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[Freedombox-discuss] don't write code - user-friendly configuration

On Tue Aug 31 11:55, Jonas Smedegaard wrote:
>> About that don't write any code thing... what about that creative easy  
>> to use web app that is supposed to be the way users set up their  
>> freedom box? That app seemingly will be coupled with the tools that run 
>> on the box.
> One alternative that I personally favor is to extend the de facto  
> standard package configuration interface in Debian, debconf, to be a)  
> more expressive and b) have a web frontend.  And to help encourage more  
> debconf'ization of packages in Debian.
> Debconf is the de facto standard interface for Package configuration in  
> Debian. It comes with a Perl library interface and a command-line  
> interactive UI, and allows "preseeding" answers to override defaults and  
> suppress them from being asked interactively. Debconf has some  
> limitations, however, when it comes to _maintaining_ packages - i.e.  
> dealing with package upgrades involving changes to its configuration.

One of the things I feel quite strongly about is that this device should be a
turnkey, off the shelf device. With that in mind, we need to do everything
possible to not ask users questions and where we must ask them questions, don't
ask them questions they can't understand.

In this vein I don't think that exposing debconf questions is going to work -
they will fail one or both of the above criteria.

Whatever configuration interface we provide must, perforce, be very closely
tied to all the services we are offering on the freedom box. What I'm
envigising is something like the following (this is ottomh to give you an idea):

 - The user buys the box and plugs it in. It does discovery to work out whether
 there's another FB on the network, whether there's an existing router, etc.
 - It tries to find a way to expose itself automatically to your computer
 (mDNS/UPnP, setting itself up as a DHCP server and puts itself into the DNS
  automatically, asks an existing FB to make itself available etc)

 - The user then, for example, browses to a well know name that it's set itself
 up as in your local DNS or if it's also your ADSL router, any website and it
 transparently redirects you.

 - The website reached asks you some simple questions like:
  - do you have an existing FB you want to clone

  - do you have a saved config on a USB stick or SD card (which will include
    all the keys from the old FB)

  - Do you want to find a config you backed up to a friend's FB

  - Do you want your friends to be able to access things on your FB

  - Do you already have another email account

  - etc

The key point to illustrate here is that you're not answering package-specific
configuration questions, you're answering some general questions - which people
will know the answers to - and the FB will configure all the software based on
those. There should be modes to say "just work and don't ask me questions",
which give you good defaults and there should be more detailed questions you
can answer, but they should not be the sort of questions that debconf will ask.

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