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A Better Installer for Debian? 301

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the at-least-you-never-need-to-reinstall-it dept.
F1re writes "Linux User mag in Germany has decided to include Debian on the mag and wants to make a more user friendly installer. They are looking for help from Debian developers. More info here Linux User"
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A Better Installer for Debian?

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  • beginner friendly (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Fruit (31966)

    The Debian installer is already plenty user friendly, just not beginner friendly. Quite a difference if you ask me (and sometimes even opposites!)

    • That is mostly true.

      However (dons flameproof suit...), take a look at the range of hardware that SuSE and Redhat supports out of the box without difficulty - including PCMCIA etc.

      I'm a committed Debian user + supporter - but there IS a need for better a installation process...
    • plenty user friendly, just not beginner friendly

      Ah my friend, you're well versed in speaking the official, party approved Open Source Speak.

      By artificially separating general user friendliness into arbitrary subgroups so that you can feel elite just because you can use something as horrid as emacs to edit text files is just ridiculous.

      Most open source software is not user friendly with programs like emacs which is mother of all the user unfriendly software in general. It is not beginner friendly and it is not user friendly. It might be efficient when you bother wasting countless hours learning how to use it, but efficient still doesn't make it user friendly.

      User friendly software is software that's friendly both to powerusers and beginners alike. From the start. Without manuals, FAQs and HOWTOs.

      • by txtger (216161)
        Sorry, but I don't think that is completely true. Users do exist in various subgroups, and thus user-friendliness exists in the same manner.

        For example, a friend of mine recently purchased a computer game for his 2 year old daughter. She understood the interface completely. Even without labels, she knew to click on the pencil to be able to color in the various characters and she knew to click on the toilet to hear a gurgling sound, which her laugh.

        I, on the other hand, was completely clueless. She handed me the mouse and wanted me to play, and I couldn't figure out one thing about the interface.

        On the other hand, I love vi. And I didn't really spend tons of time learning to use vi. I sat down, a computer science professor gave me the needed instruction (press i to insert text, a to append text, etc.) and I started using it. Now I'm hooked on vi, and even when I'm working with text in windows I use a windows port of vi over other text editors.

        I don't feel that user-friendly can simply be determined by the friendliness to users, basically. How on earth could my parents, for example, pick up perl with no training. I couldn't do it, and neither could they. Does that mean that perl is not user friendly? By no means. It's one of the easiest languages I've ever dealt with. You have to look at the tool, who it's meant for, and what it's meant to do when you determine user-friendliness.

        While I'll agree that the debian installer is a bit difficult to get used to, I must also admit that that's more because I'm not used to it. At the same time, I know people who have had problems using Microsoft Word, simply because they weren't used to it. So, I would agree that the debian installer isn't beginner friendly...but at the same time it is user-friendly. The masses using and loving debian are living proof.
      • Blah. You clearly have no idea what you're talking about. Emacs is a programmable editor for programmers. It's programmer friendly.
    • by yatest5 (455123)
      The Debian installer is already plenty user friendly, just not beginner friendly. Quite a difference if you ask me (and sometimes even opposites!)

      This may be waayyyyyy out of leftfield, but isn't someone installing something by definition a beginner?
      • The Debian installer is already plenty user friendly, just not beginner friendly. Quite a difference if you ask me (and sometimes even opposites!)

        This may be waayyyyyy out of leftfield, but isn't someone installing something by definition a beginner?

        Not always. I'd been using and administering UNIX for a decade before I first installed Slackware Linux. A few years latter when I changed to Debian I sure wasn't a beginner Linux or UNIX.

        Now I will agree that Debian needs a more user friendly installation process. I for one would like to see a better breakdown of the packages into the functionality they provide. I haven't figured out the best way to do it, but it could be provided without much change to the current dselect system. It would mainly take a different classification hierarchy. Alot more fine grained than they have right now. I'd like to be able to go find a listing of "terminal programs" and select from that list, then go on to "browsers", etc.. I don't know of any Linux of *BSD distribution that provides that level of selection yet. Integrating sugestions as to complimentary packages would also be nice. That part would likely take a bit more work than just reclassification.

    • Re:beginner friendly (Score:3, Informative)

      by jilles (20976)
      What it does it does in a userfriendly way. The problem is that once it has done its thing you need to do a lot yourself to get a somewhat useable box. I think it sucks that it doesn't recognize any hardware. I actually had to remove the cover from a box once to find out what kind of NIC it had. The same applies to the videocard and monitor I have. All of it is pnp meaning that the installer shouldn't waste my time by requiring me to provide information it already has readily available.

      I couldn't care less whether the installer is text based or graphical. What I do care about is that the installer saves me time. If I pop in a windows XP cd in a (compatible) PC I don't have to do anything. It just installs itself, recognizes all hardware and you end up with a useable box. With debian I have to do everything (including the tedious stupid stuff) manually. If you are lucky and select the right modules and all you end up with a login box to an outdated wm/xfree combination on an outdated kernel.

      Being able to bypass hw detection is a desirable feature on debian (or any OS in fact). Not having hardware detection is bloody annoying and very user unfriendly.

  • by Jouster (144775) <> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @06:49AM (#3269575) Homepage Journal
    First Windows removes its real-mode command line, now Debian loses its undecipherable installation syntax? What will all the esoteric-knowledge gurus do?

    • What will all the esoteric-knowledge gurus do?

      Compile a list of the scenes cut from the syndicated airings of the Simpsons, cross-referenced against different syndication scene cuts from international showings, indexed by chalkboard message and couch scene combinations, searchable by pig-latin syntax, using a search engine written half in COBOL and half in FORTRAN. The search engine interface will be written using Visual C++ running under Windows 1.0 installed in a dosemu session.

      Then, convert the entire project to 5 lines of Perl code.
  • DrakX? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by leviramsey (248057)
    Mandrake's installer is GPL. It shouldn't be too exceptionally difficult to port it to Debian...
  • There is one - PGI (Score:5, Interesting)

    by trh (20778) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @07:01AM (#3269592)
    Progeny Debian Linux was a GREAT distribution, when it existed. It had great hardware detection, a very simple installer and some other features. Some of the best parts of it are now available.

    You can use Progeny Graphical Installer (PGI) to install a nice Woody release, or download the package and create your OWN customized installer with it. This thing is GREAT. Check it out - they are pushing hard towards the 1.0 release.

