Ah, the life of “the live in tech support” and hacker in residence…
I’d been having a load of “issues” with the WiFi. I won’t go into detail. It was basically having “failed to connect” and “authentication failure” (even on the ‘open’ unauthenticated network) and more. Now the WiFi router was in one end of the house, and the spouse with laptop was in the other, but signal strength was still about 60%…
There was a ‘wall of stuff’ between antenna and laptop, maybe acting as chaff? There was DNS lookup failures, that didn’t seem to care what DNS was used. And more.
I set about taking out potential problems one at a time. Moved the router to the middle of the house (ran wire through wall… nice to own your walls… and a hole punch…). Took down a second WiFi router (maybe signal interference? Ought not to be but… Also simplifies routing tables and more.) Checked router configs. Check this, checked that.
Every change seemed to work sometimes, then fail. Eventually this morning had a tablet working, and the laptop not, in the same room in the same lap. Hmmm… Tablet had fixed IP, laptop DHCP (I’d made it fixed on the encrypting router, but not the “open” one; but that had not helped on the encrypting router). Found one of the old XP boxes had a ‘secondary IP’ on one of the wireless interfaces that would have polluted the router tables to the boundary router and removed it, don’t know if it was an issue, but fixed it anyway. After making that laptop fixed IP on the open network, everything was fine… So is the last “fix” the only problem, or just the last one of several? I’ll never know, as I’m not going to regression test.
As a nice side effect, I also got a wired connect in the living room. I already had a cable laid from the middle room to the living room, so just plugged it into the WiFi router hardwire port. Now I can use my Linux box even when the wireless dongle is having driver issues… which it does on some live-CDs.
That put me to about 4 P.M.
But at last, the wireless networks are stable on all platforms. Tomorrow I can go back and integrate the encrypting router and complicate thing up again (but keeping it stable at each step). Why have two networks? I use the encrypting one most of the time, and power up the open one for guests and such…
The Hanging Debian
I’d installed Debian Wheezy on the EVO, and generally liked it a lot. But it would sporadically hang when using a browser. Didn’t matter if it was Iceweasel, Firefox, Chromium, or even Konqueror. Sometimes it would get past a glitch moment and be fine. Mostly it would just rapidly lock up. Cursor would move, but nothing else could be done at all. I got tired of crashing the box…
I tried different “windows managers” and “desktop environments”. Fluxbox, Openbox, KDE, XFCE, LXDE… The heavier weight ones tended to hang faster. Fluxbox let me stay up longer, sometimes. Using the ‘event monitor’ I found it would ring the bell and have a few useless messages before hanging. (Syslog had nearly nothing useful). Somewhere between browsers, X-windows, and libraries things were not well…
I’d been using the CentOS box and some live-CDs rather than deal with this for the last few weeks. But decided “now was time”.
A bit of pondering “what to install” as a replacement Linux had me bothered. Ever more releases had gone to ‘systemd’ as the initialization program. Classical Unix / Linix used init. I have a few decades of using init, and didn’t like the idea of tossing out everything I know and starting over. Systemd also violates the Unix / Linux ethos of “do one small thing and do it well”. It is from the Microsoft school of “put a load of things in a black box and if something goes wrong, reboot”. I was not liking my choices, as several major (and favorite) releases had gone that way. Fedora, CentOS, even Debian and Ubuntu had gone over. Gnome strongly integrates with systemd, so if you want to run gnome, you get systemd’ed like it or not. (That’s part of the problem with the ‘big ball of wax’ approach. Swallow the whole turkey, or STFU.)
For reasons beyond my caring, the “kitchen sink” folks have been stuffing everything into the “desktop environment”. KDE got junked up trying to be Gnome Lite. Gnome is trying to be everything in the desktop, and forget the old Unix heritage of “one thing and well”. Sigh. I was already stuck with gnome on the ASUS (though being a 6.x level CentOS, not yet systemd) and didn’t want it shoved at me on my ‘play box’ too. What to do, what to do…
Gentoo was attractive, but I didn’t want to do such a radical update / replace if possible. I’d already been saving email and stuff in my home directory on this box. Rebuild from scratch was, er, bothersome.
