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kdbus: systemd’s Kid Cousin Come To Stay (No, Not PID 1, In Your Kernel, Silly)

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

For more see without-systemd.org.

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May 4, 2015 - Posted by | News, reviews


  1. I feel Funtoo should be added to your list, it is specifically against systemd and will never support it which is a stronger stance than that of gentoo and one that should be respected and applauded. The reason gnome 3 can be used in gentoo without systemd is because of work done in funtoo.

    Comment by alexis | May 4, 2015

    • Thanks, I have updated the list, and would like to hear of any distros or projects that are taking a firmer direction with this, as well as supporting eudev and vdev. People can call these ‘hold-outs’, but with the way things are going we could be seeing a major Linux fork. eg Classic Linux and systemd Linux. I hope so because they’re very different and the systemd branch is trying to replace rather than add to options.

      Comment by IgnorantGuru | May 4, 2015

      • Indeed, it certainly would be an exciting step. I think there are enough people and resources (not to mention general feeling) but that it would be a question of pooling and working together for a common cause. For better or for worse, it’s an interesting time.

        Comment by alexis | May 4, 2015

        • Unless it is Linus himself forking Linux, with the *original* Linux being maintained by Red Hat, we cannot expect much from a fork. The speed of development of the kernel is too high and unless the leader of the fork is a well recognized one, it won’t gain much traction.

          Comment by Anonymous Penguin | May 4, 2015

          • Someone here to tell us don’t even think of forking. Red Hat is going to maintain Classic Linux? Ummm…

            The reason kernel development is so fast is because Red Hat and other corporate hacks constantly dump so much code into it, for all their little agendas. Most of us don’t need any of that, quite the opposite. I could use a kernel from 10 years ago and not care.

            The only reason this may not gain “traction” is because Red Hat and whatever is behind them runs constant PR and troll campaigns, and actively seek to disrupt consensus from forming and getting real progress going in Linux, such as all the trolls and nonsense Devuan is having to deal with. They sure do seem to care.

            But thanks for discouraging us. I will admit that much of the Linux community seems pretty whipped – they’ll just accept whatever they’re told to accept. Still, a simple solution to all of this doesn’t take much, and it will be far easier than dealing with all their radical changes. I say cut them lose and continue development of the real Linux, nice and slow.

            There are already effective forks of the kernel, as every distro uses its own kernel patches. Really there isn’t a choice. If you want any kind of free computing, you have to create it, as Red Hat certainly isn’t going to hand it to you. If you think they’re stopping with systemd guess again – that’s the whole point of this article.

            Comment by IgnorantGuru | May 5, 2015

      • antiX linux (ships with spaceFM preinstalled and) is systemd-free http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=antix

        Comment by Cindi Loohoo | May 5, 2015

        • antiX has supported SpaceFM for a long time. Looks like great work being done there despite the Debian relationship. I may give this a try.

          Comment by IgnorantGuru | May 5, 2015

  2. Hi, nice to see you posting.
    What about slackware? I see at least two of the most important devs there, Eric Alien bob Hameleers and the man Patrick Volkerding himself being strongly against systemd, and actually slackware current does not ship with shims, logind and whatnot

    Comment by Theodore | May 4, 2015

  3. You could add Entropy GNU/Linux and Springlinux (formerly VoidBang) to your list.
    With best regards …

    Comment by Wolfgangon Payne | May 5, 2015

  4. Also the old good slackware!

    Comment by Anonymous | May 5, 2015

  5. Many of you have probably seen this already, but Lennart Poettering talks about “What We Want” and his visions for Linux in a blog post here, in case you thought I was joking about Linux being replaced. What’s most laughable to me is how he refers to “The systemd cabal” and names a few developers along with himself. Isn’t it funny how they never bring attention to the fact that these are all simply Red Hat hacks doing what they’re told? They make it sound like such independent and personal work. Why not say Red Hat has these plans for fundamentally changing Linux? Why does billion-dollar corporation Red Hat hide behind these hacks?

    While he puts a positive spin on it all, one must look at these plans with a very careful eye:

    • We want an efficient way that allows vendors to package their software (regardless if just an app, or the whole OS) directly for the end user, and know the precise combination of libraries and packages it will operate with. [We want to dictate what libraries you use, with no choice on your part.]
    • We want to allow end users and administrators to install these packages on their systems, regardless which distribution they have installed on it. [You WILL install the packages we say.]
    • We want a unified solution [monolithic stack] that ultimately can cover updates for full systems, OS containers, end user apps, programming ABIs, and more… This is an absolute necessity if we want to prepare the ground for operating systems that manage themselves, that can update safely without administrator involvement. [Your system will not be under your control – we will update and change it for you because we know better.]
    • We want our images to be trustable (i.e. signed). In fact we want a fully trustable OS, with images that can be verified by a full trust chain from the firmware (EFI SecureBoot!), through the boot loader, through the kernel, and initrd. [We want to be able to blacklist any vendor or application.]

    NONE of this is new. It’s called Microsoft.

    I don’t believe that Lennart Poettering and these other hacks write things like systemd – they don’t discuss the code, they don’t understand it. I think they are handed it and told to sell it, and make a pretense of maintaining it. Gee, I wonder who hands it to them? With all the discussions of systemd, have you see a code review? Of course not. No one even understands how most of this code works.

