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Draft: Why Devuan? First impressions

Date: 2019/10/29

Distrohopper for life?

I am using Manjaro for a very long time now. This is the longest I have used a single Linux distribution. Back in the days, my first decade with Linux largely went by trying out different distros, trying to learn lots of things about them, and move on. Until I settled down with Manjaro.

However recently I am a little bif of fed up with systemd, and I just want to try out a distro without it. I used Slackware early on, and I probably will end up with Devuan, a Debian-based distro. I may try Artix at one point, but Devuan seems like a more mature choice. Other distros without systemd!

I still love Manjaro, but I don't really like how systemd wants to be everywhere (latest news is Gnome). I like AUR, but I also started to notice that I have a software selection that is mostly, stable software, so I don't need the freshest version from everything.

I hope that my system will be faster. I also prepare myself that maybe I will have to compile some software that I don't find packages for.


I installed Devuan from a netinstall CD with graphics installer. I went with manual partitioning as always, since I already have the necessary partitions. It went without a problem. Pretty standard installation options. I installed both Xfce and MATE, as I wanted to check out MATE, but I realized later, that Devuan comes pretty old packages. This version came out summer 2018.

After installation

Similar to Debian, this distro doesn't really have any special customization, only wallpaper. Everything is very default, which is better for people like me, who likes to make everything work the way they like.

Login screen

The login screen is old school - manually type in your user name and password, F1 to select session - and simple, beautiful. I like this purple of Devuan, and I hope they continue to build on that. Therefore I like the wallpaper too, with the slogan "Software freedom, your way", which is increasingly feel more important these days.


My main hurdle was the KeepassXC, which is not in the repository of Devuan, and other versions simple said the database file is corrupted. I made a backup of my files and installed KeePassXC from their website, via AppImageHub. It works!

Non-free nVidia driver

Other problems were the proprietary Nvidia driver. I still play games, and want a responsive system. I only found the solution in a reddit thread. Well nobody said this would be easy…

Here is the solution. Edit the /etc/apt/sources.list file as root:

# emacs /etc/apt/sources.list

Add contrib non-free to the end of any line that is uncommented.

Save the file, and use this command to install the nvidia driver:

# apt update && sudo apt install nvidia-driver

Finally, reboot your system, and pray that everything is alright. I got an error line during boot, but the system worked fine after that.

32 bit packages and Steam

As you all know Steam is a 32 bit software and recently caused some stupid issues when Ubuntu announced that they will stop supporting 32 bit.

Here is how can you enable 32 bit packages in Devuan from the terminal (as root):

dpkg --add-architecture i386 // add 32-bit repository
apt update && apt upgrade // refresh everything you need

After that you are free to install Steam:

apt install steam

Old packages & ugrading to unstable

Well, they are really old. Like fucking old. Wine is version 1.8 for example.

So after half a day of misery, I decided to upgrade to unstable (ceres) version. For that I uncommented repos in the sources.list file, and added this (as root):

deb ceres main

Then I saved it, and updated the list and started the upgrade with these commands:

apt update && apt dist-upgrade

One advice that after upgrade DO NOT use apt autoremove because it will probably remove some stuff, that shouldn't. Well I am living on the edge now, so I expect to break things if I can't fucking read every little message. xD

The Wine problem

While I play less games than ever, I still like to entertain myself in this way. But wine32 is a tough son of a biatch to install, always giving me error with dependencies that you can't install either. I tried it for many hours last night, couldn't get closer for the solution. I might need to compile it from source, which will be fun, I guess. Let's go old way. I need the 32 bit version, because I play a bunch of old games.

Another alternative is the adamhm scripts and use it whereever I can.

Look and feel

Devuan uses vanilla themes, so I just change it something more pleasant.

Honestly right now I feel that the Ambiant (Ubuntu) MATE theme is the best. No Flat theme bullshit, just a nice theme with well separated elements, with Earth colors (dark brown and green). Simple icons (love the green folder icons). Meanwhile Gnome 3 still don't have a good theme and icons…

I also use Plank at the moment, but this may change.

Do I recommend Devuan?

Absolutely! Just not for beginners! Even if you spent some time with Ubuntu, Devuan might not be for you. I feel that Devuan, just like his father, is more like a server distro, than a user distro.

However I wanted to try it, and I am willing to invest time in it, and MATE looks like a really good DE to return to.

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