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installation problems


having a free day and a spare harddisk today I tried to install a frozen
potato. I installed via nfs from a mirror of ftp.debian.org on a local server
done yesterday. I found a number of probems which I'm now reporting:

1)	the first two installation attempts failed with the following error:

	36 packages upgraded, 355 newly installed, 2 to remove and 0 not
	Need to get 0B/173MB of archives. After unpacking 406MB will be used.
	debconf: Perl may be unconfigured (Can't locate Getopt/Long.pm in
	@INC (@INC contains: /usr/lib/perl5/5.005/i386-linux
	/usr/lib/perl5/5.005 /usr/local/lib/site_perl/i386-linux
	/usr/local/lib/site_perl /usr/lib/perl5 .) at (eval 1) line 3.
	BEGIN failed--compilation aborted at (eval 1) line 3.
	) -- aborting
	E: Write error - write (32 Broken pipe)
	E: Failure running script dpkg-preconfigure --apt

	The problem seems related to a bug in debconf contained in
	Apart the bug itself, the nasty thing is that you are left with an
	half-installed system and don't know how to restart installation.
	Some advice message on how to proceed would be helpful.

	I solved the problem by replacing debconf in base2_2.tgz with the
	latest version of debconf-tiny. I think that being base2_2.tgz one
	month old the bug should have fixed before.

2)	the install program doesn't ask anything about the mouse. I think
	that the mouse should be configured immediately after the keyboard
	and a gpm started immediately or after installing base.tgz.

3)	having tried the installation six times I had to retype all the
	required information six times. I wonder why we can't save and load
	a configuration on a floppy without asking everything all the times.
	The same applies to many questions asked in the second part.

4)	the installer doesn't write any log file. If something goes wrong
	you don't know where to look for errors.

5)	the base installation was from nfs but the second part of the
	installation doesn't have an nfs option. I had to create a mount
	point and mount manually the same location used for the base
	installation. Why can't we have an nfs install method also for
	the second part and use by default the same source used in the
	first part?

6)	I had also a mirror of non-US on the local harddisk but the apt
	configurator insisted on trying to connect to non-US.debian.org
	even if I'm not on Internet. We should try to look for non-US
	at the same location of main, as happens with non-free and contrib,
	and only if not found there ask the location of a non-US mirror
	instead of connecting blindly to non-US.debian.org.
	Note that there is no way of specifying another non-US location
	using the provided interface. This is obviously wrong, we must
	allow the installation from a local mirror.

7)	the package selection has only two options: a very simple task
	selection and a the old dselect nightmare. We should have other
	intermediate methods, for example one where you can select tasks
	as in the simple method but can also select additional packages
	for each task. For example with the simple method there is no way
	to select sendmail instead of exim.
	Another useful option would be to have predefined packages profiles
	for basic machine, server, wokstation, home, development, etc.

8)	if you select the dselect package configuration but don't complete
	it (suppose you are a beginner and want to quit and return to the
	simpler method) the installation quits without any possibility of
	restarting the package selection. You get just a login: prompt and
	no idea of how to restart the process. For a beginner this means
	restarting the whole installation from the rescue floppy.

	Note that the inittab containing the required command is deleted
	automatically so you can't even look there. Im my opinion this
	autodeleting hacks should never be used in a stable product.
	They are confusing and not really needed because there are better
	ways to do the same things.

9)	I made a mistake in the X mouse type configuration but I found no
	way of restarting the configuration of only this package.

10)	I have choosen to configure only critical things but I've been
	prompted for configuration of the following packages:


	Most of the questions asked don't seem at all critical and can be
	answered by just pressing enter. Anyway I would like to be asked
	for critical questions by debconf before starting the package
	installation and after unpacking.

11)	some packages ask about overwriting files which were created by
	dbootstrap or dinstall a few minutes before. In a full installation
	we should assume that existing config files should take the
	precedence over package defaults and don't ask anything.

12)	after having selected almost all tasks I found a system which is
	lacking an essential thing like gpm. As I said before mouse and gpm
	should be the first things configured.

13)	the X configuration asks for mouse among the other things. I think
	that in a `critical only' configuration the X mouse configuration
	could be skipped and the mouse configured as msc on /dev/gpmdata.
	If gpm is installed correctly this always works and we can avoid
	another possible error for the beginner.
	Another bad thing is that the mouse device defaults to /dev/mouse
	which doesn't exist at all.

14)	the X configuratioin gives the following errors:

	/usr/share/xviddetect/XF86Config.template: No such file or directory
	at /var/lib/debconf//config.348 line 128, <STDIN> chunk 77.
	xviddetect failed to configure, with exit code 2

	and the XF86Config is not generated.

15)	after having configured X with debconf the xserver-s3 asks again
	the same questions (and many more). This is maybe due to the previous
	bug in the X configuration. Anyway it is annoying.

16)	emacs19 is installed instead of the more recent emacs20 which is
	also available.

17)	only one window manager is installed: twm. In my opinion we should
	install by default also some better looking wm. Having selected
	gnome I expected that also icewm-gnome would have been installed.
	Again I think that we should provide some good predefine package
	profile with all the goodies a novice or an average user would like
	to see. Clearly running X with only twm is not the better choice.

18)	why is xgc considered a game?

19)	as for the base installation there is no message log. If something
	goes wrong there is no way to examine the error message.
	We must run the package installation inside a `script' shell and
	save the typescript for later examination. This is an invaluable
	debugging aid, specially if you have to help someone on the phone
	or via email.

In the end, after six failed installations, I could install a far from
complete debian system. I wouldn't say a success story.

Note that I've been installing linux since version 0.97. What would have
happened if I were a novice or a Win$ user wanting to try Linux?

Massimo Dal Zotto

|  Massimo Dal Zotto               email: dz@cs.unitn.it               |
|  Via Marconi, 141                phone: ++39-0461534251              |
|  38057 Pergine Valsugana (TN)      www: http://www.cs.unitn.it/~dz/  |
|  Italy                             pgp: finger dz@tango.cs.unitn.it  |

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