Installing Void Linux

I made the switch to void linux. Except for compatibility issues around glibc, it works quite well. Most compatibility I have worked around with a combination of Flatpaks, chroots and namespaces.

The high lights of void linux:

  • musl build - which is very lightweigth
  • Does not depend on systemd
  • a reasonable selection of software packages

I have tweaked the installation on my computers to use UEFI and thus I am using rEFInd instead of grub. This is because it makes doing bare metal backups and restore just a simple file copy.

My installation process roughly follows the UEFI chroot install.

This process is implemented in a script and can be found here:

Script usage:

    Usage: _/dev/sdx_ _hostname_ [options]

    - _sdx_: Block device to install to or
      - --image=filepath[:size] to create a virtual disc image
      - --imgset=filebase[:size] to create a virtual filesystem image set
      - --dir=dirpath to create a directory
    - _hostname_: Hostname to use

    - swap=kbs : swap size, defaults computed from /proc/meminfo, uses numfmt to parse values
    - glibc : Do a glibc install
    - noxwin : do not insall X11 related packages
    - nodesktop ; do not install desktop environment
    - desktop=mate : Install MATE dekstop environment
    - passwd=password : root password (prompt if not specified)
    - enc-passwd=encrypted : encrypted root password.
    - ovl=tar.gz : tarball containing additional files
    - post=script : run a post install script
    - pkgs=file : text file containing additional software to install
    - bios : create a BIOS boot system (needs syslinux)
    - cache=path : use the file path for download cache
    - xen : do some xen specific tweaks
    - xdm-candy : Enable xdm candy
    - noxdm : disable graphical login

Command line examples

  • sudo sh --dir=$HOME/vx9 vx9 swap=4G glibc passwd=1234567890 cache=$HOME/void-cache xen
  • sudo sh --dir=$HOME/vx1 vx1 swap=4G glibc passwd=1234567890 cache=$HOME/void-cache xen
  • sudo sh --dir=$HOME/vx11 vx11 swap=4G passwd=1234567890 cache=$HOME/void-cache xen

Initial set-up

Boot using the void live CD and partition the target disk:

cfdisk -z /dev/xda

Make sure you use gpt label type (for UEFI boot). I am creating the following partitions:

  1. 500MB EFI System
  2. RAM Size 1.5* Linux swap, Mainly used for Hibernate.
  3. Rest of drive Linux filesystem, Root file system

This is on a USB thumb drive. The data I keep on an internal disk.

Now we create the filesystems:

mkfs.vfat -F 32 -n EFI /dev/xda1
mkswap -L swp0 /dev/xda2
mkfs.xfs -f -L voidlinux /dev/xda3

We're now ready to mount the volumes, making any necessary mount point directories along the way (the sequence is important, yes):

mount /dev/xda3 /mnt
mkdir /mnt/boot
mount /dev/xda1 /mnt/boot

Installing Void

So we do a targeted install:

For musl-libc

env XBPS_ARCH=x86_64-musl xbps-install -S -R -r /mnt base-system grub-x86_64-efi

For glibc

env XBPS_ARCH=x86_64 xbps-install -S -R -r /mnt base-system grub-x86_64-efi

But actually, for the package list I have been using these lists:

This installs a MATE desktop environment.

Software selection notes

  • For time synchronisation (ntp) we ae choosing chrony as it is reputed to be more secure that ntpd and more compliant than openntpd.
  • We are using the default configuration, which should be OK. Uses for the time server which would use a suitable default.
  • For cron we are using dcron. It is full featured (i.e. compatibnle with cron and it can handle power-off situations, while being the most light-weight option available. See: VoidLinux FAQ: Cron
  • Includes autofs and nfs-utils for network filesystems and automount support.

nonfree software and other repositories

Additional repositories are available to support either non-free software and in the case of glibc, multilib (32 bit) binaries.

To enable under the musl version:

env XBPS_ARCH="$arch" xbps-install -y -S -R "$voidurl" -r /mnt void-repo-nonfree

For glibc:

env XBPS_ARCH="$arch" xbps-install -y -S -R "$voidurl" -r /mnt void-repo-nonfree void-repo-multilib void-repo-multilib-nonfree

Then you can install non-free software, like:

Enter the void chroot

Upon completion of the install, we set up our chroot jail, and chroot into our mounted filesystem:

mount -t proc proc /mnt/proc
mount -t sysfs sys /mnt/sys
mount -o bind /dev /mnt/dev
mount -t devpts pts /mnt/dev/pts
cp -L /etc/resolv.conf /mnt/etc/
chroot /mnt bash -il

