And the beat goes on…
By now, much of the news and commentary is already out there about a fork of Debian called Devuan — pronounced Dev-One (sharp, folks) — and what it means to the newly minted systemd/anti-systemd rift in the FOSS world. I can’t add anything to the news part, but leave it to me to add to the commentary.
Forking is commonplace in the FOSS world, a part of its natural process. Someone thinks they can do something better — or it may be a group of folks of like mind thinking they can do something better — and they do it for reasons ranging from rational improvement to unabashed ragequit.
So personally, I wish this project luck. They’re going to need it.
This fork — seemingly a reaction by a group of developers who continuously battered the democratic process in the Debian community to derail the systemd process, like Republicans in Congress trying consistently in vain (at least so far) to repeal Obamacare – “aims to be a base distribution whose mission is protect the freedom of its community of users and developers.” Protecting the freedom of its community against what is a little unclear in that statement. Anyway, they continue: “Its priority is to enable diversity, interoperability and backward compatibility for existing Debian users and downstream distributions willing to preserve Init freedom.”
Oh. Init freedom. The God-given freedom to Init, for which many have fought and died. Why didn’t I think of that?
I have no problem with systemd and, like it or not, I think it represents progress. Those who are more knowledgeable than me have concerns that, no doubt, will be addressed — concerns around security and the inherent problem that a new program has to tackle a wide array of bugs. Some even bemoan the whole upheaval between pro- and anti-systemd partisans, which places FOSS in a position for a few rocky years ahead. But I think in the long run, whatever systemd flaws are now on the surface — both theoretically and technically — will be ironed out in due time and eventually it will be widely embraced.
As for Devuan, I’m sorry that I don’t have a lot of faith in their endeavor being successful. Successful projects usually aren’t the ones that are driven by anger or attempts to unreasonably hold onto the past. At the risk of sounding Californian, there are not a lot of good vibes or warm fuzzies that would normally draw people to such a project, so it will be interesting to see how many developers get behind this effort.
Something that hasn’t been addressed too much is the slap in the face to Debian, the real victim here. Debian has always been a beacon of FOSS excellence and the perfect FOSS citizen. Arguably this distro is weakened – hopefully not too much — thanks to a group of developers who have, in effect, tossed their toys around the playroom in a tantrum because things didn’t go their way. This should be a sobering indication of what to expect from these developers in the new project they’ve decided to pursue.
Clearly, systemd can be improved – anything this new could stand improvement, and chances are it will get better – and clearly the systemd project is not above criticism, which it will get from the more thoughtful of us in the wider FOSS community. Conversely, Devuan developers are clearly within their rights to follow a basic FOSS tenet of making improvements, either real or imagined, where they deem necessary.
And the beat goes on…