Project for generic devuan documentation (was devuan-doc)
You can not select more than 25 topics Topics must start with a letter or number, can include dashes ('-') and can be up to 35 characters long.

16 KiB

Devuan Constitution


(This section reminds points from other pages such as ProjectDesription, the home for clarity, and will be removed)

  • Having a systemd-free Debian Jessie
  • To preserve diversity of init systems
  • To foster software freedom and user control
  • To stick with GNU, KISS, and UNIX philosophy
  • To be the continuity of and remain 100% fully compatible with Debian
  • To provide lighter governance
  • To serve users and sysadmins
  • To uphold the GNU system

Version 1 of the devuan constitution will be discussed with all contributors, but final decision on adopting it will be done by the VUA group that originally started the devuan fork.

Version 0 (Proposed Draft)

  1. Preamble
  2. Project Goals
  3. Software Freedom
  4. Social Contract
  5. Governance

1. Preamble

Software opens a new technological era in the evolution of Mankind. Not all software is born equal. As extensions of the human mind and capacity to act and shape reality, software is a fundamental element of the toolset of humans to bring forth unprecedented changes in our lives. Therefore we must apply thought and attention to software development and we share responsibility, as users and developers of software systems, to foster values of cooperation in the spirit of science, human cultures, and the diversity of life.

The Devuan Project is a solidary network of individuals who have made a common cause to create a free operating system.

This document describes the Project's primary goals, its dedication to software freedom, its promises to Devuan users and contributors in the form of a social contract, and the governance principles to ensure perennity and formal decision-making in the Project.

2. Project goals

2.1. Build a Universal GNU Operating System

The Devuan Project was born as a fork of Debian, and considers itself the legacy of the Debian Project.

Devuan is a free operating system (OS) for any computer system, from home desktop to servers, from embedded devices to any sort of big complex systems. Our main goal is to provide an universal OS, easily adaptable to any sort of use case and environment, following the UNIX principles as guidelines, and fostering software freedom.

2.2 Embrace Diversity

An universal OS must protect freedom of choice. Devuan provides not only support for a large number of platform architectures, but also a diversity of software solutions for achieving matching component functionality. The diversity of use cases, from home users to developers and sysadmins, from common usage to minority usage must be supported. A minority of users cannot work in the way of a majority of users, and vice-versa, a minority of users usually has good reasons to do things in a different way. Devuan fosters a diversity of approaches to avoid technical lock-ins to specific implementations.

2.3 Uphold Harmonious Cooperation

The Devuan Project embraces an inclusive and peaceful space for contributors and users. It works to improve the relationship with both upstream developers and downstream individuals and organizations.

Efforts are made to facilitate integration of software packages into the distribution, maintain fluid contact with the upstream developers, and collaborate on the long term to improve the experience of the meta-system formed by the Devuan OS, the upstream software developers, and the downstream derivative OS distributors, institutional and individual users.

2.4 Maintain a Solid Base OS Framework

The Devuan Project seeks to provide a rock solid, stable, and innovative base OS framework for derivative works (specialized distributions, pre-configured subsets, etc.), professionals, and enthusiasts. Devuan upholds both technical excellence and societal collaboration.

Documentation and interaction must facilitate understanding and participation in the elaboration and distribution of free software. The Devuan community must be attentive and listen to users, and flexible to integrate their feedback. The Devuan community encourages and coordinates the development of participatory tools such as wikis and customization tools such as the Devuan Blends to pursue these goals.

3. Software Freedom

Devuan is a free OS, that means it's a distribution of free software. Free software respects the user's freedom and community. Software freedom is defined as user control over their computing, and requires the four freedoms to be well understood and respected.

  • Freedom 0 is the freedom to run the program for any purpose.
  • Freedom 1 is the freedom to study the source code of the program and change it.

These two freedoms allow any individual user to run, study, and change a program to adapt it to their own desire. But if you're not a programmer, you cannot exert such individual control over your computing. Therefore an additional two freedoms are necessary to achieve collective control over computing:

  • Freedom 2 is the freedom to redistribute exact copies of the program.
  • Freedom 3 is the freedom to redistribute modified copies of the program.

