back to article Void Linux gave itself to the void, Korora needs a long siesta – life is hard for small distros

If you're new to Linux you'd be forgiven for thinking there are only a half-dozen distributions – names like Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux tend to get most of the headlines. These big distros tackle big projects like Wayland, systemd, Mir, and other tools that will, for better or worse, change Linux as …

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That list at the beginning: you missed Debian. That's one of the most important distros. However it doesn't, AFAIK, have a multi-million dollar company behind it.

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multibillion

Unless you count Google. Google dont run it but they are very active.

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Linux

Void can be forked

If necessary, the current Void developers will fork it under a new name, but they're hoping to avoid having to do this. It won't be the end for runit-based distros.

There are still quite a few distros that don't use systemd, by the way - there's a list here:

https://without-systemd.org/wiki/index.php/Linux_distributions_without_systemd

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Re: Void can be forked

They should call the fork 'Avoid', because that's what the original developer is doing to them.

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Anonymous Coward

"that's one less distro for those looking to avoid systemd"

"Void Linux is good example of the opposite of this. If Void disappears, that's one less distro for those looking to avoid systemd (rather, Void used runit). At this point, if you don't want to use systemd, your options are seriously limited (Devuan, Gentoo, and perhaps some other small ones like Void)."

Very unfortunate. More distros should avoid systemd!

It feels so wrong and bad that Debian and Ubuntu switched to systemd. So I switched to Devuan ASCII and MATE desktop.

SystemD, PulseAudio and Gnome3 have to die - such rubbish insecure buggy ugly crap sponsored by the three finger slurpers of U S and Ass.

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Re: Void can be forked

I really hope Void manages to sort all of this out. It's currently one of my favorite distros, especially their MUSL variant. With MUSL the resource usage is low, and with runit (instead of systemd) it boots crazy fast. Add in LibreSSL for fewer security issues, and it's an amazing combination!

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Coat

Re: Void can be forked

@Uncle_Slacky

Your username might remind others about Slackware. I thought that omitting Slackware from the OA was a bit of an oversight.

Slackware provides an example of a small distribution with what appears to be a sustainable business model (there is a small company that sells DVDs subscriptions and merchandise). I'm posting this from my desktop PC that runs Slackware 14.2 and it just chugs away in a totally reliable and dependable fashion. No major modifications of upstream, no complex configuration layers &c. Very consistent from version to version. At present Slackware does not use systemd, although Patrick Volkerding the Slackware BDFL has not ruled out the need to use it in the future.

Slackware went through its 'bus crash' moment some years ago when Mr Volkerding became quite ill so they have procedures in place &c.

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Linux

Laziness, or should that be Lazian?

On the various machines here I have Xubuntu, Ubuntu and Rasbpian. I quite like Mint but have not got a device with it on at the moment. I did use Kubuntu for a while. I toyed with the idea of using Arch but being lazy I never got around to it.

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Linux

Luddite OS

for those of us who don't want:

a) systemd

b) anything else "poettering"

c) mono/dot-net-core/whatever-they-wanna-call-it-tomorrow

d) wayland

e) 2D FLATSO "chrome-ishness"

f) slab-friendly desktop-hostile

and whatever NEW "new, shiny" that smug millenial "developers" excrete over the next few years (and subsequently try to JAM UP OUR AS DOWN OUR THROATS)

The name itself would preclude all of the usual arrogant millienial smug-monkey-poo-throwing pejoratives, almost DARING them to use "such terms" to describe 'the rest of us'.

I bet it would be popular, too. Like Devuan. In fact, I just replaced the OS on a Debian jessie box with devuan, using 'apt-get dist-upgrade', with very few issues - they were cleaned up by running aptitude a few times to get rid of systemd entirely and then re-install mate. Working fine now.

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Re: Luddite OS

I agree with most of your points but not all, particularly f) slab-friendly desktop-hostile.

Please! I have a slabtop (a convertible Tablet PC, actually). It is a pain in the a$$ to use with virtually any desktop environment except (a) GNOME *unfortunately, but I have to compromise* and (b) a heavily hacked, customized Openbox that is still a hack and not even close to daily-driver.

Don't tell me to get a proper laptop, because I LIKE MINE! Hell, in fact, I've been looking all over the world and had to import one from the US (read as:eBay + freight forwarder) to find a tablet that is tablet + repairable + removable battery + 11.6" screen + proper keyboard + Intel Core i5 COMBINED.

TL;DR: Please don't touch the Linux Tablet experience because there are some people (about five) who care about it and are willing to fix a WM themselves to see it working.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Luddite OS

Good idea. We need more distros that stay "normal", unbiased, non-infiltrated, trustable.

Devuan ASCII (no systemd) and MATE desktop (good old GNOME2 but compiled with GTK3+) comes pretty close.

I am sincerly angry to the maintainer of ArchLinux, Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, Mint for choosing to go with RedHat's lead and introducing this poettering crap like systemd, pulseaudio, ... It's like a big corp wants to introduce new security holes, and backdoors, and therefor replace decade old trusted components and kill all distros that don't adhere to their evil plan.