    It is very nice, and has a text-mode and X-based installer (you can even do the X install remotely on another machine). This thing is great, and I use it for all of my installs right now. Thanks, Branden Robinson and team for keeping this great part of Progeny Debian Linux alive...
    • by trh (20778)
      More information on it is available in this informative E-mail from Branden: an -testing-200202/msg00161.html

    • YES! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by brunes69 (86786) <> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @09:20AM (#3269819) Homepage

      Finally someone who doesn't want to re-invent the wheel! For all the inherent benefits to Open Source and code reuse, the amount of code-duplication (and therefore time and effort wasted) in the Open Source world amazes (and disappoints) me.

      And no I am not talking about Gnome vs. KDE. I am talking about things like having 10 different ICQ clients, all with different implimentations of the protocol. Sure, a different GUI and different features is worth making a new program for. But why not borrow the code for the network stack from someone else who already has that part tackled? Same with filters for MS Office. What is the big deal about KOffice, Abiword, and OpenOffice coming together and making some nice libs that translate .DOC into an XML format they can all interchange?

      Simmilar things can be said about other softwares as well. Let's work together people! No need to re-invent the wheel!

      • Re:YES! (Score:2, Insightful)

        by metacosm (45796)
        As a developer, I completely agree with the comment on code reuse.

        As an open-source user, I totally disagree with the statement that "code-duplication" is "time wasted", just because it doesn't produce something YOU use, doesn't mean it is "time wasted". That is how people learn, and having multiple "ICQ clients" just makes our platform more robust, because someday, someone will tweak, change and/or mangle the ICQ protocol, and 1 or 2 of those clients will be able to easily adapt to the new one, and 8 or 9 will not, and then some new coders will get interested and produce some new ones! I think multiple code bases that do the same thing function as a survival tool! :)

        (Note: the aim protocol has been mangled multiple times, a couple of the text based aim clients made it thru the changes, many did not ... same thing for gui clients)
      • RE: Offtopic (Score:4, Interesting)

        by extrasolar (28341) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @03:41PM (#3272139) Homepage Journal
        I almost kick myself everytime I read one of these "re-inventing the wheel with open source" tidbits. I'm not sure what your experience is but it doesn't sound like you have a foot in the free software community.

        Because it is a community and the community isn't hiring people from Universities with CS degrees, rather within the community people are learning to code. They are getting experience. Some of us are rather new to coding so you will see "Hello World" re-implemented thousands of times. You'll see hundreds of the most routine shell scripts. And you'll see dozens of IRC clients all from a different code base. Why?

        Its part of the fun of computing. Honestly, it is less fun (IMO) to start from someone else's program than from starting from scratch--especially when someone else's program already has all the features you want. The beginning stages of a software project are probably the most exciting.

        Of course there are other things. Like it is more difficult to grok a large code base than a smaller one. And sometimes more experienced coders pull tricks that newbies don't quite grok yet--so decide to use more simpler and apparent methods.

        Free Software isn't going away and I think you're going to see a lot more of this. Programmers going through different stages of experience and writing software that demonstrates different levels of skill.

        One thing I've noticed is that software is becomming more and more complex. We may see what I call generational programming. Basically, instead of one programmer understanding a code base or even an entire community understanding a code base we may get to the point where several generations are needed to understand and contribute to a code base (or it may be a conveniant excuse for the TUNES project :).
        • I agree with what you're saying, and I understand fully that the Open Source community is a dynamic one that is largely based both on developers scratching an itch, and developers learning new skills. But the number of large-scale community driven projects that are there to serve a specific goal are growing rapidly. Look at OpenOffice, Mozilla, KOffice, Evolution, Apache for examples. All of these are fairly large, complex pieces of software. While some might have initially started out scratching an itch, they are now vital pieces of software we all depend on.

          These are the kinds of projects that can and should benefit the most from code reuse and collaboration, but in my experience utilize it the least. Take my example about MSOffice filters. Or the fact that the Mozilla project wrote a whole new GUI system when several excellent cross platform toolkits already existed.

    • by Sethb (9355)
      I loved Progeny, but since it died, I'm using Libranet [] now. It's not free-as-in-beer to download the binaries, but the $45 I paid was well worth it for a great debian-based distro that has been rock-solid for me. You can download version 1.9 for free from their site, but the latest version costs money.

      Installing Libranet 2.0 was quite painless, other than having to swap two CDs several times, and then having 400MB of stuff to update via apt-get. Thank god I just upgraded my cable modem to the business-class service...

      But, since the Libranet guys aren't too keen on giving away the binaries of version 2.0 (though you can download version 1.9 for free) I doubt they'd be too interested in contributing their installer technology...
    • Yeah - PGI is an excellent installer, but why wasn't I given the option to run it when I boot the ISO?

      There are a few good OSS installers Debian can use - Storm, Progeny...what we need is the endorsement of one installer as the "official GUI installer" so people can choose between the "official text-based installer" Debian already has, and the "official GUI installer" upon booting an ISO.
      • by Overfiend (35917)

        Yea h - PGI is an excellent installer, but why wasn't I given the option to run it when I boot the ISO?

        I don't understand what you mean. ISOs that the pgi-build command creates are, in fact, bootable. Are you using an IA-64 system? In our experience we have to tell the EFI shell to boot from the CD-ROM manually, but conceptually this isn't too different from changing the boot device order in an i386's BIOS.

        If you're having problems getting PGI ISOs to boot, please consult the users' manual [] and/or file a bug report. We'd like to know what we can do to make PGI more reliable.

        Thanks for trying PGI out! With help from the community we can reach 1.0 sooner; we're currently at version 0.9.6.

        -- Branden Robinson, PGI Project Lead

  • No No No! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tryfen (216209) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @07:01AM (#3269594) Homepage
    I think that the basic point is being missed.

    From the article
    Right now what we'd be most interested in is some feedback by Debian developers and users out there

    The golden rule in HCI is "Developers are not target users". Sad as it may seem for some people Linux Developers are no longer the same people as Linux Users. This means that, by and large, interface designers should IGNORE THE DEVELOPERS!

    Users are the ones that matter here. As a first time Linux installer I don't really care about most of the things a developer cares about.
    I haven't installed Debian, but let me compare my last Linux install (Mandrake 8.something) to WinXP...

    All WinXP asked me was, essentially, "What is your Country and TimeZone".
    Mandrake wanted to know the intimate details of my network card, how much swap space I wanted, what make of scroll-mouse I had, what sound card I had, what video cards I had (and don't get me started on XFree's Multimon support!). All this does is serve to scare and confuse a Linux Virgin. And if you want Linux on the desktop you can either make the world smarter, or make your products smarter.