In order to verify our install, we can have a look at the directory structure:

 ls -la

The output should look something akin to the following:

total 12
drwxr-xr-x 16 root root 4096 Jan 17 15:27 .
drwxr-xr-x  3 root root 4096 Jan 17 15:16 ..
lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root    7 Jan 17 15:26 bin -> usr/bin
drwxr-xr-x  4 root root  127 Jan 17 15:37 boot
drwxr-xr-x  2 root root   17 Jan 17 15:26 dev
drwxr-xr-x 26 root root 4096 Jan 17 15:27 etc
drwxr-xr-x  2 root root    6 Jan 17 15:26 home
lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root    7 Jan 17 15:26 lib -> usr/lib
lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root    9 Jan 17 15:26 lib32 -> usr/lib32
lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root    7 Jan 17 15:26 lib64 -> usr/lib
drwxr-xr-x  2 root root    6 Jan 17 15:26 media
drwxr-xr-x  2 root root    6 Jan 17 15:26 mnt
drwxr-xr-x  2 root root    6 Jan 17 15:26 opt
drwxr-xr-x  2 root root    6 Jan 17 15:26 proc
drwxr-x---  2 root root   26 Jan 17 15:39 root
drwxr-xr-x  3 root root   17 Jan 17 15:26 run
lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root    8 Jan 17 15:26 sbin -> usr/sbin
drwxr-xr-x  2 root root    6 Jan 17 15:26 sys
drwxrwxrwt  2 root root    6 Jan 17 15:15 tmp
drwxr-xr-x 11 root root  123 Jan 17 15:26 usr
drwxr-xr-x 11 root root  150 Jan 17 15:26 var

While chrooted, we create the password for the root user, and set root access permissions:

 passwd root
 chown root:root /
 chmod 755 /

Since I am a bash convert, I would do this:

 xbps-alternatives --set bash

Create the hostname for the new install:

echo <HOSTNAME> > /etc/hostname

Edit our /etc/rc.conf file, like so:


# Set RTC to UTC or localtime.

# Set timezone, availables timezones at /usr/share/zoneinfo.

# Keymap to load, see loadkeys(8).

# Console font to load, see setfont(8).

# Console map to load, see setfont(8).

# Font unimap to load, see setfont(8).

# Kernel modules to load, delimited by blanks.

Also, modify the /etc/fstab:

# See fstab(5).

# <file system> <dir>   <type>  <options>       <dump>  <pass>
tmpfs       /tmp    tmpfs   defaults,nosuid,nodev   0       0
LABEL=EFI   /boot   vfat    rw,fmask=0133,dmask=0022,noatime,discard  0 2
LABEL=voidlinux /   xfs rw,relatime,discard 0 1
LABEL=swp0  swap    swap    defaults        0 0

For a removable drive I include the line:

LABEL=volume    /media/blahblah xfs rw,relatime,nofail 0 0

The important setting here is nofail. When the drive is available it gets mounted. If not, the nofail prevents this to cause the boot sequence to stop.

If using glibc you can modify /etc/default/libc-locales and uncomment:

en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8

Or whatever locale you want to use. And run:

 xbps-reconfigure -f glibc-locales

Set-up UEFI boot

Download the rEFInd zip binary from:

Set-up the boot partition:

mkdir /boot/EFI
mkdir /boot/EFI/BOOT

Copy from the zip file the file refind-bin-{version}/refind/refind_x64.efi to /boot/EFI/BOOT/BOOTX64.EFI.

The version I am using right now can be found here: v0.11.4 BOOTX64.EFI

Create kernel options files /boot/cmdline:

root=LABEL=voidlinux ro quiet

For my hardware I had to add the option:

  • intel_iommu=igfx_off
    • To work around some strange bug.
  • i915.enable_ips=0
    • fixes a power saving mode problem on 4.1-rc6+

Create the following script as /boot/

Add the following scripts to:

  • /etc/kernel.d/post-install/99-refind
  • /etc/kernel.d/post-remove/99-refind

Make sure they are executable. This is supposed to re-create menu entries whenever the kernel gets upgraded.

We need to have a look at /lib/modules to get our Linux kernel version

ls -la /lib/modules

Which should return something akin to:

drwxr-xr-x  3 root root   21 Jan 31 15:22 .
drwxr-xr-x 23 root root 8192 Jan 31 15:22 ..
drwxr-xr-x  3 root root 4096 Jan 31 15:22 5.2.13_1

And this script to create boot files:

xbps-reconfigure -f linux5.2

If you need to manually prepare boot files:

# update dracut
dracut --force --kver 4.19.4_1
# update refind menu
bash /boot/

We are now ready to boot into Void.

umount -R /mnt

Post install

After the first boot, we need to activate services:

Command line set-up:

ln -s /etc/sv/dhcpcd /var/service
ln -s /etc/sv/sshd /var/service
ln -s /etc/sv/{acpid,chronyd,cgmanager,crond,uuidd,statd,rcpbind,autofs} /var/service

Full workstation set-up:

ln -s /etc/sv/dbus /var/service
ln -s /etc/sv/NetworkManager /var/service
ln -s /etc/sv/sshd /var/service
ln -s /etc/sv/{acpid,chronyd,cgmanager,crond,uuidd,statd,rcpbind,autofs} /var/service
ln -s /etc/sv/{consolekit,xdm} /var/service

Creating new users:

useradd -m -s /bin/bash -U -G wheel,users,audio,video,cdrom,input newuser
passwd newuser

Note: The wheel user group allows the user to escalate to root.

