Sunday, April 14, 2013

Developer Dissatisfaction Looms with Systemd

by Dietrich Schmitz

Things seem to be moving along swimmingly with ongoing development surrounding systemd, at least as far as Lead Developer Lennart Poettering is concerned who has outlined the plans for moving the project forward with hopefully full upstream community participation in lock step.

Some of the dissenters have been quite vocal about having systemd 'forced' on them.  Countering that sentiment is the prevailing argument that developers don't have to use systemd.  +Fabian Scherschel opened a talkback thread regarding my Linux Advocates story Systemd: The New PulseAudio in a public Google Plus post made yesterday with this comment:

There is no controversy. Unlike PA, it was adopted when it was ready to be adopted and everybody seems to like it very much. With the exception of the Ubuntu people but that seems to be based on NIH alone. This is a completely different situation then PA.

Fuduntu Founder +Andrew Wyatt returned fire with this volley:

ConsoleKit + UDev + Syslog + DBus + Polkit + Sysinit + this + that.   RedHat Enterprise Systemd is the best product we've ever been force fed.  We are facing being forced to integrate it at Fuduntu because it's replacing so many core tools now that it's impossible to continue the project without it.
It seems fairly understandable that smaller Distro Teams are indeed resource-strapped and so cannot muster the resources to refactor their programs to by-pass the new systemd project's major structural changes.  The volume of work necessary to avoid systemd will effectively result in forcing the Developers to do just what Mr. Wyatt describes--be forced to use systemd.  I would add that the other alternative would be to 'end of life' a distribution.

That would be most unfortunate if that were to happen and the possibility of many fledgling Distros not being able to accommodate systemd to their own demise seems to be a distinct possibility.

Will a Linux Distribution 'consolidation' occur?  That remains to be seen and Linux Advocates will continue to follow this story closely.

The matter of personalities also, unfortunately, has caused some undue friction as systemd Lead Developer Lennart Poettering, also developer of PulseAudio, has a penchant for freely speaking his mind and this has been a source of conflict that might have been completely avoided had he exercised a large degree of self restraint, tact and diplomacy in making public statements.

In one such statement, ran this story:

"In an interview with, Lennart Poettering speaks freely about his creations, PulseAudio, Avahi and systemd among other things. Naturally, what has stirred up most of the discussions online is Lennart's opinions on BSD. Following the recent proposal to make Gnome a Linux-exclusive desktop, Lennart explains that he thinks BSD support is holding back a lot of Free Software development. He says this while also taking a stab at Debian kFreeBSD: 'Debian kFreeBSD is a toy OS, people really shouldn't misunderstand that.'"
At this juncture, it's clear that systemd will not support kFreeBSD.  That appears to have not changed since the above story ran in 2011.

Debian's next operating system revision, is code named "Wheezy" (Debian 7.0).  An official release date has not yet been announced but the NewInWheezy page does confirm that systemd is included as an installable 'option'.

So, the tension is palpable and right under the surface is brewing dissatisfaction among the rank and file developers who must either deal a huge undertaking of refactoring code, packaging, etc., or cave in and simply implement systemd or worse simply perish.

The writing is on the wall.  Implement systemd or you are on your own, like it or not.

-- Dietrich
[Edit: 4/15/2013 9:00am GMT-5 This story just in confirms what I feared.  Fuduntu has been end of life'd.]

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  1. Well, if folks don't like systemd, they can always give Slackware a whirl :)

  2. This is very true. I was looking at Slackware this morning.

  3. Tell me again, Lennart, how systemd adhears to UNIX development principles...

  4. It's fun, and also interesting how interchangeable it is with FreeBSD in terms of configuration and software support. I sort-of miss having training wheels like built-in dependency resolution and an expansive software repository, but it's also much simpler without such things, and I haven't run into a whole lot of software that doesn't compile properly from source.

  5. Linux is becoming less-and-less Unix-like. Whether that's a good thing or not is debatable and subject to perspective. Maybe those legal troubles with SCO are finally taking their toll?

  6. Don't know about developers, but this sysadmin doesn't like systemd. Honestly, who created the user interface? It's awful.