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Upstart Systemd

Getting a computer operating system powered up is no small feat with today’s complex processors and computers. If you look at a system monitor that tells you the number of processes running in the background on your computer, you’ll likely find that there are hundreds of them (514 on mine right now). These processes handle network communications, peripherals, clocks, screen objects, file systems, and on and on.

The problem with all these background processes is getting them started and working. Some depend upon others which depend upon others and that makes it a very interesting problem to figure out the order in which to start them. It can take a long time if you start one then wait for it to report all is well before you start another. That can mean it is a long time between turning on the computer and having it ready to use.

If it’s not done right, the computer doesn’t work right. For instance, if I enable automatic logon when I have an external monitor on my laptop, the video management of both screens gets messed up when the desktop manager gets going. That tends to leave one screen blank or improperly sized. If I use a logon screen first, it gives the video management routines time to get the screens figured out. But the time I logon and the desktop starts, the desktop program has a good basis to know what real estate it really has to display its stuff.

Canonical took after this problem a while back with a project called upstart. They used it in Ubuntu distributions. Another project started after that called systemd to try to improve that. As with a lot of these new ideas, the Luddites, bigots, and idiots abound. One of the systemd developers has written an expose of the biggest myths about systemd with 30 items. It makes for a good catalog of the major issues encountered in such an effort. 

The Debian project has decided to standardize on systemd. Canonical says they will drop their upstart to follow their parent distribution. It looks like one of those back room developer debates has produced results, the kind of results that has made Linux such a usable operating system. 

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