    Debian should not be soliciting people in the know - they know far more than the average first time user and are, consequently, useless for developing interfaces for newbies.

    Sorry for the rant/misspellling/smell.

    • by Bozar (458678) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @07:14AM (#3269618) Homepage
      I recently switched from Redhat to Debian linux. I used the network install (because i have a fast connection) and i found that the most obscure part of the install was finding which NIC model i had (because they went by manufacturer code instead of human-readable names) If a prepackaged installer simply had something that detected your NIC automatically, with some simple instructions to read along with each install stage (easy ones found at, then it would be a much less painful install. As a seperate note, something must be added to automatically configure USB optical mice, because as it is they are not (a huge pain for a user with limited skills).

      dselect is already a good tool for choosing packages to install and seeing what is out there to install. Its interface could be improved somewhat (always going past help screens becomes a pain, and collapsable trees should be in to reduce clutter(and if they are already, why aren't they obvious))

      This should put user-friendliness in, while maintaining most of the customization available in the regular install (after all, you could always ignore the advice...)
      • by Peter Harris (98662) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @07:27AM (#3269640) Homepage
        dselect is an HCI abomination, even for those who know how to use it.

        #apt-get install aptitude

        Aaahhh. *That's* better....
        • by dlbornke (68572) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @08:35AM (#3269741) Homepage
          There is neither a need to use dselect nor to use aptitude - EVER. All you need are the apt-tools. If you look for a program:

          # apt-cache search <search term>

          lists you all available packages that fit somehow the search term (search term can be the program name, parts of that name, a description ...)

          If you want more info on a package:

          # apt-cache show <package name>

          after that, you only need to install the usual way:

          # apt-get install <package name>

          I have the aliases 'i' (for 'apt-get install'), 's' (for 'apt-cache search') and 'si' (for 'apt-cache show'), which make work much easier.

          • Um...correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't apt only handle required dependencies whereas dselect will also pick up recommended and suggested?

            I thought that was one of the main reasons to use dselect over apt.

            Note that I've used apt almost exclusively and have never used dselect except during the original install, so obviously using apt alone works just fine.

          • I installed Fink on my OS X box a couple of weeks ago. I've been using dselect to get software. You're saying that apt-"whatever" will be easier? I do know that dselect is a kluged up mess. What I would love is a native Mac OS X app to front end fink or apt-blah, or at least an XWindow app that will run on Darwin. Oh well, until I can write my own OS X apps, I'll learn the cli version of apt.
      • dselect is already a good tool for choosing packages to install and seeing what is out there to install. Its interface could be improved somewhat

        dselect is definitely not for novice. Anyone has not screwed things up in dselect? A wrong keypress would deselect whole netbase, for example. At least, not to use dselect before you realize SHIFT-X could undo careless mistakes. :)

        Ok, call me loser if you like, I still think apt-get is the best. :)
      • by alder (31602)
        To avoid it:

        echo expert >> /etc/dpkg/dselect.cfg
    • All WinXP asked me was, essentially, "What is your Country and TimeZone".
      Yes, and it still had to be told 4 times. Put in language, keyboard layout, location and timezone. Individually. And it forgets each time. If I'm in Scotland, doesn't it make sense to be in GMT/BST timezone? No! The default is still PST (or EST, I forget). What it should do is ask for location and present a set of defaults for that location; i.e. for the UK, default is English(British), keyboard layout is UK and timezone is GMT/BST.

      This gets particularly annoying when the VIA USB drivers keep screwing up the registry when doing large transfers (e.g. PDA syncing, copying data to CF cards) requiring a reinstall every 5 minutes.

      • While I thought that would be a good way to do things as well I ran into several situations where that does not work out worth a darn...

        I have an American keyboard, prefer Canadian settings, but live in Switzerland. So what settings should be default?

        The settings that are default are according to the version of Windows you use. For example if you buy UK Windows you get UK settings German Windows you get German settings. That I think would be the most logical solution.
        • Fine, you're an exception; it should allow those settings but it should at least default to the "common case"; i.e. in your case it should ask location (Switzerland), set the timezone accordingly and give defaults for keyboard/language settings which the user can override if he wants to. Something like "Windows has selected the following settings based on your location. Please change anything you don't like". That (a) give the level of control you want and (b) saves me having to tell it I'm in the UK 4 times.
    • Mandrake lets you _change_ the default values for all of these, but by default it does a very good job of detecting the network card(s), video card and all . Accepting all default options gives you a working system. Of course it is a pain to decide the level of security you want for your system (this being /. I am sure we all know why Windows doesn't let you choose ;--) and to click through the long list of extra apps that come with the system to check which ones you want to install, much better go out and buy them and install them from CD's one by one ;--)

      BTW, I have tried several times to install a wireless card on Windows machines and never, ever succeeded. Mandrake figured it out flawlessly. Go figure!

    • All WinXP asked me was, essentially, "What is your Country and TimeZone".

      Asked me the same thing. I told it the country (UK), yet it still decided to default me to Pacific Time. Shouldn't the default be GMT?

      And, after it knew which country I was in, it then decided to give me a US keyboard by default. Even when I changed it, it decided that I didn't -really- mean it, and kept the US keyboard and US locale as the default System-wide preferences. You have more dialogs to go through to get that sorted out, and it's not at all obvious that you even need to get it sorted out.

      It also asked me half way through, after it had formatted my drive and copied various things and then rebooted. I couldn't just answer questions at the beginning, then leave it alone for God knows how long to finish the install.

      You happen to have hit a real bugbear in all the Windows installations I've ever used there...


    • You must be speaking about some kind of asexual longbearded hacker type of developer (you know who), but I don't think this view of developers hold true anymore. I for example (there are plenty others) am both a developer and an end user. I hate having to answer stupid questions (as if I care about installing drivers, do it for me, I love XP for this, works like a charm), yet I can easily be described as a computer geek.

      What it all boils down to is that don't ask someone who has no idea of what the users might need. What the person might be should be irrelevant. It's like saying "don't ask males, females uses computers less, and we should ask them!", or to design a car for someone who hasn't sat in one before (The Dodge Viper wouldn't exist then).

