Not So Fast, Slick

Why Did it Take Devuan Two Years to Replace Systemd?

Recently, a guy asked me two questions:

  1. If it is so easy to uninstall and switch init systems why did it take devuan 2 years to figure it out?
  2. Why are so many struggling to make something so easy work?

Here’s my answer:

Imagine having a bicycle with hand brakes. You know, the kind of brakes with brake pads that rub against the wheel rims. You can get black brake pads, salmon color brake pads, short brake pads, long brake pads, smooth stud brake pads, threaded stud brake pads, whatever. The point is, to change to a different color or length or pad composition is trivial: Take the old ones off, put the new ones back on.

But your bike has the new Lennart Poettering “systemd” brake design, with its new metalic brake pads, which stop the bike nicely, but wear out the wheel rims in 300 miles.

… read the rest on the author’s site

To protect your rims, you decide to switch brakepads.

Not so fast, Slick. Instead of having its brake pads simply bolt onto the brakes, systemd brake pads have two clips, three notches, four micro-bolts with special screw heads, and something resembling an FM2 processor socket, all of which must mesh to the systemd brake to attach it. Systemd brake pads are the only ones with this interface, all systemd brake pads are metallic, and from a manufacturing viewpoint it’s economically impossible to equip this brakepad interface with non-metalic pads.

You say to yourself: “Fine, I’ll just replace the systemd brakes with regular brakes.”

Not so fast, Slick. The systemd brakes have a hydraulic line to the crank, which when you press the brakes throw the bike into neutral. Of course, this requires the systemd crank to be on the bike. So if you replace the brakes, you need to replace the crank also, or else freelance a permanent high pressure hydraulic defeat of the crank, and nobody’s made that yet because the systemd crank actively tests for such a defeat.

So fine, you’ll replace the crank too.

Not so fast, Slick. The crank must have an unusual sized chain. More challenging, the crank feeds hydraulically into the special systemd derailleurs (systemd automatic transmission), and these derailleurs cannot be jimmied to take their shifting information from regular shift levels and cables, nor even from rigged hydraulic ones, because the systemd hydraulic brakes detect a pressure frequency modulation that only a systemd crank can deliver.

No problem, you’ll replace the derailleurs.

Not so fast, Slick. Systemd derailleurs are mounted on the frame and fork in a place where normal frames and forks have no presence. Brazing on accouterments to mount systemd brakes to a normal frame is tricky at best, and usually not safe.

You’re a problem solver, so you’ll just replace the frame.

Not so fast, Slick. Systemd frames require special systemd wheels that have axles a foot wide. Bending a systemd frame to accommodate a normal wheel renders the frame brittle, and using hardware to do the job puts excess torques on the systemd frame and fork.

OK, you’ll play their silly game. You’ll replace the wheels.

Not so fast, Slick. The systemd wheel hubs have special hydraulic connections to the monolithic seat and seat-post assembly, as a theft deterrent.

Now you’ve got these guys on the run. You replace the monolithic seat/seat-post assembly with a normal seat and seat-post.

Congrats, you’ve installed non-systemd brake pads on a systemd equipped bike. It took two years, but it’s worth it.

Of course, you had to replace the brake pads, brakes, crank, derailleurs, frame and fork, wheels, monolithic seat and seat-post. Every part of the bike. The cheapest way to get all those parts is just to buy a new bike. Fortunately, there are bike brands like Devuan, Void, Alpine, Funtoo, OpenBSD and FreeBSD that have no systemd parts.

[ Training | Troubleshooters.Com | Email Steve Litt ]

4 thoughts on “Not So Fast, Slick

  1. I just so happen to be into anti-systemd movement as I am into bicycling as a primary transportation. Haven’t been to a bicycle/moto-cycle shop since the late 70s, unless I was working or being a co-owner of one. So I relate with the article and much more Steve Litt has to say.

    His book on diagnosis talks to the heart to any kind of mechanic/phusician/sys-analyst.


  2. Pingback: Is the war with Debian an even fight? | systemD-free linux community

  3. just an update to this story:

    its now more like 3 years, and (afaik) anticap is having the same experience?

    one of the reasons i want to play with debian now (in a vm) is to document the subject of this folklore in somewhat derivative-agnostic, technical details.

    antix and devuan for two examples dont do things the same way at all, but what exactly do they need to do? etc. not what do they do, but how much of what theyre doing is unavoidable and why? in order to answer this, you need debian as a starting point.

    two of the moves that lennart made to put debian in check (via gnome– and no, gnome doesnt need systemd though it was a vector and part of the dirty play, whether as accomplice or pawn) were to deprecate consolekit (handing it to martin pitt of canonical in the interim– pitt has since left canonical and is still working with systemd it would seem) and to merge udev into systemd: (“gentoo folks, this is your wakeup call”)

    so it would seem like getting away from consolekit (elogind) and replacing udev altogether would be vital steps to move out of check.

    whats really nasty about systemd isnt just the monolithic nature (or as steve says, “gratuitous interdependency” of systemd itself–

    its the way it seeks to be a “one stop shop” for all library calls in your software, so that instead of designing things like the next version of kde properly and having it hook individual modules (FROM DIFFERENT SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS) and not depend on a monolithic developer–

    now instead of shopping around like they used to, every desktop developer is buying their groceries and car parts and liquor and pharmaceuticals and home insurance at the mega-walmart in the next town.

    sure, there will be huge product recalls later, the entire manufacturing economy will move from your country to china, and everything in the future will be cheap and plastic (metal brake pads? i think not. metal is old-fashioned material, systemd is all made of industrial composites– metal parts are a lot easier to tool and repurpose).

    the real problem isnt that systemd is designed the way it is– the bigger problem is that everything that touches it (kde, gnome, firefox) ends up being gradually redesigned the way systemd is.

    systemd is less like a bicycle and more like walmart– but if we need a more technical metaphor, how about hugo weaving in the matrix?


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