Testing Void Linux, an independent distribution

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At this point, Void Linux still does not have a graphical installer that would allow the user to put the operating system on bulk storage via simple mouse clicks. The installation routine is still command line driven. The user uses it for quickly putting the system on the hard drive or an SSD.

To launch the installation routine, the user opens a terminal in a live system and acquires administrative rights with the help of su and the password voidlinux . At the prompt, the user then calls the command void-installer . Depending on the user's native language you should be aware that the operating system utilizes an American English keyboard layout.

The installation routine opens an Ncurses interface, which lets the user create a ready-to-function system via a small number of settings dialogs (Figure 3). The dialog for defining a root password is somewhat out of the ordinary in that the password that gets entered is not visible in either text or by means of asterisks. The user can manually designate a file when partitioning. Modern versions such as btrfs and f2fs are made available.

Figure 3: The Void Linux installer is visually simple and clean, and it works well.


Void also uses the command line to install new software packages. Even though the xbps package administrator has very advanced functions, basic software management operations can be accomplished with only four commands. If it makes sense, the user can combine the predefined parameters and thus save time and effort.

The commands from Listing 1 are entered into the terminal in order to activate the main archive. The archive date should be entered using the format YYYY-MM-DD . Void automatically retrieves various files for the integration of sub-repositories when the information is subsequently loaded. The corresponding sub-archives are activated using the xbps-install <Repo> command.

Listing 1

Activating the Main Archive

01 # xbps-query --repository=http://archive.voidlinux.eu/glibc/Archive date/current -Mis \*
02 # xbps-install void-repo-nonfree-7_1
03 # xbps-query -l | more
04 # xbps-install -Sf Package

Line 2 makes the sub-repository with non-open software available. Following the security query, the system will install the appropriate repository. The user should be aware that administration rights are required for this work; otherwise, the process will fail. Data synchronization should be executed with the help of the xbps-install -S command. This maintains the consistency of the system.

Line 3 will allow the user to view the program inventory in the software source. The xbps-query tool lists the packages in alphabetical order by the page (Figure 4). The installation of new packages can also be accomplished via a single command. Equipped with administration rights, the user enters xbps-install <Package> in the terminal. Using the same command together with the added parameter -S lets the user target individual packages for updating. The switch functions even when the specified package has not yet been installed.

Figure 4: The Void Linux software archive proves to be well equipped.

Line 4 is used to install either an older version or a specific version of a software package. Updating the entire Void installation requires that the user enter the xbps-install -Su command.

Applications can be removed with the xbps-remove command. This works analogously to the addition of new packages. The command also recognizes several important parameters for maintaining the consistency of the system. The simplest removal method involves applying the xbps-remove <package> command to specified software. If the user additionally wants to resolve all of the basic dependencies, the -R option should be added. The temporary storage created by the package administration is removed via the xbps-remove -O command.

The developers have also given thought to so-called data orphans. Data orphans are vestiges of software that have already been deleted, and they are not needed for any purpose. Over time, these orphans can take up a lot of memory and should be removed. The command xbps-remove -o takes care of this problem.

The package manager installs packages in two basic steps. First, the manager decompresses the package archive. Next, the binary files are integrated in the system and configured. After an update, individual packages may need to be reconfigured. This is done via the invocation xbps-reconfigure -a .

The user identifies packages that need to be configured by entering the xbps-query -l command at the prompt. A list of packages appears. Those packages requiring configuration in order to maintain a completely consistent system are designated by the prefix uu .

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