3.1. Source Code

Typically, a program comes in two forms: the source code written by the developers, and available in plain text, readable form if you know the programming language; an executable, which is what users run, and that is compiled from the source code, usually in binary form of ones and zeroes, readable only by machines.

Availability of the source code is a requirement for exerting freedom 1, and therefore studying and understanding what the program does. The only alternative is to reverse-engineer the program to understand how it works from exploring its binary form. That is a difficult process that may or may not give results.

3.2. Copyleft and Free Licenses

Like software, software licenses are not made equal, and range from satanic (putting you under the control of the developer) to lax (allowing patent treachery) to copyleft. The Devuan project recommends copyleft licenses and allows lax licenses. See next section regarding non-free licenses. Copyleft licenses protect the users against legal and commercial attacks on their control over their own computing, such as patent trolling, tivoization, etc.

Quoting from the Quick Guide to the GPLv3:

Developers who write software can release it under the terms of the GNU GPL. When they do, it will be free software and stay free software, no matter who changes or distributes the program. We call this copyleft: the software is copyrighted, but instead of using those rights to restrict users like proprietary software does, we use them to ensure that every user has freedom.

The Devuan project recommends GPLv3-compatible licenses in priority, including AGPLv3 for code distributed over the network, or the permissive Apache2 and Xfree86 1.1 licenses.

Other free software licenses exist that are more lax and do not offer the same protections, for example the Artistic 2.0 license used by the Perl project, or the Modified BSD license used by many BSD derivatives.

The interested reader can refer to the GNU Project's licenses section to learn more about free software licensing and licensing recommendations.

3.3. Binary Blobs and Limits to Freedom

The GNU Free System Distribution Guidelines requires a distribution to not refer to non-free software, documentation on how to make such software work with the OS, nor to provide assistance to enable compatible use with non-free software.

This is usually but wrongly seen as a "restriction" on the part of free software advocates. Although this has certainly strong practical implications, we prefer to consider it as a goal towards which the Devuan Project needs to tend. The current state of commercial technology often does not leave much choice to the users with the constraints that the hardware they use impose on them.

The Devuan Project recognizes there is a practical contradiction between the goals of software freedom and the goal of providing a universal operating system. When the choice is left between using a non-free software component, and no computing at all, the Devuan Project will prefer some computing, in the hope the non-free part will become less important over time and will eventually disappear completely.

The Devuan Project will steer towards free-software-compatible hardware and provide support for such systems and platforms, but will also provide transitory support for systems and platforms that require binary blobs and non-free components to work. As such, the Devuan Project is not a free software distribution as defined by the GNU FSDG, but is aiming to become one, and does not recommend the use of non-free software where it is not absolutely necessary.

3.4. Licensing Recommendations

The Devuan Project follows the recommendations of the Free Software Foundation regarding licensing. A complete review of free software licenses can be found on the GNU website, and the full text of each license in the Free Software Directory. Please refer to section 3.2.

3.5. Autonomy and Interdependence

In addition to respecting the four freedoms, software freedom implies non-discrimination of users: core software in Devuan should be "as simple as possible, but not simpler" and hopefully follow the "do one thing and do it well" UNIX principle where feasible. This is to prevent large interlocking cascades of dependencies on single components that add superfluous complexity to the system.

Core software included in the main distribution should therefore:

  • avoid requiring other independent parts of the system to function,
  • provide best portability across architecture platforms,
  • follow POSIX compliance, and
  • adhere to standards that do not conflict with the project's goals.

4. Social Contract

Therefore the Devuan OS embraces plain text files as the universal interface, especially for logs and system executables.

The Devuan Project will work with the Free Software Foundation and other organizations, including the Debian Project, towards an entirely free software and free hardware general purpose computing environment.

