Fedora 18 console screen res, help me understand systemd

Stuart Jansen sjansen at buscaluz.org
Thu Mar 28 20:31:41 MDT 2013

On Thu, 2013-03-28 at 08:32 -0600, Andy Bradford wrote:
> Can you point me to  this overwhelming plethora of system administrators
> who were clamoring for systemd?

I count myself among the sysadmins who welcomed systemd. I wouldn't say
I clamored. Frankly, as I get older I get lazier and the thought of
learning something new didn't excite me. But the more I read about
systemd the more I realized it was qualitatively better than SysV or

Here's how I would characterize the history of *nix booting:

In the beginning was BSD-style init. I was simple and beautiful.
Tragically it didn't meet everyone's needs so SysV was invented.

When I was still teaching Linux classes, I preached the gospel of SysV.
"It's all just shell scripts! If you ever have a problem, just read the
script. Awesome!"

But it was a lie.

I couldn't admit it to myself at the time, but whenever I dug into a
boot script I always came away feeling a little more disgusted. 

Sometimes it was "I can't believe something so trivial requires so much

Other times it was "this app is so stupid, I can't believe how much
shell script, duct tape, and chewing gum is required to manage it".
(Aside: it is always a mistake for a daemon to require a command line
option because there isn't an equivalent config file option.)

Don't get me wrong. I love shell scripting. It's an adrenaline sport,
like chess with higher stakes. I imagine running with the bulls in
Pamplona must feel similar. But let's be honest, shell is a horrible,
miserable, no good, error prone language.

Reading boot scripts scares me. Invariably I either end of frighten by
how fragile the script is, or frightened by how complicated it must be
in order to be robust.

Admit it, if SysV were so great then why have so many alternatives been
created? daemontools, runit, supervisord, etc.

Which brings us to Upstart. Like a hot knife through butter it stripped
away cruft and proved just how inadequate and complicated SysV was. No
more fragile scripts. No more implicit dependencies hiding behind
start/stop numbers. No more forking thousands of times just to start a
couple daemons.

Of course Upstart had it's own problems. It's event-based approach made
faster boot possible, but it was thinking about dependency the wrong
way. Instead of "networking is configured, now I can start the web
server" it should be "I want to start a web server, so I'd better
configure networking".

Inspired by Upstart, systemd's creators realized the time was right for
bolder improvements. Whereas previous solutions had deliberately
crippled themselves in the name of portability, systemd takes full
advantage of Linux-only features.

Let's pick just one example: pid files. They suck. Have you ever been
bitten by stale pid files? I have. While some have tried to use ptrace
to track children, it's never caught on because it's too fragile. In
contrast, systemd's use of cgroups is brilliant. Obvious in retrospect,
but brilliant. I still remember the "of course!" feeling the first time
I read about it.

Buffering log messages? Of course! 
Integrated container support? Of course! 
Integrated filesystem management? Of course!

I will admit I'm not wild about parts of systemd's interface. I think
it's tragic that so many of the technical details are a giant step
forward but systemctl feels deliberately obtuse sometimes. Oh well,
can't win 'em all I guess.

I will also admit that portability to other *nix flavors is important to
some people. But I'm not one of them.

Instead, I wouldn't point out that systemd is finally helping to
increase the unity of Linux. While it does includes allowance for
different ditros, it has erased alot of the pointless little differences
between distros. Now that's what I call portability!

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