Re: [VA-Debian] Comments from a first-time Debian install.....
I'm going to send this to debian-boot, it's the right place mostly and I
think everyone will appreciate these comments.
Ted, I have some comments (rather far) below, and you should know we're in
the process of rewriting the whole installer and those of us on the
debian-boot list are well aware of the problems you ran into.
Ted T'so wrote:
> I'm not on any of the Debian developer's mailing lists yet, and I didn't
> want to send this to some inappropriate place. (I'd really rather not
> replicate RMS's drive-by flaming on the tcl list from a few years ago.
> However, I thought some Debian developers might appreciate these notes
> which I took as I tried for the first time to actually install Debian
> from scratch, as opposed to using apt-get on a system which someone else
> had set up for me. These notes were taken from a perspective of a Linux
> expert, but someone who's still relatively new to Debian install
> procedures. I've tried to add some comments about how a novice would
> react when presented with some of the challenges I faced, though, and I
> think the bottom line is that Debian's install has gone a long way from
> when Marc helped me install Debian 2.0 back in June, 1999. But if I
> needed to give my parents or some other non-technical friends/relatives
> a Linux distribution to install, it wouldn't be Debian; Red Hat or
> Caldera simply have much friendly install systems.
> Feel free to forward this (or pieces of it) wherever it might be
> - Ted
> Comments on Debian 2.2 install
> (This is my first time installing Debian unasisted. The first time was
> with Debian 2.0, with Marc Merlin doing the install of the base system,
> and my being left to answer the hundreds of questions with no way of
> getting back to the question, and being asked many, many times where the
> newserver was. Glad that's no longer a problem.)
> The debian install is much better than when I first saw it, but it
> still has a lot of rough edges. Having tried Red Hat and Caldera's
> installers, Debian still has a long way to go before a novice user
> won't be intimidated by the install process.
> Initial setup
> Far, far too many decision points. It's good to give flexibility to the
> expert, but for most users it's too much. Suggestion: have a "basic"
> and "expert" modes, where the "expert" mode eliminates some of the
> decision points, and have a "back" button!!! Having a nice flow where
> you can either initialize another partition, or go on --- and then
> having experimented with a choice, go back to a previous choice point
> ---- is very sound and basic UI desing principles. There's a reason why
> Microsoft Wizards are appreciated by novice users; Debian should take
> advantage of their millions spent in UI research.
> Another UI point. With three choices in the first few screens, it
> will make it much more obvious which button is selected. Because the
> background around each dialog box is blue, with blue meaning
> "highlighted" and "red" meaning not highlighted", it's not clear which
> is which. For a while I thought "red" meant highlighted....
> I won't go into the X versus non-X installation, since there are some
> real tradeoffs here, except to say that this kind of "warm and fuzzy"
> thing certainly makes a difference with novice users.
> The first time I did an initial install, PCMCIA was not configured
> properly. I have a Vaio 505TX, and this kind of PCMCIA CD-ROM install
> has been problematic before with other distributions. It was able to
> boot from the PCMCIA CD-ROM; that part worked fine. However, it
> bombed out trying to find the kernel and modules. I tried for a
> while, but it appears there's no way to support that directly from the
> CD-ROM given my hardware configuration. So I booted back into
> Windows, created a scratch partition, and copied the entire Debian
> Potato 2.2 Binary-i386 R0 CD-ROM into that scratch partition and then
> tried again.
> The second time I tried, I was able to load the kernel modules. This
> screen here really needs simplifying. There's no reason to make the
> user decide which modules should be loaded on a full system at such an
> early point in the install. Regardless of where you fall on the
> "modules should be dynamically loaded" versus the "modules should be
> statically loaded at boot-time" argument, at the initial install time
> only those modules which are desperately needed to install the system
> should be asked for. If nothing else, deferring this means that the
> installation system may have more resources at its disposal to provide
> a more friendly interface to the user.
> On this second install attempt, for some reason PCMCIA wasn't happy. I
> did try to configure it, but it failed for some mysterious reason. It
> didn't give any clear indication that PCMCIA had failed until later,
> when the second install bombed out and I started investigating...