Configure sudo:



# %wheel ALL=(ALL) ALL

Configure keyboard

Create configuration file: /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/30-keyboard.conf

Section "InputClass"
    Identifier "keyboard-all"
    Option "XkbLayout" "us"
    # Option "XkbModel" "pc105"
    # Option "XkbVariant" "altgr-intl"
    Option "XkbVariant" "intl"
    # MatchIsKeyboard "on"

This makes the intl for the XkbVariant the system-wide default.

Since, as a programmer I prefer the altgr-intl variant, then I run this in my de desktop environment startup to override the default:

setxkbmap -rules evdev -model evdev -layout us -variant altgr-intl

Using xdm

I have switched to xdm as my display manager. This is configured in /etc/X11/xdm/xdm-config.

Specifically, I update the Xsession setting to be the following:

! DisplayManager*session:       /usr/lib64/X11/xdm/Xsession
DisplayManager*session:     /etc/X11/Xsession

And have a custom Xsession script in /etc/X11/Xsession.

Particularly important is the fact that the default Xsession script is not able to start a mate or xfce4 sessions until you add the command:

xhost +local:

Apparently there is somewhat of an issue in the way xauth is handled.

NOTE: Doing xhost +local: is hardly a best practice when it comes to security.

Spicing up XDM

Allthough xdm is fairly old-school, there are still some opportunities to add some eye-candy to it. For that, we change the setup and startup scripts Xsetup_0 and GiveConsole into custom scripts:

Unfortunately, it only works for applications that draw directly to the root window as it is not possible to control overlapping windows. For example, running cmatrix on a xterm window covers the login widget.

On the other hand, the xscreensaver collection of screen hacks seem to accept the -root parameter, which can be used to kick off the hack, drawing on the root window.

NOT using a display manager

If you do not want to run a display manager, you can simply start your session from the Linux console and use startx and xinitrc combination.

Alternatively, you can add a file in /etc/profile.d to start X at login if on tty1.

I am using the session script, which is a modified version of the earlier Xsession script that I am using for xdm to launch a desktop session.

The script is used to startx on login.

Tweaks and Bug-fixes

/etc/machine-id or /var/lib/dbus/machine-id

Because we don't use systemd, we need to create /etc/machine-id and /var/lib/dbus/machine-id. manually. This is only needed for desktop systems.

See [this article][machineid] for more info.

  dbus-uuidgen | tee /etc/machine-id /var/lib/dbus/machine-id

power button handling

This patch prevents the /etc/acpi/ to handle the power button instead, letting the Desktop Environment handle the event.

It does it by checking if a X session is running. In the /etc/rc.local script, we create a file called /run/ which is made writeable by all. The system is configured so that xdm or /etc/profile/ (when login as normal user on tty1) will start an X session and will use the scripts /etc/X11/xinit/session or /etc/X11/xdm/Xsession to start the session. From these scripts, the current X session information is saved to /run/

When /etc/acpi/ starts, it will check /run/ if it contains a running session. It will also check if a Desktop Environment power manager (in this case mate-power-manager) is running. If it is, then it will exit.

rtkit spamming logs

Apparently, rtkit requres an rtkit user to exist. Otherwise it will spam the logs with error messages. To correct use this command:

useradd -r -s /sbin/nologin rtkit

xen tweaks

For xen we need to make some adjustments...

  1. Tweak block device references.
    • /etc/fstab : mount xvda and other devices
    • /boot/cmdline : get the right xvda root device
  2. Enable disable services
    • Disable: slim, agetty-ttyX
    • Enable: agetty-hvc0
    • Decide if you want to use NetworkManager or dhcpcd.

Normally, I would create a tarball image to transfer over, in order for the image to work properly you need to save capabilities.

Old Notes

PolKit rule tweaks

Testing as of 2019-09-07, the following does not seem to be needed any longer. I left it here just for reference (in case it breaks again.

OK, in my case, shutdown, reboot and local media access functions were not available using the MATE desktop.

To enable this I had to create/tweak the PolKit rules...

Using SLIM

I have switched to SLiM as the display manager. This is configured in /etc/slim.conf.

Specifically, I update the login_cmd to be the following:

login_cmd exec /bin/sh -l /etc/X11/Xsession %session