It's optional for now, but Linux Mint expects to switch to systemd next year

linux mint logo
Luis Fernando Pienda Mahecha via Creative Commons

Despite recent reports suggesting the contrary, Linux Mint isn’t committed to avoiding systemd, the controversial project taking Linux by storm. In fact, Clement Lefebvre, Linux Mint’s project leader, expects the next major releases of Linux Mint to use systemd by default.

No, Linux Mint isn’t switching to systemd immediately. The Linux Mint 17.x series and Linux Mint Debian Edition 2 will continue to use Upstart and SysV init, with systemd available as an option you can choose yourself. Linux Mint is giving systemd some time to mature before switching, but—with upstream projects and the Linux ecosystem as a whole moving towards systemd—Mint realizes it doesn’t have an option in the long term.

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Current stable releases won’t get systemd

The current stable release of Linux Mint is the Linux Mint 17.x series. This series of releases is entirely based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, the long-term support release of Ubuntu. Ubuntu 14.04 LTS hasn’t switched to systemd, and neither has Linux Mint 17. I’ve written that Ubuntu has switched to systemd, which is true—but only in the recent Ubuntu 15.04 release. Neither Linux Mint 17 nor Ubuntu 14.04 LTS will switch to systemd by default.

linux mint 17 cinnamon menu

Linux Mint Debian Edition 2 is based on the current Debian 8 Jessie release, and the latest stable release of Debian does use systemd as its default. But LMDE 2 still uses the old SysV init system by default. SysV init is available as an option in Debian 8 and is still functional. The Devuan project is upset because Debian’s packaging guidelines will allow future software packages to require systemd, and SysV init may gradually become less and less supported. For now, LMDE 2 is diverging just a little bit from Debian. But LMDE 2 won’t get systemd, and Linux Mint is still sticking to the old stable technology for now.

Mint is still avoiding the new systemd technology and preserving user choice. You get the old init systems by default, and you can switch to systemd if you’d like to. Switching to systemd is particularly easy on LMDE 2, as it’s based on a Debian release that does use systemd by default.

As Clement explained in a comment on Linux Mint’s blog:

“We’re using old and reliable technologies while systemd matures... So as you can see, right now, we’re in the best position cause we’ve got multiple choices and we’re defaulting to proven techs.”

lmde 2 with systemd installed but not activated

LMDE 2 with systemd installed, but not activated.

Why Linux Mint will probably switch to systemd

But that’s not the end of the story. The Linux community is shifting towards systemd, and Linux Mint isn’t prepared to fight it forever. Linux Mint isn’t even fighting it now—the project is just being more conservative than competing Linux distributions and allowing systemd to mature more before switching to it.

As Clement went on to explain:

“Long term though, what matters is momentum and right now the concensus upstream is to kill sysvinit, consolekit, upower even (and the list will grow) to replace them with systemd components. It’s not something a distribution can decide against unless somebody actively develops a complete alternative. So although [desktop environments] have been more and more different across distros lately, you can expect all of them to have the same underlying core sooner or later. That’s not a bad thing actually.”

That’s a pretty clear indication of the way Mint is headed, but Clement put it even more directly in another blog comment:

“Both LMDE and Mint use sysvinit (+upstart in Mint), consolekit + logind. That said, it’s very likely both Mint 18 and LMDE 3 will eventually switch to systemd.”

So there you have it. Linux Mint will probably switch to systemd just like other Linux distributions. As Clement explained, there really isn’t an option unless someone develops a real alternative to systemd. And this does bring some standardization to Linux distributions.

Despite all the doom and gloom among a vocal group of Linux users, Linux Mint’s developers don’t seem particularly upset by systemd. Sure, they’re being conservative and waiting before flipping the switch, allowing others to work out as many kinks as possible. But the switch to systemd in the future looks like a foregone conclusion.

Either way, you won’t get systemd on your current Linux Mint systems. That will likely happen with the next major releases of Linux Mint.

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