If this is your first time here, I suggest you first read my general post about distrohopping. 🙂
As usual, I have tried a alternate distro for some time. My main is Debian. This time I tried something very close to Debian.
I guess most readers are familiar with Debian's version model, but anyway, it is as follows:
stable < -- testing <-- unstable (sid) <-- experimental
with newer and more recent software and more unstable as one goes rightwards (direction, not politically). Correspondingly, package versions tend to move left over time. About every two years, testing is frozen, only important updates are made, and then it will become the new stable. At present time, stable is version 6, codename "Squeeze". The present testing is named "Wheezy", which eventually will become stable Debian 7. Unstable is always "sid".
All except stable are rolling. Stable only gets crucial updates and bugfixes. There are also official backport repositories for stable with updated, well-tested, versions of popular software. Servers would use stable (or even old stable), and desktops use stable, testing or sid. Sid is for the more daring, and experimental is for very new stuff.
My latest alternate distro has been Aptosid, which, in their own words, is "Debian, hot and spicy". Aptosid is based on sid, with a optimised kernel of their own. There are two Aptosid versions, one with KDE, one with XFCE. The KDE comes as full or a lite version. I tried the lite version.
Interesting, and something I never seen before (in my limited distrohopping experience), is that Aptosid comes with an alternate desktop environment installed by default: Fluxbox. Fluxbox is really a windowmanager, and the Aptosid version is very barebones, but of course fully functional. I haven't used Fluxbox before, but I tried it a bit now. The KDE install is snappy on my half old machine. Maybe the non-free nvidia drivers helped. For extra power, or just the enjoyment of a more frugal "desktop", Fluxbox is there. Furthermore, if something with KDE breaks - blame (apto)sid or the user, Fluxbox might be a rescue.
Since Aptosid is not a fork, but straight off based on Debian, with its huge repositories, of course practically any DE/WM is available for installing.
Aptosid is not for a Linux newbie, since it is a rolling distro based on sid, so it is somewhat bleeding edge. Having said that, I have used it an hour or two most days for the past weeks, with daily updates, and haven't run into any problems. I have experienced a few strange but not vital things on my main Debian (testing) install, but on the other hand I use way more applications on that one and more hours, naturally. Bugs are often fixed quickly on Sid, but things can also break, although it haven't happened to me. But be prepared to use the terminal. Sid, as opposed to testing, do not have any systematic security support.
The Aptosid manual is well written and detailed. It comes in 14 languages, which is quite amazing.
I haven't used Debian Sid proper, so cannot say anything about eventual differences in polish or stability. Debian proper do not provide installers for sid. Instead, you have to download testing images and then change the apt (package manager) configuration. So if you want to try out Debian unstable ("sid"), Aptosid is a (comparatively) easier way.