Christian Heimes added the comment:
I'm not suggesting a generic platform detection function but rather a limited
function just for os-release. On platforms without /etc/os-release the function
should obviously fail and raise an exception.
/etc/os-release is available on distributions without systemd. Even my oldest
Debian installation on a Raspberry Pi has it.
A large majority of Linux distributions has the file. It's available on Debian,
Fedora, RHEL 6+, Ubuntu 14.04+ and many more.
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