Debian init decision further isolates Ubuntu

Debian init decision further isolates Ubuntu

Summary: Going forward, systemd will be Debian's default init system for Linux distributions, an init system soon to be used by every other major Linux distribution other than Ubuntu.

TOPICS: Linux, Mobile OS, Ubuntu

Debian's technical committee has thrown its lot in with systemd, after chairman Bdale Garbee gave the casting vote that decided the fractured and heated debate over which init system Debian would use in future releases.

As expected, the final vote came down to a 4:4 tie between systemd and upstart, with Garbee needed to break the deadlock.

A highly charged debate that took over three months to complete, and contained two stalled votes and one failed coup, finally appears settled, barring a general resolution in Debian's developer base that could overturn the decision.

With Garbee's casting vote giving systemd the win, Canonical and its Ubuntu Linux distribution continue on a path of isolation and increasing distance from the other large Linux vendors.

Upon the next release of Debian and Red Hat Linux, in which both are expected to ship systemd, the only red lines in this table of systemd adoption will be Ubuntu, which uses its own upstart system, and Gentoo, which defaults to using OpenRC but has systemd as its only other supported init system.

A bigger look at the foundation that Canonical has given Ubuntu shows that in the next year, Ubuntu will be bedding down its upstart init system, Mir display server, and Unity desktop environment, while the remainder of distributions will be focusing on systemd, moving to the Wayland display server and pushing on with GNOME or KDE as desktops.

Throw into the mix the fact that Ubuntu is not only looking at desktop distributions, but also Ubuntu Phone, and it's an awful lot of key operating system underpinning for one distribution on its own to build and support.

The omens for such a strategy are not kind, given that Mir has already been held back on the desktop once already.

Against the collective workload of the rest of the Linux community, and the need to maintain compatibility, it's hard to see how Ubuntu can maintain any level of progress in its own endeavours without being sidetracked by the need to bolt on quick compatibility patches to ensure applications can still work, or deciding that it is going to truly break free of the Linux community and go its own way entirely.

It's a decision that leaves Ubuntu in the tricky situation of being damned if it does, and damned if it doesn't.

As the Canonical-backed distribution turns more and more of its attention to its mobile offering, if Ubuntu Phone is successful, it would be fair to assume that economics would become a major factor and demand that the company focus even more of its time towards it. Should that happen, the Ubuntu desktop that users have come to know and love, and sometimes loathe in its Unity guise, may become a sideshow and feature lagger, rather than the innovator and breath of fresh air that it seemed to be when it first arrived on the scene.

Supporting such a large stack of software on its own could be manageable for Ubuntu with the revenues from mobile handsets, but on the desktop, doing everything on its own when the other Linux players are all moving in opposite directions looks more and more like madness.

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth must be certain that Ubuntu Phone is about to take off, otherwise he has guided his company into a position that is going to take some time to recover from.

Topics: Linux, Mobile OS, Ubuntu


Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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  • Linux will never learn

    differences like this is the main reason Linux will never be able to succeed in desktop. for every component there is a fork or two. If only they concentrated the power of Linux together and focused on user-friendliness Linux would've claimed their rightful place as the top operating system in desktop market. but their irreconcilable differences have facilitated Microsoft's growth. Linux is like a ship without a radar.
    Mr. Troller
    • Linux isn’t a single entity

      That is as much a strength as a weakness. It means that when a vendor (like Canonical) goes insane, it can't take the rest of Linux with it.
    • Unfortunately true

      The desktop chaos in the Linux world is a real disaster. My hope is KDE. The scope of KDE goes even beyound Linux (e.g. FreeBSD supports also KDE very well). I am really wondering why not everybody is working with KDE. All other desktops are really crap compared with KDE. KDE is developing nicely and has reached a good level of speed, stability and maturity. The KDE desktop requires some time to configure and master it but once this was done nothing can beat KDE. Although I am loving Ubuntu my dependency is primarily KDE and not Ubuntu so that at the end I will go to where KDE is going (and if it must be then even away from Kubuntu).
      • It's a feature...

        ...not a bug. I like being able to switch desktops with impunity.
        John L. Ries
        • After all...

          ...any of them will run any X client, provided that the proper libraries are installed and there's a standard set that is part of every Linux distro I can think of.
          John L. Ries
      • mine is always the bestest

        While I like KDE, your logic is about the level of a grade schooler.
        This is chaos so it will all be solved by choosing my desktop... Wow! That solves everything then.
        KDE is our main desktop but I also use XCFE and even like E17... thats called choice. And believe it or not, thats a good thing.
        The 'this is the best and everything else is crap' is once again better left for fanbois and pre-teens.

        EVERYONE has a different taste and while Gnome was NEVER a desktop I liked, I know enough smart and intelligent people whove sworn by it. THEY are as right as I am in which desktop is best for THEM because only THEY know best what they like.
        I think a strong Linux ecosystem needs that we continue giving users what they want and just because we use one desktop doesnt mean the others have no reason to exist.