      Yes, I'm answering a rant with a new rant, but there has to be a stop to this "developers are nutcases" and "users are morons" missconceptions. As long as you don't completely lack common sense you can do this. And if you want help, there are tons of litrature out there, or you can read Microsoft's (gasp!) stuff about user interfaces on msdn. I think that KDE has a bunch of nice stuff on their pages too.
    • You missed the point.

      Ask users what they want, because they will use the installer for installing the OS.

      Ask developers what they want, because they will be writing code, modules, extensions, and keeping the installer up-to-date with newer hardware. If you don't take developers past, present, and future into consideration, then you will end up with an installer that noone wants to maintain, extend, tweak, polish, etc... In addition, hardware developers should also be consulted, because they will be making the hardware that is to be autodetected and configured. Companies that support Linux by providing specs, drivers, and such, should be companies whose hardware is correctly autodetected and autoconfigured by the installer.

      Ignoring developers would be one of the most ignorant and just plain stupid things that you could do when designing a Linux installer. My point is that, in fact, the developers will be dealing with the installer far more than the users because they will be writing code or fabricating hardware, all of which must correctly and easily integrate with the installer.

      Furhermore, asking users should mean asking and supporting different types of users: Joe Six-pack users, power users, and most importantly, system administrators and system integrators. How many MS Windows users installed their copy of windows? Yeah, very little, so why ask Joe Six-pack what he wants when he most likely won't ever install an OS? Its more important to ask the target groups that will be installing operating systems: OEMs (aka system integrators), system administrators, and power users.

      Having an installer that can be used by any idiot off the street might seem like a good idea, but you will be ignoring your target audience.

      Truely, for Linux to "make it on the desktop", requires that OEMs start shipping PDAs, laptops, desktop PCs, and workstations with Linux on them. Otherwise, you will be making a Linux-for-Dummies installer for a group of people who will never use it. You want Linux to end up on more desktops? Ask Dell, Compaq, and HP what they want from a Debian Linux installer. Also, note that an automated patch application utility such as apt-get makes support oh so much easier, as long as it is setup to run at 2AM every night or something like that. OEMs should think about that. No more workstations 3 service packs behind means far fewer people with rooted web servers, desktops, etc... (ala Code Red and Nimda).

      Finally, some flamebait, but it must be said: Most HCI or CHI people are the wrost types of Software Engineers and Computer Scientists... even worse than those AI guys (most of whom don't even understand the basic limitations of formal, i.e. computational systems: incompleteness, undecidability, diagnalization). I mean, most things that the HCI research guys find out is common sense, and when its not, its most likely misleading, "dumb down the world" advice, like the parent post. Users can mean developers in one situation (OS installers, if OEM system integrators and sys-admins are considered developers) and other times it can mean Joe-sixpack (Web Browsers, IM, Media Players). But not so if you ask the HCI croud... to them, everything should be dumbed down. Any retard should be able to carry out any task. I am still waiting for the HCI croud to start writing papers on making open heart surgery more user-friendly and easier to carry out by Joe-sixpack. We have all seen what happens when you dumb down system administration. You dumb down the security of the internet. I mean, any idiot can admin a server right? Microsoft preaches so, but is it a good idea?

      Choice, options, control... they should all be taken away from the user, no matter who that user is. For according to HCI types, we should pander to the lowest common denominator: Joe sixpack and Soccer Mom. They LOVE installing operating systems. Its part of or at least could and should be part of their everyday life.

      While the HCI research community has a few nice apples, most are bad apples that just couldn't cut it in their Computational Theory 101 class or Algorithms 101 class. So they spend their entire life writing papers on common sense topics and idiotic topics. Whoever gives them funding is wasting their money.
  • cool (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sydneyfong (410107) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @07:10AM (#3269608) Homepage Journal
    This will give Debian quite a lot of publicity. Maybe enough for it to take off, at least in Germany ;-)

    Personally I really wonder why people still use RPM based distributions, is it just because of the installer or the publicity? I mean, *everybody* who's heard of Linux must have heard of Redhat, but no beginner would have heard of Debian. Yeah like this "I'm using Linux 7.2, what are YOU using?"

    Seriously I don't see anything potentially bad about making a user friendly installer, the one Debian uses now really could be improved. It's nice that they asked the Debian guys about it though. I wonder if it will get back to the main distribution of Debian if the installer is really as good as it sounds?
    • Maybe enough for it to take off, at least in Germany

      Debian is very well known in Germany (were I live). Of course many people use SUSE as well, just because SUSE is available in every bookshop while you have to ask for Debian.

      I'm using SUSE for several years now and soon I'm going to switch to Debian for a simple reason: I'm sick of SUSE's "we are the first to have XYZ" policy. I don't appreciate to have software that is just in beta status in a distribution.

      So I retrieved my set of Potato CDs and now I'm playing around with Debian in my laboratory environment (lots of PCs to try things out). So far I'm fine with Debian as well, even when there is something different from SUSE:

      • SUSE installs and per default you have many things running. That means you have to disable services that you don't want (and maybe you don't even know)
      • Debian installs with a minimum of running services. That means that I have to configure additional services and there is nothing running that I didn't want to run

      A small difference, but from my point of view an important one.

      Coming to the installation process. I don't think that Debian is more difficult to install than SUSE. Ok, the text based installer requires you to read instead of clicking around, but after all I succeeded in installing Debian without any problem that I couldn't solve.

      And one final point: Debian installs also on systems with small memory while SUSE for example requires at least 64 MB for installation. And in some cases that's even too much...

    • I've been using UNIX & Linux for about 4 years now, and I'm often asked why I still use Red Hat instead of Debian or Slackware. Here's why:

      • Familiarity with RH (yes, it was the first distro I used, and I have tried others)
      • Consistency between work & home (RH is the only distro allowed on the servers, and I like being able to keep more-or-less the same setup between home & work)
      • There are LOTS of software packages in rpm format, and it's not difficult to build your own rpm package (either with a source rpm, or from a tarball)- as for the dep problem, you would still need the same dependencies on another distribution so IMO that arguement is invalid
      • There are loads of documentation for both Red Hat and rpm in general ( & are good sites for looking things up - as the website for a linux-related channel states: "You can lead an Red Hat user to documentation, but you can't make him/her read" or words to that effect)
      • Personally, I don't like the attitude of a lot of Debian users, they really turned me off of even wanting to try Debian anymore (constantly bashing other distros while ignoring the faults in your own is *not* good advocacy)

      You do know that a lot of rpm-based distros have good tools that are under the GPL or other open licenses...maybe if Debian would consider using these or similar tools I'd think about giving it a try again at home...after all, there is apt for rpm now, so maybe there is hope that the different distros could play nicer with each other :).