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Re: Luddite OS

That's the greatness of open source actually. Don't like these folks' agendas? Easy. Just show us your muscles and build whatever you think is fit. The userbase is what determines whether the idea becomes a roaring success or otherwise.

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Korora

Shame. Korora was the distro that I downloaded and settled on as part of my move away from Windows 10. Having not really worked with or used any UNIX based O/S for a number of years, it is a shame that even the simple things still seem difficult to achieve with Linux.

That's not a direct criticism as I do understand that it does things differently to Windows, but still...

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" it is a shame that even the simple things still seem difficult to achieve with Linux."

Example please...

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Re: Korora

"Shame. Korora was the distro that I downloaded and settled on as part of my move away from Windows 10. Having not really worked with or used any UNIX based O/S for a number of years, it is a shame that even the simple things still seem difficult to achieve with Linux"

^ I also think it's unfortunate news because Korora is a nice, easy to use implementation of Fedora with the hard bits taken out.

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Gentoo

Thanks for the Gentoo mention! We're still alive and kicking. :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Gentoo

I'm a long time Gentoo user, and why do I stick with it?

Recently, I set up a dual boot with Xubuntu on the same weedy laptop due to not having the time to learn how to sort out FreeCAD installation on Gentoo (qt4/qt5 migration...).

I wasn't very surprised at all to find that running LXDE on a carefully configured Gentoo system is a lot less laggy than running stock Xubuntu, but I don't have time to tune either OS right now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Gentoo

Happy Gentoo user here for over 15 years and counting..

Thank you for your efforts.

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Re: Gentoo

Our own in-house Linux platform first started life as Gentoo. Though over the years it's mutated into something rather different.

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Ode to Gentoo

I keep coming back to it. There are always new and shiny tools in the other distros. At times less frustration as well. I keep returning to Gentoo though. The main reason is control. Gentoo gives me a lot, just not always the way the I want it.

If it weren't for things like internal politics and package maintainers going AWOL, or the seasonal breaking of a package that my system depends on forcing me to change how I do things until next season, or the "I filed a bug report and someone wrote a patch to fix it so it'll only take 60 days to get it into Portage"...Well, if you have used it, you know what I mean.

Control though. That is a wonderful thing. Don't want CUPS on your system? Then edit /portage/make.conf and add USE="-cups". You need just one package to use CUPS? Then create /etc/portage/package.use/foobar.conf and add "foo/bar cups". I do love me some control.

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Linux

I understand the effort many put into the distros, but Linux Mint Mate is a half baked piece of crap. little needed to be changed to effect the continuance of old Gnome, the rest yeuch. And many of the others drift off their main focus anyway.

so you go with one just to suffer the same problems.

Go back to a hybrid kernel compile in security and drop-in/list-in for all else.

let people compile the distros then people could suggest builds as documents that would then be compiled with online access from existing sets of packages. This is real Linux not a whole-box-and-dice-package.

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Anonymous Coward

Go run Gentoo or any of other from source meta-distributions and customize to all your hearts contents.

Or piss on Mint's chips for no reason other than it does not do what you think it should do despite it doing exactly what a lot of other people do want.

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And precisely why is it a half baked piece of crap? Assertions are easy to toss around. Pity you provide no evidence.

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Holmes

LFS

I did build an LFS system some time ago. It's a shame they include so much optional stuff with the core system now (Gperf, GDBM, Man-DB...), but exclude the basics (Xorg).

Also, the ALSF should have a config file where the user can specify what to install, instead of installing everything that's in the book. I did try to write my own ALFS, and it did work, but BOY! it was as much effort to make it happen as to build it by hand.

Using KDE Neon now, will try Devuan next as ASCII-rc has finally happened.

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Void

I really hope the void peeps can sort out the problems.

I only very recently discovered void and I love it. It's very minimal and simple - just like BSD.

If you're the type that likes to actually understand what's happening (rather than blindly following a "click this then that. Enter your weight and hey presto! Your video will have sound now" then I can't recommend it enough.

It would be sad to see it go.

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Money alone won't keep a distro alive

I do agree that distros benefit from revenue. I have and will continue to support various distros with contributions of cash (in addition to troubleshooting and bug reports). It seems to me, however, that this isn't the only problem covered in the article so money is not the only solution.

The main problem Void is facing seems not to be a lack of funds but of disaster planning. The question of what happens if one project member gets hit by a bus is common, and it's to avoid situations exactly like this. Other distros have plans in place for what happens if the lead developer (or other key person) isn't available, for whatever reason. This kind of planning comes not from money, but experience.

I wish Void the best of luck in recovering. Diversity of distros is a benefit to Linux as a whole.

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Happy

You forgot the Grandaddy

of all Distros' - Slackware - Still use it and it has come a long way ...

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Re: You forgot the Grandaddy

Yes, but it's sad that Slackware is still mainly a one-man show as well. We cannot thank Patrick Volkerding enough for his decade long work. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slackware

Slackware indeed needs more contributors and a bigger healthy community. And no trolls and Zersetzer like Pöttering, RedHat and M$.

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Re: You forgot the Grandaddy

I think if you look you'll discover that Slackware is more than a one-man show, and the development community behind Slackware is quite healthy.

