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The Neverending Systemd Saga

The Neverending Systemd Saga

"My only question would be... what happened to the so-called 'freedom of choice?'" asked SoylentNews blogger hairyfeet. "Sure, you can jury-rig a replacement -- that won't be supported and which will automatically mean you won't be getting any help, as the users will blame THAT no matter what -- but how is this any different than jamming a third-party, unsupported program into Windows?"

By Katherine Noyes LinuxInsider ECT News Network
05/19/14 9:30 AM PT

Here in the Linux blogosphere, controversies come and go like the wind, leaving a trail of broken chalk and empty whiskey bottles in their wake. Most pass quietly into the annals of time of their own accord, however, so when a luminary such as Eric Steven Raymond, or ESR, weighs in with an opinion, it's a safe bet there's something big going on.

That is what happened back in March on Slashdot on the topic of Systemd, and the conversation recently surfaced again.

"I find myself faced with a dilemma," wrote systemDead in an Ask Slashdot post entitled, "Practical Alternatives To Systemd?"

"Should I just let systemd take over my entire system," the blogger wrote, "or should I retreat to my old terminal-based computing in the hope that the horde of the systemDead don't take over the Linux kernel itself?"

'You Have to Accept It'

Many in the Slashdot crowd weren't shy about expressing their opinions.

"Whether you love, hate, or are ambivalent about systemd, I think you have to accept it at this point," wrote Slashdot blogger Bryan Ischo, for example.

"If there are things you don't like about it, trying to use an alternate init mechanism is only going to cause you personal grief that will likely only increase in severity over time as it gets harder and harder to retrofit software packages to use other init systems as systemd further embeds itself into the Linux software world," Ischo added.

On the other hand, "Wow.... someone asks what they can do about having a software package shoved down [their] throat and your response is just open wide and swallow?" countered armanox. "I thought this was supposed to be about freedom."

Few would deny the controversial nature of Systemd's history. Down at the Linux blogosphere's Broken Windows Lounge, patrons had plenty of their own thoughts to share.

'Not Ready for Prime Time'

"I agree with Eric Raymond," offered Google+ blogger Alessandro Ebersol, for example. "I think it's a technology that's still young and presents more problems at the moment than benefits.

"If it changes in the future, perhaps it will become a standard," Ebersol added. "Right now, it's not ready for prime time."

Similarly, "I'm not an expert, but I've read and heard that systemd has a lot of things 'included' -- or should we say, 'tied up' -- in it, creating dependencies that won't allow distros to have different options painlessly," Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C. told Linux Girl.

Another commonly held belief is that "it is more than just a technological issue but a political one, in the sense that one group -- led by Red Hat -- took the front position by having this init system chosen as default by other distros, such as Debian and family, eliminating the others eventually," Gonzalo Velasco C. added.

At issue is "not only the speed of system initialization -- claimed to be faster with systemd -- but also security and freedom of choice, he added.

'Strange Definition of Freedom'

Indeed, "my only question would be... what happened to the so-called 'freedom of choice?'" asked SoylentNews blogger hairyfeet. "It looks like, just like ALSA suddenly getting tossed for Pulse when it wasn't even alpha quality, the powers that be have decided you WILL take systemd, like it or not.

"Sure, you can jury-rig a replacement -- that won't be supported and which will automatically mean you won't be getting any help, as the users will blame THAT no matter what -- but how is this any different than jamming a third-party, unsupported program into Windows?

"Just like Pulse, the community will get systemd... like it or not," hairyfeet concluded. "Freedom to take what you are given -- strange definition of freedom."

'A Real Problem'

"I think there can be a real problem here, but I don't know if we have enough evidence yet," Google+ blogger Kevin O'Brien told Linux Girl.

"The Unix philosophy has generally been to have small, targeted tools and string them together as needed," O'Brien explained. "But in Linux you arguably have forces pushing the other way, particularly with the monolithic kernel.

"My own bias is towards the small targeted tools, because if something goes wrong, it does not take down everything," he added. "But there may be reasons I am not aware of why systemd needs to do all of these things, even if I can't think of them."

'What Could Go Wrong?'

Blogger Robert Pogson was noncommittal as well.

"I don't know what to do about systemd," Pogson told Linux Girl. "I have it running on my system and I hardly notice anything different in how the system behaves besides a few lines in the syslog.

"I would prefer to keep things simple, but as long as the boys and girls at Debian sort the mess out for me, I guess I am going along for the ride," he added. "If anything really bad happens, I can always regress and use another distro or hack away at Debian to make it work for me."

Pogson thought SysVinit was "just fine," he said. "As long as systemd stays out of my way, I don't care much what it does. APT is working well, as are all my applications and my custom kernel. What could go wrong?"


Katherine Noyes is always on duty in her role as Linux Girl, whose cape she has worn since 2007. A mild-mannered journalist by day, she spends her evenings haunting the seedy bars and watering holes of the Linux blogosphere in search of the latest gossip. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.


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