Devuan – Debian without systemd

Challenging

If you are still running Debian Wheezy and want to convert to Devuan Jessie, you'll experience some of the same problems that occur when upgrading from Debian Wheezy to Debian Jessie. After adjusting the repositories, install the Devuan keyring and run the apt-get dist-upgrade command. The package manager will ask you the usual questions about receiving the configuration files and then proceed to install the updates and additional required software.

On our lab machine, we had an unpleasant surprise with the KDE desktop. The new KMail version, which relies on the Akonadi data management service, did not install properly. If you follow the program's prompt and start the conversion wizard, you may be waiting for some time, depending on the volume of messages and folders. All the filters were missing on the test system. The following commands gave us the right results:

akonadictl stop
rm -rf ~/.local/share/akonadi/
rm -rf ~/.config/akonadi/
rm ~/.kde/share/config/akonadi*
akonadictl start

We then relaunched the migration. We initially did not enter the passwords for the accounts and imported all the filter rules; this time the migration was successful. After several hours, KMail was still unusable – it was impossible to read or delete messages.

On the second computer, we found two packages with configuration files that had not been removed (libsystemd-daemon0 and libsystemd-login0). The libsystemd0 package was marked as automatically installed, and it remained as a dependency of xsane, libsane, and sane-utils – support for the scanner does not seem to be fully developed.

The init metapackage in Devuan ensures that one of the available init system (systemd, sysvinit, or upstart) is installed if a program requires it. Because many applications from graphical environments depend on D-Bus, and the standard D-Bus component requires systemd on Debian, the Devuan team built their own D-Bus from the upstream sources.

Reach for the Stars

We noticed a few minor issues with setting up Devuan. The auto-mount feature caused a couple of hiccups on both lab computers. One system required us to mount the removable disk manually; the other asked for the root password before mounting.

Overall, Devuan is a success. The fact that switching from Debian Wheezy to Devuan Jessie caused such problems appeared to be an issue with KMail and not the distribution, as Debian users have also reported difficulties in forums. The change to the SLiM login manager does not pose a problem. If you cannot get along with Xfce, install KDE, LXDE, or Mate.

Only Gnome fans are left out in the cold – and that will not change in the future, as we learned from the developers, who are more interested in pushing forward with the next release than integrating the huge Gnome codebase. If everything runs smoothly, the first images for the upcoming ASCII release will soon be available on the Devuan servers.

It is not just long-serving Unix veterans who are interested in a systemd-free distribution. The project page shows more than ten distributions based on Devuan. And things are also happening in the enterprise field: Centurion Computer Technology (New Zealand) and Dyne Solutions (Netherlands) are in the starting blocks to provide customized Devuan derivatives and support [9] to their customers.

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