Notes on Software Development

Escape from systemd

Published: by Gabor de Mooij


I'm a full-time Linux user since 2011, before then, I mainly used a combination of Linux and OSX. My favourite distribution was RedHat (Fedora), although I have to admit my reasons for choosing RedHat were not very sound. I figured RedHat was somewhat of an authority and I liked the 'original' feel of the distro. Besides, I have always liked the red fedora in the logo, I thought it just radiated coolness ;) However, this all changed with the arrival of systemd. I don't agree with the systemd approach (for a lot of reasons but that's beyond the scope of this article) and decided to try out some new distros. Systemd has given me a valid reason to explore other Linux distributions.

There is a lot of discussion about systemd, and at times things seem to get pretty emotional. I think that's understandable, after all, Linux has always been about freedom and choice, yet all the major distributions seem to embrace the same init system: systemd, thus giving up part of their distinctiveness. There is little to choose anymore when it comes to init systems and that's dissapointing.

Fortunately, there is a bright side to all of this: systemd might be the perfect vehicle for smaller and lesser-known Linux distributions to gain momentum! With over 700 Linux distros in their database, distrowatch is the perfect place to find your next penguin!
Instead of whining about systemd, it might be more fun to find a new Linux distribution. I have always been a fan of foot voting. So, here I am, trying out one Linux distro after another. Meanwhile, my list of requirements has grown. Besides no systemd, I am searching for a Linux distro for advanced users focusing on simplicity (don't conflate simplicity with user friendliness). The main reason is that I would like to learn more about the inner workings of Linux, maybe even roll a Linux distro of my own some day, who knows. Anyway, I find the quest for my next Linux distro to be quite fun actually.

For your convenience, I have compiled a list of non-systemd distros. I hope this list will be helpful to others looking for a non-systemd Linux distribution, just like me. For every distro in the list, I try to indicate the opinion of the maintainers on systemd as well as their primary target audience (because if you're looking for a workstation distro it does not make sense to go with a Live Medium distro etc).
If you find omissions or mistakes in the list, please drop me an e-mail.

DistributionOpinion about SystemdAudience
GRantiXNeutral ?Old computers
IEgNewSenseNeutral ?Libre
USAGuixSDAgainst ?Libre
USAHyperbola GNU/LinuxAgainstLibre
TRPisi LinuxAgainst ?All
IEPorteusNeutralLive Medium
AUPuppy/Quirky LinuxAgainstAll
UKSimplicity LinuxNeutral ?All
GRSlackelNeutralLive Medium
CZSlaxNeutralLive Medium
CAVector LinuxNeutralAdvanced
EUVoid LinuxNeutralAdvanced
based on CRUX Linux
based on Gentoo
based on Slackware
based on Debian
This list focuses on more-or-less general purpose distributions, leaving out single purpose distros (firewalls) and legacy hardware distros.

* = Manjaro and Arch seem to be conflicted about systemd, some of the developers like systemd others don't. I received an e-mail from the Manjaro team clarifying this conflicted attitude towards systemd. I think it's correct to say they support systemd as an init system but they are quite critical and they offer alternatives.

Of course another way to escape from systemd is to switch to BSD (for instance PC-BSD) or maybe Plan 9.

Update 2018-01-28: Added Hyperbola GNU/Linux

Update 2016-09-03: Added details regarding conlicted stance of Manjaro (thanks for e-mailing me)

Update 2016-03-28: And we have a new systemd-free disro: Obarun, welcome !

Update 2015-12-15: Turns out PCLinuxOS is actually against Systemd yay! (Thanks for the notification Ryan)

Update 2015-12-01: The position of Manjaro Linux is not very clear, maybe we can add Majaro to the list any time soon ?

Update 2015-11-03: Added GuixSD, Simplicity Linux and Plamo, a good day for Linux freedom!

Update 2015-10-03: Personally, I switched to OpenBSD and I have to say it works really well!

Update 2015-10-03: Unfortunately RoboLinux has decided to switch to systemd.

Update 2015-07-04: Added antiX.

Update 2015-05-17: Added NuTyX.

Update 2015-04-26: Also added gnewsense, they seem to have no systemd but their opinion on the matter is unknown.

Update 2015-04-26: Updated Funtoo's stance on systemd, got an e-mail pointing to evidence they are against systemd.

Update 2014-12-15: Turns out CRUX is against systemd. Found a message in the mailing list (see link).

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a picture of meGabor de Mooij
Software Developer
Developing in PHP, Javascript and C.