Dear Init-Freedom lovers,
The Veteran Unix Admin collective salutes you.
As many of you might know already, the Init GR Debian vote promoted by
Ian Jackson wasn't useful to protect Debian's legacy and its users
from the systemd avalanche.
This situation prospects a lock in systemd dependencies which is
de-facto threatening freedom of development and has serious
consequences for Debian, its upstream and its downstream.
The CTTE managed to swap a dependency and gain us time over a subtle
install of systemd over sysvinit, but even this process was exhausting
and full of drama. Ultimately, a week ago, Ian Jackson resigned
The problem is obviously not just technical: the VUAs idea of calling
for a "fork" mostly refers to the lack of common ground between
diverging perceptions of the Debian project, its governance and its
mission. Diverse mediation attempts have failed. Today we can all
peacefully agree on one thing: further negotiations related to systemd
are costing way too much energy for anyone concerned about the cause
of Init Freedom.
We believe this situation is also the result of a longer process
leading to the take-over of Debian by the GNOME project
agenda. Considering how far this has propagated today and the
importance of Debian as a universal OS and base system in the
distribution panorama, what is at stake is the future of GNU/Linux in
a scenario of complete homogeneization and lock-in of all base
Therefore, looking at how the situation stands today: we need to fork.
In appendix to this mail is the message of Roger Leigh, a Debian
Developer and maintainer of many important parts in Debian. We have
his endorsement and that of other 2 anonymous DDs, plus many letters
from concerned professionals upstream and downstream of Debian.
We welcome all Debian Developers intrigued by our plans. The Dyne.org
non-profit foundation has accepted to provide us support and the
administrative framework we need to get up to speed. If we all
struggle for elegance it will be a light and lean effort, think of
channeling the bad energies into creating something new and beautiful
in its simplicity...
# So we will fork!
First of all, our project is called "Devuan". Our home is on
. Please spread the word.
The Debianfork website and IRC channel stay as the first campfire for
this adventure, but we will be operating under the name "Devuan" from
now on and we invite everyone to use this name when referring to our
Now we need all your support and attention in order to shape this as a
collective and welcoming process for all the people inside and outside
Debian that are willing to contribute to it.
Our fork will grow gradually and step by step, tracing a path that is
different from the one that systemd and the GNOME projects are trying
to impose on everyone. There is space for everyone who wants to
participate, a good channel to start from is #devuan on freenode, the
GitHub issues are the TODO and main topic for that channel, while the
well participated #debianfork stays open for the more general
# So what's the plan?
First mid-term goal is to produce a reliable and minimalist base
distribution that stays away from the homogenization and lock-in
promoted by systemd. This distribution should be ready about the time
Debian Jessie is ready and will constitute a seamless alternative to
its dist-upgrade. As of today, the only ones resisting are the
Slackware and Gentoo distributions, but we need to provide a solid
ground also for apt-get based distributions. All project on the
downstream side of Debian that are concerned by the systemd avalanche
are welcome to keep an eye on our initiative and evaluate it as an
alternative base. We will work carefully to make it a viable
possibility and our primary goal here will be a clean removal of
systemd and its dependencies, rebuilding and patching packages when
There is already an interesting proof of concept for this plan: the
(by Obri) explains
the pinning method and provides a 64bit installer of Debian testing
free from systemd. We are running a systemd-free pin on our new Devuan
infrastructure already, well ready to eat our own dogfood of
course. If you have greneric experiments to contribute, experiences or
ideas and documention on this and other approaches, feel free to use
the wiki on http://without-systemd.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
We started setting up the first bits of a core infrastructure to host
a website, mailinglists and a dak based package repository (to be
mirrored, soon details!).
We are also uploading materials on the https://github.com/devuan
which we plan to use as a development platform, at least in this
For those willing to help immediately, we still need to setup a BTS
) which will allow us to inherit a lot of
the useful tools Debian has developed.
At last we plan to have continuous integration of packages from GitHub
to a Jenkins builder (http://jenkins-debian-glue.org/
) and then to our
package repositories. Feel free to experiment and let us know
Continuous Integration Pipeline:
Github --> Jenkins --> packages.devuan.org .oO mirrors
Once this is all set, we will be ready to welcome package maintainers.
Besides the BTS we will use GitHub issues on
The first package of Devuan is indeed `devuan-baseconf` which
basically consists of a Debian installer with preseed of sysvinit-core
and a couple of devuan packages containing devuan keyring, devuan
repository list files and pinning out of systemd-sysv. Once installed
and updated this package will avoid the requirement of systemd as PID
1 in any case and will prefer use of systemd-shim when strictly
# More about the vision
This is just a start, as bold as it sounds to call it fork, at a
process that will unfold in time and involve more people, first to
import and change Debian packages and later on to maintain them under
a separate course. To help with this adventure and its growth, we ask
you all to get involved, but also to donate money so that we can cover
the costs of setting the new infrastructure in place.
