Subject: Re: Graphical Sysinst in 2.0
To: Joachim Thiemann <>
From: Bill Studenmund <>
List: current-users
Date: 09/03/2004 13:29:35
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On Wed, Aug 25, 2004 at 09:22:37PM -0400, Joachim Thiemann wrote:
> Maybe I should't let myself get drawn into this, but I just can't resist:
> A few observations:
> 1) A graphical installer is aimed at newbies (to NetBSD - they may have=
> varying degrees of other OS experience)

I disagree with this statement. While I agree that a graphical installer=20
will be very desired by new users, a graphical installer is really aimed=20
at users who will feel more comfortable/productive with a graphical=20
installer. As a specific example, I recently installed Fedora Core 1. I=20
prefered the graphical installer they had. Given difficulties I'd had with=
parted and the partitioning scheme Disk Druid had given me (from RedHat=20
7.3), I went through the install process a few times, so I got to try both=
the graphical and text installers out.

> 2) That pretty much restricts it to i386 and maybe macppc, no? (Ok, maybe=
> mac68k too)  Anyone else from acorn26 to xen would already have a decent=
> amount of knowledge to handle the gritty details of an install and face t=
> consequences if installboot invoked manually blows away his or her=20
> partition table, bootblock, superblocks... (been there done that, got the=
> t-shirt, ate the candy bar)... simply since they are aware of being able =
> run NetBSD on their "exotic" hardware (yes, I just classed sparc as exoti=
> Bear with me here...) they already display some non-newbie qualifications.

> 3) Even though many of the "alternative" archs have framebuffers rather t=
> textonly displays (making non-X graphical installer possible), this is=20
> mooted by point 2)

How so? All you need for the graphical installer is a frame buffer. If a=20
port has a working frame buffer, it can use the graphical installer.

> 4) A full distribution already takes several hours to compile on modern i=
> hardware. The rest of the tree should not bear the weight of a installer=
> restricted to a few archs.

And why would it? The install bits already are built on a per-port basis.=
Why would a port bother building a tool it can't use?

> 5) This leads to the solution of having a separate installer outside the=
> regular tree, already brought up in this thread.

Why? Why must we have only one installer in the tree?

To be honest, if the installer is an "official" option, its source really=
should be in the main tree. Perhaps under the X11 stuff, but in the main=20

Also, while I think a graphical installer would be a good thing to have,=20
there are many times when a text-based one is essential. I don't see us=20
getting rid of the text one any time soon.

> 6) By virtue of 1), 2), and 5), this installer can be arbitrarily big (up=
> the size of a CD, I would say) Since this is not aimed at people=20
> maintaining equipment older than the drunken frosh currently roaming=20
> campuses worlswide, we can have some expectations about what the hardware=
> is capable of!)

I kinda agree with this. I think it is reasonable to only have the=20
graphical installer on a CD. I however don't think the installer has to be=
outrageously huge; I think it can be space-efficient (for an X app) if we=
try. Or if whomever writes it tries.

> 7) There already exists a NetBSD-Live CD that boots up with X and even KD=
E. =20
> This could form the basis for an excellent installer platform, using=20
> whatever fashionable scripting language du jour.
> 8) This installer platform need not necessarily contain install sets, but=
> allow (even encourage) net based installs, so as not to need changing all=
> the time. Also to keep the final install secure (wrt updates).

I disagree. I REALLY like being able to just grab a set of Red Hat or=20
Fedora disks and then installing from it.

> 9) (IMPORTANT) This CD/bootdisk-set needs to be official and easily (and=
> obviously) obtainable from the homepage (due to point 1), =
> newbie will not google the mailinglist archives!!!)=20

Take care,


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