The systemd debate

Systemd: Harbinger of the Linux apocalypse

It might not be the end of the world, but the design of systemd and the attitudes of its developers have been counterproductive

The systemd debate

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No matter which side of the argument you're on, this monolithic approach is in violation of the rules of Unix, specifically the rule stating it's best to have small tools that do one job perfectly rather than one large tool that is mediocre at performing many jobs. Prior to this, all the functions subsumed by systemd were accomplished by assembling small tools in such a way that they performed the desired function. These same tools could be used within a variety of other scripts to perform myriad tasks -- there was no singular way to do anything, which allowed for extreme freedom to address and fix problems. It also allowed for poor implementations of some functions, simply because they were poorly assembled. You can't have both, after all.

That's not the end of the story. There's more happening with systemd than many might realize. First, systemd is rather inelegantly designed. While there are many defensible aspects of systemd, other aspects boggle the mind. Not the least of these was that, as of a few months ago, trying to debug the kernel from the boot line would cause the system to crash. This was because of systemd's voracious logging and the fact that systemd responds to the "debug" flag on the kernel boot line -- a flag meant for the kernel, not anything else. That, straight up, is a bug.

However, the systemd developers didn't see it that way and actively fought with those experiencing the problem. Add the fact that one of the systemd developers was banned by Linus Torvalds for poor attitude and bad design and another was responsible for causing significant issues with Linux audio support, but blamed the problem on everything else but his software, and you have a bad situation on your hands.

There's no shortage of egos in the open source development world. There's no shortage of new ideas and veteran developers and administrators pooh-poohing something new simply because it's new. But there are also 45 years of history behind Unix and extremely good reasons it's still flourishing. Tools designed like systemd do not fit the Linux mold, to their own detriment. Systemd's design has more in common with Windows than with Unix -- down to the binary logging.

My take is that systemd is a good idea poorly implemented, developed by people with enormous egos who firmly believe they can do no wrong. As it stands now, both systemd and the developers responsible for it need to change. In the open source world, change is a constant and sometimes violent process, and upheavals around issues such as systemd aren't necessarily bad. That said, these battles cannot be drawn out forever without causing irreparable harm -- and any element as integral to the stability and functionality of Linux as systemd has even less time than most.

This story, "Systemd: Harbinger of the Linux apocalypse," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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