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Progeny Announces Graphical Installer for Debian Woody 231

jdaily writes "In light of recent negative reviews of Debian in which the installer was roundly criticized, this announcement may have particular timeliness and relevance: Progeny has made available an i386 Debian 3.0 (woody) installer image based on PGI, the Progeny Graphical Installer. This is available at Progeny's free software archive." I've installed Debian so many times that I've just learned to cope with the installer, but this is a much needed boost.
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Progeny Announces Graphical Installer for Debian Woody

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  • by Drunken Coward ( 574991 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:38AM (#4520680)
    The first time I went to install Debian it was pretty intimidating with dozens of packages all over the place I didn't know what the hell was going on so I decided to go back to good ol' RedHat 6.2. Trusty and reliable I always say!
  • by Tomah4wk ( 553503 ) <> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:42AM (#4520691) Homepage
    Fair enough it might be intimidating to a 'new' user, but its the only installer ive ever used that offers me the flexibility i need. Ive used mandrake, SuSE, lycoris, corel and red hat and with any of those distributions it is impossible to do something that the devlopers didnt think of in advance. Debians installer lets you configure your system in as much detail as you want, and install from a large variety of mediums (various network, physical etc). All in all, id be suprised to see anyone improve it, making it graphical is just eye candy, you cant provide anything 'extra', you just make it more pleasing to the eye.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:44AM (#4520700)
    network.img from mandrake. This boot disk allows you to install from the internet WITH A GRAPHICAL installer and USES UPTO DATE SOFTWARE. Im using it right now, and Ive never looked back.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:46AM (#4520704)
    Agreed. Who carez about installers.
    Decent systems, like Debian or FreeBSD, you only install once!


    Jorgen Maas

  • cross-platform? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 4im ( 181450 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:54AM (#4520745)

    If Debian remains true to it's high standards, no graphical installer will make it into a stable distribution unless it works for every platform supported by Debian.

    So, sure, go ahead, use the Progeny one... but do make it work on (Ultra)Sparc, Alpha, Amiga, Atari ST, PA/RISC, S390, whatever... not so easy, is it?

    Guys, remember, there's more to Linux than just x86!

  • by Stephen Williams ( 23750 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:58AM (#4520761) Journal
    (Disclaimer: it's been over a year since I did my Debian install, and my memory is somewhat fuzzy).

    The first part of a Debian install, where you make disk partitions, set the hostname etc. is similar enough to a RedHat text-mode install (of which I've done several) that it didn't faze me. I don't think that part of the Debian install is difficult at all.

    The difficult part is the second stage of the installation: selecting packages with tasksel/dselect. I took one look at it and just hit "quit". That gave me a base install, with nothing else. However, there's more than one way to skin a cat: I used apt-cdrom/apt-get to install all the rest of the stuff I wanted.

    I'm not saying that Joe Average would/should be happy with apt-get from the command line; I'm saying that it's dead easy for someone with only a small amount of Unix/Linux experience to use, and it's much easier than dselect. It's perfectly possible to install Debian without wrestling with dselect.

  • by LizardKing ( 5245 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:01AM (#4520772)

    Does the graphical frontend actually offer any significant additions over the text one?

    Consistency for starters. There is no consistency in the way that the pieces of the current Debian text installer work. And that "thing" to select various packages is the worst console application I have ever seen - unintuitive, slow and a nightmare to navigate.


  • Re:What ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by McDee ( 105077 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:01AM (#4520774) Homepage
    The problem with installers is that by the time people understand the system enough to work out what the installer is asking for they are already familiar enough with the install process not to care.

    Installers are *always* the first thing that people meet in a distribution. Doesn't matter how similar the underlying OS is to other products, if the installer appears to be unfriendly or asks questions that people don't understand they aren't going to get a lot further.

    I found this when I moved from RedHat to Debian, it took me a few goes to work out what exactly the installation process was asking for. I would only recommend Debian to people who really understand both linux and their hardware, anyone else would just be put off before they even got the distribution up and running.

    People can argue about why one distribution is 'better' than another, but one of RedHat's strengths is that it is a pretty-much automated install and the bits that require the user to tell the install process ask questions that the user can understand.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:11AM (#4520824)
    Why is everybody whining about the disadvantages with a graphical installer?

    Ok, so the text-installer *works*, but that's just bearly. You will have to work a lot of things out by yourself, specially when it comes to hardware detection.

    As it is today, it seems like Debian is only for people with an already extended knowledge about Linux, and these people wants to keep the difficult ancient text-only installer to "keep the newbies away" from Debian, and make it a distro for the experts.

    This is not the right way. Linux should be for *everybody*, not just those who can understand the way-too-difficuly installer.

