Despite of previous friction with Devuan oligarchy, and preference to hard working antix, possibly mx as well, those few people are putting up one hell of a fight to stay afloat as Debian derivatives. Debian has always been good with having clones, and forks, and derivatives of all kinds, but in the past 6-7 years they are good as long as all those puppets incorporate systemd. If they don’t, Debian seems to intentionally try to make life very hard for them. Is it fair? It is not a question of fairness, Debian doesn’t have to accommodate anyone trying to share its dominance. Is it likely that those who challenge its domination can survive the war?
We know that Debian incorporates 100s, maybe 1000s of developers and software groups, in a tremendous hierarchy on who has the say in what goes into a repository and when. Each one of those seems to be fine, morally, with the tendency to bundle up as many pkgs together just so remotely related pieces of software will depend on the init system. It is amazing how these days you can attempt to install an insignificant gui and apt wants to rip off half of your desktop, install another, and make sure there is init system dependency within it. If you are in Debian you don’t notice those things or perceive them as negative, nor to it affect all the systemd controlled distributions based on Debian. Even the likes of Ubuntu and Mint seems to have given up on their effort to maintain composure under Debian without systemd.
Will in the long run small groups trying vigorously to stay afloat on Debian, with alternative init systems, make it? Hoping that they do, expecting that they will, and investing in this bet are very different things. On a daily basis without being able to see it coming, there is an attack. An attack in the form of a package that for years it was structured and depended in one way, suddenly is rearranged in such a way that its dependency structure needs the Debian init system or its libraries to work. It also brings in more conflicts than it did before. Some of them totally unnecessarily. It is like a bully that barges in and says “it is either he goes or I am not working”. Just imagine, a conspiracy of thousands against a few handfuls of programmers. But refracta, and devuan, and mx, and antix, and maybe others that I can’t think of at the time, are still working. If they gain enough supporters in this struggle they could possibly afford their own repositories, servers, and mirrors, and separate from Debian. But they will have to try and survive on their own independent merit.
So what about Arch? Arch is based on systemd! Arch is also committed in supporting those who want to built the most minimalist system with the least possible complexities and interdependencies They seem pretty fair and square in their claims of values and principles. So basing a system on arch and replacing systemd is nowhere as complex as it is with Debian. This also proves that upstream things are semi-OK still, it is Debian (and redhat) that fabricate this difficulty, and it is not inherent. When Debian talks about Debianizing a package, they mean that they are bundling it together with a whole chain of stuff.
So we respect all those who have tried, those who are still trying, and those who possibly may try in the near future, but one can’t help in realizing that it is merit for the struggle for the sake of the battle. There is very little light in the end of the tunnel of hope that things would change soon. Not with Debian on the wheel of more than half of distributions and more than half of the market there doesn’t seem to be much hope.
Now, Obarun, Artix, Void, Gentoo, and a handful of others seem to really bring hope back. Booting up any of those systems mentioned in this article and comparing it to a Debian desktop, makes you think “what are all those people thinking, can’t they see this systemd is doomsday?”, it is a struggle through the maze just to get to console and log in.
Again Steve Litt’s article about the braking system of a bicycle Not So Fast, Slick comes to mind and shutters some hope. Debian will either conquer or go down with its init system. Newer faster machines seem to be unable to cope with the rate of systemd complexities. It is almost like windows where people bought a newer pc with faster processor and more memory and a later edition of windows only discovering that overall it is still almost as slow as the older one. And this speed chase opens all kinds of doors to security problems, such as spectre and meltdown. We have not seen anything yet.