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Re: PROPOSAL: automatic installation and configuration

On Tue, May 25, 1999 at 12:01:57AM +0200, Massimo Dal Zotto wrote:
> Hi,
Hi Massimo, 

> My idea of automatic installation is that if I need to install many similar
> machines I could install manually the first, remember all the answer to
> each configuration question, then go to the other machines and just type
> install without any more prompting. At the moment this is only a dream
> given the terrible way the install scripts are designed and written.

I don't think the scripts are terrible. It's just that they weren't designed
with pool installations in mind.

> So I've written a little package which could be used by developers in
> their postinst scripts to allow the automatic installation and
> configuration of a debian system with a very minimal changes to the
> existing code.

Very cool! I like your proposal. But I would like to make some points...

> [...] 
> My proposal is that the above mechanism is adopted in the official debian
> distribution, once it is finished and tested. This has the following
> implications:
> 1)	changing the policy about the installation scripts. From a certain
> 	debian version no package should be allowed to interact directly
> 	with the user and all prompting should be done trough an API.
> 	I suggest that by policy all scripts are executed with </dev/null.


> [...]
> 3)	modifying the packages so that they can always provide some
> 	reasonable default for variables which can't be asked ot which
> 	the user don't want or don't know how to ask. Think of an
> 	inexperienced user installing debian. How could he answer to
> 	complex questions about sendmail, ip-masquerading, etc.

Or installing cvs just for using the cvs client. Why should he care about
setting up an pserver? 
> Comments?

While I like to overall idea there are some problems with your proposal. This
utility you suggested would work just fine but it has a few issues for future
extensions. For example I dream of a Debian installation which asks the
configure questions while downloading the packages.

But shell/perl scripts are not that easy to parse to support that. I would
like to suggest just giving the name of the variable to dpkg-getconfig with
/var/config/<package> or something telling the program about the possible
variables. dpkg-source should be enhanced to support putting another file into
the .deb named config. 

A new generation of dpkg or apt could support reading the information in this
file to ask the questions premature to the installation. It will need to get
before the data.tar.gz into the deb though.

In fact I was working on just another configuration system but I did not make
it to the coding phase - it would support moving the native configuration of a
program to this library. 

I do not want to put my project in favor but as it would be more powerful we
might want to support it one day - when it is ready ;-)

Massimo, I greatly appreciate your efforts. If you have the time go ahead and
implement your system. If it gets adopted I would like to help converting
packages. I just do not want to let my idea die - I will show some code when I
have it ready.


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