Surviving systemd – a quick look at a few alternatives…

By | May 19, 2016

Regardless of why (and there a number of valid reasons), you might like to avoid using such a large project without so much as a specification or standard behind it.  Fortunately there are still a number of options out there if you don’t want a systemdOS clone.  I’ll present three options ranging from could do better to plausible and then finally the best in class.

Devuan

Sadly I have to say Devuan is a real disappointment, its taken a very long time to get to beta let alone release and while it provides you with a familiar Debian like environment (before Debian morphed into yet another systemdOS clone) I have to say I have very serious reservation about the security of Devuan and this is not down to any particular defaults, but solely to lack of regular package updates.  It appears as if they have taken Debian packages and rooted them firmly in cement.  Opting for a fork of udev instead of a more actively pursued eudev (from Gentoo) I have to wonder how much day to day work is being done on vdev, although it does seems there is a package for eudev this isn’t installed by default.

All in all I’m really not sure about the viability of Devuan they seem to have taken a long time to provide a lot of old packages, with very sparse updates, the back ports repo looks empty and I’m unsure what their policy is regarding timely updates to packages for security updates (recently published zero days etc).  You might think I’m being harsh but where more than a week can go by without an update it doesn’t inspire confidence.

 

Gentoo

The only real criticisms you can level at Gentoo is the constant compiling and its quite technical nature, you’re not going to leave this installed on some none technical relatives computer unless you visit them regularly and probably if they also cook for you, you’re looking at extended building of packages as often as every few days – while you can lash something up to compile in the wee small hours – not everyone leaves their computer on 24/7 and it certainly wouldn’t be a hands off affair… That said hardware is faster today then it ever was and AMD have some 32+ core chips on the horizon that look promising so…. who knows….

Of course the real place that Gentoo shines is in its flexibility, you can configure most packages to work with (or without need for) many different dependencies and this level of flexibility is unprecedented maybe only approached by an adventurous off piste riffle through the LFS

If you are confident in your technical ability and don’t mind you cpu grinding away while you are doing other things, Gentoo should definitely not be discarded out of hand.

 

Void Linux

For a while this OS did struggle with my favourite waste of time and money (Steam) but they have by now got a firm grasp on avoiding the less than ideal implementation of SSL that many others seem to lean towards.  This isn’t the only indication they aren’t scared of doing something different for the sake of improving things (not just to be new!), while I’m not convinced of any desperate need to improve sysv – runit plays its role just fine, for a little bit of learning its a low overhead low pain replacement.  There really isn’t any need to add a whole extra layer to the userland just to “solve” a none problem that’s not intrinsically that complex.

This rolling release is maintained brilliantly and there are updates usually on a daily basis, the package manager (xbps) while it take a little learning is fast and has yet to choke on me in some of the spectacular ways I’ve seen RPM do in my past history.  I’ve left a number of none technical people with Void on their machines and while the xbps gui (OctoXbps) needs some explaining (it could be a little more intuitive) I’ve basically had a hands off experience with their machines. Xbps will even allow some actions without root access, for example you can synchronise the repo in memory (the sync is volatile), this allows you to check for an update without root credentials – coupled with zenity its trivial to whip up a GUI script to notify you of updates without need to type a password after log in ! There are a lot of options and its a powerful suite of tools.  Another nice touch is the vkpurge tool which lets you easily get rid of old kernels properly – something often not so well implemented on some systems.

 

So there really is life after systemd and despite people wanting to dictate exactly how your machine should be set up, you still can have a system that feels distinct, flexible and easy to use… Maybe Linux will survive the corporate onslaught….

 

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