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Re: Install Debian? Maybe

> This is the stumbling block that discourages many people from using
> Debian.   There's a lot of development going on in 'improving' Debian
> but there doesn't seem to be any movement on improving the installation
> process.

I think there is actually a lot of work going on there.  But as has
been discussed ad-nauseum woody needs to get out so that people can
see it.  There are huge, good differences between installing potato
and installing woody.  With each release you expect to see some
improvement.  Since there has been long gaps in releases there have
been long gaps in improvements as well.  The current woody install is
still far from perfect.  Don't think that I believe it to be.  But
having releases roll out so slowly I believe to be a limiter to the
speed of making improvements in the installation process.

> I had to reinstall 13 times before I got Debian X to work .

This is a common problem with transitioning to Debian, or really any
system that has fundamental differences from things you know.  I have
been a from scratch OS builder for years.  So for me I never thought
about reinstalling the entire OS as a method to fix X.  For me the
first thought was "grab sources from ftp.xfree86.org and recompile".
Which has a share of pain involved.  Probably many people think
reinstallin the OS is easier.  But it is all about doing what you know
and feel comfortable with.

It took me a while to learn things like 'update-alternatives --edit
vi' to make sure that vi was vi and not a similar but different vim.
(Yes, vim is better than vi but it is not vi and the differences annoy
me endlessly.)  Until that revelation I had been hand hacking the
symlinks in frustration and cussing out debian the entire time.  Now
that I have learned that part of the system I think it is a pretty
cool part of the system.  Don't like the ancient 'mawk' as awk?  Most
don't.  'apt-get install gawk' and transparently the awk links all are
updated to the modern flavor.  (Gawk should be the standard in the
install over mawk, IMNHO.)

It took me a while to learn that the dpkg "functional group of stuff"
was really a whole series of related programs dpkg-*.  In bash or
anything else with completion type in 'dpkg' then TAB-TAB and look at
all of the possible programs in the suite.  Read the man page for each
a few times in turn and suddenly the methodology becomes more
apparent.  Until that revelation I was lost.

There is copius documentation.  But not in any coherent way and way
too much of it.  The installation documentation on the www.debian.org
site is particularly confusing.  I have read it all several times and
cannot recommend it.  I hope that once I get to the point that I think
I understand Debian more thoroughly that I can help to contribute
improvements to that documentation.  But I don't feel like I have that
expertise yet and neither do I even know where to begin to contribute
to those pages.

> There are places in the installation process is full of surprises where
> you cannot backtrack to make a correction.   If there were some clues as
> to what steps and options are involved in the installation BEFORE
> starting it, perhaps there'd be  less difficulty with the installation.

Hmm...  I agree that it is not clear.  But in the installations I see
a list of steps.  I can select any of those.  Some of those steps are
prior steps that have already been done.  Just go back and select
them.  You will find yourself back at the previous step.  Maybe that
could be made more clear but I think you can go back although perhaps
at particular steps perhaps not.

> How come Debian based distributions like Libranet are so much easier
> to install than plain Debian?  Could it be sort of an initiation to
> an exclusive club?

I am certain it is not intentional.  Since most experts have had
systems running for a long time there is less pressure at needing a
good installer by experts who are most able to improve it.

It has often been said that change comes because of need.  People
write programs to scratch an itch.  If there is no itch by those with
the capability to scratch then less progress is made.  For example,
right now I could really use some documentation.  By the time I get to
the point that I could write that documentation myself I will no
longer need it.  Therefore without any compelling reason to write it
then it probably won't get written.  The cycle continues.

> No wonder there's so much activity on this list.  I'll bet that a large
> part of the problems are because of errors made in the installation.

There are a few very common installation problems that pull people in
repeatedly.  Probably an installation FAQ or README.1st would be
appropriate as an interim to putting improvements in the installation
process.  Documents can be updated more quickly than installation
images.  The mouse problems with /dev/psaux versus gpm /dev/gpmdata is
one example that tripped me up until other kind souls on the network
pointed me to the solution.  And once shown to me then things were
obvious the itch had been scratched.


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