Recently I decided to give openSUSE Tumbleweed a go. My initial reasoning was so that I could experience the latest iteration of the GNOME desktop, without having to bother with attempting to upgrade Ubuntu GNOME. I knew about Tumbleweed and how it was a rolling release distribution that will always have the latest release of every software stack installed.

What I found, however, was so much more. Yes, Tumbleweed is a rolling distribution (similar to Arch or Gentoo), but Tumbleweed does it a bit differently. And that difference matters.

Consider this. One of the reasons why some are opposed the rolling release distribution is that the cutting edge releases of various software packages can lead to a problem with the system. I’ve experienced this before, and it’s often a nightmare to resolve. Fortunately, the openSUSE developers have figured a way to avoid this and it’s genius.

The way of the tumbleweed

Most rolling release distributions upgrade to the latest releases without thinking. So long as the package dependencies are met, the package will be installed. That lack of smart design is what often leads to problems. How openSUSE Tumbleweed gets around this is by building the distribution as a single, cohesive whole. When an update is run, if a package would break the cohesion of the whole (or simply invalidate another package), then all dependent packages are rebuilt as if it were a traditional distribution. This is all handled by way of the Open Build Service.

This makes for an incredibly rock-solid rolling release Linux distribution.

But what if you already have an openSUSE Leap installation, and you want to migrate it over to Tumbleweed? Do you have to download the Tumbleweed ISO image and re-install from there? No. Believe it or not, you can upgrade your openSUSE Leap installation to openSUSE Tumbleweed with just a few quick commands. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Open a terminal window
  2. Change to the admin user with the command su
  3. Type your admin password and hit Enter
  4. Create a new directory (to house your old zypper repos) with the command mkdir /etc/zypp/repos.d/old
  5. Move all the old repos into the new folder with the command mv /etc/zypp/repos.d/*.repo /etc/zypp/repos.d/old
  6. Add the new repos with the commands below:

zypper ar -f -c repo-oss
zypper ar -f -c repo-non-oss
zypper ar -f -c repo-debug
zypper ar -f -c repo-update

Once you’ve taken care of the above commands, you can run the upgrade from Leap to Tumbleweed with the command zypper dup. Now, step away from the computer, as this upgrade will take some time to complete.

When the upgrade completes, reboot your once-Leap-ified machine and enjoy the new-OS smell of Tumbleweed. You are officially working with an outstanding rolling release take on openSUSE.

Worth checking out

If you’re already a fan of openSUSE, you owe it to yourself to at least test drive Tumbleweed. Whether you get it by way of an ISO, or from upgrading Leap, Tumbleweed is definitely worth checking out (even if you only want to stay ahead of the pack by always having the latest version of the GNOME desktop).