I post recently about an issue I had regarding Upstart and Ubuntu 14.04. Two mods chimed in, one suggesting I use a systemd based OS, and another supporting the suggestion to consider another OS.

My question is, is it reasonable advice for people to suggest such a massive change as using a different OS? In my experience, most sysadmins would prefer to use the latest version of their preferred OS, but policy and political reasons prevent us from always doing that. Do I need to explicitly state that I cannot use another OS than the one I'm asking for help with? To me, it seems quite flippant to suggest that I just use a different OS, as if that is even close to an easy change to make in most corporate environments.

I would love more than anything to pick and choose every bit of software I get to deploy. However, and I can only assume this is true for most members of this community, I don't always get to do that at work.

  • 2
    Seems like good advice given by demonstrably knowledgeable people. Given that your question remains unanswered after 2 days, perhaps you can't achieve what you want with your current tools. Do you know about AU that's a good place to get detailed answers specific to Ubuntu too.
    – user9517
    Mar 18, 2016 at 19:34
  • Yeah, I was going to cross post to AU, but I didn't want to do it too quickly and be spammy. It's not that the advice wouldn't solve my problem, just that it's so obvious as to be unnecessary.
    – zymhan
    Mar 18, 2016 at 19:51
  • 1
    Don't cross post. Flag your question and ask for it to be migrated.
    – user9517
    Mar 18, 2016 at 19:52
  • @Iain Done and done.
    – zymhan
    Mar 18, 2016 at 19:56

3 Answers 3


Others have made most of the points I would have made myself, so I won't repeat them, but as the person who made the suggestion you're concerned about, I do want to offer something that hasn't really been mentioned:

We see questions from people in a very wide variety of environments, from small businesses run from someone's garage, up to Fortune 50 companies. And these people have widely varying backgrounds and levels of experience, from people who don't even know what IT is, developers thrown into IT without warning, all the way up to Tom Limoncelli (who literally wrote the book on being a professional sysadmin).

It's not possible, therefore, to know exactly what your environment and experience are, unless you disclose them. If there's enough context, we can make educated guesses, but such guesses can still be wrong.

At the time I made this suggestion, I had no idea what your environment was, but given what little context was available, I considered it more likely that you were in an environment where it was relatively easier to make changes. This turned out not to be the case. Further, it seemed more likely to me that you were either satisfied with Ubuntu, or possibly not familiar with other distributions. Nothing given in the original question indicated otherwise, though you have indicated here that neither is likely to be true.

Even if you're in an environment where changes are difficult, that does not necessarily mean they're impossible. And this is merely a suggestion, after all. It's not a critique of your company policies (of which I knew nothing) and it's not an insult to your experience or lack thereof (of which I also knew nothing). It's only a point for possible consideration.

P.S.: Ubuntu 16.04 will finally have systemd, so perhaps that is something you will find easier to deploy in your existing environment?

  • 2
    Thanks, I appreciate the feedback. And I think you're right, Ubuntu 16.04 is probably my best bet in this environment.
    – zymhan
    Mar 21, 2016 at 15:10

Sure, it's totally reasonable.

First off, the suggestion was made in a comment, it's just an offhand bit of advice, and I'm confident the person who made the suggestion is aware that it's not always trivial to switch to a different OS.

But if you're having trouble with the exact sequence of processes and services starting, and if another distribution has better tools to control the sequencing, that's a useful and legitimate answer for anyone else who comes across the question.

It might not be useful to you because of factors that aren't mentioned in your question, but that's what upvotes and accepting are for. If another answer comes along and explains how to do what you want in the distribution you're using, then you'd upvote and accept that answer. Even if "use a different OS" was the only answer you got, you could still leave a comment and say that's not an option.

And the fact that they're mods isn't relevant, but the fact that they're #3 and #15 in total reputation is an indication that they have a lot of knowledge and experience, so maybe it is worth considering the suggestion.

  • I really would love to not have to use Ubuntu 14.04. But I can't. No amount of consideration on my part will change the fact that deploying a new OS in production environments is a massive undertaking. Using a different OS is of course in the back of my mind when considering bugs in something as core as the init system.
    – zymhan
    Mar 18, 2016 at 19:54
  • This is also why we have discrepencies in the accepted answer vs. most upvoted answer. The accepted answer is what was most useful to the person who asked the question. The most upvoted answer is the one that Random Internet People found more interesting/useful. The latter is still valuable and relevant knowledge to people who find the question because they have a similar problem, and their circumstances are frequently different.
    – Andrew B
    Mar 19, 2016 at 0:17

Beside what Ward already said, please consider the following:

  • We don't know what your restrictions are. Maybe you already run e.g. CentOS in your environment and could use such a system for your task, or you have the freedom to introduce it if necessary. Or maybe you are in an early planning/testing phase where a switch is possible anyway. All this means that switching the OS is not necessarily an expensive or intrusive option.

  • Advice on the StackExchange network is free. This also means others have the freedom to tell you things you might not want to hear or that are not useful for you. Reputation or mod status is irrelevant for this.

  • Most important: Both your question and answers and comments are not only for you but for everyone. If you don't profit from a piece of advice, others might.

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