As a rat who will be among the first to flee any sinking ship, my whiskers are twitching at the prospect of staying aboard Linux. Despite all the fine efforts some people are making to stay in a systemd-free parallel universe, there seem to be changes coming to the kernel from the same folks that brought us systemd, and these changes are symbiotic.
With the same political-like moves used to push systemd into most major distros in record time, kdbus (a kernel-based implementation of dbus) was recently dug out of its grave, propped up to make it look half-alive, and is being pushed into the kernel whether it fits or not. When Linus said a week or two ago, “Now this looks like a big oversight, and serious” in politely talking about one of kdbus’s ridiculous approaches to security, one wonders whether he was prophesying about the fate of Linux and kdbus in general. This Gentoo forum thread is a good read for catching up on the sensationalized push to put kdbus into the kernel the last few weeks, it’s relationship to systemd (Red Hat of course), and some of the history on this.
I think with kdbus and systemd installed, you will have a completely bugged system, from the inside out, kill switch included. That’s just a hunch, mind you, but what else are smartphones good for? Coming soon, if Red Hat doesn’t like your program, it won’t run on Linux – only approved apps are ‘safe’. I think they simply told Linus, “kdbus goes in now, like it or not”. One person can’t stop all of the pressures involved, so don’t expect him to. Instead, we have to know when to jump ship. Especially if Linus retires soon and hands the kernel over to a Red Hat developer, run-don’t-walk for the door.
As for BSDs, you can see FreeBSD lead developers already acclimating their users to systemd, and trying to turn BSD too into a mobile phone kinda thing. Even master Linux-slayer Lennart Poettering gave it his official ‘okie dokie’.
Of course, the heretofore-known-for-stability Debian recently released Jessie featuring systemd. I’m definitely in the crowd taking the road less traveled on this one. I think this is a time for conservative changes, hanging back, sniffing the air, even if you just prefer huge amounts of new code running as PID 1 to be better tested, or if you don’t care for Red Hat overwriting your boot firmware and blacklisting manufacturers who don’t play ball. Linux is being redesigned, eaten alive really, so at some point it’s no longer what it was. Its course of development is not based on the same principles, even if the GUI looks the same for now. Knowing how entrenched things get, I think this is the time to take a new direction, even if that direction is regression.
Even if you don’t mind that NSA toy Red Hat single-handedly controls xorg, udev, etc. (the list is long), the new systemd that rocketed to fame and widespread adoption overnight, and now the large, complex, new and wildly non-secure-on-principle kdbus kernel patch being slipped in to complement it, you may see some other potential problems with this picture.
I don’t think long-term planning is possible for Linux anymore, because one thing about the crowd that develops systemd and kdbus is for sure: they break things and make unpredictable changes without consulting anyone. It’s not Grandpa’s style of cooperative Linux development anymore. It’s their OS and you’re just a user. Overall I think the only reasonable long-term plan for Linux is to plan for, wait for, or create something else.
Yet for the short-term, in addition to Devuan‘s plans to fork Debian soon (some pre-alpha ISOs already), there are some distros that are staying systemd-free already, and I think this is about the best you can do in Linux for now. Here’s a list (thanks to everyone who brought these to my attention):
Several systemd-free Distros
- Alpine Linux
- antiX (based on Debian)
- Calculate Linux
- Entropy GNU/Linux (formerly Less Systemd GNU/Linux)
- Gentoo (ready options exist)
- Manjaro (see OpenRC options)
- Puppy Linux
- Void Linux
For more see without-systemd.org.