Debian derivatives


The adoption of systemd caused passionate debate among Linux developers. The debate was especially heated in Debian, whose contributors have a reputation for being outspoken. To make matters worse, the vote on systemd was settled by the Technical Committee intervening. Upset by the decision to use systemd and perceiving a lack of democracy, a handful of developers founded Devuan (available on this month's DVD) [13].

Besides producing its own distribution, Devuan advocates for what it calls Init Freedom [14]: the right to start a computer with any init system except systemd. Currently, Devuan supports the old System V-style init, as well as OpenRC and runit, with several other init systems also under consideration. In a 2019 vote, Debian turned down the idea of supporting multiple init systems, largely because it would complicate package maintenance. However, with far fewer developers than Debian, Devuan appears to manage the complication.

Debian Edu/Skolelinux

Debian Edu [15] today is the result of the merger of two derivatives in 2006: Skolelinux in Norway and Debian Edu in France. Supported by SLX Debian Labs, Debian Edu has two goals: to promote free software and to ensure that children everywhere can use a computer in their own language. Debian Edu supports both workstations and thin clients and their servers, as well as roaming workstations (workstations that are not always connected to the network). Each of these computer types has its own hardware and version of Debian Edu, in a sense making Debian Edu several distributions in one.

The applications included are largely geared towards education and creativity. Much of the education software is aimed at younger grades, including apps for learning the alphabet and fractions, although some are also included for learning geometry and graph analysis. For more advanced students, there is a drum machine and an app for writing music, while all students can benefit from chess and typing tutors.


Founded in September 2000 and named after its developer Klaus Knopper, Knoppix [16] is one of the oldest Debian derivatives. It can be installed to a hard drive, but was originally intended as a Live disc for system rescue, which is still its main purpose today. CD and DVD versions make Knoppix usable on most systems, as do a series of so-called cheat codes that can be entered at bootup to temporarily customize it. Knoppix is available in English and German locales and supports most Linux-compatible hardware of the last 20 years. I recommend always having a recent version on hand for emergencies.

Buy this article as PDF

Express-Checkout as PDF
Price $2.95
(incl. VAT)

Buy Linux Magazine

Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

  • This Month's DVD

    Ubuntu 17.04 (32-bit Live) and Devuan 1.0 (64-bit Live)

  • Trend Watcher

    Bruce takes a look at DistroWatch data for a glimpse into the current state of Linux distributions.

  • Devuan

    Devuan, with its promise of Init Freedom, provides users an alternative to systemd as an init process.

  • Devuan 1.0.0

    In 2014, the Debian project decided to replace the old init system with systemd, but a small group of developers resisted, forking Debian to start the systemd-free Devuan. We decided to take a look at Devuan 1.0.0, the first stable release.

  • Distro Walk – Debian 12

    Debian 12 features install options, new packages, and a new position on non-free firmware, making it more accessible to the average user.

comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to our Linux Newsletters
Find Linux and Open Source Jobs
Subscribe to our ADMIN Newsletters

Support Our Work

Linux Magazine content is made possible with support from readers like you. Please consider contributing when you’ve found an article to be beneficial.

Learn More