Devuan aims to be a base distribution whose mission is to put the
freedom of users: to be intended as developers, sysadmins and in
general tech-savvy people, as the majority of Debian users are. Among
the priorities are: enable diversity, interoperability and backward
compatibility for the existing Debian downstream willing to preserve
Init Freedom and avoid the opaque and homogenizing systemd avalanche.
Devuan will derive its own installer and package repositories from
Debian, modifying them where necessary, with the first goal of
removing systemd, still inheriting the Debian development workflow and
continuing it on a different path: free from bloat as a minimalist
base distro should be. Users will be able to switch from Debian 7 to
Devuan smoothly, as if they would dist-upgrade to Jessie.
Devuan will make an effort to rebuild an infrastructure similar to
Debian, but will also take the opportunity to innovate some of its
practices. Devuan developers look at this project as a fresh new start
for a community of interested people and do not intend to enforce the
vexation of hierarchy and bureaucracy that is often opposing
innovation in Debian. We are well conscious this is possible mostly
because of starting small again and we will do our best to not repeat
the same mistakes.
The Devuan distribution will make an effort to improve its
relationship with both upstream and downstream and, particularly in
its gestational phase, will do its best to accomodate needs of those
downstream distributions willing to adopt it as base. We look forward
to statements of interest from such distributions, as well involvement
in this planning phase.
Devuan will do its best to stay minimal and abide to the UNIX
philosophy of "doing one thing and doing it well". It will foster
diversity and freedom of choice among all its components and will
perceive itself not as an end product, but as a a process, a starting
point for developers, a viable base for sysadmins and a stable tool
for people who have enough experience with computers. Devuan will
never compromise for more efficiency at the cost of the the freedom of
its users, rather than leave that and the responsibility for a secure
setup to downstream developers.
# If you need Devuan, then join us and support us now!
Designers and creatives: please contribute logos! we don't have one yet.
Press and contacts: vua@???
General discussion (1st mailinglist):
IRC chat channels on freenode:
#debianfork (generic discussion)
#devuan (focus on development)
- -- We conclude quoting a letter by Roger Leigh
I'm a Debian developer, currently quite disillusioned with what's been
going on with Debian over the last two years. I'd certainly be
interested in getting involved with a fork.
If systemd had just been an interchangeable init system it wouldn't be
so problematic. It's the scope creep and mess of poorly-defined
interdependencies that are truly shocking. Take logind, for example.
When looking at how to implement XDG_RUNTIME_DIR for non-systemd
inits, I couldn't find any actual specification for how to do this.
That's because there isn't one, just some loosely-worded descriptions;
it only exists in the systemd implementation. And the semantics of it
are very poor indeed; it hasn't been developed with safety, security
or flexibility in mind. We'll come to regret adopting this since the
poor design decisions are likely to become entrenched.
And more recently, there have been several reports of unbootable
systems. That's unconscionable, and a serious break with Debian's
traditionally solid support for backward compatibility. Here,
existing supported systems have had that support dropped on the floor.
With sysvinit great effort was taken never to break existing
configurations, and that appears to have been lost. Introducing
dependency-based boot took over two stable cycles; optional in one,
default in the next, mandatory after that. That could have been
reduced certainly, but the point is that time was taken to ensure
its correctness and robustness (and in the beginning, it did need
work, so the wait was worthwhile). This has not occurred with
systemd, which has been made the default yet is still not ready
for production use.
Debian is developed by hundreds of active developers and used by many
times more people. People rely on Debian for their jobs and
businesses, their research and their hobbies. It's not a playground
for such radical experimentation. systemd support was forced in
rapidly and didn't just cause breakage, it caused breakage with our
own past, breaking the reliable upgrades which Debian has been
renowned for. Personally, I'd like to see a much higher regard for
stability and backward compatibility, rather than just ripping out
the old in place of the new without any regard for its true value.
It might not be bleeding edge, but we already have Fedora for people
who value this over a solid and dependable system. It's possible to
be up-to-date without being a Fedora; Debian unstable historically
made a good job of this.
.''`. Roger Leigh
: :' : Debian GNU/Linux http://people.debian.org/~rleigh/
`. `' schroot and sbuild http://alioth.debian.org/projects/buildd-tools
`- GPG Public Key F33D 281D 470A B443 6756 147C 07B3 C8BC 4083 E800