So while searching for “what release doesn’t do systemd” I found a discussion of the food fight at Debian over it. Several developers up and quit over it. For the same reasons that I was not keen on it.
BUT, the good news is that they started a new fork of Debian that was init based. And, to swap to it, one just changes what ‘repository’ your system points at, and does an “apt-get update” then “apt-get upgrade”. I did that.
The number of things replaced was surprising to me. About 300 MB. Lots of libs and such.
The install went well, nearly flawless, and needed no intervention. (At some point I need to separately upgrade a database component postgresSQL IIRC the log…)
All my user space is as I left it. Wallpaper and all. Launched the Chromium browser and nothing hung. Using it now to do this posting. At the “few minutes into it” time, there was a small ‘video glitch’ with blink to black, but when it returned, things were still working instead of hung. ( I suspect that whatever causes that ‘blink’ is the trigger for the lock up in Debian; but sometimes there isn’t a blink, just a hang.)
This isn’t fully proven yet. I did have Debian work once or twice without fail. It will take a week or two to see real provable stability. But for now, it is sure looking like a fix.
Only “downsides” are that the memory footprint looks larger ( 900+ MB where before it was about 600 MB?) and the Chromium browser has a bit of type-ahead. Probably as this is a more development release and has a lot of diagnostics and such left turned on / compiled in. With luck, the other browsers will not have type-ahead.
For now, I’m liking what they are doing. Devuan is pronounced “Dev-one”, and I’m going to be using it for a while…
There’s the generic Debian:
This is the Devuan site:
OK, nevermind the names, but what’s the plan?
Init Freedom logo
Have you tried to opt-out of the systemd change in Debian⁽™⁾ and stay with sysvinit, or whatever other init you prefer? You will quickly notice that is not a matter of choosing packages and in fact Debian offers no choice.
We want freedom of choice, we want Init Freedom!
We are working towards a stable, production ready fork of Debian Jessie, free from the entangling web of dependencies imposed by systemd.
One can just migrate to Devuan by installing devuan-baseconf.deb which will re-configure the system with our source repository:
Beware this APT source is exclusive and cannot coexist with Debian’s repositories.
This wiki discusses the issues with systemd:
While clearly intending to be promoting the good things it does, this description just looks like a huge ball of ‘fingers in every pie” and not so much like “one thing small and well”:
Poettering describes systemd development as “never finished, never complete, but tracking progress of technology”. In May 2014, Poettering further defined systemd as aiming to unify “pointless differences between distributions”, by providing the following three general functions:
* A system and service manager (manages both the system, as by applying various configurations, and its services)
* A software platform (serves as a basis for developing other software)
* The glue between applications and the kernel (provides various interfaces that expose functionalities provided by the kernel)
systemd is not just the name of the init daemon but also refers to the entire software bundle around it, which, in addition to the systemd init daemon, includes the daemons journald, logind and networkd, and many other low-level components. In January 2013, Poettering described systemd not as one program, but rather a large software suite that includes 69 individual binaries. As an integrated software suite, systemd replaces the startup sequences and runlevels controlled by the traditional init daemon, along with the shell scripts executed under its control. systemd also integrates many other services that are common on Linux systems by handling user logins, the system console, device hotplugging (see udev), scheduled execution (replacing cron) logging, hostnames and locales.
It is just entirely wrong from a Unix ethos point of view, and very Microsoft like.
In a September 2014 ZDNet interview, Theodore Ts’o expressed his opinion that the dispute over systemd’s centralized design philosophy, more than technical concerns, indicates a dangerous general trend toward uniformizing the Linux ecosystem, alienating and marginalizing parts of the open-source community, and leaving little room for alternative projects. In this he found similarities with the attitude he found in the GNOME project toward non-standard configurations. On social media, Ts’o also later compared the attitudes of two key developers to that of GNOME’s developers.
GNOME is now dependent on systemd, and they are pushing to have logind hooked into GNOME as well. As someone who likes other windows managers and desktops better, being forced into a Gnome Centric World against my will is not attractive.