  • Misunderstanding (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CAIMLAS (41445) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @07:15AM (#3269620) Homepage
    I'm sorry, but when did "I can click on it" equate user-friendlyness?

    Debian's current default installer consists of a group of sub-menus with descriptive explainations of what task each menu item would perform.

    If this is an arguement of asthetic or practicality, then it should be thrown out. The only way this arguement for a better Debian installer could possibly hold water is if we're talking about the detection of hardware, which is marginally frustrating (I had no problems the first time I installed debian).
    • Pretty much agree. The odd bug-fix, and hardware detection (but then again, if you don't KNOW what's in your box, why are you installing on it?), oh and maybe avoid dselect like the plague...

      Took me under a day to get a reasonable Unstable tracking system up and running from fresh on the new orkstation. As with anything, try it twice and then tell me what the pick-up curve was, don't say "oh it's not the windoze installer, what do I do?!!" and wail and whine.
      • by p3d0 (42270)
        if you don't KNOW what's in your box, why are you installing on it?
        Perhaps two scenarios:
        1. You are installing on a number of different boxes, and the labour involved in finding out exactly what is in each box is multiplied, especially if you make a mistake.
        2. You know the manufacturer of a device, but not which driver it should use. (eg. does my D-Link network card use the Tulip or VIA Rhine chipset?)
      • by Genom (3868)
        Agree as well - the only time there seems to be a problem is when you have some rather non-standard hardware (eg: an older Sony laptop).

        I've installed Debian on everything from pre-built workstations, to self-assembled servers, to my laptop, and I'd have to say the only one that gave me a problem was my laptop (mainly because most of the hardware in it needs drivers that aren't included in the default kernel).

        Compiling a custom kernel fixed the problem. Packaging it with kernel-package (very easy) and saving it away makes any required reinstall a breeze.

        Now, as we move towards a newer distribution (Woody is supposed to be released "real soon now"), this may not be a problem, as the default kernel *may* support my hardware - but I'm sure there will alwayx be people who have something exotic that doesn't work out-of-the-box (so to speak, when there is no real "box"...). The same troubles hold true on the Windows side of things as well, when things don't work right off, and you need a driver download, although their proprietarity allows them to pressure paranoid manufacturers into only supporting their OS (but that gets into another issue entirely...), so more drivers are generally available from the get-go.

        Would it be nice to have a pointy-clicky Debian installer? long as I can type -expert at the prompt and get to the one I'm familiar with. Redhat did that transition right, IMHO - you can always start up the text-based installer instead of the graphical one if you prefer, but the graphical one is the default, so people who equate "graphical" with "user friendly" are taken care of. I wouldn't be upset if Debian did something similar, just wrapping their text installer in a graphical shell, while allowing the user to use the medium of their choice.

        Sorry for rambling - need more coffee!
      • if you don't KNOW what's in your box, why are you installing on it?

        Because I just fished it out of the recycling pile at work?

    • by BlueGecko (109058) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <kcallop.nimajneb>> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @09:27AM (#3269838) Homepage
      Who are you targeting?

      I appreciate that complicated (yet perhaps intuitive) individual package selection interfaces may be really easy for you to use. But I promise you that they're not for Joe Sixpack. If you want Linux to pervade the desktop, you're going to have to compromise at least partially and go with what will be easy for the average user. Look at Mac OS X: the install process consists of clicking "OK" about eight times. If you want more fine-grained control, you got it (click "Customize"), but for the average user, he clicks OK six times or whatever and the entire install process is done for him. For 98% of users, this is exactly what's needed. For the remaining 2%, who are geeks and network admins, you can get the customization through the button; you can modify an existing OS X install and then burn an image to be copied onto a few thousand workstations of that; or you can use a utility such as Pacifist to select individual files of a package. I fail to see how an approach such as this would compromise your setup, yet clearly see how it would help the newbie.

      And to those who say, "well, Joe Sixpack should learn more!" Recognize this: he's not going to. So you need to make the decision of whether you would rather he remain in ignorance on Windows or install Linux via a stupid, prettily colored interface. Your call.
      • Here's something to chew on: if he's able to just 'click on through' an install of debian, what the hell is he supposed to do with the computer after he gets it installed? He'll be confused and befuddled as to how he's supposed to use it. Why lead him astray to think that the OS will be as 'easy' to use as the installer?
    • GUI's can allow end users to make better and more informed choices iff the person designing the GUI knows what the hell they are doing, which for most linux desktop developers is a pretty damned big "if". There seems to be an attitude of "If we simply make it into a GUI, it'll instantly be easy". If a set of GUI widgets are laid out in way that makes the relationship between the actions they perform extremely ambiguous, the GUI'ized interface will not be any better than the current command-line crap that proceeded it. In fact, it can be worse and mislead the user into making a very destructive choice that they thought that wouldn't be making. One of the biggest problems the linux interface design world is currently facing, as you pointed out, is the idea that "pretty == usable". All the anti-aliased text in the world won't ameliorate a menu selection with the caption "Save" that deletes everything on your hard drive.

      I once talked to someone who designed a linux installer for a major linux distribution. This installer had many widgets laid out in a confusing and ambiguous manner, and in same cases widgets that are really meant for conveying one type of information were used to convey a totally different and wrong kind type information (for the widgets that were being used).

      I mentioned some of these problems, and he didn't see what was the big deal. "You don't think it's pretty enough?" he asked me.
  • by Bollie (152363) <slashdot&jangutter,com> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @07:36AM (#3269653) Homepage
    People always congratulate Mandrake on their beautiful installation, setup and configuration tools, but (and I speak from experience here) try to install it on anything with 32MB of RAM and you're in for a nasty surprise.

    If this installer is to run on a CD distributed with the magazine, the second most important aim would be scalability. If this allows users to install Debian on a 486 with 16 MB RAM AND on a Athlon 1.2 GHz with 1 GB RAM providing the same options, I'd give it a thumbs up.

    If you can use the same installer to install a minimum firewall/webserver or a heavyweight desktop with all the trimmings without requiring the user to upgrade the machine something spectacular, then this would be ideal.

