Devuan is a fork of the popular Debian Operating System upon which Ubuntu is based. It was first released in November 2014 with the aim of providing Linux users with a distro that doesn’t have the systemd daemon installed by default.
Although Devuan started when Debian adopted systemd but didn’t have a stable release until last year, 2017 in line with the release of Debian 9.
Because Devuan is virtually a replica of Debian except that it doesn’t use systemd, this article will be to highlight the differences between both OSes (starting with the most important,) so that you can see why you may prefer one over the other.
Systemd vs. System
If you have been following the state of Linux affairs then you must have known how much of a divide systemd causes in the GNU/Linux community. Systemd, to put simply, is a bundle of software with fundamental building component of a Linux OS, and it is an init system among others.
An init stands for initialization and it is the first and last process to run after you power up a Linux computer. An init system, therefore, manages how the init process runs to make sure your computer boots, runs, and shuts down without any issues.
Since Devuan doesn’t use Systemd it uses Sysvinit, an init management system that resembles the System V initialization process in Unix, one that was even used in Debian before it adopted systemd.
So Debian used to have an init system like Devuan, what happened?
As the story goes, the Linux philosophy includes that programs should be designed to do one thing and do it well. Systemd was designed to run multiple tasks besides booting the computer and because this is not in line with the Linux philosophy (according to some developers,) certain Linux enthusiasts have decided to avoid using it.
Devuan goes a step further to offer alternative init systems to override its default one including runit and OpenRC.
Installation of Devuan
There are multiple ways to install Devuan. As is common to Linux distros, you can play around with Devuan in a live environment before installing it on your machine. You can also opt to work with a minimal installation if you want to install the OS with only the fundamental set of tools and later install other apps when you please.
The installation process is straightforward and it has no issues recognizing Wi-Fi and Ethernet networks as well as plug-in drives.
In fact, on the surface, Devuan works just as well as Debian does – but it isn’t Debian 😉
Devuan Software Packages
Devuan mirrors Debian’s package repo and while you can edit the sources for your software using Synaptic Package Manager or directly from your terminal, you stand the risk of breaking something if you install packages meant for Debian because Devuan’s packages are modified with patches to enable software to run without systemd in the picture.
And just Debian, Devuan uses the APT package manager so working with apt, as long as you are using packages from the appropriate servers, is the same.
Devuan Desktop Environment
By default, Devuan uses Xfce Desktop Environment, so that’s a heads up if you don’t like the typical appearance PC desktops featured years ago. The good news is that you can always change your DE.
However, Xfce is among the speediest DEs available and it might end up being right for you.
Devuan Default Applications
Devuan ships with the most important tools that anybody might need to get work done with immediately after a clean installation. They include Firefox web browser, GIMP photo editor, and LibreOffice Suite for word processing and other office tasks, to mention a few.
The Systemd divide might never end especially since there is no in-between; developers either use systemd or they don’t. This is clear in distros like Slackware (sysvinit), Gentoo (OpenRC), and all of Devuan’s derivatives. You read that right, Devuan has 10+ derivatives!
What Should You Use?
Personally, I prefer using an Ubuntu-based distro, which is Debian-based, so Debian. The question of whether to use Debian, Devuan, or any of their derivatives is important to those strongly opinionated about systemd and developers who might not be opinionated about it but will need to pick which init system to work with.
What’s your take on the systemd topic? Is that hate warranted? Why is systemd disliked by some developers? Share what you know in the comments section below.