(Devuan 2.0 desktop LiveCD with XFCE user interface)

Devuan GNU+Linux is the first free software operating system to promote Init Freedom campaign. Devuan is a modified Debian GNU/Linux without systemd init system. Devuan Desktop comes with XFCE and bunch of free applications such as LibreOffice and GIMP. Current Devuan release is 2.0 codenamed "Ascii" which is released in 2018. Devuan supports both PC 32-bit and 64-bit, as well as embedded computers like Raspberry Pi, Nokia 900, and so on. Devuan makes everything more interesting as it provides an SDK to enable programmers create new GNU/Linux distro and Refracta Installer to enable casual users create a remaster or a custom LiveCD. To make you even more interested, thanks to Devuan, now we see new distros like Etertics and Maemo Leste, both as desktop and mobile OSes, developed without systemd. This intro article explains in brief what is Devuan, where to get it, the init system used, the desktop, and several more things. Finally, I hope you will give Devuan a try and like it.

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1. Name and Versions

Devuan GNU+Linux is its official name. The name "Devuan" comes from Debian and VUA (Veteran Unix Admins) hence Devuan, as described by the official explanation. Devuan purpose is to promote a concept they describe as Init Freedom, by creating a modified Debian operating system completely free from systemd. 

Devuan slogan is "Software freedom, your way". Official web page shows its logo with the slogan as well as the Init Freedom logo with slogan "Watch your first step!". 

(Devuan logo)

(Init Freedom campaign logo)

Devuan versions so far are:
  • 2.0 "Ascii"
  • 1.0 "Jessie"
  • Beowulf (testing release, currently equal to Debian "Buster")
  • Ceres (rolling release, currently equal to Debian "Sid")
Currently, in May 2019, those four are the available versions of Devuan OS. The latest stable release is the 2.0, codenamed Ascii, so when you hear "Devuan Ascii" it means Devuan version 2.0, and so on. See more here.

 (Devuan 2.0 "Ascii" with kernel version 4.9 running from a usb stick as permanently-installed system)

For next release of Devuan, it follows Debian release rule, as new packages in Ceres at a time will be published as Beowulf and later on Beowulf at a time will be released as new stable release version 3.0 to succeed 2.0 when it's ready.

2. Download Devuan

Devuan is available at https://files.devuan.org in both direct and torrent links. As usual, I highly recommend you to download using torrent links instead.

3. Main Difference to Debian and the Init System

The difference is its init system: Debian uses systemd, while Devuan uses sysvinit.

Sysvinit is the init system of choice of Devuan as replacement to Systemd. It is the main part of the Init Freedom campaign Devuan made to free users from systemd. This means all components in Devuan made so they do not depend on systemd, like Thunar and KDE, although such components on other distros might heavily depend on systemd today. That is what made Devuan very interesting.

Several important components are also integrated:
  • Eudev (modified udev by Gentoo Project) as replacement to udev is the hardware device manager of Devuan 2.0. 
  • Elogind (also by Gentoo Project) is preinstalled in Devuan 2.0 as replacement to logind. Elogind is a modification of logind from systemd, so that everybody does not use systemd can still use KDE and GNOME that are depend on systemd.

(dpkg -l command line showing details of sysvinit, eudev, and elogind packages installed)

As a result, there are now several new distros developed based on Devuan as they want to derive Debian without systemd. For example, heads (Tails without systemd), Etertics (new libre distro with Linux-libre kernel from Latin America), and planned future release of Dyne:bolic (a libre distro like Trisquel but specialized for multimedia), and more here.

(A new promising distro from Latin America, Etertics, is derived from Devuan)

4. Architecture Support and ISO Images

Devuan as a whole supports 5 different computer architectures:
  • i386
  • amd64
  • arm64
  • armhf
  • armel 

This means it supports Personal Computer (PC) both 32-bit and 64-bit, you can use Devuan as daily desktop or laptop system. For Devuan 2.0, the Desktop Live images sized 1GB, while the Installer images sized 4GB (dvd), 600MBx3 (cd), and 300MB (netinst), for each architecture. See below for more explanation.

