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Friday, 17 October 2014 12:15

Feature-creep will ensure that systemd stays Featured

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A few days back, the Debian project leader Lucas Nussbaum averred that the new init system, systemd, that has been made the default in Debian, could be avoided and that users could go back to SysV init.

Nussbaum was, no doubt, sincere in what he said. But his remedy to avoid what has become a major issue for many Debian users can only be used for so long.

Feature-creep is a major aspect of systemd. It seems to want to take over the entire Linux system and poke its tentacles into unwanted places. And there is no better way to describe this feature than the way senior systems administrator, Craig Sanders, did recently.

Sanders, a Debian developer himself, has that rare ability of being able to strip a great many things of hysteria and emotion — very common in the FOSS world — and stick to pure commonsense. With a few others, he resides in the no-BS zone. In this respect, what he has to say is worth reading.

"The problem with systemd is not that it makes some minor changes to the init process, but that it tries to do too much," Sanders wrote in a post to one of the mailing lists of the Linux Users of Victoria a week ago, as part of a thread about Lennart Poettering's baby.

"If systemd just did init, then nobody would give a damn, but it's absorbing way too many low-level system functions into itself - udev has been merged; it does logging; has half-arsed substitutes for ntpd, cron, automount, inetd, and network configuration. This feature-creep is on-going, with more being absorbed into systemd all the time... and announced just a few days ago, a console daemon to replace the kernel's virtual terminals.

"Apart from the inevitable problems associated with being a jack-of-all-trades (and) master-of-none, the result will be the death of innovation for all functions absorbed into systemd as it is impossible to replace any one of them without replacing systemd entirely... which makes the job of developing improvements just too big a job.

"Right now, we have several alternatives to choose between for cron, ntp, logging, etc - each of them with different advantages and disadvantages. With systemd, it becomes a one-size-fits-all-or-else situation. If what it does doesn't suit you then tough luck, because you can't replace it without breaking your system.

"The second major problem with systemd is that it is becoming (or has become) mandatory - unnecessary dependencies on logind or systemd itself make it nearly impossible to avoid having systemd installed.

"At least, when Gnome jumped the shark with Gnome 3 there were alternatives like KDE, XFCE, LXDE, etc we could switch to. There'll be no such alternative for systemd. For a while it will still be possible to hang on to SysVinit or Upstart or whatever, but eventually the effort required to keep everything working with dependencies breaking stuff all the time will be too great."


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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