Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Journald: just a reinvention of the wheel?

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Two months back, Red Hat developers Lennart Poettering and Kay Sievers proposed a fundamental change to the structure of Linux in the shape of the Journal daemon, meant to replace the venerable syslog.


Syslog, as the name implies, provides a means of logging activity in a system. It has been around for about 30 years; an improved version known as rsyslog has been created by developer Rainer Gerhards, and is used as the default on Debian systems.

There has been much chatter about the virtues and evils of replacing syslog with Journald; Poettering, it must be remembered, is the man behind systemd, which serves as a replacement for the Sys V init scripts on some GNU/Linux distributions, and also PulseAudio, which, as the name implies, is a replacement for the sound management applications on GNU/Linux systems. His projects generally do invite comment.

Some developers have even started a petition online against Journald.

Journald is tied to systemd; this means Debian will not use it whenever it does emerge, the reason being that Debian has a port that uses the FreeBSD kernel. Systemd can be used only with the Linux kernel. A test version of Journald has just been released along with systemd v38 but a smaller number of bigger features are lacking.

Poettering has advanced in detail the reasoning behind the proposal for Journald and many of his reasons seem to be logical. But many developers are wary of one aspect of his proposal - the fact that the journal file format will not be standardised and will be varied as the creators see fit.

Senior Linux kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman is supportive of the idea and does not see it as reinventing the wheel. He also does not see it as a Red Hat-ism and thinks that there is plenty of logic to the claims made by Poettering and Sievers about the superiority of what they propose, over the existing implementations.

And Kroah-Hartman does not read too much into the statements that the file format will not be standardised. "Since when is it going to be undocumented?" he asked in response to queries by iTWire. "The developers are just stating that at the moment, as the project is young and not fully finished, they aren't going to guarantee that the log format is stable, and as such, it's 'undocumented'."

He said he did not see what the fuss was about. "I really do not know, (maybe) people don't like change?" he said, adding, "given that there is not even any code that has been produced yet, and given that the track record of the developers creating this code is _very_ good, I am not really worried at all about this."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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