> However, because it bombed out, it wasn't able to find the CD-ROM
> automatically. So the system went into what I later discovered was
> apt-setup, where one of the questions it asked me was whether I wanted
> the non-free software or not. I said yes, but given that CD-1 (which I
> had copied onto a spare partition) doesn't have non-free software, the
> debian configuration system bombed out that that point ---- no obvious
> way of restarting it, and nothing on the system except the base system.
> I fiddled with it a while, and finally decided I was wasting my time, so
> I rebooted the system, and reinstalled a third time, blowing away
> everything from the 2nd try installation.
I suppose you told apt-setup to use a mounted filesystem as its access
Apt-setup should be more robust than that -- it should notice apt has
failed and tell you and let you correct it. I'd like to try to reproduce
> On the third install attempt, PCMCIA did come up correctly, so it
> automatically found and asked me to insert each of the CD-ROM's one at
> a time. That part worked well. Then I was asked to select a number
> of task packages, which also was fairly easy (although for a novice
> user, still probably more detail that they would find comfortable.)
> And at the end of it, I finally a minimal, stable Debian 2.2 system.
> Not bad, but there's no way in heck a novice user would have been able
> to have gotten this install to work.....
> Other Random Assorted Problems
> AnXious set asked me for which server to use. However, then when the
> various X servers were installed, it said "no X server previously
> selected; use this one?" when it loaded the SVGA server. (That's
> sloppy, from a UI perspective --- the user will say, "I answered this
> already! Why are you bothering me again?".) It also then installed
> the VGA16 server, and asked the "should I use this X server" question.
> (Why did it even bother to install VGA16 server? Oh, well.)
This will be fixed in the next release.
> Networking was not set up automatically for me. The fact that I was
> using a laptop with a PCMCIA networking card may have caused this; I
> don't know if a system with a hard-wired networking card would have
> fared better. I'm surprised that some kind of dhcp client isn't
> suggested by task-laptop.
There is a dhcp client in the installer itself, and it's supposed to ask
you about using dhcp when you set up the network.
pump is installed on the base system too.
> As a Linux expert, lots of packages I take for granted aren't
> installed. For example, I had to manually apt-get gpm and strace.
> (Or if there was a magical task package that would have found them, it
> wasn't obvious from the install.) That's fine if the machine is on
> the network, but it gets tiresome pretty quickly if you're not on the
> network (or you're fighting to get on the network and you need why
> various networking tools are failing....)
> apt-setup seems to have a wierd bug. If you answer "no" to the non-free
> question, it doesn't ask you about whether or not you want the contrib
> software; but if you say yes, it will ask you about contrib software.
> That doesn't seem to follow.....
That is completly by design; contrib is mostly not installable if you
don't have non-free available too.
> It would also be nice if it didn't
> bomb out of non-free or contrib weren't present. A simple "they weren't
> there, so I can't give you that part of the distribution", would have
> been fine. (And would have saved me from having to do a complete
> reinstall of the base setup from scratch, since at the time there was no
> obvious way to restart the Debian system configuration script. See
> Installing Linux on any Laptop, especially with PCMCIA issues, both
> for the CD-ROM and networking, is a very demanding test of a
> distribution. And it's definitely the case that Debian is better than
> I remember it being when I was first exposed to it a little over a
> year and a half ago. As someone who's a Linux expert, but who was
> unfamiliar with Debian, a year and a half ago, there was a lot about
> installation and configuration process which simply generated
> bewilderment and fear. With the Potato release, it's better; I've
> learned a bit more about Debian, which has certainly helped, but a lot
> of the rough edges have been definitely improved
> However, there's still a lot of work to be done towards making the
> install more simple. Debian is at the point right now where I still
> can't recommend it in good conscience to a non-technical friend or
> relative. The problems remain the same; most Debian developers rarely
> install systems from scratch, and when they do, they're familiar
> enough with the system that parts which are non-obvious to newcomers
> don't bother them. (Ironically, if the upgrading required going
> through the installation process, as it does with Red Hat, I'm sure
> that people would have spent a lot more time making the process
> smoother. The fact that Debian's upgrade process is so nice means
> that the flaws in its installation process are masked to a certain
> Anyway, that's my perspective from doing a new Debian Install.
> Perhaps some folks will find this useful. The intent was for this
> document not to be a rant, but to be constructive criticism.
> Hopefully it will be taken this way.
> Theodore Ts'o
> December 2000
> Debian maillist - Debian@lists.valinux.com
see shy jo