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

On Sun, Sep 05, 2010 at 02:59:38PM +0100, Matthew Johnson wrote:
>On Wed Sep 01 18:19, Jonas Smedegaard wrote:
>>> On 09/01/2010 01:07 PM, Jonas Smedegaard wrote:
>>>> It is a *much* slower process to convince a Debian package 
>>>> maintainer to implement reliable packaging configurability for our 
>>>> needs than to hack ourselves on top of an installed package, but 
>>>> all hacks we invent we must *maintain* too, which is too likely to 
>>>> bit-rot down the road.
>>> That's a tough one. I think it'll take too way much time and hassle 
>>> for our config changes to reach FB users.
>> Skolelinux instructs its users to reinstall to newer major releases 
>> rather than upgrading.  I find that unacceptable for FreedomBox.
>> I would prefer a very simple FreedomBox - e.g. providing only routing 
>> and a single web page with Web-ID and Webfinger - which was 
>> upgradeable, over one with e.g. filesharing and a CMS which could not 
>> reliably be fully automatically be upgraded to next major Debian 
>> release.
>Another comment on the "off-the-shelf" subject - it's very common for 
>'embedded' devices to have upgrades which are "reflash the whole 
>firmware with the new image". I'm not yet convinced that this is a bad 
>model for FB to take. Of course, this is nothing like "reinstalling 
>your OS" - it's a point-and-click solution which retains all of your 
>state. People understand that and won't have a problem with it.
>If we do have rolling upgrades (and we may want them more frequent than 
>Debian stable releases, I don't know), then they must be completely 
>bulletproof.  No questions asked by debconf, no "oh, but now you need 
>to do X", no "oops, it broke in your specific config setup".
>This isn't something which is aimed at "normal computer users" - it's 
>an appliance. It's like your washing machine, or your TV.
>That said, it's probably not a goal for the first, second or even third 
>iteration, but please keep it in mind

Good point: distinguish between "washing machines" and "desktop PCs".

What Skolelinux aims at is actually to some extend to treat a whole 
school network as a "washing machine": The goal is for a single school 
teacher to administrate a school network with only a few hours a week 
(because she still should teach most of the time!) and even those hours 
should be spent serving users, not machines.  So I believe that project 
is still a relevant source of inspiration.

Not only in embedded devices, but also servers and desktops, it is too 
often too easy to give up on maintainance and instead reset (parts of) 
earlier configuration when upgrading.  I recommend to not give up in it.

  - Jonas

  * Jonas Smedegaard - idealist & Internet-arkitekt
  * Tlf.: +45 40843136  Website: http://dr.jones.dk/

  [x] quote me freely  [ ] ask before reusing  [ ] keep private
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