Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
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Author Topic: Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide  (Read 46902 times)

Offline Ben

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Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
« on: November 04, 2014, 08:52:41 PM »
Void Linux is a distribution that has largely flown under the radar of the Linux media, partly due to not being listed on Distro Watch and partly due to the lack of a user friendly derivative. However, Void offers a relatively simple installer that will get even a moderately skilled user up and running in no time and the distro itself has quite a few compelling features unique to it. So, what are they and are they important to you? Let me explain.

Void Linux is arguably the most BSD-like of all Linux distributions. One feature that characterizes the BSDs is the presence of a ports tree, that allows a wide variety of software to be built from source. A port is simply a folder containing the makefile and source code necessary to build the package (after fetching the source of course). Another thing common to the BSDs is dual package management, in that binaries and source are both available and fully supported (compared to Gentoo, which sorely lacks binaries and requires EVERYTHING to be compiled with a few exceptions). Well, Void Linux has the XBPS package manager that allows binaries to be installed, by using either
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xbps-install or for source based (using ports)
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./xbps-src pkgYou may be asking yourself why you would want both source AND binaries. Well, there are several reasons.
*Some packages have experimental or just not selected build options (for their binaries) you may want to have the ability to use (for instance, Javascript support in NetSurf or Shoutcast support in VLC).
*You have access to a HUGE variety of applications and can rely on using upstream source code rather than being dependent on less secure software sources like the AUR and PPA's.
*You often get access to newer versions of software sooner.

The other (somewhat) unique features of Void, that make it more BSD-like, are its init system and design philosophy.  Void uses Runit, a very minimalist init system that is easy to configure and more in line with the old daemontools that Linux distros used to use by default.  In keeping with this, Void aims to have an always bootable base system that is somewhat more stable than Arch or Gentoo, while still having fully rolling packages.  In other words, your packages may break, but your base system shouldn't.  It's also worth mentioning that the use of Runit and overall design philosophy make Void incredibly lightweight and well suited for older hardware or netbooks.

Okay, are you still interested?  If so, let's take a look at the installer.  This is what you see after booting the iso:
You can see that I have followed the initial prompt and logged in as root using the provided password.  Now, let's start the installation by doing
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void-installer
The installer will now prompt us with several system components that need to be configured, working our way down to Install.

Now, we will work our way down to the finall install, starting with Keyboard.


You can see my network was detected, and I am going to choose to configure it.  The installer does this for us automatically, and will tell Runit to bring up the network automatically when we reboot (as opposed to something like pacstrap in Arch, where we have to manually enable it for systemd).


And the installer lets us know that everything was configured properly.  Now, the next step is to choose how we will install packages.  If you used the normal iso, local is correct, if you are doing a net install obviously we will use the network.

We also have to tie up some odds and ends like setting a hostname and a locale:



Okay, now we are ready to get going, it's time to configure our boot device.  You should see your connected hard drives listed, in my virtual machine we're using sda.  

We will also have to partition our drive and create a partition table (you may also use GParted Live to do this ahead of time with a GUI, that is up to you).  Then it's a matter of setting our mount points.

For disks under 2 GB, MS DOS is fine.  Over 2 GB and GPT is necessary.

In my example, we will create a 1 GB EXT2 partition for GRUB mounted at /boot, a 2 GB swap partition and a 7 GB / (or root) partition of type EXT4.  The / partition and swap would be bigger on a real install instead of a virtual machine.  This is a two step process, at the first prompt we will set our partition table as MS DOS and carve up the disk into partitions while selecting their file type.  This drops us into cfdisk, which allows us to finish partitioning.  Make sure to set your /boot partition as bootable!

We quit cfdisk and now install.  
After install, we are prompted to reboot.  Make sure you have removed your usb stick or changed your boot priority, of course.  If everything is okay, we are prompted with GRUB, then dumped into a shell.

