Installing Devuan 1.0 "Jessie"

This howto is not intended as a detailed “Devuan for Dummies” guide, as it assumes some basic knowledge about Unix-like systems in general and Debian-like systems in particular. It strives to give you the basics of how to install a Devuan system, without showing too many steps that ought to be obvious to slightly more experienced users.

This how-to is based on the net install ISO images available for two prominent architectures in the Devuan download zone.

You can also use the torrent torrent or a local mirror found on

We will take a bottom-up approach, and build the more complex setups on top of the preceding simpler ones. Most options here should be self explanatory, more advanced topics are for a separate guide.

From one of the links above, download the installer image best suited for your hardware.

We will give basic instructions on how to write the image to a CD, or USB drive. Given the scope of this guide we will assume you know how to boot from a CD, and that command line instructions are suitable for all readers.

If you are installing directly to a host machine, you should perform a backup of your data before continuing to the install.

Verify the image integrity

Download the the SHA256SUMs then verify the integrity of the image.

sha256sums -c SHA256SUMS

Write the image to the install media

You will of course need to adjust for the correct device nodes and filenames.

Wodim can be used to write a CD image to a CD/DVD-ROM.

wodim dev=/dev/sr0 -eject devuan_jessie_1.0.0_<arch>_NETINST.iso

In the case of using a USB drive like a thumb drive dd should be used.

dd if=devuan_jessie_1.0.0_<arch>_NETINST.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=1M; sync

In the context of this guide “minimal” does not refer to the actual bare minimum needed to just about booting a machine into a shell, but rather what the installer will provide you with when deselecting all but the compulsory basic options offered in the non-expert route of the installation process.

1. Boot the (virtual or physical) machine from the installation medium.

2. Choose “Install” from the boot menu, this will launch the standard dialog based installer which is the option we are going with in this guide.

3. Choose your preferred language, location and keyboard layout,

4. Adjust hostname and domain-name to your liking,

5. Select a package repository mirror; specifically should be chosen in this case; specify proxy settings to connect to the repository, if applicable

6. Provide a root password, user name and user password

7. Select your timezone

8. Partition the disk according to your preferences. Note that the option to use the largest continuous space will leave existing partitions untouched.

9. Wait for the base system installation to complete.

10. In the “Software selection” menu, deselect all items.

11. Wait for the rest of the installation to complete; when prompted, choose the correct location to install the GRUB boot loader. A common setup is to install grub to the MBR on the main installation disk.

12. Choose to finish the installation and remove the installer medium when complete; the machine should automatically reboot into the newly installed system.

The software needed to run a custom headless server varies widely, depending on the services one intends to run on the particular machine. Therefore this guide gives no detailed instructions on that, just take the minimal install as a starting point, and add whatever suits your needs.

That said, it is almost always a good idea to install at least the ssh meta-package to have a means of remote logging in to the machine over a network connection.

apt-get install ssh

If you want to keep the system even more minimalistic, you can opt to bypass the installation of recommended packages.

apt-get install ssh --no-install-recommends

That way non-essential packages, e.g. some X and ncurses related packages, are skipped.

CAVEAT: When installing additional software, one should still watch out for systemd related packages inadvertently sneaking into the system. A menu-driven full-screen package management tool like aptitude can serve as a great aid in preventing mishaps.

In this guide we will be working with the default desktop environment, whilst keeping it reasonably lean. In Debian this is GNOME, in Devuan this is XFCE.

Display manager and X server

Install the slim display manager and the X server plus the respective dependencies.

apt-get install slim xorg

CAVEAT: Depending on your particular (graphics) hardware you may need, or want, to install additional drivers. The details are highly vendor specific and beyond the scope of this document.

Desktop environment

Install the XFCE desktop environment.

apt-get install xfce4 xfwm4-themes tango-icon-theme

Upon restart the system should boot directly to the graphical login screen of the slim desktop manager. You should be able to shutdown or log out from the XFCE user menu.

Optional extras

You will probably want to install additional software to supplement your desktop environment. You may for example want to install some viewers such as a browser, image viewer and pdf reader.

apt-get install firefox-esr ristretto xpdf

For a better desktop experience, you likely will to install the necessary packages to have a file manager and capability for auto-mounting.

apt-get install thunar thunar-volman gvfs policykit-1

If you want the standard Devuan artwork for XFCE you can choose to install the purpy theme.

apt-get install clearlooks-phenix-purpy-theme