Upstart: Explanation & Insights

Upstart is an event-based replacement for the traditional init daemon. The init daemon is the first process that the kernel starts when a computer is booted up. Its job is to start all other processes that run on the system.

Upstart's event-based model allows it to respond to events asynchronously as they are generated. This is a significant leap forward from the traditional init system, where services are started in a predetermined order. This asynchronous start-up sequence results in a faster boot-up experience.

Upstart is not just for booting and shutting down a system. It also supervises services while the system is running. If a service crashes, Upstart can automatically restart it, keeping your system stable and ensuring the availability of critical services.

Why is Upstart Important?

Upstart brings a new level of robustness to a Linux system. It doesn't just blindly start services in a certain order; it's aware of the state of your system and can adapt accordingly.

For example, if a service needs the network to be available before it starts, Upstart will wait until the network is up before starting that service. This reduces the chance of network failure related issues and boot errors.

Common Upstart Problems

The flexibility that Upstart offers can sometimes lead to confusion. Since services can start in any order, it can be difficult to troubleshoot when things go wrong. Additionally, because Upstart is event-driven, it can be challenging to replicate issues consistently.

Upstart Commands

Upstart provides a number of commands to manage services and system states.

For example, the initctl command is used to interact with Upstart. To list all jobs and their current states, you would use the initctl list command.

initctl list

To start a job, you would use the initctl start command.

initctl start mysql

You can replace start with stop or restart to stop or restart a service.

Upstart Configuration Files

Upstart jobs are defined in configuration files located in the /etc/init directory. These files end with a .conf extension and contain a description of the job and the events that should trigger the job to start or stop.

An example of an Upstart configuration file for the MySQL service might look like this:

description "MySQL Server"

start on filesystem and net-device-up IFACE!=lo
stop on runlevel [!2345]

respawn limit 10 5
umask 007

exec /usr/sbin/mysqld

This configuration file tells Upstart to start MySQL once the filesystem and network are available, to stop it when the system enters a runlevel other than 2, 3, 4, or 5, and to respawn the service if it crashes.


Upstart is a powerful tool for managing services on a Linux system. Its event-driven nature allows it to respond to system changes in real time, ensuring that services are available when they're needed. However, this flexibility can also make it more difficult to troubleshoot issues.

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