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Graphical installer - invitation to get involved



As you may have noticed in Joey Hess' release announcement for D-I 
Etch-beta1 [1], Debian at last has a graphical installer (currently in 
alpha release) based on gtk+-directfb.
The graphical installer is currently available for Intel x86, AMD64 and 
PowerPC architectures; others are expected to follow.

A huge amount of work has been done over the past 3 months or so to get it 
to its present state [A] and we are very happy with its current 
stability and usability.
The graphical installer also allows support for languages with complex 
scripts such as Indic and Arabic scripts.

We expect to be able to offer the graphical installer as a mature 
alternative with Etch, but there are some issues that will need to be 
resolved to make that possible.

The main areas where we would very much welcome additional expertise and 
involvement are:
- font selection, packaging and configuration; support for complex scripts
- helping realize the upgrade from gtk+ 2.0.9 to 2.8.3
- development of cdebconf plugins
- graphical design and improving usability (including accessibility)

If you are interested, please join us on the debian-boot mailing list or 
#debian-boot on Freenode.

We've set up some wiki pages that can help get you started:
- General information and links to images [2]
- Overview of current issues and ToDo list [3]
- Instructions for building graphical installer images [4]


Some extra information on the first three areas mentioned above.

Font selection, packaging and configuration; support for complex scripts
========================================================================
We currently have put together a basic set of fonts. These cover most 
languages, but for some (especially Arabic and Indic scripts) there are 
issues to be solved.

In general we need font packagers, people with experience in font 
management and configuration and translators working together to:
- find the optimal set of fonts and configuration to use
- identify and solve the issues with complex scripts
- package the lot for the installer (into udebs)
- make sure the optimal font is actually used at runtime
- minimize the space required for fonts in images (space is expensive
  in an installer!)
- check that languages are represented correctly

Further information on the challenges regarding fonts can be found on [3].

Upgrade from gtk+ 2.0.9 to 2.8.3
===============================
We have already experimented with 2.8.3 and that version is known to fix 
some relatively minor issues we're seeing currently.

Of course switching to 2.8.3 means gtk+ 2.8.3 first needs to be packaged 
for Debian, along with library udebs for the installer. Some additional 
library udebs will be needed (libcairo, libslim).

We have hopes that code for the directfb backend will be merged into gtk+ 
and cairo upstream source which would make packaging a lot easier.

There is also room for people wanting to get involved in directfb 
upstream development.

Development of cdebconf plugins
===============================
The useability of some components in the installer could really be 
improved by making use of the possibilities offered by a graphical 
environment [B]. A while back cdebconf was extended to allow external 
plugins that could provide such specific interface development.

This is real frontline work with loads of challenges.


Cheers,
Frans Pop

[1] http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2005/11/msg00008.html
[2] http://wiki.debian.org/DebianInstallerGUI
[3] http://wiki.debian.org/DebianInstallerGUIToDo
[4] http://wiki.debian.org/DebianInstallerGUIBuild

[A] A quick thank you to the people most involved:
 - Attilio Fiandrotti - for all his work on the cdebconf-gtk frontend
 - Davide Viti - for pioneering how to put it all together and porting
   the build system for AMD64
 - Alastair McKinstry - for providing the gtk+2.0-directfb packages
 - Frans Pop - for integrating it all into the d-i build system
 - Eddy Petrisor, Sven Luther - for porting the build system to PowerPC
 - Mike Emmel - for his excellent upstream support for directfb
 - everybody else in the d-i team for providing the basis

[B] There is already work being done to make it possible to run parted
    in the installer.

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