Testing Void Linux, an independent distribution

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Core Components

The core components of the operating system found on the ISO images are reasonably up to date. For example, Void Linux works with kernel 4.2.6, the GNU libraries come in version 2.22, the print system CUPS stands at version 2.1.3, and the window manager Openbox comes in version 3.6.1. For the most part, the applications also have version numbers that indicate that they are current. Gimp starts up in version 2.8.16. There is version 3.0.1 of the text editor AbiWord. Firefox comes in version 44.0. Even the desktops themselves, such as Maté, Xfce, and the Gnome shell, appear in current versions.

Void Linux comes with many improvements, but these show themselves only upon closer inspection. For example, the developers have decided to use the runit init scheme instead of SysV init, Upstart, or systemd. Runit was built simply, has just three levels, and has also been optimized to run at especially high speeds. It uses its own very straightforward syntax. This type of construction lets even the beginning user start, administer, and stop services and processes [3]. Runit organizes individual run levels differently from the typical init systems. The script for the first level initializes the system; then services and processes start on the second level. The script at the third level terminates running processes and shuts down the system.

The Void-specific package administration is the X Binary Package System (xbps). According to information provided by the project, xbps already contains more than 6,000 packages. Originally, this tool was developed as a package manager for NetBSD, and it has some distinctive features. For example, it is easy to localize precompiled packages via a search dialog on the website for the Void project [4].

Like other professional package managers, xbps automatically resolves dependencies during new software installation, and it has several repositories. There the user will find special sub-repositories for developers and for software that is proprietary or that falls under a non-open license. With the help of an advanced syntax, it is possible to easily use the xbps command line for updating individual programs or the entire system. Downgrades are also easy. The project page contains detailed documentation for this tool together with helpful examples [5].


Unlike statically updated distributions, such as the classic Debian and its derivative Ubuntu, Void Linux operates as a rolling-release system. Thus, it is continuously updated. The developers use the cloud-based tool Travis CI for integration tests to make sure that the Void repositories remain consistent following updates and extensions.

The user can create source code binary packages with the help of xbps-src , a tool which is part of the package administrator. The xbps-src tool works with containers and without root rights due to isolation of the individual processes. When used as a cross-compiler, this tool is also capable of creating binary packages for other supported architectures regardless of the chosen host platform.

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