(files.devuan.org is your friend to find all ISO images of Devuan)

Aside from desktop, Devuan also supports Raspberry Pi computers version 2 and 3, Beaglebone Black, and Odroid. Even Devuan supports computers that can run Maemo OS, mainly Nokia N900 and Motorola Droid 4. Interestingly, one new distro developed, called Maemo Leste, because Devuan supports these devices. Please bear in mind that Devuan is actively developed now so it's very interesting for you to get support and updates on such devices without systemd. These embedded images are sized approximately 150-200MB each for every architecture.

 (Download page of all embedded installers of Devuan including Raspberry Pi images)

However, Devuan is available in 7 different kinds of installer:
  • desktop-live: this is what desktop users want (example)
  • minimal-live: command-line based LiveCD (example)
  • netinst: small installer, online, command line-based (example)
  • cdrom: 3 CD-sized ISOs (example)
  • dvd: 1 full-sized ISO (example)
  • embedded: installer for ARM computers like Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone Black, and Odroid mentioned above (example)
  • virtual: vm images to install in QEMU and VirtualBox (example)
See more here.

5. Installation and Booting Screen

Devuan installer is Refracta, an alternative to Ubuntu's Ubiquity and Manjaro's Calamares, system installer. Refracta is described both as a system installer and remastering tool. For you accustomed to install Ubuntu and Manjaro, installing Devuan might challenging, as the installer is quite unique and honestly still not well documented yet. However, by reading carefully every step, personally I can successfully install Devuan on a usb stick in 20 minutes or so.

(Refracta is installing Devuan with two separate window, a dialog and a console, and running like that for the rest of process)

Here's Devuan bootloader looks like. I installed Devuan 2.0 on a 16GB flash drive. This screenshot was taken using QEMU virtual machine.

(How Devuan booting screen will look like on your computer after successfully installed)

6. LiveCD

As mentioned above, Devuan provides Live Edition (just like Debian and Ubuntu do) so you can run it fully by booting without installing it to the computer. LiveCD edition comes with XFCE User Interface. It comes with two accounts described below so you will not forget while running LiveCD.

First account:
Username: devuan
Password: devuan

Second account:
Username: root
Password: toor

 (Release notes file is included in the operating system; it includes default username and password of Devuan)

7. Desktop and Applications

Devuan is an XFCE distro by default just like Xubuntu. Run a live session and you will see the mouse. However, it provides Plasma, GNOME, Cinnamon, and MATE in its repository.

(Devuan 2.0 running with XFCE interface with top panel and bottom dock while showing Thunar file manager)

All menus of Devuan 2.0 look like this in one picture. Here you will know what applications are available preinstalled on it.

(Start menu from Settings to System of Devuan)

Applications preinstalled by default are enough for daily desktop use. It's surprising to have these in only a 1GB ISO image.
  • LibreOffice
  • Firefox ESR web browser
  • mutt email client
  • Orage Calendar
  • GIMP
  • Ristretto
  • Mousepad Text Editor
  • Evince PDF Reader
  • VLC Video Player
  • Quad Libet Audio Player
  • Xfburn Burner
  • Xarchiver Archive Tool
  • Refracta Installer and Remastering Tool
  • Synaptic Package Installer
  • GParted Partition Editor

Can desktop applications work? They work very well. See below, Inkscape vector image editor, GIMP raster image editor, OpenShot video editor, and GNU Octave mathematical analysis running just fine.

How about drag and drop? Drag and drop from file manager to GIMP Image Editor works well. No difference to LibreOffice and other programs as well.

Package availability: Synaptic says it's 50,000 packages available. Considering Devuan started at 2014, with such wide architectures support, it's already an amazing number.

(Synaptic is preinstalled by default and it just works)

8. File Management, Networking, and Browsing

The file manager is Thunar from XFCE, of course. It's small and fast, multitabbed, easy to use file manager.

No automount: Devuan does not have automount in Thunar file manager as it removed D-Bus, a component used in many distros to provide "disk automount" feature, and as you may have guessed, it's tightly related to systemd. However, of course Thunar's still can work perfectly with partitions and disks although you need to click to mount or unmount them.

