Debian Gets Forked

Dec 02, 2014

Legendary Uber-distro splits over the systemd controversy.

A group of Debian developers have announced that they are forking the Debian source code to start a new Linux project, which they have dubbed Devuan (pronounced “DevOne” in English). The group, which calls itself the Veteran Unix Admin (VUA) collective, is alarmed about the drift of most major Linux distos toward the systemd service manager daemon. A service manager is the first process that starts on a Linux system, and it has the role of starting other processes. The init tool served as a universal service manager for Linux and for many Unix systems until recently, when several Linux vendors became concerned that the init code was too slow and not versatile enough for modern systems.

Fedora, Red Hat, and SUSE have all switched to using systemd instead of init. Ubuntu launched Upstart as an init alternative, but when the mainstream Debian project switched to systemd, Ubuntu, which is based on Debian code, adopted systemd also. Many developers, however, are concerned that systemd places restrictions on freedom and flexibility by making too many assumptions about the environment. They also say systemd doesn't work well with core Linux components such as Xorg. According to the Devuan developers, “We believe this situation is also the result of a longer process leading to the take-over of Debian by the Gnome project.”

Because so many other distros are built from the Debian codebase, changing Debian to systemd almost guarantees that many downstream distros will have to change with it. The Devuan developers say they want to offer an alternative for users, developers, and distributions that want to continue to support init.

Those who celebrate diversity and choice as important values for the Linux community will be happy to know that an init-based Debian alternative will continue. Those who express concern about the fragmentation and lack of standardization in Linux might be less enthusiastic.

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