Void Linux was created in 2008 by Juan Romero Pardines, a former developer of NetBSD, to have a test-bed for the XBPS package manager. The ability to natively build packages from source using xbps-src is likely inspired by pkgsrc and other BSD ports collections.
In May 2018, the project was moved to a new website and code repository by the core team after the project leader had not been heard from for several months.
As of December 2021, Void is the fourth highest rated project on DistroWatch with a score of 9.07 out of 10.
Void is a notable exception to the majority of Linux distributions because it uses runit as its init system instead of the more common systemd used by other distributions including Arch Linux, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, Mageia and Ubuntu. It is also unique among distributions in that separate software repositories and installation media using both glibc and musl are available.
Void was the first distribution to have incorporated LibreSSL as the system cryptography library by default. In February 2021, the Void Linux team announced the switching back to OpenSSL on March 5, 2021. Among the reasons were the problematic process of patching software that was primarily written to work with OpenSSL, the support for some optimizations and earlier access to newer algorithms. A switch to OpenSSL began in April 2020 in the GitHub issue of the void-packages repository where most of the discussion has taken place.
Due to its rolling release nature, a system running Void is kept up-to-date with binary updates always carrying the newest release. Source packages are maintained on GitHub and can be compiled using the xbps-src build system. The package build process is performed in a clean environment, not tied to the current system, and most packages can be cross-compiled for foreign architectures.
As of April 2017, Void Linux supports Flatpak, which allows the installation of the latest packages from upstream repositories.
Jesse Smith of DistroWatch notes fast boot times which he credited to runit, but also notes that documentation and bug-testing are lacking.
Void Linux can be downloaded as a base image or as a flavor image. The base image contains little more than basic programs, which users can then configure an environment for themselves. The flavor image contains a pre-configured Xfce desktop environment. Cinnamon, Enlightenment, LXDE, LXQt, MATE, and GNOME used to be offered as pre-packaged live images, but are no longer offered "in order to decrease the overhead involved with testing."
The live images contain an installer that offers a ncurses-based user interface. The default root shell is Dash.
Void Linux for PowerPC/Power ISA (unofficial) is a fork of Void Linux for PowerPC and Power ISA. It supports 32-bit and 64-bit devices, big-endian and little-endian operation, and musl and glibc. Void-ppc maintains its own build infrastructure and package repositories, and aims to build all of Void Linux's packages on all targets. It is a fork largely because of technical issues with Void Linux's build infrastructure.
Project Trident was the first Linux distribution based on Void Linux, but has since been discontinued.
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