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Newest openSUSE Linux Offers Rolling Releases

Stable or Bleeding Edge, Your Choice

  • March 10, 2011
  • By Sean Michael Kerner
The newest release of Novell's openSUSE Linux debuts with LibreOffice, KDE 4.6, a zippy package management system and a new rolling release system that could eliminate the need for future big releases.
Sean Michael Kerner

Broadly speaking, there are typically two main types of Linux distributions: those with big milestone updates for new packages and those with rolling release cycles.

Novell's openSUSE 11.4 is going to bridge the gap between the two types of Linux distributions with a new system that will enable users to stick with stable milestone updates or to have a rolling release. The rolling release model is one that has been in use by Gentoo and Arch Linux among others. With a rolling release the latest and greatest application updates are delivered to users as they become available.

The rolling release capability in openSUSE 11.4 is called Project Tumbleweed and for those that embrace it, it could mean the end to big milestone updates for openSUSE.

"With Tumbleweed you can turn openSUSE into a rolling release distribution," Jos Poortvliet, openSUSE community manager told InternetNews.com.

Poortvliet noted that most distributions including openSUSE, Fedora and Ubuntu have a development tree that tracks upstream projects closely. However new upstream projects aren't usually integrated into the mainline of a project until release time.

"That means you're always months behind," Poortvliet said. "With a rolling release distro like Arch, you're never much behind."

Users can choose to update more rapidly on their own if they so choose, but Poortvliet noted that it's not part of the mainline distro repositories.

"Tumbleweed basically brings the same thing that Arch and Gentoo have to openSUSE users," Poortvliet said. "So it will be a repository that will have the latest stable version of everything and if you enable it, you won't have to install a new version of openSUSE when it comes out, because you'll already be running it."

Poortvliet add that Tumbleweed and the rolling release idea isn't for everyone. For example, those who run openSUSE on the server may not want a rolling release, which could potentially break application compatibility in new updates. He added that server users tend to value stability over running the latest and greatest in package updates.

"The Tumbleweed repository will have a slightly higher chance of breakage than simply running a stable version," Poortvliet said. "I wouldn't recommend it to every openSUSE user, but it is easier than running Gentoo or Arch."

The openSUSE Build Service (OBS) is the key technology that sit behind enabling Tumbleweed for openSUSE 11.4. OBS is Novell's system for building Linux packages and is also the platform on which the openSUSE distribution is built.

At shipping time, the openSUSE 11.4 release will include the 2.6.37 Linux kernel which debuted at the beginning of 2011. Novell's community distro is also the first among the major distributions to include LibreOffice, instead of OpenOffice.org. Novell is one of the leading contributors to LibreOffice and offers commercial support services as well.

Poortvliet noted that package management gets a boost with improvements to the ZYpp system that make it faster to install and update packages.

On the desktop openSUSE 11.4 had GNOME 2.32, KDE 4.6, Xfce 4.8 and LXDE 0.5 as available desktop. Poortvliet stressed that openSUSE developers have working hard on integrating the various desktop into the Linux distro.

The openSUSE 11.4 release is also likely the last release of the distribution before Attachmate completes its $2.2 billion dollar acquisition of Novell. The pending change of ownership at Novell however isn't a concern for Poortvliet.

"For openSUSE nothing changes, we're an independent community," Poortvliet said. "Attachmate has an effect on Novell on the corporate side but for openSUSE there will be little change."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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