What is a rolling distro, you might ask? A rolling distro is one that allows you to upgrade the entire system, not only the programs. This means that after installing it once, you will never have to do so again. However, it also means that since you will always be provided with the latest, well, everything, your system will be more prone to glitches as the software you are using has not been tested for as long as the older versions. Thus, new users are warned to stay away from rolling distros at first, at least until they are not afraid of copy and pasting lines of code and have become a little more familiar with Linux. Since most new users opt for a stable distro, or one that is not rolling, most Linux distros decide not to be rolling ones. However, there are a handful.
Arch Based Distros
Arch Linux is a very well known rolling distro that holds a lot of respect in the Linux community. However, that respect is not there for it’s ease of use or newbie friendliness by any stretch of the imagination. For instance, after downloading their ISO to install the system, there is absolutely no installer or even a Desktop Environment! No. Instead, Arch Linux will boot from the command line and the user gets the delightful experience of installing every single package manually. While this is a huge pain, it is also a blessing. While this makes Arch Linux difficult in the beginning, it also makes it the most customizable distro out there. If a user wants a stripped down Operating System, then they can have it – without one extra package they don’t want. On the other hand, if a user wants a full blown Operating System with all of the bells and whistles, then that is also a possibility. In the end, no two installations of Arch Linux are exactly the same.
In response to the difficulties and non-user-friendliness of Arch, Antergos arose. It is basically an Arch installer. After downloading their ISO, you can boot into an actual Desktop Environment and have an actual installer, all available for you to use right away. Almost all Desktop Environments are available to install within the installer, and once installed, the system runs like any other Linux system would. It even has access to the AUR (Arch User Repository), which is a collection of programs compiled for others by Arch Linux users themselves. Of course Arch Linux has this also, but in their case, you would have to manually install the necessary packages to get access to the AUR. Due to the AUR, Arch Linux has the most packages available out of all the Linux Distros out there. It even has Minecraft!
Similar to Antergos, Manjaro is based off of Arch Linux and provides a graphical installer. However, it also delays package updates for about a week for it’s users in order to conduct further testing on them and make sure they work properly, or in other words, are stable. This makes it more user friendly than even Antergos because your software is less likely to break or not work. However, withholding all packages also pertains to important security ones. Thus, Manjaro often has issues with security. However, due to it’s policy of further testing, it is often referred to as the “Ubuntu of Arch Linux”, meaning that it is a version of Arch for those newer to the Linux ecosystem.
Distros In The RPM Family
OpenSuse Tumbleweed is a rolling distro in the RPM family. This means that instead of using .deb files (the Windows equivalent of .exe files) it uses a different format, known as .rpm files. However, unlike Fedora, OpenSuse Tumbleweed includes the usual proprietary codecs and programs available for their distro. It also includes YaST, which is a combined center for both settings, an app center, and updating services alike. The inclusion of YaST is a key point in their distro, and is often one of the most praised things about it.
Original Distros (Not Based On Anything Else)
Void Linux is similar to Arch Linux in it’s installation method. Like Arch Linux, it also does not provide a Desktop Environment or a graphical installer in it’s ISO. One of the more noticeable things about it is that it does not use systemd, the usual tool for starting up a Linux distro. Instead, it utilizes runit, which some claim is actually faster than systemd. This would give you a quicker startup time for you computer and allow you to get to work as soon as possible. Like Arch Linux, it is mostly for more advanced users. If you are newer to Linux, do not give this a try right away.
Stable Rolling Distros
“Stable” and “rolling” are not exactly two words you will often hear in the same sentence. However, Solus certainly fits the bill. It is a distro aimed at new users that not only features a rolling release model, but also stability and ease of use. Solus comes with three Desktop Environments available to download for your ISO, with Budgie as their flagship DE. The developers of Solus created their own DE called Budgie, which features a side panel much like Windows and Macs do. While Solus does not have as many programs available in their software center, they have most of the important ones. In addition, if a desired program is not available, you can ask the developers to make it so. Often, they will respond kindly and it will then be available in a short amount of time. If you are a new user in the world of Linux, Solus is the rolling distro for you.