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Debian variant offers safe homeland for systemd haters

Jun 13, 2018 — by Eric Brown 897 views

[Updated: June 20] —The Devuan project has released a v2.0 ASCII version of its Devuan fork of Debian that replaces the systemd init with OpenRC, and let’s you load other inits of your choice. The release supports several major Linux hacker boards.

The Devuan project was announced in 2014 as a Debian fork for those who prefer other init systems to Red Hat’s systemd. Since then, systemd has seen even greater adoption in Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, which last year replaced its Upstart init in favor of systemd as part of its retreat from its Unity8/Mir desktop and convergence initiative. Yet Devuan has persisted, and has now released a more mature, Devuan v2.0 ASCII version of its systemd-free Debian distro.

Devuan logo

Devuan ships with the traditional sysvinit, which preceded systemd, and also offers optional OpenRC, which is used by Gentoo and Hyberola, and is available as an option on Arch and Parabola. It also supports alternatives like sinit, runit, s6, and shepherd, all of which the project calls “portable, compatible, small, fast, and secure.”

Devuan ASCII offers an upgrade from the earlier Devuan Jessie. It also acts as a transition from Debian 9 (Stretch) “that avoids unnecessary entanglements and ensures Init Freedom,” says the project, referring to its related Init Freedom project.


Init Freedom

Inits are rather essential software suites that build on top of the Linux kernel to turn it into a full-fledged OS. Its key feature is a system and service manager that bootstraps user space and manages other system processes.

Systemd is now implemented by all major Linux distros except for Gentoo, Alpine Linux, and Slackware. Agreement on a common init is widely seen as a way to ensure greater software compatibility across different distros. Yet, Devuan argues that such uniformity is not essential, and that in any case systemd does not deserve our support. In addition, systemd is said to make it more difficult to port code to other Unix distributions such as FreeBSD or OpenBSD.

As detailed in the TechRepublic story that alerted us to Devuan v.20, systemd opponents claim the init is hampered by feature creep and the use of binary, as opposed to human-readable text logs. Enterprise server customers complain about “highly customized init scripts that are challenging to reimplement for systemd-powered systems, or otherwise break across upgrades,” says the story.

The Init Freedom site points to device manager replacements for systemd’s udev, including Gentoo’s eudev, which is included by Devuan with OpenRC. Others include BusyBox’s mdev, and the under-development vdev, says the project.


Devuan v.20 ASCII is available for 32- or 64-bit x86 PCs, and there are ARM images available for a few Chromebooks and the old Nokia N9xx family of handhelds and phones. Supported SBCs include the Raspberry Pi family, the Odroid-XU4, the BeagleBone, and Allwinner-based SBCs with mainline U-Boot and Linux support, including variants of the Banana Pi and Orange Pi.

All these SBCs are covered in our recent catalog of 116 Linux/Android hacker boards. Fill out our brief reader survey where you can vote for your favorite SBCs and earn a chance to win one of 15 hacker board prizes.

For those who are not systemd opponents, is running a tutorial series by Paul Brown on how to use system units (scripts) and other services to streamline manual processes.

Further information

Devuan v.20 ASCII is now available for free download. More information may be found at the Devuan website.

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One response to “Debian variant offers safe homeland for systemd haters”

  1. drJeckyll says:

    On Gentoo you can choose to stay with OpenRC or to use systemd, so it is implemented. Thats why Gentoo is so flexible – you just choose what to use.

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