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What exactly is the /etc/init/failsafe.conf for? I have disabled the sleep timers in my failsafe.conf file which get make a faster boot up time. Are there any downsides? The only things I could come up with looking around was a this description from this link which complains that the wait time isn't high enough.

I think that [30] is really to small a number. You're only safeguarding against the case where a user had an entry in /etc/network/interfaces that where the device was removed or is not connected. Thats a very rare case. Increasing the timeout to 60 seconds would make it less likely to have a false positive and have rc-sysinit start early. (Ie, the case where a dhcp took 35 seconds).

Inside of the failsafe.conf file itself states

# The point here is to wait for 2 minutes before forcibly booting
# the system. Anything that is in an "or" condition with 'started
# failsafe' in rc-sysinit deserves consideration for mentioning in
# these messages. currently only static-network-up counts for that.

I don't believe rc-sysinit depends on the network.

What purposes does /etc/init/failsafe.conf serve?

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One purpose for failsafe.conf is to prevents problems like this one with slow DHCP servers: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/ifupdown/+bug/838968

You shouldn't hack at the sleep timer. The problem is probably that you have an auto [ifname] line in your /etc/network/interfaces file for an interface that doesn't get an address. This frequently happens if you install using a wired connection, and then stop using that wired connection in favor of another one (e.g. wlan).

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