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D-I impressions


I had the first opportunity to install Debian in a long time today, so I
gave the new D-I beta4 a shot (110MB CD image).  The machine is a
Gateway G6-400 (Intel WS440BX, PII-400, 384MB RAM, 3dfx Banshee video
card, 6.4GB IDE + 18GB SCSI HD, IDE CD + zip drive, 3c59x PCI network
card, and Tekram DC-390F SCSI card [sym83xx75]).  I installed Debian onto
the 18GB SCSI disk as a whole disk installation.

The installation went really well for the most part, but I jotted down
some comments while proceeding, which I list here in no particular
order (and with no serious thought into much of them).

- Is is possible to use the bootsplash kernel patch to put a nice Debian
  logo before D-I comes up, rather than showing a spew of Linux kernel

- Is is possible to include memtest86 on the install CD as a boot option?
  One of the first things I do when installing a new machine is to check
  that everything is sane.  In this case, Linux crashed when booting the
  first time.  When I made a memtest floppy, I found that one of the
  memory sticks was seated poorly and causing memory errors (probably
  what caused the machine to be given away).  It would have been nice to
  simply do this from the syslinux menu.

- Should ntpdate be included as part of the base install?  pool.ntp.org
  is rather reliable, and it helps to have one's clock in a sane state
  so that tar does not complain about timestamps being in the future,
  and things like that.

- In the partitioning menu, I finished partitioning and went to "Go
  Back" to go back to the main menu.  Unfortunately, I didn't know this
  was equivalent to a "Cancel" action, and lost my changes after a
  warning.  Perhaps there should be a confirmation to "Go Back" as there
  would be a confirmation to cancelling anything in a GUI which the user
  has already placed input to.

- This box is to be a dedicated server with no user accounts, but Multi
  User was the only option that made sensible partition defaults
  (because I like separate partitions to avoid fragmentation, limit
  spread of corruption in case of a problem, etc).   Something seems
  incongruent about saying "Multi User" for a machine with no accounts.
  Perhaps this should also be tagged "Server", because very few server
  administrators would install machines with only (/) or (/ and /home).

- The values that Multi User chose for the partitions were ok for the
  most part.  I found its choice of 150MB out of 18GB for / to be rather
  low.  This is almost filled already after installing some
  kernel+module packages in addition to the base system.  Perhaps this
  should be calculated by: "500MB or 5% of disk, whichever is lower".
  I also found a 20MB /tmp to be a very constraining default.  I've had
  strange things happen to me in the past when /tmp has filled up, until 
  I realized what was going on.  It would seem that a more generous /tmp
  would be in order, or else make it part of / by default to make the
  size more flexible.

- It seems that when one selects reiserfs for a root partition, that
  notail should be a default mount option.  If the menu is explored, it
  is suggested, but I didn't explore it at first and missed that.  Also,
  noatime should be suggested more highly; it greatly improves
  performance at the expense of auditing power and would seem to be a
  reasonable default for most machines.

- There are other FHS trees which are not mentioned in the partitioner
  box which allows the user to choose the mount point.  /opt and /srv
  were the ones I noticed.  It seems that it would make sense to include
  most of the FHS mount points in this menu along with their FHS
  descriptions, except for the removable media mounts.

After that, everything went smoothly until the end, when it was time to
install GRUB.  Grub installer decided, without asking me (that I can
remember) to install on (hd0).  This is a mistake, because hd0 refers to
the IDE disk for some reason.  The SCSI disk is the actual boot drive,
because the controller's BIOS takes over int13.  So when I rebooted the
system, it didn't come up (because GRUB was placed on the IDE disk while
the system is attempting to boot from the SCSI disk because of the SCSI

The last problem, of which I can't determine the source, is that the
partition table appears to be created with a xxx/64/63 geometry by the
partitioner.  I'm not sure why this is done.  Most SCSI disks I can
remember partitioning would have a xxx/255/63 geometry.  Because of
this, the controller BIOS issues a lengthy complaint when it sees this
geometry on the disk it probes, and pauses the boot process for a great
length.  It complains that a 64 head geometry will not be bootable by
any OS other than DOS.  This is clearly false, because Debian boots and
works just fine (once GRUB is installed on the correct drive).  But I'm
curious why the partition table is created with a 64 head geometry
instead of a 255 head one which is the standard thing to do.

Anyway, let me know if any clarification is needed on this stuff.  I am
really floored by how easy it is to install Debian now!  It is obvious
that a lot of hard work has gone into the D-I development, and I will be
proud to show this off to people interested in Debian or in free


Ryan Underwood, <nemesis@icequake.net>

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