Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Init dead; no casualties

An interesting time if you happen to be an aging startup superserver; Ubuntu are to replace init with Upstart from "Edgy Eft". That's quite cool, the model in which everything needs to always come up and always in the same order put forward by both styles of init is long dead, and the system V style of init is particularly cumbersome (though someone at Apple clearly liked it, as they had both SystemStarter and watchdog in the past).

I'm actually both surprised and pleased to see a Linux distribution making the jump here, I've always considered them fairly conservative (apart from in throwing any old free package into the distribution; I mean from a "core stuff"[*] perspective. I know that FreeBSD attempted something with launchd last Summer, but the latter has too much mach_init magic which can't cleanly be excised.

[*]now Apple are going to start a CoreStuff API and sue me. Fantastic.

One thing from TFA saddened me (though I really ought to have expected it), and that's this:

To avoid reinventing the wheel, we first looked at how much effort it would be to use of modify the existing replacements to be able to do this. Sun SMF and Apple launchd were immediately ruled out due to licence issues. It was important for us that the solution be uncontroversially free so that other distributions might adopt it; many had already rejected these for GPL incompatibility reasons.

Yes, it's the standard "GPL first, utility second" argument. I have a fairly strong opinion here: if something works, and I can see that it works, and it works better than any alternative I have access to, I'll use it. That's why I'm posting this from OmniWeb on a Mac, despite [i]there being free web browsers around, [ii]my work involving Linux. I prefer to have access to the source, except where that involves a retrograde step in terms of utility. Anyway, I digress; the point here is that launchd is released under (well, depends which version you look at) the Apache licence, and OpenSolaris under the CDDL; both of which are free software licences, but are incompatible with the GPL on technicalities. That's nice if you really do want to split hairs, but GNU/Linux (if you like) is supposed to be a usable OS so shouldn't utility come first? Admit it, how many of you have uninstalled kaffe or gcj and are using the Sun jdk? More to the point, how many of you are using Apache (which is also released under the Apache licence)? It's time to get over it. I propose that if you want to work on a pure GNU system, you should indeed work on a pure GNU system and hie thineself over to the HURD mailing lists. I fully intend to, if a gobbet of spare time makes itself available soon...but more because I think the HURD's cool ;-).

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