Should libpam-elogind Provide libpam-systemd ?

Ian Jackson ijackson at
Tue Nov 6 12:43:48 GMT 2018

I asked this question on debian-devel.  I said I would summarise the
responses.  I found that trying to write a summary involved me doing a
bit of research, and that not everyone in the thread seemed to agree
about everything.  To make a coherent picture I had to make some
suppositions, some of which may still be wrong, but I think what I
write below is roughly right.

Clear recommendations from the thread:

Don't provide libpam-systemd.
Do provide a separate pam module, rather than
File bugs against packages whose dependencies must be updated.
(More on bug filing below).

On Conflicts and/or switchability:

There was a suggestion that libpam-elogind should Conflict
libpam-systemd, to avoid complicating debugging or situations where
they might interfere.  Conversely it was suggested that this might
impede switching init systems by installing different sets of
packages, although it's not clear to me whether this is actually a
problem.  There was one suggestion to write yet another pam module
which would switch between pam_elogind and pam_systemd according to
whichever was available.

I think experimentation will show which of these approaches is best.

On the meaning of dependencies on libpam-systemd:

Some people suggested that usually a dependency on libpamd-systemd
would usually imply a functional dependency on systemd --user.  Having
looked at the packages in question (searching sid for Depends or
Recommends only) that seems to sometimes be the case, but only rarely.

Looking at the list I think a manual review of the proposed MBF list
would be sensible (and of course there would be a formal MBF proposal
here on -devel) but in most cases testing would not be needed.

On dbus-user-session:

There was considerable discussion of this.  It provides a session dbus
which is shared by all processes with the same uids.  So it differs
from (eg) dbus-x11, which provides one per graphical session.

This sharing of a single bus between different sessions is the purpose
of dbus-user-session.  Its maintainer says that its use of
libpam-systemd would not work with elogind and I see no reason to
doubt that.

When a package does not want, specifically, this sharing, the
dependency should be on
   default-dbus-session-bus | dbus-session-bus
or maybe the older form which I found in some packages in sid:
   dbus-user-session | dbus-x11

The value of this feature is IMO questionable.  Obviously its
maintainer does not agree with me on that.  (As background, there were
assertions on -devel that modern GNOME (eg dconf) does not work
properly if the same user logs in twice in parallel.  I'm sure that
contributors to debian-init-diversity would regard such a situation as
a significant bug.  But that's out of scope right now.)

I looked for dependencies on dbus-user-session in sid and found only
  pinentry-gnome3 (src:pinentry)

Of these:

pinentry-gnome3 and pulseaudio seem wrong to me.  PINs should not be
shared between login sessions and sound control should be per-session,
not per-uid.  The dbus-user-session maintainer said that this sharing
was necessary because gpg-agent is per-uid and pulseaudio is often a
systemd --user service.

I am not convinced by this.  Discussion is ongoing.  But there are
only three packages here and we can probably do something that makes
this work properly on non-sysvinit systems.

I'm not sure about rygel but it doesn't seem likely to me that this
dependency on dbus-user-session is necessary.  Perhaps there is
another way to implement this on non-systemd systems.  Again,
discussion is ongoing.

At some point soon we should probably file bugs against these three
packages, but the conversation on debian-devel with the
dbus-user-session maintainer needs to come to a conclusion (even if
it's only agreement to disagree) first.  I think also I may file a bug
against lintian asking for plain dependencies on dbus-user-session to
get a warning.

In the meantime, these dependencies are generally Recommends so it is
in practice possible to simply violate them.


Ian Jackson <ijackson at>   These opinions are my own.

If I emailed you from an address or, that is
a private address which bypasses my fierce spamfilter.

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