AFAIK only Ubuntu is open source and has LTS (Long Term Support).

Is there are an other Linux distribution with these features:

  • Usable for desktop and server
  • open source
  • Long Term Support releases (at least 3 years support)
  • focused on quality:
    • bugfixes include tests to ensure bugs don't come again
    • Some kind of Continous Integration to be sure only packages which pass all automated tests get released.
  • 1. How do you define long term? 2. The tests have to be provided so that you can run the tests on your own installation?
    – unor
    Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 20:22
  • @unor I have no concrete definition of long term support. I want something like Ubuntu LTS. For me this means at least 3 years support. Related: wiki.ubuntu.com/LTS
    – guettli
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 6:15
  • And could you clarify the tests requirement? You want to run these tests on your own installation?
    – unor
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 13:01
  • @unor I expanded the "focus on quality". No, normally I don't want to run the tests. That's what a CI system is for. But maybe from time to time. It should be easy for normal user (not developer) to run the tests.
    – guettli
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 15:20
  • I had a similar question on Unix & Linux (Long(est) security update support for stable GNU/Linux distributions?), and CentOS was recommended (with ~ 10 years support); but I have no idea about the tests/CI.
    – unor
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 16:46

3 Answers 3


CentOS enter image description here

Meeting your requirements:

✓ Usable for desktop and server

It has a GUI for desktop use: X-Windows, with a choice of Gnome or KDE Desktop environments; or Cinnamon, Mate or Xfce.

                    Click to enlarge

It is designed as an enterprise operating system with high performance on the server. The web hosting company I use, uses it, as do many others, on their servers.

In my experience, using it on both, smoothes the path between local dev and server deployment.

✓ Open source

CentOS is open-source, gratis and libre: you can download CentOS here, and all the source is here

✓ Long-Term Support releases (at least 3 years' support)

CentOS Linux has a ten-year support cycle. The most recent CentOS, 7, will be supported until 30 June 2024

✓ Focused on quality

    ? bugfixes include tests to ensure bugs don't come again

    ✓ Some kind of Continous Integration to be sure only packages which pass all automated tests get released.

Its raison d'être is long-term stability for the enterprise, so offers you the robustness and long life that you are asking for.

It does daily continuous integration testing. The test suite itself lives on github

Historical note

Linux veterans will have known of this in the olden days as Red Hat. Red Hat Enterprise Linux became a commercial product. CentOS is the free (gratis & libre) version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

My personal experience

(disclosure: I have no connection to CentOS except as a very satisfied user)

I've just switched to it after years of wrestling with kubuntu. It meets my needs as a development machine that I can build and test stuff on before deploying to a server. All the packages I'd expect to find, are available. I recommend adding the Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux (EPEL) repository to your list of sources (and that's easy to do from the command-line: sudo yum install epel-release)


This one is pretty much inevitable when you're looking for long-term stability: if I want the latest version of a package (say Python 3.5, PHP 7, gcc 5.2 at time of writing), then I do have to get the source package and build it myself. If I can be satisfied with an earlier version, then a yum package is available from the CentOS repositories.

The support community is big, but it's not as huge as for ubuntu. It does contain a lot of professional web hosts, and fewer hobbyists. There is a Centos tag on the Unix Stackexchange, whereas there's a whole Stack dedicated to the various *ubuntus.

  • Is it true, that CentOS has nothing comparable to packages.ubuntu.com ? Is there no way to browse the existing packages and the related issues/bugs?
    – guettli
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 17:51
  • You can browse the package list either via the yum command-line or the GUI "software" program. The bug list is available at bugs.centos.org/my_view_page.php
    – 410 gone
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 8:49

Ubuntu is built on Debian, specifically the testing packages, which are not LTS. Debian stable, on the other hand, has long-term support:


For example, the current stable version (codename jessie) was released April/May 2015 and is supported until April/May 2020.

Each package has maintainers responsible for the package and a quality assurance page; here it is for the chromium browser:


There are many automated tests for packages, although the extent to which they catch regressions depends on the package. One recent effort in improving Debian package quality is in reproducible builds, so that anyone can build bit-for-bit identical binaries from source.


Debian itself is a volunteer organization, but there are plenty of consultants who provide commercial support.



Linux Mint

official logo for Linux Mint project

For desktop use, Linux Mint is the answer. It forgoes the experimental desktop environment replacements, sticking with a conventional Mac/Windows-style desktop. Based on Debian and Ubuntu. Tag line: “from freedom came elegance”.

To quote their About page:

The purpose of Linux Mint is to produce a modern, elegant and comfortable operating system which is both powerful and easy to use.

Linux Mint is the most popular desktop Linux distribution and the 3rd most widely used home operating system behind Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS.

As of 2014-2015 the team made a major strategic decision: Get off the hamster-wheel of latest-and-greatest updates. Their new policy is that all future versions will be based on long-term support releases and will be supported for five years.

While Linux Mint is itself open-source, bundled with it may be apps and libraries that are closed-source and proprietary.

They have innovated the slick but practical desktop environment, Cinnamon. Other environments are supported as well.

screen shot of ‘Linux Mint 17 Qiana Cinnamon 2.2’ desktop environment

See Wikipedia page.

Not intended for server use. For servers you would want a leaner meaner distribution.

  • Does Linux Mint has a focus on stability? How do they assure that a package is installable and usable?
    – guettli
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 6:12

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