    The best would of course be to have both at graphical installer AND the text-only installer. Then the hardcore Debian users could still use the text-only installer since they seem to like it so much, and we mortals could use the nice GUI installer. Then both partys would be happy.

    Why isn't it so already?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:16AM (#4520856)
    I don't have a problem with the complexity of the installer but it is bloody annoying to have to sit in front of the computer, answering question after quention for the duration of the install.

    An ideal install would ask all the questions at the start then get on with the install.
  • by psavo ( 162634 ) <> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:18AM (#4520871) Homepage
    Debian is not aimed at simple minds. It's done by developers for developers/power users. If you're n00b, then you should start with some other distro, with some available commersial support.
    Then, When that becomes too limiting, move on to debian. At that point debian installer is not confusing, but raher powerful. (I just installed debian from scratch after disk failure, so I know what I'm talking about). That install of mine was first in 3-4 years.
  • Re:cross-platform? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fluffy the Cat ( 29157 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:22AM (#4520894) Homepage
    The next generation Debian installer is designed to be modular (the idea is that the same installer will be usable on all architectures, including the Hurd and BSD ports). It's possible that graphical modules will be available, but this won't compromise the functionality of the text based install.

    On the other hand, refusing to provide a graphical installer because it doesn't work on all supported hardware isn't a sensible attitude only. There are items of hardware that are never going to support a graphical install (I've a Sun with no framebuffer here) - should Debian refuse to allow graphical installs as a result?
  • by IkeTo ( 27776 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:41AM (#4521041)
    > The difficult part is the second stage of the installation

    No, no, I don't think so. The people complained about Debian not because of tasksel. After all, tasksel is just a bit more difficult than Redhat "install type". They complained it because there are so many things that Debian don't configure, and don't provide any interface to install other than reading HOWTOs.

    See how sound is unconfigured, CD-RWs can't be written to, firewall accessible only to people with a text editor and time reading the long iptable doc, and even things as basic as setting date and time has no interface other than firing date and hwclock.

    Don't get me wrong, Debian is now in everything I use regularly, and I love it the current way. After all, I don't have to do a system install until the next time I buy a new computer. But it is undeniable that Debian is not the easiest thing to put into your computer.
  • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:07AM (#4521260)
    Whether graphical or text based, Linux installers still ask too many unnecessary questions, and usually at the wrong time. RedHat or Mandrake's installers may be graphical, but they are just as annoying.

    There are only very few questions that the installer really, really needs to ask the user, and for those, a text interface should be sufficient.

  • Having done a Debian as my first shot at Linux for our company - I have to say that the installer gives WAY too many options that require you to be pretty familiar with the hardware you're running. I ultimately was able to ask questions and get things fixed, but our average user doesn't want to have to learn that much about their hardware.

    Red Hat was much simpler, and did a better job at probing and giving me reasonable defaults. It still had some goofs - but I was able to get the system running at a baseline so that I was fixing things "within" the system rather than from the outside.

    Getting the installer "right" with reasonable guidance for the newbie, and options to override for the expert, seems to be one of the seemingly simple but incredibly difficult things that most distributions still need to get right.

    Of course, the other thing I would like to see most distributions understand is that many people are bringing Linux into a Windows world. So having support from the install for Windows networks (mapped drives and authentication) would make it much easier to put on more desktops.

    My .03 worth...
  • Re:Why now? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OrangeSpyderMan ( 589635 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:20AM (#4521363)
    Grow up Debian, stop trying to be all things and the most egalitarian OS in the world and make some hard decisions. Drop about 10 architectures from the release cycle and at least half of those 8,000 packages for starters.

    What, then, would be the point of Debian? What you are describing is just about every other commercial distro out there - so why do we need another one? Debian works this way because there is a need for a distro that works this way. The commercial ones won't, because as you pointed out, there's no demand, so what's wrong with debian doing so? It fills a gap, albeit a very small gap, that no other distro does, and that makes it priceless. If you don't like Debian, use something else, but I don't see why it bothers you what they do - they're not asking you for money, or time, or anything. They're just doing there own thing. You don't start harping on about the local table-tennis club because, let's face it no-one plays table tennis - hey, why don't they play football or basketball or something "normal"? I think the simple answer is that they don't want to, and while they're not playing table-tennis in the middle of your football field, why should you care? If the table-tennis club exists it's because at least 2 people want to play table tennis.
  • More important... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:27AM (#4521415)
    A graphical installer is all good and well, but it's essentially the text-based version at a higher resolution.

    What we need is more enhancements to the 3.0 one -- i.e. better hardware detection, more linear structure, easier questions etc. Text mode is fine, as early RH installers proved.

    Oh, and as for dselect: as others have pointed out, you don't have to use it. I've installed Debian 2.1 and 2.2 on some old laptops recently, and I just quit out of it straight away and use "dpkg -i" for whatever files I need.

