've been reading that with RRs, you have to stay on top of things since updates come so frequently to avoid breakages and other problems and with fixed releases, you rarely have to worry about those problems.

Yes.
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby exploder on Wed Jul 21, 2010 4:56 pm

mintnoob wrote:I've been reading that with RRs, you have to stay on top of things since updates come so frequently to avoid breakages and other problems and with fixed releases, you rarely have to worry about those problems.


I installed PCLinuxOS 2007 once with the original CD almost a year after it release, it held up fine to a full update. With a fixed release you probably will not see much new breakage but things that were wrong at release never get fixed either, it's like abandon ware. I do not see any real drawbacks in going with a rolling release.
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby linuxviolin on Wed Jul 21, 2010 5:15 pm

exploder wrote:I installed PCLinuxOS 2007 once with the original CD almost a year after it release, it held up fine to a full update. With a fixed release you probably will not see much new breakage but things that were wrong at release never get fixed either, it's like abandon ware. I do not see any real drawbacks in going with a rolling release.

Well, if they make their job well and make some MAINTENANCE work, this would not be the case. But the developers don't make this and prefer playing with their new toy(s), and new bugs, rather make this. And so, you have (many) old bugs never corrected plus some new bugs with the new version, and some will probably never be corrected either... :evil:
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby exploder on Wed Jul 21, 2010 5:29 pm

And so, you have (many) old bugs never corrected plus some new bugs with the new version, and some will probably never be corrected either... :evil:


Yes, and that is just what we have been seeing in the last few Ubuntu releases. It would be smarter to build a solid base, keep the applications up to date and upgrade the base when newer packages have proven themselves stable and reliable.
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby linuxviolin on Wed Jul 21, 2010 5:39 pm

exploder wrote:Yes, and that is just what we have been seeing in the last few Ubuntu releases. It would be smarter to build a solid base, keep the applications up to date and upgrade the base when newer packages have proven themselves stable and reliable.

Maybe but this is not the case. In real rolling release usually the maintainer push the new version as they arrive without tests, or some but not sufficient...
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Re: Drawbacks of a Rolling Release?

Postby exploder on Wed Jul 21, 2010 5:53 pm

Maybe but this is not the case. In real rolling release usually the maintainer push the new version as they arrive without tests, or some but not sufficient...


Take a look at how PCLInuxOS is built and updated. :)

Edit: Today I got Firefox 3.6.7, Thunderbird 3.1.1 and K3b 2.0.80 just to name a few of the updates I received. These apps were tested, then put on the pass server for 8 or 9 hours, then pushed out to the main repos. I very rarely have any problems and when I do they are very quickly resolved in a matter of hours. I had a very minor issue with saving images about a week ago, I was given a resolution by the Lead Developer minutes after I posted the problem, now that's support! This is clearly a perfect example of how a rolling release should be.
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