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Re: Little things make the initial install experience painful

Sam Hartman wrote:
> So why am I sending this rant?  Two reasons spring to mind.  First, if
> other people agree these issues really are grating and annoy initial
> users, I'd like to see them get fixed for 3.0.1.  Second, I'd like to
> bring initial user experience to the attention of all developers; I
> want people to be thinking hard about how their packages and our
> entire operating system feel to install and use for the first time.

I think as much as possible of this should be fixed for woody+1.
Especially the many bits were just clarifying or removing some text
would do it.

Good try on the latter, although the only way to really accomplish that
is to somehow make each developer watch a newbie install debian.
Making that newbie be their boss works well, in my experience.

> * A useful error message needs to be displayed if there are problems
> retreiving packages, whether this happens at the beginning before the
> package list has been retreived and the progress dialog box drawn, or
> later as in the case of a timeout retreiving a package. Ideally the
> installer would suggest mirrors in these cases.

Yeah that needs fixing.

> Next try: we're rocking and rolling with a different host.
> * tasksel is confused. There are five reasonable task groups with a
> total of 16 tasks, and then a task named 'junk' with several times
> that, including some that seem to duplicate other tasks (what's the
> difference between 'Development/C and C++' and 'junk/Development in
> C++'?)

This is probably because it points apt to stable. See base-config
buglist; this will only be fixed once woody is really released.

> * I press spacebar and am kicked me out of tasksel -- I'm not sure
> why; presumably I mispositioned the cursor. I have no chance to go
> back. Either tasksel should ask for confirmation of the selected
> tasks, or the 'Run dselect?' dialog that comes next should have an
> option to go back to tasksel.

That was probably spacebar on the finish button. 

This is already fixed in unstable base-config, which asks if you want to
run tasksel (or aptitude..) again.

> I let the installer run dselect. I still find dselect an impossibly
> confusing program, but I suppose this isn't getting fixed for woody.

There should be no "let"; it should not default to running dselect. It
does ask, but the default should usually be no. Anyway, aptitude is in

> * apt-get should not ask 'Do you want to continue? [Y/n]' of me at
> this point, in my opinion. It's not really clear to the user why they
> are being asked this question; were I to say no, I would be sad, and the
> install would presumably proceed without giving me an opportunity to go
> back and change my answer.

This is a stupid dselect ui issue. It is fixable, but it's grooming a dead
horse; those of us who still ride that horse are used to the
bloodstains, the flies, and the shambling gait.

> * Lynx asks for a "default URL." What is Lynx? The dialog should at
> least explain that I am configuring a web browser.

Yeargh. File a bug, if woody's lynx still does this. I still get the
impression this is installing potato packages here.

> * Esound asks if I have sound hardware installed. That is a little
> lame, because it seems like it should know, and if I don't already
> know how esd works, I'm afraid of what will happen if I get the answer
> wrong, and unclear what exactly this question controls. But that is
> not the big problem -- the big problem is that there is a paragraph of
> text above this question that talks about spawning esd, applications
> assuming things, and decreases in performance that IMO is too
> confusing to be in a default install. Also the last two sentences ("If
> you do not have any sound hardware installed, choose no. If you have
> sound hardware, you should probably answer yes. Do you have sound
> hardware installed?") are redundant and confusing.

Big "how to write a debconf question" clue-stick time. Listen up.

First of all, if you have some pointless little trivia to display to the
user, DON'T. README.Debian, people.

Secondly, if you feel a strong desire to refer to "click on 'yes' if you
want to say "yes", and 'no' if you want to say "no"", DON'T. Debconf has
a reasonably intuitive UI. More to the point, it has more than one UI,
and you can't always click, and it's not always buttons marked YES and
NO. Just ask a question, and leave the explination of the UI to the UI.

(Thirdly, if you can figure out the answer to a question with some kind
of hardware probing, that'd be nice.)

> * gnuplot mumbles about ordinary users, security hazards, setuid root,
> and SVGA console graphics. If I had to explain what this meant to my
> brother, an incoming freshman who is excited about running Linux, it
> would take at least 15 minutes and involve history lessons. For the
> purposes of this install gnuplot should assume a reasonable default.


> * ppp and pcmcia are removed and whine about directories not being
> empty. Unfortunate but cosmetic.

Bloody dpkg conffile removal bug.

> * libopenldap-runtime loses ("trying to overwrite '/usr/share/man/
> man5/ldapsearchprefs.conf.5.gz' which is also in package libldap2").

That's a nearly RC bug isn't it? But is he _still_ installing potato
packages here? I wish I knew.

> "Some errors occurred while unpacking. I'm going to configure the
> packages that were installed. This may result in duplicate errors or
> errors caused by missing dependencies. This is OK, only the errors
> above this message are important. Please fix them and run [I]nstall
> again Press enter to continue." First, the packages are broken.
> Second, the error message on unpack lossage needs to be rewritten to
> be simpler and clear in the context of initial installation (eg, the
> user shouldn't have to figure out what a "missing dependency" is, and
> there is no [I]nstall option that the user has seen or has the
> opportunity to rerun.)

It's probably past time for me to stop using
/usr/lib/dpkg/methods/apt/install. I will file a bug.

> * Electing to retry the install boots me all the way back to tasksel!
> This was not what I was expecting at all. If this is intended
> behavior, fix 'retry install' dialog to explain what is about to
> happen.

So fixed (it did imply that, but you had to read it carefully).

This is intentional because otherwise you can theoretically get into a
situation you cannot get out of without de-selecting some packages.

> * Nothing is checked in tasksel this time! "What is that supposed to
> mean?" Where did my selections go?

It's a pity tasksel doesn't handle this better. Aptitude does a somwhat
better job.

> * gpm says:
>     Configuring gpm (mouse event server):
>     Current configuration: -m /dev/psaux -t ps2 -Rms3
>     Device: /dev/psaux
>     Type: ps2
>     Repeat_Type: ms3
>     Do you want to change anything (Y/n)?
>   Unacceptable. It is not even clear the user is being asked to
>   configure the mouse. Making Y the default adds insult to injury.

Does gpm still do this, or is this potato? Again I wonder.

> * "Please wait while I search for ispell dictionaries.. [1] american
> [2] british Select the number of the default dictionary [1]" -- The
> user needs to be told he is selecting the default spellchecking
> dictionary, and this should be fine.

This is fixed by the debconfed ispell project, or whatever it's really
called. Not even in unstable yet tho.

> * exim tries to configure mail. This is confusing but that is unlikely
> to change soon, though the text could probably be rewritten so the
> user doesn't have to have a priori knowledge of SMTP. However exim's
> blurb about your choices scrolls off the screen somewhat because it is
> too long. The user does not know to use shift-pageup to scroll back
> and is confused.

So when is exim going to be converted to debconf? Hmmm? Yeeeesh. I think
that we should require that the MTA, whatever it is, for woody+1, use
debconf for its configuration. It's a huge UI glitch in the installation
that this one peice uses ancient echo+read UI. Hint: postfix uses
debconf. :-P

see shy jo

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