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I dislike systemd for numerous reasons. Unfortunately, it has been adopted by most popular Linux distributions, including Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora and others. It is also becoming increasingly difficult, or even impossible, to replace within these distributions (e.g. I've failed to drop systemd on Debian Jessie).

Anyway, I want to try other Linux distributions which do not use systemd by default. What are some prominent examples of such distributions, and their strengths and weaknesses?

Note: If someone we're at a point where there are many of these, feel free to describe their categories or significant representatives.

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  • I think this question might be too broad if your only requirement is that it not uses systemd by default. Do you have any other requirements?
    – unor
    Sep 14 '16 at 14:17
  • @unor: Oh, I have lots of requirements, but they don't matter, since there are actually few non-systemd distributions, and very very few ones which one could describe as "prominent".
    – einpoklum
    Sep 14 '16 at 16:04
  • Okay, then what means prominent for you?
    – unor
    Sep 14 '16 at 16:06
  • @unor: Dictionary definition of the word. If someone finds a distribution to be prominent enough to merit an answer here, I'll take their word for it.
    – einpoklum
    Sep 14 '16 at 16:12
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Gentoo uses OpenRC by default.

Strenghts:

  • highly customizable
  • no bloatware
  • very up-to-date packages

Weaknesses:

  • compiling takes time
  • may be hard to install for linux starters
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Artix Linux is an Arch-based distro where its primary distinguishing feature is that, unlike arch, they don't have systemD at all. I don't really know much about it.

From their website:

Artix Linux is a rolling-release distribution, based on Arch Linux.

It uses OpenRC, runit or s6 as init because PID1 must be simple, secure and stable.

Like the other answer I provided, I actually haven't used it myself, but is one OS I've been looking at in preparation for swapping out my SystemD laden systems.

1

PCLinuxOS defaults to using sysVinit instead of systemD. I don't think they provide any other init systems though... (feel free to edit this answer if I'm wrong)

PCLinuxOS is known for being pretty easy to use and install, though they are based on Linux From Scratch instead of Debian, Fedora, Arch, or Gentoo (most other distros are based on one of those four), and are known for making a lot of things themselves - they have a unique package manager that seems to be a hybrid between apt and rpm, along with many other unique elements.

I don't personally use it, but I might in the future if I get around to swapping out my SystemD laden systems soon.

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  • I've been on Devuan for about 3 years now, and, well, it's just like Debian. So not maximally polished, but very solid. I would recommend it over an LFS-based distribution.
    – einpoklum
    Apr 27 at 18:30
  • @einpoklum Interesting. Though I would like to note that I've had bad stability problems with apt - though that might have just been ubuntu's fault. Apr 27 at 18:31
  • 2
    I have never had any issues with apt. I have in the past gotten myself into trouble by adding apt repositories which were poorly managed and conflicted with my distribution; if you do that, you may end up installing incompatible packages and be in a real bind.
    – einpoklum
    Apr 27 at 18:37
  • 1
    Methinks we have strayed off-topic Apr 27 at 18:43
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DistroWatch Query for nearly all relevant linux distributions without systemd by default.

If you do not know about DistroWatch, I would highly recommend in using it as a future resource for searching for distributions based on specific requirements, and general linux news. They also have reviews which may be of use to you.

Although I cannot personally vouch for them, I have heard that people have really enjoyed MX Linux or antiX as comfortable Debian derivatives without systemd.

0
1

One such distribution is Devuan, a fork of the Debian project.

Actually, very little has to be forked: Just a few components need to be altered to overcome the fundamental dependency on systemd; and from there it's basically a copy of the packages in Debian's corresponding version. And since Debian has sysvinit-compatible packages, it really feels, and is, Debian after an "appendicitis".

Devuan's initial release was a variant of Debian Jessie, also called Devuan Jessie. From then on the names diverge:

Devuan release Suite Planet nr. Debian release Status (2021-04)
Jessie oldoldstable 10464 Jessie Archived
ASCII oldstable 3568 Stretch Maintained
Beowulf stable 38086 Buster Maintained
Chimaera in development 623 Bullseye Maintained
Ceres unstable 1 Sid Maintained

(Devuan names follow small planetoids)

I've now been using it for 3 years as my desktop distro, and am generally quite pleased.

Note: As far as init systems are concerned, Devuan defaults to sysvinit, but as of the current stable release (Beowulf), supports openrc and runit. More information at this link; thanks, @Lazerbeak12345.

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  • Quick question: what init systems does Devuan provide? I take it from your answer it's sysVinit by default, but does it have, say, s6? - Edit: found it. Their website says they support "openrc, runit, sinit, s6, 66-devuan, [and] shepherd" - so basically all inits Apr 30 at 14:37
  • @Lazerbeak12345: systemd is not, primarily, an init system. It might have started that way, but by now it's much bigger than that. Still, will edit.
    – einpoklum
    Apr 30 at 15:21
  • Yes, I'm aware. That's sortof why this question and related ones on softwarerecs interest me right now. Also s6 != systemd Apr 30 at 20:00
  • s6, in my opinion, is the most well designed init system that addresses the reason why systemd was made, yet still adheres to KISS, and optimizes for speed using tactics found in both runit and openrc, along with a custom, and optional, super-fast programing language the creator of s6 recommends. - not to say I'm not open to using other inits; it's just my favorite. Apr 30 at 20:06

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