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debian-installer status report

In case you've not heard of it, debian-installer is the next-generation
Debian installation system that is targeted to be the installer for
sarge. Its home page: http://www.debian.org/devel/debian-installer
This is a periodic status report.

The first beta release back on November 9th was rather successful: It
showed that d-i does work on a fair number of systems besides the
systems of those of us developing it, and indeed that users generally
like it and find it easy to use. Thanks partly to better than expected
press coverage (two articles about it, mention on slashdot, etc), we
gathered a lot of installation reports to help guide us toward the areas
that need work.

Indeed there are so many installation reports that we have not managed
to follow up on them all as of yet, though all have at least been read
over and we've identified the biggest problems with beta 1 (of which,
see below). This is one area we need more manpower to deal with, since
ideally an installation report is followed up on, categorised, and bugs
passed on any the appropriate packages while the reporter is still
trying to install debian or their install is fresh in their mind. From
personal experience, this can be very fruitful, but it can be a fair bit
of work. I hope that we can add a few more volenteers to the group who
actively work on this; it is a good way to learn about the internals of
debian-installer. Interested? Then take a look at

Based on the installation reports we've seen so far, some of the biggest
unfixed problems are these:

 #1 isolinux CDs do not boot on some systems, more than was expected.
 #2 The behavior of always trying to do DHCP was bad. An updated netcfg
    is in the works to address this.
 #3 The partitioner is not quite on a par with the rest of the
    installer. The forthcoming "partman" partitioner may address this.
 #4 Error handling around debootstrap still sucks, problems with
    debootstrap failing on non-empty partitions are common.
 #5 More folks have SCSI CD drives than we'd have guessed, and find
    the need for a driver floppy with such drives annoying.
 #6 base-config is not very well integrated with the rest of d-i
    (base-config 2.0 has partially addressed this, but more work needs
    to be done).

Of course our TODO file and bug repoorts attest to lots of smaller or
less common problems. Still, we've fixed so many problems since the beta
that I cannot keep track of, let alone list them all. A few of the
biggest areas fixed in the daily builds include:

  - problems with dual ethernet cards
  - keyboard selection problems
  - floppy boot problems (kernel oops) on some Sony laptops
  - boots and installs direct from USB keychain now working and
  - problems with using an IDE CD drive on a system with all SCSI disks
    or the converse
  - many varied problems with unsupported hardware (such as various
    ethernet cards), that is now supported
  - lots of work on improving the language used to be easier to
  - many, many more

The recent server compromise slowed us down for a while, but we're
nearly past that and planning for the next beta. Besides fixing #1-#5
above, the big focus for this beta will be on ports and translations.

We're doing pretty well on translations already. 4 languages are more
than 90% done, 4 more are over 50% done[1]. An upcoming "string freeze",
scheduled for the 14th through 21st, should provide the chance for lots
of languages to get 100% up-to-date against a stationary target. Any
translators who are interested in helping bring an existing language up
to date, or add a new one, should subscribe to the debian-boot mailing
list and read doc/translations.txt in d-i cvs.

We're not doing so well on ports. There has been some activity on the
ia64 and hppa ports since beta 1, and I hope to see one or both included
in beta 2, but both need more testing. Of course powerpc continues to be
supported. The mips port more or less works if you know what you're
doing, and is on track to be included in beta 2.

But there has been only some activity on sparc, mipsel, alpha, m69k
(amiga), and s390; and little or progress on hppa, arm, various m68k
subarches, and many less common powerpc subarches; and many of these
architectures are nowhere near working.

I know that there can still be quite a learning curve involved in
porting d-i, and I hope that we can come up with some better ways for
those of us who understand all of d-i to work more closely with those of
you who grok an architecture. Something I'd like to try is getting
separate pairs of d-i developers and porters together in one place, and
see if and see if such small teams they can make some real progress. I
encourage any porter or d-i developer who is interested in this idea to
post to the debian-boot mailing list.

Ports or no ports, d-i will eventually release, and the release plans
for beta 2 are to have it out before New Years.

see shy jo

[1] Here are the real numbers, courtesy of Denis Barbier

    90% pt_BR
    90% ja
    90% da
    90% cs
    85% fr
    70% nl
    55% bs
    52% el
    49% ru
    48% nb
    45% lt
    45% fi
    41% pl
    40% ca
    38% es
    31% sk
    28% tr
    23% de
    20% sl
    8% ga
    7% nn
    5% sv
    5% se
    4% no
    4% lv
    3% it
    3% gl
    2% ko
    2% hu
    0% zh_CN
    0% pt

    These may already be out of date for a few languages.

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