[Please note the Mail-Followup-To header.] Hi folks. I sent an ITP about this package, but thought I would do a more proper announcement now that it's in auric's queue/new. One thing that Debian routinely gets dumped on about is its installer. One thing that Progeny Debian got postitive reviews about was its installer. Because of that, some of us at Progeny have spent some time whipping the installer we used for the Progeny Debian product into something that could be useful to Debian. We decided to call it "PGI", which is short for "Progeny Graphical Installer". I pronounce it "piggy", but you can pronounce it however you want. :) The current version is 0.9.4.1, and I'd like to solicit feedback from Debian Developers to help us determine what needs to be done with PGI to make it worthy of a 1.0 version number. PGI is in a late-beta stage and has been successfully used to install woody systems many times. Currently, PGI supports the i386 and ia64 architectures. I personally am very interested in seeing it support other architectures as well. Note that PGI is not intended to supplant any other Debian installers, but rather to present an alternative to them. I'm especially thinking of it as something that independent CD vendors can use to boost their Debian sales. If people are intimidated by the reputation of Debian's standard installer, perhaps we can get Debian into more people's hands with an alternative installer that uses X. Also please be aware that even though Progeny developed PGI, it is now just as much a part of Debian as any other package with an external upstream (or, it will be as soon as it's approved by the archive maintainers). Until katie has processed the pgi package, you can review the current package at the following URL: http://hackers.progeny.com/pgi/ To give you a better idea of what PGI is supposed to accomplish, I'm attaching a feature list. I have a large personal investment in this project, so I'm very anxious to hear what you guys think of it. Until PGI gets its own BTS page, please feel free to mail me privately with feedback. -- G. Branden Robinson | Somebody once asked me if I thought Debian GNU/Linux | sex was dirty. I said, "It is if firstname.lastname@example.org | you're doing it right." http://people.debian.org/~branden/ | -- Woody Allen
1.1. Features PGI implements several existing technologies to ensure that it is both flexible enough to deal with a broad range of hardware, and compatible with the official Debian installation system. The latter point is important because it should not matter how the user gets Debian GNU/Linux onto his or her computer; what is important is that the resulting system is compatible with any other Debian GNU/Linux system at the infrastructural level. * PGI uses debootstrap, Debian's official means of retrieving and installing the core components of a Debian GNU/Linux system. Stage 1 of PGI (see Implementing the Second Stage) be thought of as a "wrapper" around debootstrap; PGI gets the system into a state where debootstrap can be run successfully. * PGI features both text-mode and graphical user interfaces. The latter uses version 4.1.0 of the XFree86 X server, supporting a wide variety of video hardware at reasonable color depths and resolutions. In cases where the graphical interface is not desired or unsupported by XFree86, the text-mode interface is available and provides the user with the same functionality. * PGI's graphical user interface autodetects most pointing devices (mice, trackballs, etc.) and video hardware. In most cases, it is not necessary to answer any configuration questions to use the installer's graphical interface -- it "just comes up". In situations where manual configuration is necessary, only a few easily-understood questions are asked of the user, to give GUI the "push" it needs to get going. Alternatively, you can run the graphical interface even when the target machine's video hardware is not supported by the XFree86 X server; simply set the display boot parameter and run the installer on an X server elsewhere on your local network. * Even when the X Window System is unavailable, PGI's text mode spares the Linux novice the intimidation of a shell prompt. The dialog utility is used to provide a friendly, menu-and-button-driven interface to the text-mode installer. * PGI is largely independent of the Linux kernel version. PGI may be built around an extremely broad variety of kernels; only a few kernel configuration options or mandatory for PGI's proper operation (see Kernel and Module Selection). You can create lean-and-mean kernels for use with PGI, or large, featureful kernels for use on a range of hardware. You can also use PGI with the latest Linux kernel, or your own specially-patched version, in the event that the target hardware for installation is not supported to your satisfaction by the stock Debian kernel. * PGI uses Progeny's Discover hardware autodetection system to automatically detect the correct kernel module or XFree86 server driver to use with PCI, AGP, USB, and PCMCIA devices. * PGI provides and uses the GNU Parted library and utility for flexible and featureful disk partitioning. A graphical partitioner based on Progeny's Python bindings to the Parted library makes partitioning easy and intuitive. * PGI is architecture-independent. PGI has been designed for portability. In its first release, it supports the Intel x86 and IA-64 architectures. Hooks are in place for developers on other architectures to add support for their platforms without having to make infrastructural changes to PGI. * PGI is flexible. Not only are many aspects of its behavior customizable at build time (and even run time), but PGI supports the simultaneous development of different "profiles", which are referred to by code names that you select. You can choose between these profiles at build time with a command-line option. For example: you're a computer lab administrator at a university. One lab is for general undergraduate use, so you want the machines to have a desktop environment and a large array of applications, like Mozilla, Gnumeric, KWord, Gaim, and Kontour. Another lab is used only by CS students taking Systems Programming courses; some of these guys eschew all windowing systems and want to get straight into their text editors and debuggers. For this audience, you might not ship the X Window System at all, and ensure that Vim, Emacs, Gdb, and User-Mode Linux are present. Once you have set up the profiles for each, you can switch back and forth at will without needing to shuffle files around in between. * PGI is network-enabled. For GNU/Linux users in general and for Debian users in particular, the days of being restricted to installing your system from a fixed, physical medium and then having to hurriedly upgrade to the latest patches from your vendor are fast becoming a memory. debootstrap itself is network-aware, and can retrieve the base system from a local disk, a web server internal to your home or office, or directly from an official Debian mirror on the Internet. PGI goes still further, however. Only the earliest phases of installation (the booting of the Linux kernel, loading kernel modules necessary to support the target machine's hardware, and configuration of the network interface) need depend on the installation medium (CD or DVD). NFS can then be used to mount the "live" filesystem inside which the installer proper runs. This greatly obviates the needs for vendor updates to PGI-based installers to be deployed to end users via replacement installer disks. Instead, you can simply direct your users to your Internet site. * PGI is boot-loader agnostic. On the x86 platform, PGI uses GNU GRUB for a friendly, menu-driven boot loader. GNU GRUB also supports a powerful command-line interface at boot time, if the user elects to use it. On the IA-64 platform, elilo is used, and the Linux kernel's interface to EFI variables are used to update the boot menu in the system firmware. * PGI can generate ISO 9660 images that contain only a PGI-based installer, images that contain only the packages needed to support your installation profile, or a complete snapshot of the Debian package archive. Multiple ISO images are generated as needed. * PGI-based installers are more than just installers. The installer can also be started in a system rescue/recovery mode, which loads the live filesystem and provides the user with a shell. The live filesystem can be configured to contain practically anything desired, from network diagnostic tools to a full XFree86 installation and even a web browser. The PGI installation medium can also be used a simple boot disk, loading the kernel and getting out of the way, transferring control to the specified root filesystem device.
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