Devuan GNU+Linux is a free software operating system for your computer. Free software means you are free to use, copy and distribute, study, change the software, and share your modifications with the community.

Forking Debian

Below is the message that was sent to the DNG mailing list on November, 27, 2014 to announce the Debian fork. It is kept here for historical interest. A December, 22, 2014 update is also of interest.

The core of the vision remains the same today: Devuan should be a minimal, stable system that honors Debian’s legacy and embraces innovation while maintaining backwards compatibility and interoperability.

## [Dng] [debianfork] Don't panic and keep forking Debian™!

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][0].


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 
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. We need volunteers. 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 project.

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 discussion.

### 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 necessary.

There is already an interesting proof of concept for this plan: the website (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

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 group which 
we plan to use as a development platform, at least in this initial phase.

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 ( and then to our package 
repositories. Feel free to experiment and let us know

Continuous Integration Pipeline:

 Github --> Jenkins --> .oO mirrors

Once this is all set, we will be ready to welcome package maintainers.

Besides the BTS we will use GitHub issues on for task coordination.

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 needed.

### 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 accommodate needs of those downstream distributions
willing to adopt it as base. We look forward to statements of interest from 
such distributions, as well as 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 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:

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.

Kind regards,

   .''`.  Roger Leigh
  : :' :  Debian GNU/Linux
  `. `'   schroot and sbuild
    `-    GPG Public Key      F33D 281D 470A B443 6756 147C 07B3 C8BC 4083 E800

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