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Re: Bug#861263: debian-installer: zfs support

On 06/05/2017, Nicholas D Steeves <nsteeves@gmail.com> wrote:
> I would recommend the second of the following options:
> 1. Install using the non-free media with "Advanced options" -> "Expert
> install"
> 2. Install using the non-free media, then cleanup [...]
> It's faster than an "Advanced
> options" -> "Expert install", where I believe it is also possible to
> install a system which pulls uniquely from main and contrib.

Thank you for reminding me of the existence of the "Expert install"
option in the Debian Installer! :)

My understanding of this feature request (#861263) is that it would be
satisfied when a Debian Installer exists in which: the user can
install Debian by simply click through the ncurses interface pretty
much as usual, but in addition to the current guided[1] and manual[2]
partitioning options, the user would have the option to select guided
or manual partitioning with ZFS. Ideally, that would also include the
option for encrypted ZFS using either a LUKS container or native ZFS

So, between your two options, I think the "Expert install" would
probably be a better fit for resolving this feature request. However,
although "Expert install" would be appropriate, it might not be
necessary to use an unofficial installer. See below.

On 05/05/2017, Ben Hutchings <ben@decadent.org.uk> wrote:
> On Fri, 2017-05-05 at 14:26 +0100, Sam Kuper wrote:
>> If the Debian Installer were instead to ship with, or to download at
>> runtime, the ZFS on Linux source code, would that be acceptable from a
>> licensing standpoint?
> I imagine this would be acceptable (though not in the default
> installer, which only uses and installs packages from main).
> [...] there is already an (officially unofficial) installer that
> includes non-free firmware.

I have just run an *official* Jessie NetInst CD, using "Expert
install" mode. Fairly late in the process, there is a step titled
"Configure the package manager".[4] This step asks the user if they
want software from "non-free" and/or "contrib" to be available to the

So, it seems that there is no need in principle to use an unofficial
installer just to be presented with the option to enable "contrib".

One piece of work that would need to be done to the Debian Installer
to enable it to download, compile and run ZFS before partitioning the
HDD/SSD, is for the "Configure the package manager" step to be moved
to an earlier point in the installation process. Let me explain. In my
Jessie NetInst CD, the "Configure the package manager" step occurs
*after* the Debian Installer has partitioned the drive and installed
Debian to it: too late to make a difference, from the perspective of
enabling ZFS root!

I would suggest that the "Configure the package manager" step should
be placed immediately *before* the "Detect disks" step. This means the
"Configure the package manager" step would have to be modified. Rather
than straight away writing to /etc/apt/sources.list and handing over
to the following step (as it currently seems to do), it would instead:

- record the user's selections to memory;

- enable guided and manual ZFS options to become available in the
"Partition disks" step (but only if the user chose to enable
"contrib"); and

- write the user's selections to /etc/apt/sources.list *after* the
target drive has been formatted and populated.

Additionally, of course, the Debian Installer would need to have code
incorporated to perform the download-compile-run steps for ZFS.

I can see that these are not trivial changes, but I also can see no
reason in principle why they should not be made to the Debian
Installer at some point during the Stretch lifecycle. Even if they end
up taking many months to bring up to release quality, they would be
very valuable additions to the Debian Installer.

I would be very grateful if the "wontfix" label could be removed from
this feature request.

Thanks again to both of you; and Ben, I really did mean no offence to
you by mentioning Moglen. I'm sorry if that came across as
supercilious. I really was just trying to explain the basis of my

[1] https://www.debian.org/releases/stable/amd64/ch06s03.html.en#partman-auto
[2] https://www.debian.org/releases/stable/amd64/ch06s03.html.en#partman-manual
[3] AFAIK, native ZFS encryption with Linux is not stable enough to
make sense for a stable distribution. Until it is, ZFS-on-LUKS seems
to be the best substitute.
[4] https://www.debian.org/releases/stable/amd64/ch06s03.html.en#apt-setup

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