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Re: newbies needing help for graphic login

On Thu, 5 Jan 2006 12:30:56 +0000
Richard Lyons <richard@the-place.net> wrote:

> The increasing frequency of 'help help help' messages from new users who
> arrive at a command line console and don't know what to do next is a
> good sign: more people moving from doze to Linux, more moving from
> fedora and suze to debian.  But there is a real danger of scaring them
> off -- and I think their plight is a sign that debian should offer a
> little extra help for them.  What do others here think?
> What I have in mind is that the new installer could rewrite the welcome
> text to say something like 
>     This is a new install of
>     Debian GNU/Linux stable thisbox tty1
>     If you expected to get a graphic logon and desktop, 
>     please login as root and run "makemegraphic"
>     Otherwise, run "installdone" to get rid of this message.
>     thisbox login: _
> With, obviously, a couple of scripts to either revert to the normal
> situation or install kde and kdm (easiest, IMHO, for beginners -- but
> gnome and gdm would do too, or perhaps the two alternatives could be
> offered by the script, with a brief description of pros and cons).
> I'm guessing this would be a trivial exercise, but I think it would make
> for a much sweeter experience for many of the growing numbers of Debian
> newbies.
> Improvements?  Disagreement?  Consensus?

there have been a couple of ideas posted by others in this thread, and this is in response to all of them. 

My .02:

Having done a few debian installs now, one ubuntu (I know, I know), and a couple of knoppix conversions, I've got a very definite opinion about automatically booting into a gui. I think its a bad idea. X configuration is tricky at best, and I've seen very experienced windows users kick linux out the door because the gui boot doesn't work right. Why? The installer made incorrect guesses as to what the video hardware was (bad modelines, or incorrect horz & vert sync rates etc) or the user didn't really understand the process and made guesses along the way (I've done it for sure). a couple of anecdotes:

1) A good friend and experienced doze user and support tech decided to try ubuntu on an extra box. He went through the install and got a bad X setup that left him with a locked up gui. He didn't know jack about virtual terminals. I tried to explain to him several times, and offered to help. He, being a snarly old coot, continued on his own until he ultimately gave up and went away. That's on user gone due to a faulty gui boot.

2) I was playing with knoppix on an extra box (which I always do before using any other install, just to see how it goes) and got stuck in a bad X config that left jumbled raster lines all over and no usability. I knew what I was doing though and got it to work after some tweaking. If I had been less experienced, I'd have tossed it.

3) Did a debian install on the same box above and upgraded my way right into x.org and had trouble with my trident vid card that left even my virtual terminals unusable (garbage characters). Luckily I knew to ssh in from another box and rework it all. This is not something a new user should be expected to know how to do.

The point is that a new user can't be expected to deal with these things and facing an apparently unusable system, they'll go away. IMHO, IF you're going to boot directly into a gui, then the installer has to make the most failsafe possible assumptions. This means they might be left with a very ugly, but usable interface. then some kind of REALLY good tutorial/wizard to reconfigure the X system would be in order.

The other option is to have a "basic" installation mode that really carefully walks the user through gui setup to improve the odds of getting a working setup. Include in thre details on how to back out of it if it doesn't work. 

dpkg-reconfigure xserver-x* works great if you know what you're doing, but is totally outside the realm of expectations for a new linux user. They don't even know where to begin to look as many of them have never seen a command line.

Having said all that, I agree that the prevalence of "help help" emails is a good sign and its incumbent upon us, as a community to reach out to these people and help them in whatever way we can. First, of course, talk them through it on the list. Second, help the dev's produce a better first time experience for users. 

Finally, I think this sort of stuff is already pretty well done by other debian based distros. The question is does debian want to become like them? or remain as it is -- the grandfather/mother of many distros and a place for the more experienced/brave? 

again, my .02, ymmv etc etc

> -- 
> richard
> -- 
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