    When dealing with a magazine-subscriber audience, you need to expect hobbyists wanting to turn everything into Linux boxen...
  • Painless Debian (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @07:42AM (#3269659)
    IMO this is a great debian installation guide Painless Debian []
  • Debian installer (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dr. Sp0ng (24354) < minus herbivore> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @08:00AM (#3269688) Homepage
    The Debian installer used to be awful, and you really needed to know your way around dselect to get it installed properly (or you can just install nothing and apt-get it all once you've installed).

    I recently installed unstable, using the testing installer, and I was surprised to see that it doesn't seem to use dselect anymore! There's a much more friendly (although still text-based) utility it uses to select packages. Honestly, the installer really is pretty easy now (on par with RedHat, anyway, only a bit less pretty). It could be better for non-computer-literate users, but only stuff like the partitioning utility.

    This was on alpha, btw. Things may be different on the x86 side of things.
  • by ajv (4061) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @08:06AM (#3269696) Homepage
    dselect sucks. It's the hardest thing about getting a working debian install, akin to a purity or intelligence test. This is exclusionary, and the only way to fix it is to streamline the way a base debian gets installed. And to me, that means dselect must go. It's too hard and takes too long to get right. I've always found it much easier and faster to completely ignore dselect and add the packages I need later using apt, which is far more friendly (and actually works).

    In HCI terms, you *must* understand your users. If your user base is educated professionals who have done hundreds of debian installs and can compile their own kernel without assistance, then the current installer is probably okay, but it's not where Debian needs to go. It has the developer Linux user sown up; Debian needs to add to the collection other types of users.

    So we pick another user set - the Linux newbie and/or Windows refugee. These people don't want to know about installers, and you must make the interface hard for them to screw up. Remember in HCI terms, allowing the user to screw up might be powerful, but it's wrong. I'm not talking about GUIs here (even though I like 'em), I'm talking HCI and interface. You can have a very decent text installer.

    Moving along... You describe to the potential newbie users why you need an installer in very basic non-prejudiced terms, so they understand the problem space but without suggesting to them potential solutions. Grab their suggestions and recommendations and experiences and write them all down. This is your specification to a certain extent. Users have a keen insight on what they like and they don't like. Ignore their advice at your own peril.

    You create a first cut at an installer, constantly second guessing the users: "will my mum be able to do this?" "Do I have to do this now?" "Is this a reasonable set of defaults that don't need to be adjusted?" You want the user to make as few decisions as possible, whilst postponing as many decisions as possible to allow experienced users to customize it if they wish.

    Once the first cut of the installer is done, you must get a bunch of new users, and watch them use it without assistance. Learn from the mistakes or missteps they make, and learn if there's steps you can eliminate. And of course, eliminate any bugs the users find.

    Repeat ad nauseam until it's hard to get a bodged unrecoverable install.

    Developers are truly the worst people to ask to do this. They *know* the right answers, and will not even think that there might be other possibilities.

    A good OS installer is like the old A/UX 3.0 installer - it literally was a one button install if you had a disk ready for it.

    Other OS's with decent installers are NetBSD (with the possible exception of the very confusing disk partitioner) or WinXP (very few questions indeed).
    • dselect sucks.
      Yes. That's why it's being replaced. The new installer the Debian guys are working on will use aptitude instaed.
    • by RNG (35225) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @09:36AM (#3269867) Homepage
      A good OS installer is like the old A/UX 3.0 installer - it literally was a one button install if you had a disk ready for it.

      Sure, but that's because the Mac mouse only has 1 button :-)

    • > dselect sucks.

      This is the word of God. Matthew 3:17

      Seriously I couldn't agree more. Just last night I installed woody. This is probably my second debian install. When it came time for me to go into dselect I got horribly lost. I accidentally hit space bar, then return and then space again (or something to this effect) and the system ended up quitting dselect and saying I was all done.

      So I thought "no big deal, I'll just log in from work tomorrow and apt-get the rest". Well at work this morning I find out that the base install doesn't even include ssh or telnet servers.

      Despite what you faithful readers may think I'm not a complete moron and can usually get my way around an installation program, but dselect was just horrible.
  • by magi (91730) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @08:18AM (#3269709) Homepage Journal
    Why hasn't Debian project adopted the Corel Linux (nowadays Xandros Linux) installer? It's absolutely best Linux installer there is; much better than Red Hat, Mandrake, or SuSE.

    Is the installer non-free software or what is the reason?

    IMHO, using the Corel installer would give Debian a big jump forward. Debian's installation, especially the awkward dselect, is definitely its weakest point.
  • by perplex79 (555015) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @08:28AM (#3269726) Homepage
    IMHO there's nothing wrong with Debians installer, but it requires some Linux knowledge and is therefore unsuited for newbies. A graphical installer which installs a complete ready-to-use system (KDE, Gnome, Apache, Office apps etc.) with some mouseclicks would certainly give Debian a nice boost. Btw, there exists a very nice Debian-based Live Linux Filesystem named Knoppix [] (in German). Its hardware auto-detection is better than what I experienced with Mandrake, so maybe whoever wants to build a Debian installer might want to have a look at it.

    In my (university) environment I noticed that most start with Mandrake, Red Hat or SuSE and sooner or later realize that RPM is a nightmare for keeping a system up-to-date. Then they try Debian and are blown away by its ease of use (me included).

    • I hear comments like this, and I see the people around me using Debian, and the only conclusion I can make is that nobody is trying to use dselect to fine-tune a system. As soon as I gave up on it and just stuck to apt-get, everything afterwards was easy.

      It is not the keystroke issue or the text mode thing, despite the fact that the keystroke combinations are pretty dumb, and the text interface takes hours to go through. It is that when you select something you didn't mean to, or you de-select something you did not intend, the consequences to your hour-long fine-tuning session can be catastrophic.

      It is still mind-numbing to me why dselect would think that I wanted X11, gcc, perl and lilo(!) uninstalled. One keystroke too many I suppose...

    • A graphical installer which installs a complete ready-to-use system (KDE, Gnome, Apache, Office apps etc.) with some mouseclicks would certainly give Debian a nice boost.

      I'm not disagreeing - but why limit it to a graphical installer? Why not have two installation "modes"? "Simple", which asks as few questions as possible, installs a usable system, then exits, and "Advanced", which asks more questions, and allows the experienced user to install only what they want to install, rather than what was chosen for them?

