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Bug#274511: devfs on sarge install cd is confusing for newbies

severity 274511 wishlist

On Sat, Oct 02, 2004 at 05:27:01PM +0200, Rene Engelhard wrote:
> # it is important when new users even when they are coming from some
> # other dist are unable to install Debian
> severity 274511 important
> thanks

    for any feature request, and also for any bugs that are very
    difficult to fix due to major design considerations.


If they are unable to install Debian, file a report about the specific
confusing UI, not a vague one about the use of devfs.

> Colin Watson wrote:
> > > when you install sarge (or use the rescue system) you get devfs.
> >
> > This *so* won't be fixed for sarge. :-) It's quite deeply embedded in
> I noticed this a few months ago but I unfortunately forgot to file the
> report and I trusted the d-i folks to get the idea that using devfs
> would cause serious confusion for newbies.

devfs is hidden in most places; grub-installer presents non-devfs paths
to the user, for instance, and explains in some detail what they mean.
The partitioner does not expose them at all.

I don't believe I've had a single usability complaint in Ubuntu so far
about the devfs paths, and it's a much more usability-focussed
distribution than Debian. New users don't care whether it's devfs or
not; the majority of them would be just as confused by this strange
"/dev/hda1" nonsense.

> > the d-i code. For etch, we'll probably move to something else, but now
> > is not the time.
> Couldn't you at least not work around it? d-i can use devfs internally still
> then...

Have you seen the d-i release schedule lately? Now is *not* the time to
rearrange its underpinnings.

> > > However, Linux newbies or people switching from other distributions not
> > > using devfs (and not knowing that something like this exists or how it
> > > works - devfs is deprecated after all) are going to be seriously
> > > confused....
> > 
> > By and large, they shouldn't have to care. The installed system doesn't
> > use devfs, and new users won't have to poke around in the installer
> > environment too much.
> People who use some other dist and have their first contact with Debian
> with the rescue system *will* poke around in the evironment and *will*
> care.

It is known to be harder than necessarily to use d-i as a rescue disk.
There are plenty of worse usability problems than devfs there, but I
don't believe that it will impede a normal-path installation.

> besides that, IIRC the installer (I currently don't have a free
> partition to test) and the partitioner show the devfs node, which
> is something new users *will* notice -- and some won't have a clue how
> to proceed then..

I'm looking at the partitioner right now. It's a somewhat older version
of the interface, but:

IDE1 master (hda) - 40.0 GB IC25N040ATMR04-0
      #1 primary   15.7 GB     ntfs
      #2 primary   23.7 GB L   ext3
      #5 logical  509.9 MB   S swap       swap

I see no device nodes.

> > > The resulting system installed by d-i doesn't so what is the reason
> > > you use devfs/the desired effect?
> > 
> > We don't have room for static device nodes, and no alternatives were
> > available at the time when that part of d-i was originally written.
> > devfsd wouldn't fit in a number of the images, and would probably only
> > cause unnecessary confusion.
> eh? how?

It'd break in corner cases, and then people relying on it would be lost
about what to do. (All software breaks sometimes, especially if you try
to cram it in with virtually no testing during the last month of a
four-year development process.)

> Most people will use /dev/hda etc. and people who know use devfs?
> And is the CD/DVD image place really that tight? I don't know much about
> that but devfs should fit on CDs/DVDs... Although I don't think this is
> good it could be left out on floppies then....

It would be confusing for d-i to behave so wildly inconsistently with
different images. If nothing else, it would make the documentation
difficult both to read and to write.

Like I say, if a particular piece of the d-i user interface requires
users to know the meaning of the device nodes in order to drive it, then
*that* should be fixed; otherwise you merely push the usability problem
back from people who don't know what /dev/discs/disc0/part1 is to people
who don't know what /dev/hda1 is. Right now, however, I can't think of
any part of the d-i user interface other than the shell that requires


Colin Watson                                       [cjwatson@debian.org]

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