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Re: a study topic for advanced maintainers

On Thu, 10 Oct 1996, Bruce Perens wrote:

bruce>> If one would transfer the root-system from the installation to be the
bruce>> initial root-system on the harddisk then you would have quite a bit of
bruce>> functionality already and saved a lot of space. That functionality could
bruce>> be used to bootstrap the rest of the packages.
bruce>The floppy root is probably not what you are looking for as far as tools
bruce>that should be transferred to the hard disk. Because it had to fit in
bruce>500K compressed to get on the same 1200K floppy as the kernel, it has had
bruce>every trick in the book performed on it to keep it small. Most of the
bruce>commands on it are not fully compatible with the "real" versions, and it
bruce>has a special (incompatible) libc.
The kernel takes around 500-600K That leaves around 800K for the root
system. We can extend the root system right now.

The commands are not fully compatible. Right. That is why packages
installed later should overwrite those with the real ones.

bruce>You could get dpkg on that floppy, but you'd have to watch out for
bruce>installation methods that used perl. It would be a tight squeeze to get
bruce>the kernel+root+dpkg on a 1200K floppy.
I wonder. Some functionality of the root system could be removed such as
the network configuration / kernel configuration / making bootdisks and
only enabled later when packages are installed. The installation disk
could be used to boot up the primordial minimal root in case of trouble.

Dpkg itself is around 130K. I guess with some extras it would fit into
200K. Compressed that will be 100K. We have more room than that.
It should fit on a 1.2M disk.

bruce>I still think it makes more sense to mount something (CD, NFS, hard disk
bruce>with MSDOS filesystem, etc.) and extract a pre-prepared base archive. The
bruce>no-mount option is still available as long as you have enough RAM.

The step with the base system forces you to:

1. Have two distinct loading procedures: One for the base and another one
   for the packages to be installed later.
2. The base package must be loadable from CD, Network etc to have a one
   or no installation floppy solution. That means the root is growing
   by the functionality required to access the network etc.
3. Therefore the code to load the base system wastes space on the
   installation-root. That code is in another form in the base system.
4. Confuses the user who has to specify at two different times where
   elements of the installation come from and probably does not realize
   what is going on.
5. Introduces the problem of the boot system having a different ways of
   accessing the archive than the installed base.
6. You need to reboot to install the packets.

The kernel is limited to 4 Meg Ramdisks by default (can be overriden

An having a 10 Meg decompressed base system in memory+the root does
probably mean trouble for those people having small memory sizes.

Some way needs to be found to make loading the base and installing the
packages easier to handle for novices. It took me around 20 attempts
before I could setup a working debian system. Some of it was due to my not
understanding the difference between the base and the rest. Why the later
installation of packets overwrote parts of the base system was really
something hard to understand.

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