      I'm talking at the lowest level here -- have install scripts that handle both cases above, then wrap whatever shell (text/graphics) around them you want. That way you don't end up with the installer failing because it can't figure out how to run X on a machine that won't ever run X in it's lifecycle anyway =)
  • Some thoughts (Score:5, Informative)

    by reynaert (264437) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @08:39AM (#3269749)
    "With this article we'd like to ask all Debian developers and experienced users out there for feedback on an idea we've had."

    I wonder why they haven't posted anything on the Debian mailing lists...

    The Debian people are by the way already working on a better installer. Woody will be the last release that uses the current one. This new installer will use aptitude instead of dselect for example.

    Also, Linux User only plans for i386 support. Check this page []. Debian supports many architectures, and the installer should work on all of them. Also, remember that Debian is being ported to non-Linux kernels. The Hurd is coming along nicely, and will probably released in Woody+1, and people are starting on a port to NetBSD. Again, the installer should support these kernels.

  • I would like to see a package manager for KDE (and those who do Gnome, probably want one for Gnome;)), and one package system for *BSD/Linux. Is there a single good reason to have a bunch of different ones? Especially knowing how good Red Hat is at doing anything (need I remind you of gcc 2.96.x for example...).

    It's the same kernel, there are no need for special packages for different distributions. How come the linux distributions can't cooperate worth shit? If they want to add value to their distributions (such as is done with MacOS X and Windows XP, it's the same idea) that's great, but don't add different solutions to the same problem without _really_ adding anything. I am sure ever single linux user would love to be able to download the same package regardless of what distro you are on. And belive me, all those who try to support linux (iNTEL with their great compiler, nVidia with drivers, etc) will have a much easier time.

    Then you can have your own package manager, like debian apt-get or a full blown bloated "want to be netscape and do everything by ourselves" super GUI app with IM, mail and a word processor.
  • Debian does not need a new installer. I, as a newbie, read the installation guide, sat in #debian on and asked questions when i got stuck, and installed it and compiled a kernel in about 6 hours. (RedHat took me 1 hour, but I didn't understand a thing about the system.) What Debian needs a well indexed book of all the typical problems that people go to #debian with. It should have a list of common and not so common hardware and their chipsets and what kernel modules are needed. It should explain what packages what users might want, and why. It should explain Debian's init script setup. It should have a chapter each dedicated to apt/apt-get/dpkg/dselect, kpkg, networking, modems, cd burning, sound, printing, and XFree86. It should have some examples of files likely found in /etc. It should explain every option in the kernel configuration and suggest why you would or would not need it. It should be sure not to go over the head of newbies. If it is downright boring and unreadable to experts, fine, its not for them. I'd have gladly paid $50 for a book like that.

    A web site where people could post exactly what hardware they had and exactly what they did to set up their system would be great. Do a search for your hardware, read what other people did, get yours set up, and post your list.
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @09:15AM (#3269810) Homepage Journal
    What I'd really like to be able to do is to sit down at a fully installed Linux system and run a program that lets me specify out the hardware configuration of my system and the packages that I want to install on it. It should allow me to choose whether to install stable, testing or unstable. It should inquire whether I have a network connection I'm willing to install the system over. It should then compile a static kernel from my /usr/src/linux directory to my specification and build a bootable ISO image that I just need to boot on the target system to run the entire install. Ideally it would be robust enough that all I'd have to do is hand it to a user with the instructions, "Just boot this. It'll solve all your problems."
  • For reasons unknown to any living man since the dawn of time the debian installer has been the gates to the distro of the geek. It has protected us from the suits, script kiddies and those evil "home users" who legends say may even have regular sex. If these people bridge the gap between us and society the results could be disasterous, what if the world sees inside the geek safe-haven that is debian! KEEP THE NON GEEKS OUT!
  • I've read a number of good recomendations here from make it scalable to make it pointy-clicky to make it feature rich, etc. But it seems to me that anyone reading Linux User magazine would be a different set of users that those who might pick it up at best buy.

    I think anyone reading the magazine probably has already tried Linux and have probably run it for awhile (perhaps not regularly, but at least as their desktop for a short amount of time). Do these people need the most user friendly installing?

    I'm no expert at Linux either, but if I was a subscriber to the magazine, I would look for something different, not necessarily easy. I'm not afraid to try new and potentially difficult things, but I don't want the same crap over again.

    I think Debian is a good choice, since it is different and very handy to use. If I'm joe-blow SuSE in Germany who never tried another distribution, I might be enticed by the CD that came with my magazine (1000 free hours of Linux!).

    If I was currently a Potato user, I would probably be excited if my magazine came with a fresh copy of Woody when it's released. Then again, does the typical reader of a Linux mag really wait for a new copy of their OS to come with a magazine?

    I dunno, I think y'all might be targetting the wrong user demographic.
    • The "LinuxUser" magazine is indeed made for those who have no (or very little) experience with Linux, unlike it's big sister, "Linux Magazin".

      They usually feature introductionary articles like step-by-step walktroughs of some KDE CD-burner, or "Look, ma - if I hit Tab twice, the shell tells me what files are in this directory!"-type 'tricks'.

      For these people everything except SuSE is something "different", and for most probably a new SuSE is as well. Additionally, those unwashed masses tend not to have broadband in germany, so a CD coming with a magazine surely makes it more likely for them to try some new software.

  • by Publicus (415536) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @10:14AM (#3269977) Homepage

    I use Debian, I absolutely love it. I don't think the installation process is that bad, but I should not fail to mention that I didn't get it right the first time I tried it.

    Of course, it wasn't the first Linux distro that I installed. I started with Redhat 6.2. I got frusterated with that because I couldn't figure out how to compile a kernel in Redhat, and all of the docs I found that were Redhat specific said don't recompile your kernel unless you ABSOLUTELY know what you're doing.

    Then I tried Mandrake, and after using that for awhile I managed to compile my first kernel, but I still wasn't completely happy because I found it hard to configure.

    I tried Slackware, and oh did I like that. The config files in /etc were super easy to modify, but the package management system left a little to be desired.

    This whole time I was learning, and becoming better at using a Linux OS. I was seeing the different types of packages out there, rpm, tgz, and the one I hadn't used yet, deb. So I had to give debian a try. Like I said, I didn't get it right the first time, although the installation is easier than Slackware. Once I did though, and I discovered apt-get, I was hooked. I now have three machines running woody and one running potato and I'll never switch to anything else.

    It's not the distro for beginners. It doesn't have to be. It's a good distro, perhaps the best, and it's not for beginners. There is nothing wrong with that.

