Bug#280841: partman interface problems
[version number is a guess]
I am trying the Sarge RC2 netinst CD to migrate a computer to Debian
from RH. The partitioning is fine as is and I prefer to only have to
do the backup if I can, not be forced to backup and move data back.
First issue, it becomes a pain of screen flashes back and forward.
Manual partitioning seems to be pretty descriptive, lots of manual
intervention and wait time. With issues like this I start to remember
why I like real hand mode, I can script it or if text config based, I
can clone lines and modify the differences. I can not imagine if I
ever have to do this in a server with multiple partitions, LVM or
Second issue, discover how to keep my data. I decided to test with one
of the partitions that could be lost, and magic, I found it. Why do I
have to choose the FS already in use from a list of items that seems
to be "format as", so then it will allow me to keep it? The list is
named "How to use this partition". There is a "do not use the
partition", so why there is no "Keep as <detected format>"? More clear
and less error prone.
Probably if the format entry was shown in some way it would have
helped. One principle of UIs is that sometimes things are shown but
disabled, so people know they exist and will do something under some
conditions. That option could start as "N/A" or "Choose usage
first". Similar things can be said about "Mount point" and "Mount
options", they appear once you have selected something in "Use
as". There is no help entries in those dialogs, so it is pure guess.
The point 18.104.22.168. of the manual seems to skip this issue too, there
is global set of "images" showing all posibilities.
Third, there is no undo all changes. Once I selected some partition
options, if I go to the main menu and back, they seem undoable (I got
two black faces stuck at this moment... which seems to mean keep
data). I have to always undo before going to menu or otherwise there
seems no way to start from scratch. Losing the info would be bad if I
want to keep it, but rebooting being the only way to fully restart
Fourth, the icons are funny... but a group of letters could be way
easier, the point is making things clear, and the more dangerous the
task, the more clear it should. K keep instead of black face, F format
instead of white face, R reformat instead of alien, B bootable instead
of ray. They are easy to describe (the alien is an alien or a dog or a
poor dude smashed into the ground?), and easier to remember once you
have checked the help. I had to check help a couple of times to figure
what the things meant, and some more for this mail (and I think I
could have got them wrong, but I am sure I can say bootable, format,
reformat and keep without looking anywhere).
Fifth, tried to check with fdisk, and it failed... why? partman
reports IDE1 master (hda), but it does not exist, it must be done via
/dev/ide/host.... I had to figure this after checking with cat
/proc/partitions, partman header was misleading.
Six, swap area start with the alien on. I think I did not touched it
(see point one again about flashing giving headaches ;] and four about
icons). Anyway lets try to avoid that, no, impossible, there is no
keep option. If it is dangerous to reuse swaps, declare it in docs and
help, and still let it be skipped. Maybe I am reinstalling two days
after first install or maybe it is working fine (it has worked with RH
and Knoppix 3.4, I do not have heard of any recent swap format
changes, so it seems to be OK).
Up to that, the installer was going fine, it even let me choose
unrelated language, keyboard and country, but advanced partitioning
needs polish IMHO. I hope the points above can be used to improve it.
Thanks in advance.