Debian will unlikely be forked

The ‘Init Wars’ around systemd are still not over yet, unfortunatly. New flames rose from the ambers on the weekend when Ian Jackson revisited a proposal for a GR (General Resolution) that had died away in March when first proposed because it could not even muster 5 supporters. Under the flag of ‘Preserve freedom of choice of init-systems’ he tries to abandon “coupling” and “loose coupling” of the package providing PID 1 with other packages if not strictly necessary. That is all fine and dandy, but who does the work? You cannot make upstream or package maintainers do work they don’t want to do. Besides that I have not forgotten Jacksons role in the decision making on a new init system for Jessie within the Technical Comitee (CTTE) in February. So one could suspect, Jackson wants more than he is telling us.

Just two days later – what a coincidence – another initiative jumps the bandwagon, threatening to fork debian, should systemd stay the default for Jessie. They describe themselves as “Veteran Unix Admins” that want to control init “with shell scripts that are readable, because readability grants a certain level of power and consciousness for those among us who are literate” Now c’mon, that must be a joke, right? No, they seem to be serious! Did you ever compare init scripts with systemd’s service files? Then you should know better. I also can’t honestly imagine that a lot of weathered system admins would choose sysvinit over systemd. The ones that I know, prefer systemd but do not talk about it because they have work to do.

The approach of this anonymous group – their website is on a private domain – shares something with most of the systemd boycotters: lack of technical arguments that will stand longer than a minute in a open discussion with open minded people. What we do find is a lot of FUD like “The current leadership of the project [debian] is heavily influenced by GNOME developers and too much inclined to consider desktop needs as crucial to the project, despite the fact that the majority of Debian users are tech-savvy system administrators.

My take on the whole init war is that it is solely a social phenomenon. We tend to stick to what we are used to and have a hard time accepting new ways of doing things, even if they are superiour. We religiously want to stick to the UNIX philosophy because it kept us warm and dry for the last 30 years. But sometimes a deeper cut is needed to move on and not be stuck with the inferior, even though it served us well for many a year.

And please do not believe the systemd-trolls, they are not telling you the truth. Debian jessie has perfect freedom of choice. It has an essential meta-package “init“, which requires (and allows) you to install either systemd-sysv, sysvinit-core or upstart. So that means more freedom of choice than before!

That being said, a fork of debian that would truly justify the name would be a huge effort, made up of hard work instead of big words. But other than uselessd words are all we got so far. So my take on this is that the threat of forking debian is quite a blunt weapon. And for the ones who like their popcorn served with a flame war: Wayland vs Xorg lies ahead 🙂

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