Linked by Dedoimedo on Thu 17th Mar 2011 23:17 UTC
Debian and its clones Writing about Debian is not a simple thing. You know it's the giant that has spawned pretty much every other distro out there. It's almost like a Roman Empire, almost a taboo. Furthermore, it's not a desktop distro per se. It's more sort of a template you use to build your platform. It's also a SOHO server distro, therefore it more fits into the business category, comparable to CentOS and similar.
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My Debian *installer* review
by zimbatm on Fri 18th Mar 2011 09:21 UTC
zimbatm
Member since:
2005-08-22

I love Debian but I must agree that the installer is quite clunky :

* The progress bar has a tendency to from 100% to 0% back again and again. This is something we used to make windows fun of.
* The installer needs to be monitored trough all the installation because it might ask a question at any moment. Same, windows solved this ages ago.

That said, I understand the reasons for these issues and am not able to propose a better solution. What happens, is that each install step is represented by an independent .udeb package. This makes the whole process really modulable, as you can create CDs that contain or not raid-detection or whatnot, include proprietary package or not, ... But it also cuts all the steps in independent chunks and gives a combinatorial number of tests to verify that everything works well together.

The questions can be preseeded which might solve the second issue. Unfortunately, the docs are scarce and finding the right preseed options is often a matter of scanning the sources. The debugging of the installer is also a nightmare, the logs aren't including much useful informations and are filled with progress-bar percent update messages.

This is really a part of Debian that could be improved but I am afraid that by fixing these issues we will loose the flexibility that we have currently.

Reply Score: 1

HarmHilvers Member since:
2010-12-29

I love Debian but I must agree that the installer is quite clunky :

* The progress bar has a tendency to from 100% to 0% back again and again. This is something we used to make windows fun of.
* The installer needs to be monitored trough all the installation because it might ask a question at any moment. Same, windows solved this ages ago.

If what you write is true about the independent udeb packages, then there definitely is a solution: make two progress bars. The first one is for the udeb package that is currently being installed and it works with percentages. The second is more of a generic progress bar: if a Debian installation takes 20 packages, then this progress bar will be upped with 5 percent after the installation of each package. Clean. Simple.

Reply Parent Score: 1

zimbatm Member since:
2005-08-22

That is an idea but it may be more complicated than it looks to implement.

Basically, all packages would need to be re-compiled to import a global progress variable because each screen you see is a new invocation of the curses gui tool from the current package. Support for a dual-progress-bar would also need to be added to the curses gui toolkit and the other frontends.

I am not even sure you can build the full list of steps before starting the process. Some .udeb seem to only be called when a prior option has been selected, especially in the disk-partitioning area, where for example you get an LVM partitioning dialog only if you selected the LVM disk layout.

This is really a design issue. The idea (I guess) was to re-use the dpkg toolkit to build those installer steps, but I don't feel like it is appropriate. But changing everything now is a lot of work.

That said, Ubuntu managed to solve the progress-bar issue with their ubiquity graphical installer. I am not entirely sure how they did it but I think they wrapped the dpkg gtk frontend with their own helpers. Last time I tried, the preseeding mechanism was the same as on the classical debian installer, which much less, different and broken options (that was on 10.04).

Reply Parent Score: 2