    • But even beginners deserve to share in the joy of debian. And even experts shouldn't have to do stupid things like manually set up network cards when they can be easily auto-detected. As a newbie, I tried to install debian several times, and never succeeded, always crawling back to Windows. Finally, I gave Storm Linux a shot, and it worked pretty well, at least until I hosed my system. Having gained some experience, I tried to install debian again. No dice, and so after a few more months on windows, I tried Progeny, and its installer was relatively painless! After eventually moving everything over to Debian unstable (mixed packages from progeny, ximian, woody, and potato made my system a dependency nightmare) and dropping Windows entirely, I became quite comfortable with linux. So, I tried to install Debian again--this time on a laptop. Forget about it--I ended crawling back to progeny for installation, and then apt-getting myself to Woody. In my opinion, the main thing that leads to debian's reputation as a 'expert' distro is that only experts can install it. Once installed, its pretty easy to maintain and use.

      Someday, I hope to make it all the way through the debian installer. I have a feeling that at the end, Samus will remove his helmet and I'll find out he's a girl.
  • Once the base system is up and installed (including /etc/apt/sources.list), the best "installer" is
    apt-get install [name of software I need] (repeat as needed for all your preferred applications)
    It will get all dependencies and the like for you. Setting up the base system is not too hard and only a few questions need to be asked (timezone, partitioning, ...). That and "apt" is really the best installer available for any Linux distribution at this time, IMHO. I'd never use anything but Debian again.
  • yes... (Score:2, Funny)

    by GutBomb (541585)
    ...but can I install it on my Dreamcast? ;)
  • by waldoj (8229) <waldo AT jaquith DOT org> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @10:41AM (#3270049) Homepage Journal
    Well, this is great to hear.

    I built a new computer on Saturday, and I'd hoped to finally make the switch to Debian. Starting in 1994, I was a Slackware kind of guy. Somewhere in there I made the Red Hat transition. Starting about 8 months ago, I switched to Mandrake. Saturday, I was going to switch to Debian.

    At least, that was the idea. The installer was less than descriptive. It failed to recognize my IBM Deskstar 40GB on a Promise RAID IDE controller -- both parts that are reportedly fine. At least, I think that it failed -- the error message was brief and undescriptive, without further recourse or details available. No problem, I thought, I'll do a net install. No such luck: it wouldn't recognize my 3Com Fast Etherlink. Not exactly a crazy off-brand of NIC. Not having any way to dump the terse error messages to a file, I did my best to memorize/scrawl the messages and Google for them, but that yielded no useful results.

    With another installer (well, not Slack :), I would have tried a different class of installation, been given a more helpful error message...something. I can appreciate the concept of Debian being less-than-user-friendly. I can see how some people would like the inaccessibilty, to keep out the riff-raff. Maybe, on the basis of the fact that I couldn't properly work the installer, I am the riff-raff.

    But, hey, Mandrake sure does work nice on this shiny new system.

    -Waldo Jaquith
    • unix errors are terse but not cryptic.

      would you rather have a warning that suggests 18 things for you to do that *might* fix your problem? i'm sure the error exactly what was going wrong, and most importantly, nothing more and nothing less....

  • by mwood (25379)
    Anyone who utters the phrase "user-friendly" ought to be required to define the word "user". Most of the stuff I've dealt with which was called "user-friendly" was actively hostile to the kind of user who's been herding computers for a quarter of a century and expects them to just do as they're told with no back-talk. I'm always asking vendors to make their software less user-friendly and more usable.

    Let's hope that this doesn't lead Debian in the wrong direction.
  • We remember Storm Linux, right? While I do not use it today, I still find it the most user-friendly installer for Debian --- select usual preferences (keyboard, language, blah blah) and have the installed figure out the 'hardware stuff.'

    With Storm long gone, would it not be legit to utilize the Storm installer for another product?
  • by Phork (74706) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @01:42PM (#3271225) Homepage
    If they had done there research, they would know that there is a new installer for debian all written, it will be included with the next release of debian, woody, which should happen real soon now(tm).
  • The INSTALLER?!? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rlangis (534366)
    I really don't understand what all of the hubbub is about the installer program. If it works, and gives you a workable system with a shell prompt, who cares how 'pretty' it is?

    Granted, Debian's (current) installer isn't very user-friendly. However, it wasn't an issue for me, really. I've been through numerous RH installs (pre 6.2) and IIRC the installer wasn't much different from Debian's. RH6.2+ might have changed, but I've never used them, so I don't know.

    But hell, I installed an OLD version of Debian - 2.0 - and apt'ed up to Sid without a hitch. The installer is only a very miniscule part of the picture. After the system is working, do you REALLY tell yourself, "Boy, that was a really froody installer," or do you amaze your friends and family with apt-get?
  • by _aa_ (63092) <j@uaau.LISPws minus language> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @02:03PM (#3271414) Homepage Journal isks-i386/3.0.21-2002-03-19/images-1.44/bf2.4/ [] -- 2 floppies, network install, 10 minutes (depending on your bandwidth).

    If you ask me, it can't get much better than that.
  • While we're on the topic of improving Debian's installer, the only thing (and I do honestly mean the *only* reason) that kept me from installing it this weekend was the fact that there is no option for a journalled filesystem "out of the box." I don't care if it's ext3, JFS, XFS, ReiserFS, or whatever. And no, installing ext2 on one of two large partitions, placing the OS on the ext2 partition, recompiling the kernel, formatting the other partition with a journalled filesystem, moving all of the info from one partition to the other, editing GRUB's config, etc. does not count as "Debian supports journalling filesystems already."

    If people are serious about making Debian userfriendly, we need to avoid things like this after a power outage (or bumped powercord):

    Enter root password to run fsck:

    Now what? I know, I'm sure many of you know, but what's a casual user to think of this? Add to this the fact that if they run fsck without the correct parameter, they'll be answering yes/no questions until they decide that it just isn't worth it and they install a different distribution or (quite likely) give up on Linux altogether and grab that Win2K CD.

    I would love to help out here, but I have no real experience with Debian and its installer. I have some free time though and a programming background; If someone wants some help, reply to this post with some project info.

    My $0.02
    • So I must ask... 'ta heck are you talking about?!

      You just need to grab the bf-something Woody install. It's the one with the 2.4.18 kernel. During the partitioning part of the install you select Linux extended. Then when configuring each partition, the installation asks you if you want it to be ext2 or ext3. Just select ext3. It's really that simple.

The test of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Aldo Leopold