4.1. We Shall Uphold Software Freedom

The Devuan Project builds a free operating system that respects user's freedom. This is the raison d'ĂȘtre of the project and won't change. Our system will never require to run a non-free component. But we won't exclude users on the basis they need to run non-free software either, although we won't recommend such use.

4.2. We Shall Contribute to the Free Software Movement

Devuan is meant as a base OS for others to build upon. Cooperation is built-in. We shall remain true to software freedom and foster user freedom and control over one's own computer, component reuse and portability over technical cleverness and excellence that may compromise such freedom. When we write a software component for Devuan, we shall license it according to section 3 of this document.

4.3. We Shall Not Hide Problems

We believe in conversation, collaboration, and full disclosure. We recognize human fallibility and accept our mistakes responsibly. We shall maintain public mailing lists and bug trackers to communicate bugs to all users and upstream authors of software included in our system, as well as provide secure channels and protocols to report security issues responsibly. We shall listen to arguments and respond to inquiries promptly in the hope the community will help solve any problem that may appear, rather than hiding anything susceptible to build up and snowball into mayhem. That includes personal and organizational conflicts of interest.

4.4. We Shall Serve Our Users

The Devuan Project is in the service of our users, from all origins and all paths of life. We won't discriminate anyone for any reason. Individuals may hold different opinions and uphold antagonist perspectives, but the only discriminating line we chose to draw within the Project is to support software freedom: we put users first and foremost.

4.5. We Shall Not Exclude Anyone

Discrimination over ethical, political, religious, national, or other arguments do not belong to software freedom. The subject of software freedom is the individual user and their community in their capacity to control their own computing needs. Drawing a line as to who can use or not the software is to open a Pandora box: we won't do that. We expect that Devuan users also won't discriminate others.

We acknowledge that some of our users require the use of works that do not conform to the ideals of free software. Devuan maintains contrib and non-free areas in our archive for these works. The packages in these areas are not part of the Devuan system, although they have been configured for use with Devuan. We encourage CD manufacturers to read the licenses of the packages in these areas and determine if they can distribute the packages on their CDs. Devuan developers must not include any dependency on packages in these areas in their package to be included in the main area.

Non-free works are not part of Devuan, and therefore are not burdened onto the free software community. A special fund for transitory support of non-free works is setup to:

  • enable users who need such dependencies now to obtain them seamlessly using a normal Devuan installation.
  • maintain the Devuan-compatible infrastructure to host non-free software, characterize its injustice, and promote free software alternatives.
  • enable users to realize their need and pool their effort in order to collaborate and provide for free alternatives.
  • raise awareness in the industry for the need to support software freedom natively, from firmware to the boot sequence to applications.

This "Escape Fund" shall be taken in charge by the Devuan Project as a distinct project and progressively autonomized so that the amount of non-free software necessary to run systems diminishes over time. Development and support infrastructure of the Devuan project shall be made to work seamlessly with this infrastructure so that it does not become a burden for users either.

5. Governance

One of the stated goals of the Devuan Project is to provide a lighter decision-making system than the Debian Project. The principles set forth in this Constitution should be kept in mind when making decisions, and notably, one should ask: "how does this benefits users' freedom? How does this impedes users' freedom?", and a balance should be prefered over structure and bureaucracy.

5.1. Collective Decisions

Decisions are usually taken by action and affinity. Nobody can possibly follow each and every decision. Therefore it is important that changes are thouroughly discussed, pondered, and developed publicly using the mailing lists. Decisions affecting individual packages should be made among developers and their users. Decisions affecting the whole distribution should be made after an acceptable time has passed and users have been given a chance to review and understand the rationales and consequences of changes.

5.2. Individual Roles


  • no personality cult
  • delegates
  • coordination roles
  • collegial roles

5.3. The VUA Group


  • veto

5.4. Leadership


  • decentralized
  • long term
  • coordination
  • orientation

5.5. Conflict Resolution


  • all users first

  • freedom second

  • some users third

  • keep it civil

  • when heating, keep it private and intimate