Ubuntu's release schedule is just too slow. I want the absolute latest version of everything. Even if it's slightly unstable. Which distribution will give me this without having to manually install everything from source?
Update: This answer does not help anymore.
As noted by Ethan in comments below the
OSWatershed.org site has changed hands. There are multiple other places still pointing to that domain name like this answer does
I would have deleted this answer however it is a good memory of such a site's existence. Maybe there is another similar site or someone might fork and update this one from its source -- (see https://github.com/tannewt/open-source-watershed).
Meanwhile, ArchLinux continues to be at the top.
Another place that might be useful: https://distrowatch.com/packages.php
Look at the Open Source Watershed page.
OpenSourceWatershed is a project aimed at understanding the relationship between distributions (downstream) and the individual software components (upstream). It is the basis for a larger study of distributions and their evolution. It is distrology. In the future, more distro oriented statistics will be available. More details are below. For now search in the top right for your favorite package to see how up to date the different distributions. Or look at the right to see what new releases happened in the last 24 hours.
Arch Linux is presently at the top.
But, when you have a specific development project of interest,
I think, its better to track the source straight -- rather than depend on disto updates.
The timing of versions of packages in different distributions is based on the package maintainer at each said distribution. Therefore to keep absolutely up-to-date in all apps you'll need to use multiple distros. Virtualization is the easiest way to do this. Using virtualbox in seamless mode makes it seem, visually, like all the apps are running in your host.
Still, if you want cutting edge you'll need to compile. Some apps aren't available in any distro until released as "stable". Some apps are never available in any distribution.
I wouldn't recommend using any unstable distro version without virtualization. Keep your host running a released distro that's reasonable up to date like Fedora, Arch, Gentoo (you didn't want to compile though) or whatever distro you're most comfortable with that supports the virtualizer you choose. Then install the beta versions of whatever distros you need in virtuals to satisfy the range of apps you're interested in.
Currently most distros will not remain fully stable and usable throughout the alpha/beta cycle until release. Recent beta distros that have broken during upgrades include Ubuntu karmic, Fedora 12, Mandriva 2010 and OpenSuse 11.2. Typical problems are proprietary video and hardware drivers, kernel boot problems and gui system configuration tools. Often these problems can be fixed by patching and compiling yourself or waiting a few days or weeks until another update fixes things. As the distro gets to release candidate stage stability increases but application updates fall behind.
Linux Mint is pretty good, but as was said, the major updates of programs don't usually wait for the next release.
I didn't want to wait for a couple of new releases like Firfox 3.5, etc and I went straight to mozilla and d/l it and with help from the experts here, I was able to install the Firefox 3.5 and now I am a happy camper again.
First, some distributions are release based and some are rolling edged. Comparing them is unfair. For example, compare arch with debian stable.
I think Funtoo goes further than any other distributions. (Gentoo as a source oriented distribution always features blooding packages. And Funtoo is the develop branch of Gentoo. Enough said.)