Christoph's last Weblog entries

Systemd pitfalls
7th August 2015

logind hangs

If you just updated systemd and ssh to that host seems to hang, that's just a known Bug (Debian Bug #770135). Don't panic. Wait for the logind timeout and restart logind.

restart and stop;start

One thing that confused me several times and still confuses people is systemctl restart doing more than systemctl stop ; systemctl start. You will notice the difference once you have a failed service. A restart will try to start the service again. Both stop and start however will just ignore it. Rumors have it this has changed post jessie however.

sysvinit-wrapped services and stop

While there are certainly bugs with sysvinit services in general (I found myself several times without a local resolver as unbound failed to be started, haven't managed to debug further), the stop behavior of wrapped services is just broken. systemctl stop will block until the sysv initscript finished. It will even note the result of the action in its state. However systemctl will return with exitcode 0 and not output anything on stdout/stderr. This has been reported as Debian Bug #792045.

zsh helper

I found the following zshrc snipped quite helpful in dealing with non-reported systemctl failures. On root shells it will display a list of failed services as part of the prompt. This will give proper feedback whether your systemctl stop failed, it will give feedback if you still have type=simple services and if the sysv-init script or wrapper is broken.

precmd () {
    if [[ $UID == 0 && $+commands[systemctl] != 0 ]]
      systemd_failed="`systemctl --state=failed | grep failed | cut -d \  -f 2 | tr '\n' ' '`"

if [[ $UID == 0 && $+commands[systemctl] != 0 ]]
  PROMPT=$'%{$fg[red]>>  $systemd_failed$reset_color%}\n'


zsh completion

Speaking of zsh, there's one problem that bothers me a lot and I don't have any solution for. Tab-completing the service name for service is blazing fast. Tab-completing the service name for systemctl restart takes ages. People traced down to truckloads of dbus communication for the completion but no further fix is known (to me).

type=simple services

As described in length by Lucas Nussbaum type=simple services are actively harmful. Proper type=forking daemons are strictly superior (they provide feedback of finished initialization and success thereof) and type=notify services are so simple there's no excuse for not using them even for private one-off hacks. Even if you're language doesn't provide libsystemd-daemon bindings:

(defun sd-notify (event-string)
  (let ((socket (make-instance 'sb-bsd-sockets:local-socket :type :datagram))
        (name (posix-getenv "NOTIFY_SOCKET"))
        (bufferlen (length event-string)))
    (when name
      (sb-bsd-sockets:socket-connect socket name)
      (sb-bsd-sockets:socket-send socket event-string bufferlen))))

This is a stable API guaranteed to not break in the future and implemented in less than ten lines of code with just basic socket functions. And if your language has support it becomes actually trivial:

        import systemd
    except ImportError:

Note that in both cases there is no drawback at all on systemd-free setups. It has the overhead of checking the process' environment for NOTIFY_SOCKET or for the systemd package and behaves like a simple service otherwise.

Actually the idea of separating the technical aspect (daemonizing) from the semantic aspect of signalizing "initialization finished, everything's fine" is a pretty good idea and hopefully has the potential to reduce the number of services signalizing the "everything's fine" too early. It could even be ported to non-systemd init systems easily given the API.

Tags: debian, foss, linux.

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