Now that we have a shell, it's important to remember that this is a bit different than an install with Arch's pacstrap.  We have a full, headless (as in without X.Org) system.  All that is left to do is create a user and install X.Org with a DE.
First, I will do:
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useradd bento create myself as a user.  Then I will set a password.
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passwd benNow I will add myself to the Wheel and other relevant groups. *Remember to add yourself to the games group after you install a game.
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usermod -G wheel,audio,lp,optical,scanner,storage,video benNow I will assign my home directory.
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chown -R ben /home/benNow, we need to sync with the repositories to install packages.
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xbps-install -SNow to install our packages.
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xbps-install -S xorg lxqt firefox This will give us the X Window System, LXQt (just replace it with your DE of choice) and Firefox for a web browser after saying YES at the prompt.  Now, we need to tell X what DE to start.
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echo 'exec startlxqt' > .xinitrc Now we log out of our root session and back in as our user with:
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exitThen we just invoke:
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startxWhich should give us something like this:

From this point, you can install a graphical log in manager or whatever other software you may need.  Also, keeping our system updated is as simple as:
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xbps-install -Syu which syncs and upgrades at the same time.  This can be broken up into multiple steps of course, for instance by just doing
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xbps-install -S to sync and review packages before upgrading.  You can find the full list of options by just doing
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xbps-install in the terminal.  xbps-src is not enabled by default, there is a well written guide for this on the Void Linux wiki.

So in summary, what are my thoughts on Void?  If you want a system with up to date packages, the ability to use source and binaries that can run on almost any hardware, and a very minimalist base system that can be built to suit your needs (either a full on gaming machine with Steam or a light netbook OS with LXQt) it is the absolute best choice.  There are so many distros that are redundant and unnecessary, but Void is unique in being a truly UNIX-like distro from bottom to top with Runit and XBPS.  The only drawback is the small community.  

Downloads and full documentation can be found here (including how to use xbps-src to install packages from source): You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login

For reference, here are some more useful links.
*Explanation for the use of the XBPS ports system: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login
*Post Install Guide: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login
*Proprietary NVIDIA drivers: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login
*Proprietary AMD drivers: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login
*Installing Steam: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login
*A full overview of the XBPS package manager: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login
« Last Edit: November 12, 2014, 04:41:31 AM by Ben »

Offline fishmanluvslinux

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Re: Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2014, 09:01:21 PM »
Excellent job Ben. I plan to review this soon. :D
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Offline Ben

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Re: Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2014, 09:12:38 PM »
Thanks Fishman, it really is a great distro and I've wanted to spread the word about it for awhile now.  I'm glad farevildee encouraged us to actually start doing some reviews. :D  EDIT:  Also, if you were going to copy/paste any of those commands, I caught a couple of typos.  They *SHOULD* be good now, if not you'll just get an error. :p
« Last Edit: November 04, 2014, 09:39:03 PM by Ben »

Offline Spatry

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Re: Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2014, 11:40:48 PM »
I like how you included photos to illustrate key points in the installation process. Excellent work, Ben!
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Offline JayVii

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Re: Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2014, 06:13:28 AM »
NICE REVIEW!
I find it kinda hard to review a barebone distribution that doesn't come with any OOTB experience. However, you mastered that issue very well and pretty much summed up everything important a new user might need to give Voidlinux a shot. I also like the whole style of this, as it's more of an article than the brochure-reviews I did (What I mean: it's more of a fluent text). A totally different approach, that was necessary to review this kind of OS. I also like the information-sources you gave. Very good, indeed.

Keep it up, Ben! I hope you're going to do some more of these :)
« Last Edit: November 05, 2014, 06:16:31 AM by JayVii »
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Offline Ben

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Re: Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2014, 02:11:39 PM »
Thanks for the positive feedback, Spatry and Jay.  My real hope is that someone makes a user friendly derivative of this distro down the road, because I think it could be a real competitor to something like Sabayon in that the binaries and ports system are maintained upstream (so the chance of breakage is much, much lower than mixing Entropy and Portage).

