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Re: Corel/Debian Linux Installer

This is my final (summary) post to this thread, unless someone has
something new to add. It's gone on long enough, IMHO.

I absolutely believe that asking users to partition up the disks makes a
traditional unix install harder than, e.g., a windows install. The
benefits of partitioning can only be realized if the partitioner has a
firm picture of what he wants the system to do. A beginner doesn't have
that knowledge, and it's futile for us to try to guess at it. (Will he
suddenly decide to start a web server to hand out mp3's of his band?
Will he install every package at the beginning before he realizes he
doesn't want them all and does a major uninstall? Maybe he wants to
start with a minimal system and then install everything else once the
basics are working.) Asking that beginner to partition drops a lot on
him right up front: what is a partition? why might he want one? how are
they accessed? (unix partitions ain't dos partitions; I still remember
wonder what the equivalent to a: was when I say my first linux box) can
he change them around later (or is this as momentous and terrifying
decision as it seems?)

For someone who knows how all of that works, it's no big deal. But that
knowledgable person will look for and find the partitioning option under
the advanced menu. Regardless of the default, the advanced user can get
what he wants. But the beginner is better served by easily getting his
system to the point where he can run basic apps and feel like he's
accomplished something. (Getting stuck at the partitioning menu does
*not* inspire confidence.) I've watched people installing linux, I've
watched them get confused. This can really be a problem for a first-time
or casual user.

In defense of partitioning I'm hearing arguments of fragmentation,
protection of certain areas of free space, protection from fs corruption
in crashes, etc. But these are really not significan issues 99% of the
time. I can say this from experience: I've been running a
single-partition system at home for a while now. (Well, mostly: I've got
a seperate /boot and some extra space that didn't fit into my raid
group.) There's so much free space on most end-user hard disks today
that fragmentation is very unlikely. Coralling off critical areas is a
good idea when you're protecting the system against users, but is
impossible and futile when the only user has root privilage and lacks
experience.  The fs corruption issue isn't statistically all that
likely, IMHO isn't that relevant on the casual user's system anyway.
(Both because the data isn't going to be worth much and because losing
part of the system is as good as losing the whole system for someone
without the skills to put things back together.)

What I'd like to see is a default installation routine which a windos
user can run to get a simple, working system without much trouble. Not
a system that's optimum for every need, but one that can drop in as a
windows replacement. I want the install process to be a positive
experience which leaves the user eager for more. I don't want to see an
install process that confuses and frustrates the user with questions and
options that don't mean anything to him. As an experienced user, I'm
never going to use that default installation--I'll go for the custom
install that puts things where I want them. But why burden the new user
with the options I want to micromanage my system?

Mike Stone

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