  • by Schwarzy ( 70560 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:46AM (#4521547)
    Do you notice that more and more of the review spent their time on installation process ? I have even the feeling that review are just for the installation process.

    I am a 3 years Debian user (Redhat and Mdk before). Recently, I wanted to have a look on other distro in order to see the global improvement and how they perform in daily desktop usage.

    To save time, I started to have a look at all this review on RedHat and Mdk (I use debian unstable everyday so no need for a review :) ). I was frustated: none have a clue on daily usage. The install process is well described but ... just few words to almost no word on desktop/usage experience ... Problem of reviewer skill or lack of time ? Does users really spend their time reinstalling their distro (Windows habit too hard to drop :) )?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:49AM (#4521577)
    I still can't get over these complaints that the Debian installer is hard. It requires that you know a little bit about your system. So what? All the guys I've seen in my lug know their machines in and out. So a newbie should be the only one to have a problem with it. Generally if a newbie has done any respectable amount of research they will find that Debian is not a newbie friendly distro. They'll find tons of people pointing them towards SUSE, or Mandrake, or Red Hat. Even with it's reputation of being hard on newbies, if you look on places like linuxnewbie and the like you'll find that there are tons of newbies that installed Debian with little or no difficulty.

    With a week of linux experience in Mandrake I successfully installed Debian first try. I've done it several times since then. The only thing I can see is that people are put off by screens that don't have pretty little modern guis. That's the only reason I can fish out of people that find deselect so hard(who are generally the same ones who dislike the debian installer).

    I'm happy that the people that wanted a gui have gotten a gui. Now they have to get around the programs like aptitude, dselect, or maybe even use a *gasp* terminal.

  • by LizardKing ( 5245 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:27AM (#4521918)

    This is not the right way. Linux should be for *everybody*, not just those who can understand the way-too-difficuly installer.

    You're confusing Linux with Debian GNU/Linux. All the Debian users I know (it's been a long time since I last made the mistake of attending a LUG meeting so it's been a while since I met any) don't use it because it's easy. In fact, they get perverse pleasure out of the fact that a lot of people don't use it.

    They love to bad mouth anyone who doesn't use it, badgering them into trying it. Then when the would be convert reverts back to their previous distro in disgust, the beardies simply get all smug and superior. These Debian users (I'll give the developers the benefit of the doubt, although the only one of them I know is an arrogant tosser), are the the spiritual brothers of real ale fanatics. In fact, at the local LUG there is an unsurprising correlation between CAMRA and LUG membership. The kind of c*nts who'll drink something that smells and most likely tastes like bear piss (I've tried real ale but not bear wee, so the comparison is supposition) just becasue it makes them a minority.


  • by Gyorg_Lavode ( 520114 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @11:52AM (#4522579)
    What I see you argueing is that the debian installer is purposefully left hard to use because it helps to keep the less skilled from using debian. This doesn't seem like a productive goal for a product.

    The debian installer IS confusing. I can use it, but it IS confusing. It is possible to create GUI's that contain both power and finess, most simply as a choise between proceeding with a GUI install or an ncurses based one.

    The idea that it's ok to leave the debian installer challenging because debian should only be used by 'qualified' people is obsurd. The product should appeal to as many people as it can w/o loosing it's power. A simple installer would go a long way for that.

  • Re:Why now? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:19PM (#4522876)
    You know, I don't think anyone would complain if you contributed to fixing these "problems". PGI does what can to make an easier installation on a narrow subset of the architectures used by debian (like, most of one). It was written for the Progeny distribution, not to install everything for everyone everywhere. If you don't see the utility, then don't use it, but if it works for its intended purpose, why should you dismiss it so easily?
  • Re:cross-platform? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wandernotlost ( 444769 ) <> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:33PM (#4523000)
    Nor does it make sense to hack together an installer that only works on x86, creating more work down the road when the other platforms have to be supported.
  • by TrentC ( 11023 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:49PM (#4523136) Homepage
    Great idea! Lets hold up pogress on 99% of Debian installs to insure compatibility with platforms that make up a a ridiculously low amount of the installed base.

    Why not? Debian is a "by the users, for the users" kind of noncommercial distribution. Compatibility with minority architectures may not be important to you, but it is a stated goal of Debian, and it is something that the developers and packagers wrangle with on a regular basis.

    Branden Robinson, the XFree86 maintainer for Debian, has XFree86 running on more architectures than the XFree people themselves officially support -- his packages are the "de facto portabiltiy standard" for XFree86.

    If you think progress is being "held up", then contribute to development on the arches you want supported, and let the developers who want to work on the minority platforms do so. Because they're not going away any time soon.

    Jay (=

Only God can make random selections.