… or at least slowed so much that to those riding it, it appears to have stopped.
Since the time I jumped into the Linux waters for some of my computers at home and at work, I’ve done a significant amount of hopping between distributions. In the beginning, many of those jumps were simply out of curiosity to see what the different distros were bringing to the table and to get a better feel for the extent to which they easily supported my hardware. After the first couple years, the hopping took on a different purpose and became a bit more intermittent: I was looking for a distro that worked for me, not just on my hardware but for me personally (as well as for those who also used those same computers). I have a stack of CDs and DVDs of distros that I have tried to varying extents; that stack is approaching 8 inches in height (and it clearly doesn’t include all of the distros I’ve tried via bootable USB sticks or as a VM over the past couple years).
So it is a bit of a shift, in many ways, for me to realize the merry-go-round has slowed, possibly stopped. I think I’ve found it. I’ve been running Arch Linux on my Asus netbook for several months and it fits well: very good support for the hardware and for me personally. It has the packages I want, and I love the rolling release model that keeps packages current continuously as software projects release both major and minor updates (something that always bothered me to the point of kludging work-arounds in other distributions). Over the Christmas break, I moved my older Gateway desktop to Arch, as well. That is still a work in progress, as I am wrestling with a couple of items there but I have a fairly high degree of confidence I will resolve those. (And that’s a very different box with a very different usage profile than my netbook in terms of how I use it and how frequently.)
For now, I’m happy and don’t foresee any hopping in the near future. I absolutely do not miss the periodic upgrade-or-reinstall dance from the other distros I’ve primarily used in the past (Mint and Ubuntu being the two distros I spend the majority of the past 5 years living in/with). I like the pace at which new software versions, once release, make their way through the package management process. The package manager itself does everything I need it to in a very straightforward manner (even in situations where I’ve had to ignore updates to things like video drivers for my desktop’s antiquated graphics adapter). The software I want to use is present. The resulting systems, particularly given their older and/or low-end hardware, are stable and are far more responsive under Arch than any of the other distros I’ve had installed on them. The distro has an active and supportive community, along with a very usable and useful wiki.
Arch probably isn’t for everyone, but it works for me. (And it is the underlying aspect of this — having the availability of a broad spectrum of variations on a given OS, each with different strengths and philosophies to choose from — that makes me truly appreciate Linux, but that’s possibly the topic of a future ramble.)