By Jim Lee Feb 16, 2015, 17:28
I wouldn’t have a problem with systemd, except for 3 issues I feel need to be addressed: (1) if systemd is going to be some monocultural thing to all distros (like MS became to all PC’s) then I hope the code is bulletproof – one single exploit will be all you need to screw every single PC, laptop, tablet, server, etc running Linux. I’m sure the NSA would love that. (2) One thing which pushed me over to Linux more than a decade ago is, if something goes wrong with my OS, I can roll up my sleeves and get to work fixing it; the OS will tell you what’s wrong, it just means paying attention to the various logs and the boot sequence. Systemd, OTOH, seems to obfuscate these clues. Will I wake up one day and find Linux just as cryptic to diagnose as Windows? (3) I really, REALLY have a problem with how this seemed to be just shoved down everyone’s throats. Could the adoption of systemd not have been handled a little better than this? No wonder Poettering seems to have left so many people with a bad taste in their mouths… Don’t get me wrong: I’m not some sort of techo-Luddite, and systemd seems (at first glance) to be an attempt to rectify some of the flaws with the way Linux presently handles some things. I simply wonder why did its scope have to go beyond handling init functions. The registry was Windows’ Achilles’ Heel for a long time; is systemd eventually going to be that for Linux?
Reply to this comment Reply to this comment
By Rainer Weikusat Feb 17, 2015, 15:31
systemd is supposed to ‘rectify’ the flaw that some code is written in programming languages its authors really don’t like and maybe additionally, to ensure that every part of the system is exclusively accessible to other parts of the system using the freedesktop/ GNOME invented RPC protocol. Anything beyond that is lipstick supposed to make you confuse the pig with a damsell in distress. In particular, it doesn’t provide anything new in the areas of startup organization or service management unless you’re someone who never ventured beyond “whatever RedHat happens to ship today”. Recoding a massive part of the system in a low-level compiled language designed in the 1970s is not ‘a modernization’ and replacing some 20,000 (overestimate) lines of code written in a mix of higher-level and lower level languages with 600,000 lines of code written in a lower level languages is as close to a techno luddite’s dreams as it could possibly get.
Oddly, one of the log entries that came just before the hang had “org.freedesktop” in it…
Looking around on systemd “issues” and problems finds a lot more fire and noise like this.
On to other things…
At some point I’m going to install a Gentoo with ulibC (used in routers and embedded systems a lot, smaller and more secure libraries) and may end up there for my Daily Driver someday. ( I was headed down the path of buying a new WiFi router as the one with DHCP issues is from about 2002 and only goes 11 MB anyway… but now that I have time, I’ll likely ‘build my own’ so I have more control of it. OpenWRT first, but maybe with Gentoo for the experience later…)
The Gentoo Linux style is small, efficient, and secure. They compile from source code instead of downloading mystery meat binaries. They support both the larger fatter libraries and the small ulibC libraries aimed at embedded systems. Definitely more of a hacker oriented style than a “want Windows look but never touched Linux before” approach.
At some point I may be pushed back into the BSD world. There are OpenBSD and FreeBSD kernel version using Linux tools. For now, Devuan still has the easy package and easy install of Debian, but without the style pollution of Gnome / systemd. I’m likely to ride this horse for a while and only move if forced out by some problem. The very light live-CD distributions (like CrunchBang that has now stopped development, and the Puppy series) still are systemd-free) are also an option. I’m running a CentOS 6.x release, and Red Hat went to systemd in the 7.x series, so eventually I’ll have to abandon CentOS (or stay back rev). Probably not much of an issue as I tend to stay on a release for a long time…
But what is clear to me is that Red Hat is taking their flavor of Linux in a direction very much against the ethos of Unix and the original Linux. The other thing that is clear is that in true Open Source style, those of us who value that original approach can just fork our own path and carry on.
But enough for one day. Now I have a working 64 bit development box with CentOS for GIStemp and running some of the climate models. I have a stable WiFi (with stable and secure coming tomorrow). And from the looks of it, a stable Linux Daily Driver – now that systemd has been rooted out of it. And the old XP box working too, for any legacy stuff I might need. With all the infrastructure pretty much working now, looks like all that is left is to get a project plan laid out and start on the “Dig Here!” list ;-)