        Besides, all this is redundant. Linux kernel and all the components that make up GNU-LInux are as well which means people can do WHAT THEY WANT with the code, thats part of the deal.
        Yeah, its easier to be on message when you are pushing only one view, hence Unity, but while I cant accept a Linux desktop where Unity is the only choice, i can not accept that KDE is worthy of the same.

        Its about making sure the user isnt told "this is what you are going to like and you have no choice" like he is by proprietary desktops.
        And yes, the configurability of KDE means that it can more easily mold itlself to look and work more like what the user wants and not what some UI specialist tells him he wants.
        But there is no right way.
    • Excellent

      We have another troll willing to admit it. The fewer that pretend to be serious commentators, the better.
      John L. Ries
      • smh

        hate to burst your condescending bubble but I'm not "trolling" about Linux. If my username gave you such idea then I'll say that it was just a fun choice. The essence of my post, which you completely ignored and instead harped on(most probably) the username, was that Linux needs a necessary leader. The divisiveness is what holding Linux from gaining superiority at desktop level.
        Mr. Troller
        • Veto!

          Linux is about choice - it's the very jature of opensource.

          Distros have leaders, ubuntu, debian, red hat, suse etc..

          They make their decisions and guide. Their distros, the whole time feeding back to the community their code.

          The very nature of the gpl is to stop projects forking off entirely like happened with bsd and maintain compatibility.

          Whichever they choose to replace innit - red hats systemd or ubuntu's upstart they remain linux.

          If you want to just use default kde with kubuntu's spin on it, you can just install it from the repositories?
          Its been available as long as i've used ubuntu based systems ~08 i wouldn't see why you would have to change distros to get th kde desktop environment?
        • I deliberately ignored your comment

          I've responded to the sentiments elsewhere. I don't need to do it multiple times on the same article.
          John L. Ries
  • "sometimes loathe?"

    Unity, the only OS presentation manager with a dock that ridiculously can't be moved? I think it somewhat more than "sometimes loathed." Ubuntu is the Windows 8.0 of Linux.
    • Ubuntu is not Windows 8.0

      Unity is only a small, replaceable part of Ubuntu. If you don't like Unity, you have many other options: gnome-shell, KDE, MATE, Cinnamon, LDXE, ... If you don't like Metro on Windows 8, what option do you have?

      I happen to like Unity; it works out of box.
  • That was to expect

    Ubuntu was growing to a level where we can speak about success. Linux geeks can't accept that and so everyone beyond Canonical is participating in this attempt to move away from Ubuntu. The idea of freedom in the Linux world seems to be at the same time also its limitation. For being fair it needs to be stated that Canonical did not communicate its strategy in a smart way and caused too much upset. I hope that Ubuntu will survive and can continue to be the Linux poster boy.
  • What will Linux Mint do?

    More important for desktop Linux will be, what Linux Mint will do... Given the fact that it's by far the most popular desktop Linux now, and has been so for some time.

    Will it follow Ubuntu? Or will it cut itself loose, at least on this issue?
    • Most popular Linux desktop

      Depends on the source.

      DistroWatch -> Linux Mint (desktop)

      Linux Journal's 2013 readers choice awards -> Ubuntu, best Linux distro and desktop

      Probably better to simply state that Debian and Debian-derived distros top the charts, with Ubuntu, Debian and Linux Mint leading the rest.

      P.S. Watch out for Google's Chrome OS as it's GNU/Linux too (derived from Gentoo, though) and growing.

      P.P.S. The focus of the conversation on the GNU/Linux desktop (and desktop environments?!) is curious as init is also used in Linux servers. Doesn't seem to have hurt the Linux server market much.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Just a question.

        Have you heard/seen if Google will release a download of their Chrome-book OS?
        It handles many of the user's wants/needs. Web and email access answers many
        requests from the users I meet, help and just plain need the minimum of operations.
        I recommend the Chrome-book laptop allot inspite of the "pawn shop" FUD). The
        Web search answers for downloading a Chrome-book OS are just crap.
        With all the anticipated OLD XP PCs coming to an end of life, what an opportunity
        to make them fly with the Chrome-book OS!
    • Mint will not leave Ubuntu in a hurry

      according to Clem, Ubuntu is the best option right now as base. but lmde is there, just in case. I don't see mint leaving Ubuntu any soon.
      Mr. Troller
  • so far, I'm enjoying Ubuntu.

    I've tried 3 flavors. for my purposes - Ubuntu and Unity works best for me. I'm not selling it to you. When I buy my next personal laptop, it will be a laptop that will function under one of the Ubuntu variations.
  • Correction

    I'd be shocked and amazed if Slackware adopted systemd; it still uses an old BSD-style init system.

    The one thing I have against systemd is the lack of good tools to manage it. The fact that the usual GUI refuses to show the services in alphanumeric order is a nuisance as is the fact that the data are not directly editable.
    John L. Ries
  • Ubuntu to ditch Upstart and switch to systemd

    Ubuntu to ditch Upstart and switch to systemd