Offline lcRONOS

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Re: Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2014, 12:08:10 PM »
I've seen a little bit on it, but what exactly is Void Linux?  I may try it out if it is a distro you manually set up (I don't particularly enjoy point and click installers, I like seeing exactly what is done).
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Offline JayVii

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Re: Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2014, 01:05:45 PM »
I tried to set it up on my netbook and everything worked pretty good until i tried to connect via wifi. I'm not very experienced with wpa_supplicant and although i followed the wiki it just wouldn't work. also "wicd" only gave me errors and after building NetworkManager that wouldn't start either. It might just be because i have a lack of experience in that area though... I will try it again some time in the future. (LAN worked OOTB)

On my desktop it isn't really usable, as amd-graphics drivers still have issues (only root can startx if you are running the fglrx-drivers). So for now i'm staying away from void on my desktop as well. really sad, since i like this distribution. Maybe those problems will be sorted in the future (or i'll know how to handle them better).
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Offline lcRONOS

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Re: Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2014, 01:30:05 PM »
That's strange.  For network, the only reliable method I've had has been using NetworkManager (for Gentoo anyways).  I'm not experienced enough with WPA_Supplicant, and wicd just never worked quite right.  The tool, dhcpcd may work for you, I used it in place of wicd for a while, I just got sick of manually running that command since it worked only when wicd didn't.
For desktop, maybe see what drivers Ubuntu uses, and install them manually?
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Offline Ben

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Re: Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2014, 01:45:16 AM »
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I've seen a little bit on it, but what exactly is Void Linux?  I may try it out if it is a distro you manually set up (I don't particularly enjoy point and click installers, I like seeing exactly what is done).
I feel like the review more or less covers it, but is there a specific question that you have?  In regard to the installer, Void uses a curses based installer (as do Slackware and the BSDs), there is no GUI.  It's the same as if you had installed a BSD (unlike Slackware), in that you are left with a headless system you can build to your liking (so suitable for a server OOTB, but a full desktop requires a few more steps).  If you've ever used a BSD, Void will be very familiar to you. It's more or less an OS for people who prefer the UNIX/BSD design philosophy but want to take advantage of the hardware support offered by the Linux kernel and its file systems (XFS, Btrfs, EXT4, etc.) rather than be stuck with the small choices offered by the BSD kernels (UFS2 or HAMMER/ZFS with DragonFlyBSD/FreeBSD).

Also, I'm sorry about your fglrx and dhcpcd issues Jay, I'd consider asking on IRC before giving up totally, though.

Offline lcRONOS

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Re: Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2014, 09:26:05 AM »
I apologize, must not have seen it I didn't have much time so I just skimmed it, though I guess I meant who was the target user base lol.  I may have to play with this a little bit, Gentoo is amazing, but the package manager seems amazing so I may wind up replacing Gentoo with this.  How are the repositories for this, about Gentoos size? Does it handle additional repositories like how Gentoo does with its overlays?
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Offline Ben

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Re: Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2014, 02:24:02 PM »
Void has a different philosophy of package management than a distro like Gentoo; depending on your perspective, it either has a large amount more or less.  Void uses the same philosophy as the BSDs, in that it is a self contained OS, you should never need to use something like overlays or the AUR.  The idea is to be as secure as possible.  XBPS is a dual package manager, in this sense:  It can use pre-compiled binaries as well as fetching  source via  a  ports tree.  A pre-compiled binary is handled exactly the same as one you compile yourself using a port, there is no actual difference to XBPS.  But, because we are using a port to grab the source directly from upstream of an application, there isn't really a need for something like overlays.

Offline lcRONOS

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Re: Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2014, 10:50:53 PM »
So does it have anything like the jails system in PC-BSD?  IIRC jails was used to build an untrusted package out of ports, or am I not remembering it right (never got internet working quite right when I last tried it, so I couldn't test the jails system).
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Offline Ben

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Re: Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
« Reply #13 on: November 09, 2014, 02:36:46 AM »
You can achieve the same thing (more or less) by using Xen, there is a guide for configuring it on the Wiki - You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login  Of course, Xen can be used on any distribution for that matter.  You are not allowed to view links. Register or LoginI don't want to paint the picture that it's a drop in replacement for FreeBSD, because it isn't, but it's as close as you're going to get by using the Linux kernel for its advantages in hardware support and file systems.

Offline c00ter

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Re: Void Linux: A Review + Installation Guide
« Reply #14 on: November 09, 2014, 11:14:04 AM »
I notice that Mr. Green has put up "VoidBang" @ Sourceforge. You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login

For the uniniated Mr. Green is the ArchBang lead developer.