I noticed that the most recent update of ubuntu offers to install systemd components. I hesitate to allow this update for I had very nasty experience of doing this in debian-testing when services weren't starting and I had no network. Is it possible to keep the current init system (upstart?) and somehow, on a permanet basis, ignore the offer to install systemd?

Ubuntu 14.04 does and will use Upstart for init. However, systemd has many components, and a number of them can be used without systemd being the init service. For example, logind has been in use for a couple of releases at least. Don't worry, you will have Upstart as init as long as you stick with 14.04. This will change in future releases.

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