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What Is a Rolling Release?

Alex Newth
Alex Newth

A rolling release is a software updating philosophy that, instead of creating large updates all at once, involves making many continuous updates. The updates are ongoing with a rolling release schema, so they often are smaller and do not have a version number attached to them. The advantage to this method is that updates come out much faster, and they typically are easier for programmers to handle. At the same time, the updates may not be as thorough.

Most programs are updated over time, commonly through a standard update release. With standard updates, a software developer creates a whole new version of a program and updates commonly occur every few weeks or months. If the developer uses a rolling release schema, then things are done differently. Instead of infrequent updates, the updates are commonly done every day or every few days. The developer also only works on updating one programming branch, while standard updates work on several branches.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Software updates normally are rather large and may change the entire program. If the program has a rolling release, then the updates typically are much smaller. This helps the developer make constant updates and, because the philosophy dictates that the developer only update one branch at a time, this forces him to create smaller updates. At the same time, these are easier to download and the program should constantly be current.

One of the main advantages to having a rolling release for the developer is that he typically can make updates in a small amount of time. The program being updated also often will work better. The program is constantly updated, so it should experience faster application speeds and bugs should be quickly fixed.

While there are advantages to having a rolling release for a program, there also are some disadvantages. With standard updates, the developer has a good amount of time to diagnose the program for any bugs or serious issues affecting the program. In a rolling update schema, the developer is constantly making updates, so he may not notice serious issues. There also is less time to test the updates, so there may be obvious flaws that would be corrected with standard updates. The program is being changed so often that, even though the changes are small, they make the software vulnerable to virus and hacking issues.

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