    Comment by IgnorantGuru | May 5, 2015

  6. Calculate Linux doesn’t use systemd, too.

    Comment by kanyck | May 5, 2015

  7. JFYI: http://boycottkdbus.org/

    Comment by kanyck | May 5, 2015

    • Hate to say this, but this site is only a parody of, and making fun of, the “Boycott SystemD” website. I wouldn’t publicize it.

      Comment by Joe Blough | May 14, 2015

      • I was wondering about this, but some of the points did seem valid for kdbus. Anyway to prevent confusion I have removed the link. I also emailed the contact address and it bounced.

        Comment by IgnorantGuru | May 14, 2015

  8. Re: Your List
    – Maybe you should annotate that Manjaro does not reject systemd in general; that applies only to the community-based Openrc-edition.
    – While offering systemd as an alternative, Linux From Scratch (LFS) is still built with sysvinit – and the same should hold true, I suppose, for the BLFS-based NuTyx; at least, systemd is not included in their package list according to Distrowatch.

    Comment by Wolfgangon Payne | May 6, 2015

  9. What bothers me the most about all of this isn’t the technical aspect as that can be corrected. Painful, but correctable. It is the politics, meaning the attitudes, that has been building over the past few years. Besides the developers who collectively identify themselves as a “cabal” (perhaps that started as a pun of sorts), the past couple of weeks have offered an insight into the mindset of a couple of Debian developers.

    First up is Russell Coker who set out to opine about “anti-systemd people” in http://etbe.coker.com.au/2015/04/26/anti-systemd-people/ He likes it for various reasons, fair enough, But then he writes the following paragraph that, well, speaks for itself:

    “For some reason the men in the Linux community who hate women the most seem to have taken a dislike to systemd. I understand that being “conservative” might mean not wanting changes to software as well as not wanting changes to inequality in society but even so this surprised me. My last blog post about systemd has probably set a personal record for the amount of misogynistic and homophobic abuse I received in the comments. More gender and sexuality related abuse than I usually receive when posting about the issues of gender and sexuality in the context of the FOSS community! For the record this doesn’t bother me, when I get such abuse I’m just going to write more about the topic in question.”

    I’m not going to argue that there are a lot of trolls and idiots on the Internet, but the first two sentences belie a mind that is made up and closed to further discussion which is further revealed in his replies to the comments to the post. I cannot conjure up any sort of logic that removes the first sentence from the category of non sequitur.

    Second is an exchange that took place yesterday on one of the more obscure Debian mailing lists. The exchange involved a long time Debian Developer who was rightfully a bit upset of being removed from the Uploaders section of a package by a new maintainer without any communication by the NM. A long thread ensued which resulted in Debian Developer John Paul Adrian Glaubitz dropping this gem:

    “But there is also the thing of older people being afraid of new things and new people. Remember the systemd flamewars on debian-devel and everywhere on the web? There were especially older Linux users and developers who went so paranoid they completely freaked out which eventually lead to several DDs resigning just because they couldn’t cope with long overdue changes.”

    in https://lists.debian.org/debian-hams/2015/05/msg00074.html

    In both instances I am seeing the new mindset of Debian Development and I don’t like it. The lack of respect for what and who has gone before and the dismissal of objection as coming from “older” (agism, anyone?) people afraid of change or that any objection must be in response to some Social Justice Warrior’s agenda. Neither assertion is demonstrably true.

    It seems as though what these developers fail to understand is that many of us were burned by new and shiny with huge promises years ago and look at these new packages with a skepticism borne of well earned experience. It is the arrogance displayed by this new crop of developers that I find the most distressing.

    I am “older”, I guess, in my early 50s. I do evaluate changes more cautiously these days to determine if they’re worthwhile. I have evaluated systemd for well over a year and while I still have it running on my laptop, I have excised it from my desktop and saw its performance increase dramatically and stay running well over a period of days where before the system would become less and less responsive. Other than dumping systemd, my software packages are the same and my usage pattern is the same. Perhaps the main feature of systemd is to force frequent reboots!

    Comment by Nate Bargmann | May 7, 2015

  10. Fun reading. As always.

    Comment by Whatever | May 11, 2015

  11. Based on the work of the Gentoo OpenRC team, which was adapted for Arch by the Manjaro guys, it’s (still) possible to remove systemd from Arch Linux, in favour of openrc: http://systemd-free.org

    Comment by systemd-free | May 12, 2015

  12. “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’.”

    This is not true. Jordan Hubbard worked into Apple as director of UNIX technologies. Launchd just replace crond, watchdogd and inetd, speed up boot time and uses XML as config file. systemd replace almost every daemons in the system and make unnecessary others as PID1 like logind, timedated, jornald (the hell), networkd and include resource to control concontainers and hurts the Linux debugging system. Are you really sure you want to compare the systemd cancer against launchd which is doing just one thing and do it reliably?

    What’s being proposed for FreeBSD is port Launchd and remove the XML support switching to UCL (human readable) and UCL config giles for all the OS to universalize the config files turning all of them human readable and turn FreeBSD even more modular (conforms Unix philosophy).

    In that video Lennart have showed who he really is: an unethical developer trolling other communities who he doesn’t make part, spreading FUD/hatred against those communities. If that guy was in my company, he would be FIRED TOMORROW.

    Comment by Dharc | May 30, 2015

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