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Anonymous Coward

Mageia Linux is an excellent distro, unfortunately...

It's roadmap keeps getting delayed, due to a lack of manpower I presume.

El Reg Linux boffins, please volunteer any help you can.

https://www.mageia.org/en/

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Open Source monetary contributions

This is an interesting subject and not limited to Linux in general nor Linux distributions.

There are a lot of heavily used and de-facto standard open source libraries and tools on Github that rely on the continued benevolence of a handful, sometimes even just one, persons with no source of income.

How do these projects gain revenue? Some developers put up donation links, some use Flattr (ugh) or Patreon but really, how much revenue do these things bring in? If there are numbers on these things would love to see them - there does not seem to be much information out there.

Clearly for any successful open source project, in general, to continue it has to have some source of revenue once it goes from being just a proof of concept or a hobby project to something included in distributions, heavily used as a de-facto third party provided library, or a frequently used tool.

Too many projects have been abandoned with no alternatives due to the one developer losing interest or no longer having the spare time to spend on it. Other than selling out to some corporation, which usually does not end well (hello there Graphite project), what options are there?

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Devil

Re: Open Source monetary contributions

in a lot of cases, if there's a non-profit organization (or for-profit, for that matter) that can fund it, that's one way to do it. Your dev work is billed to the foundation/company/whatever.

actually that'd be a nice way of getting an income, for popular tools, even if it's just for weekend work. but I'd guess that [unless a company has a direct interest in the tool's success] it's generally done as volunteer work because the dev wants it.

yeah open source revenue models are somewhat unique in that way...

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Missing lead developers

The main developer of Void Linux has apparently disappeared.

That reminds me of the problem Centos had quite a few years ago:

CentOS back from brink of death, Disappearing admin reappears

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Re: Missing lead developers

"CentOS back from brink of death, Disappearing admin reappears"

Well, that certainly never happened with the mystery surrounding the demise of Pear Linux.

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Small distro may come and go...

...but I don't think they will ever disappear entirely. There are too many good Ideas that haven't been coded yet and not enough people having them in the bigger distros. They are weighed down by they momentum and their corporate cash cows. Evolution is not kind however, and I think money is needed for any project to stay alive until it reaches a critical mass.

Speaking of evolution, I have been been wondering lately what "The Next Linux" will look like. Will it be a fork of a major distro with a few jaw dropping changes? Will it be a small distro with right ideas and the right timing? Will it be another open source *nix that most users and developers have been ignoring in favor of Linux? I think it may be the latter but it could be a mix of all three. A Franken-Distro that gets it rights could change the world.

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Re: Small distro may come and go...

A Franken-Distro that gets it rights could change the world.

Bedrock Linux?

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Money -> Mouth

Tried devuan ascii on my latest machine and am very pleased with it indeed. I made a donation immediately. You have to do that straight away, before other more 'important' things get in the way.

Also, for a few years I've been the main (but not very experienced) dev for the Yoshimi soft-synth, and once I got my feet under the table I did two things I thought important insurances. The first was to mirror it on github (as sourceforge was getting flaky) and the second was to give two other trusted devs full access to the repositories.

If the proverbial bus comes to get me, the project should be safe.

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Missing in article.

"At this point, if you don't want to use systemd, your options are seriously limited (Devuan, Gentoo, and perhaps some other small ones like Void)."

Or the longest lived distro: Slackware. A quarter century in development, and still going strong. If you haven't tried Slack in a decade or so, try it again. I'll bet you'll be pleasantly surprised.

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Also missing...

Yep, and they also forgot PCLinuxOS, which is still going strong at 14 years old. It's a good option for those of us who dislike systemd, but want/need an easy out-of-the-box experience.

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Most 'small' Linux distros seems to be a wasted effort

At this moment in time, Distrowatch is listing 308 Linux distros, which is at least 300 too many in my books. A vast majority them will basically be forks from one of the big distros, which is a pointless exercise in my books. Why not contribute to one of the big distros directly instead?

Small distros might be fun to spin up in a VM to see what they offer differently from the big distros, but I'd never use them as my primary OS. Big distros often have "spins" now which are usually aimed at providing different desktop environments (e.g. MATE) or are sometimes based on a particular category of usage (e.g. gaming, multimedia etc.). Those spins are surely enough to scratch the itch of the developers creating these little-used smaller distros? If a spin doesn't exist for a major distro (e.g. a systemd-less Fedora anyone?), why propose one to the (Fedora) team rather than creating an unofficial fork hardly anyone would use?

Another related issue to this crazy proliferation of distros is the myriad of packaging formats, which drives me bonkers - it even exists between the major distros (e.g. deb vs. RPM being the biggest annoyance).

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Re: Most 'small' Linux distros seems to be a wasted effort

"At this moment in time, Distrowatch is listing 308 Linux distros, which is at least 300 too many in my books. A vast majority them will basically be forks from one of the big distros, which is a pointless exercise in my books. Why not contribute to one of the big distros directly instead?"

Kindly replace the concept of "Linux distro" with beer, cheese, bread, wine or boots in the above paragraph. Ponder. Report back.

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