Subject: Re: Graphical Sysinst in 2.0
To: None <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: Richard Rauch <email@example.com>
Date: 09/03/2004 22:09:43
I've read parts of this thread with some interest. (Parts were lost when
the NetBSD mail archive stopped archiving for about 3 to 5 days---those
parts were when the thread was just starting, I think, and probably when
the information content was highest. (^& Unlike past downtimes, I do
not think that the archive ever recovered the lost mail this time around.)
I have a couple of random observations that I think are new to the thread,
based on the parts that are visible to me:
* Using a NetBSD Live! CD base sounds good. Someone stated that they
wanted to only download an install set once, but this could be an
extra feature that a Live! CD could do especially well:
* Include tools for burning a CD if you will be installing
multiple systems the same way. It can take care of all of
the details of getting "the latest" version (or some specied
version) of NetBSD, laying out the sets, and burning a CD.
(This may require some kind of usable disk space or a ton of
RAM, of course.)
* You only need download one Live! CD ever (at least in principle),
even as you change NetBSD releases. The installation kit could
peruse a web site for installable sets (or use whatever pre-burned
CD you hand it).
* If installing essentially one system and equipped with a high-speed
Internet access, Live! CD installation could let you bypass the need
for burning CDs at all, beyond the Live! CD itself.
* X (XFree86 at least) is pretty easy to configure these days.
XFree86 was talking about dropping the config file altogether
and supporting running just by dynamic probes.
I assume that X.Org is going to continue this trend.
I don't know how much that means for some archetectures. Maybe
the XFree86 probing was not very portable. (And it certainly
is not yet flawless.) Still, this may be something of a background
issue. Trying an automated X config, and bailing out if things go
bad, is one option. It would require a user with enough knowledge
to kill X if X thought it was running but had screwed up something
in the display.
* To Bill, I think that developers are not voicing so many
opinions because those who want it know that they can work on
it. Non-developers can't just vote with their development time
because they don't have any. So instead, they make their opinions
known about what they do or don't think would make NetBSD better.
If the goal is to grow the NetBSD base rather than to serve the
NetBSD developers' own interests and needs, then it is also worth
considering the potential loss of current users (even if the loss
may be because some of the users are "elitist").
Not to say that there's nothing to your point about complaints
on this topic being much the sort of demands from WIN32-escapees.
There is certainly a bit of a double-standard in non-developers
saying that they don't want [other] non-developers coming on-board.
* As the GNU/LINUX world partially moves to graphical installers,
we may see GNU/LINUX-escapees looking for graphical installers
as well as WIN32-escapees. I think that some of this resentment
is really "I don't want a bunch of WIN32 users coming in and
asking why NetBSD isn't like WIN32. Let's let GNU/LINUX be
their first experience with UNIX-like systems..." But this
feature will relate to increasing numbers of potential GNU/LINUX
users. (Maybe there are other aspects of the resentment, of
course. Not to pass judgment on resentment of WIN32-escapees
as opposed to general new users.)
* My *own* opinion (everyone's got one, right?):
1) I have installed 3 or 4 varieties of GNU/LINUX. I currently
have a Mandrake 10 Beta (AMD64) install on one of my partitions.
I use it to play an OpenGL game because it won't run usably
on any NetBSD stock system, and I sometimes want the distraction
of bzflag. (^& (I also use it to occasionally test the status
of a graphics library.)
I find the Mandrake installer easy to use. And it was pretty
However, the Mandrake system went too far down the road of
hiding things. I have not been able to find where they
stuck the !@#$ option for Emulate3Buttons (or whatever).
It is turned on, and has caused me many times to lose my
Guided Missile flag (right button to lock, left to fire;
if you do it too quick, it thinks you've pressed the middle
button and drops the flag).
(Seems silly? Well, remember that I *mostly* use Mandrake
for playing this one OpenGL game. Its primary function in
life on my system is being undermined by a config feature
that I have not been able to turn off. I *have* looked in
/etc/XF86Config, or whatever. I haven't made as thorough
a search as I could, though.)
It is possible that I missed a flag to disable it when
installing Mandrake (I also had some problems getting it
to find my mouse for a while, I recall, and might have in
frustration toggled a bunch of flags). However, at this
point, I cannot see how to disable it.
So, to relate this situation back to NetBSD:
Where would things stop? Would we have a GUI tool for
configuring a kernel? A GUI tool for adding and removing
users? A GUI tool for packages? Would these tools become
mainstream recommended ways to install/manage a system?
(Once *that* happens, I think that people stop worrying
so much about making it possible to get around without
the tools. This is what Mandrake has done, I think.)
2) As you might infer from the above, I have reservations
about a graphical installer. (^& Aside from some of
the above, which may or may not happen, I do not find
the NetBSD sysinst hard to use (when it works correctly).
There seems to be some kind of presumed "graphical == easy".
(Then again, I'm somewhat guilty of "graphical == hidden
feature", though I think that graphical installers tend to
drift more that way.) Graphical might be pretty, though that
is not a given. If we do not add something like KDE to the
base system, the installed-and-running system is not going
to look as pretty as a stock Mandrake (or FreeBSD) desktop
install and may be a disappointment to those who completed
the installation because of eye-candy. If we are entering
into beauty pageants, I'd worry that KDE-in-base might be up
someone's sleeve, which I hope we do not do.
When sysinst fails, as noted by another, a graphical
interface would not be much of an improvement.
Maybe I've missed it, but what is the real gain from a
All of that having been said, NetBSD is a living system. I
expect it to change. The developers have shown good sense in
the past, so I expect the system to remain sound. But nothing
should ever receive blind faith, so the (albeit sometimes negative)
reaction of current users is also a part of the process.
I *DO* (can I possibly overemphasize that? let me repeat: *DO*)
wish that people would *NOT* discuss things like this on current-users.
"current-users" is not, as I understand it, for "people who are
currently users". It is for people who use NetBSD-current.
I am not so concerned with protecting users of -current from off
topic discussion as I am concerned with ensuring that the broader
NetBSD user base hear the discussion and have a chance to voice
opinions (assuming that the discussion itself is inherently worth
having). Although anyone can read current-users, the stated topic
of the list tends to discourage people who do not want to run
Since I do not care to see threads migrate or cross-post, I'm
following up on current-users where the rest of the thread has been
posted. I just think that it was a bad place to hold the discussion.
Now...I've had my say and will try to keep quiet on this thread
about the graphical installer. (^&
"I probably don't know what I'm talking about." http://www.olib.org/~rkr/