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13. init

The first process started on a Unix system is called init. It typically starts by rummaging through /etc/inittab to see what processes should be started.

This often begins with running a script named something like /etc/init.d/rcS which controls how to start up the whole variety of system services such as configuring networking, logging, running file servers like NFS , Coda , and SAMBA, as well as other daemons such as mail servers , web servers , database servers, and such.

Once the system services are started, init will start up getty processes to allow users to log in. There are two traditional approaches to it:

The SYSV approach is not particularly elegant, but it is straightforward to write programs to predictably manipulate the set of startup scripts, which is not practical with the BSD approach. Proponents for both approaches can easily find instances where their favorite approach is to be preferred.

Here are links to some of the "traditional" init implementations:

People have built alternatives, trying to fulfil one improvement or another. Some have built "minimalist" alternatives to init, in one case resorting to assembly language to make it as tiny as possible. The more interesting alternatives try to improve functionality and/or reliability:

13.1. SystemD

There be lots of emotional dragons here...

13.1.1. SystemD debates

Why Pro SystemD and Anti SystemD people cannot get along

  • It's actually mostly politics, just not of one of the parties that they recognize

  • Proponents tend to have afiliation with "modern desktop"

    • Want more interoperability

    • Sure, somewhat more "Windows like"

    • Seek reducing interface complexity but not implementation complexity

    • Computers as appliances rather than tools

  • Detractors often come from niche distributions

    • Less interested in desktop advances

    • Care about malleability more than user friendliness

    • Computers as tools

  • The fight is more about desktop vs minimalism

  • A moderate annoyance: systemd includes *journald*, which does logging

    • Why not use *syslog*???

    • Because you cannot use *syslog* to log things until *syslog* is running

    • And *syslog* is not running until a whole bunch of other services get started, by *systemd*

    • Ergo, *systemd* needs a logging system that is not syslog

    • It may be desirable to forward responsibility for logging to *syslog*, once it is running, and *systemd* supports that

13.1.2. SystemD concepts Units

  • objects that systemd can manage

  • standardized representation of system resources

  • like services, jobs in init systems

  • can use units to abstract services, network resources, filesystem mounts, resource pools

  • Various activation methods

    • socket based

      start unit upon accessing a socket, like xinetd

    • bus based

      start unit when DBus request is submitted

    • path based

      start unit when inotify indicates a path is available

    • device based

      start unit when hardware is available based on udev events

    • With dependency mapping/ordering

    - Various types

    • ~.service~

      indicates how to manage a service/application, including

    • how to start/stop the service

    • when service should be automatically started

    • dependency and ordering information for related software

  • ~.socket~

    indicates network/IPC socket or FIFO that is to be used for socket-based activation

    • points to ~.service~ file

  • ~.device~

    indicates a device needs systemd management

    • often needed for ordering, mounting, accessing the device

  • ~.mount~

    defines a mountpoint to be managed by systemd

    • named after mount path with slashes transformed to dashes

    • /etc/fstab entries automatically get such units (how???)

  • ~.automount~

    indicates mount points to be automatically mounted

    • refers to a ~.mount~ file

  • ~.swap~

    indicates swap space


    target unit provides synchronization points for other units when changing state

    • seems to be a way of indicating dependencies a bit abstractly

  • ~.path~

    indicates cases where, when a path reaches desired state, the service will be started

    • uses inotify to watch for changes

    • e.g. - do not start up postgresql-database until the filesystem with data has been mounted

  • ~.timer~

    indicates a timer for systemd to manage indicating when the service unit will be started

    • can be used to do things like cron jobs

  • ~.snapshot~

  • ~.slice~

    associates with Linux Control Group nodes to restrict access to resources to processes in the slice

    • so, security-ish???

    • samples on Debian say NOTHING about this, so perhaps they're no-ops?

  • ~.scope~

    help (how?) to manage system processes created externally (from systemd?)

  • Default unit files in /lib/systemd/system

  • Customize into /etc/systemd/system Directives

  • unit section

    defines metadata

    • Description

      what is this?

    • Documentation


    • Requires

      units required before this one (failure to have them indicate this unit fails)

    • Wants

      units wanted (less strict)

    • BindsTo

      this unit should terminate when another one terminates

    • Before

      units specified must not start until after the present one is started, but this is not indicating dependency

    • After

      this unit must not start until the specified units are started

    • Conflicts

      mutual exclusions of units

    • Condition

      things to test prior to starting the unit

      • failure leads to graceful skipping of the unit

      • PathExists

      • Capability

      • PathIsReadWrite

      • DirectoryNotEmpty

      • FileIsExecutible

      • KernelCommandLine

      • NeedsUpdate

      • PathIsDirectory

      • PathIsMountPoint

      • PathIsSymbolicLink

      • Virtualization

    • Assert

      failure of conditions lead to reporting failure of the unit

  • Various other sections specialized to various sorts of units

  • Transaction manager

  • Jobs

    • Job queueing

  • Tasks

  • What is journald? Translating former understandings to SystemD

  • Configuration that you mess with tends to be in ~/etc/systemd/system~

  • Finding all services #+BEGIN_EXAMPLE # systemctl list-units #+END_EXAMPLE

    • This lists loaded units, and does so if you omit ~list-units~

    • ~systemctl list-units --all~

      list non-loaded units

    • ~systemctl list-unit-files~

      list unit files

    • ~systemctl list-dependencies~

      list the hierarchy of dependencies

    • and other things can be listed

  • The common start/stop/restart targets work

  • ~systemctl start boa~

  • ~systemctl stop boa~

  • ~systemctl reload boa~

  • ~systemctl force-reload boa~

  • More operations that should be obvious-ish

    • ~systemctl cat boa~

      list the unit files

    • ~systemctl disable boa~

      disable boa

    • ~systemctl reenable boa~

      reenable boa

    • ~systemctl enable boa~

      enable boa

    • ~systemctl edit boa~

      edit boa units (copying to /etc/systemd/system if needed)

    • ~systemctl show boa~

      show environment values and such Stupid SystemD Tricks Emacs as a service

Set up a unit file

    Description=Emacs: the extensible, self-documenting text editor
    ExecStart=/usr/bin/emacs --daemon
    ExecStop=/usr/bin/emacsclient --eval "(kill-emacs)"
    [Install] Use SystemD rather than crontab?

Here is the curiosity that apparently doesn't work out...

Some SystemD units are batch jobs; it is common for there to be some examples set up so that SystemD will run daily maintenance tasks.

It occurs to me, "Wouldn't it be neat if I could set up all my batch jobs as SystemD units? "

Unfortunately, SystemD is intended to manage "the system", and, as a result, jobs are intended to be system-wide jobs, not as individual things that a user would manage for their self.

Awkward... And it suggests that there's something off about how SystemD considers batch jobs if we "deeply" need a different mechanism for such.

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