(SIGNUS, my usb stick, opened in Thunar file manager without any problem)

Default network manager is Wicd, not GNOME NetworkManager, as the package network-manager depends on systemd. However, in short, connecting to WiFi and LAN works very well with it. Although it's honestly different if we already accustomed to NetworkManager, for example,
  • for USB tethering, after enabling it on your phone, you need to configure the interface on Wicd from eth0 to usb0, and then refresh, and click Connect button.
  • for Wifi, do not forget to click Connect and enable 'automatically connect' option for convenience.
  • successfully established connection shows IP address on status bar on the bottom of Wicd window. Otherwise it's not connected.

(Wicd successfully connecting my Devuan to a WPA2/PEAP/MSCHAPv2 wifi service)

Browser brought to you by Devuan 2.0 is Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release). Preinstalled Firefox ESR version is 52 but you can upgrade to 60 from the repository. Browsing is just fine, video and audio playbacks (I tested Invidious) work as normal, add-ons are fine also.

(Playing video on Invidious website using Firefox ESR works very well)

9. Repositories, Mirrors, and Package Search

Devuan repository is organized just like Debian's, it's divided to main, contrib, and nonfree sections; but the default configuration uses only main section. Each release repository is also divided in three sections, $release, $release-updates, and $release-security. You will see these in your /etc/apt/sources.list configuration file.

 (Default Devuan 2.0 sources.list configuration)

Sources.list: as example, for Devuan 2.0 codenamed "ASCII", the sources.list file will look like below.
deb http://deb.devuan.org/merged ascii          main 
deb http://deb.devuan.org/merged ascii-updates  main 
deb http://deb.devuan.org/merged ascii-security main

Another example, for Devuan 1.0 codenamed "Jessie", the sources.list will look like this instead.
deb http://deb.devuan.org/merged jessie          main 
deb http://deb.devuan.org/merged jessie-updates  main 
deb http://deb.devuan.org/merged jessie-security main

Official documentation regarding this configuration is the Sources.list page.

Mirrors: today, Devuan has 19 worldwide repository mirrors as indicated by mirror_list.txt file.

Package search: just like packages.debian.org, Devuan now has pkginfo.devuan.org, a special search engine for packages in repositories of Devuan. You can search a particular package by keyword either in a particular release (1.0, 2.0, Beowulf, Ceres), or, in any release (all results shown in one page).

(Showing availability of inkscape in multiple releases of Devuan is very easy)

Download speed: using the default mirror I got some 1MB/s or more on broadband connection. It's really convenient I feel.

10. Documentation, Development, and Donation

Documentation: first step towards Devuan is good with its OS web page. This page explains briefly the purpose of Devuan as well as everything about its versions, how to get it, and more.

(Official brief explanation of Devuan operating system)

Next step is of course to read the documentation by Dev1fanboy and visit the Forum. See also the wiki.

However, in general, all documentations of Debian can be applied to Devuan too. So you can visit Debian Documentation center if you do not find something on Devuan's documentation.

(Debian Documentation website)

Development: Devuan is in active development. I believe it will be interesting for anybody who disagree with systemd to lend Devuan a hand. See the mailing list and IRC #devuan-dev on Freenode, see also Bug Tracker, and the source code center. To join the team, you can read Development page first.

(A page from bug tracker showing list of bug reports and discussions of eudev program)

(Mailing list of Devuan development showing developers discussions)

Do you want to develop a new GNU/Linux distro? Devuan provides you an SDK to make it real. Mentioned distro like Maemo Leste is made using this SDK. Visit https://devuan.org/os/distro-kit to know more.

Donation: Everybody can help Devuan development by donating here https://devuan.org/os/donate. Currently, Devuan accepts donation via wire transfer, BitCoin, and PayPal.

My Computer System

I use Acer Aspire One laptop with a 64-bit Pentium processor and 4GB of RAM to test Devuan. I installed it on a 16GB usb stick and not on a hard disk drive and it runs very well.

Final Words

I hope this article introduces you well to Devuan, a modified Debian without systemd, the first GNU+Linux Desktop to implement Init Freedom campaign. I think Devuan will make a big change, as a new basis just like Debian, as indicated by its stable base system now, and by its promising derivatives like Etertics and Maemo Leste, both in desktop and mobile worlds. What make it more interesting is the Distro Kit SDK so we now are easier to make new operating system derivatives without systemd off Devuan.

This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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