Subject: Re: Graphical Sysinst in 2.0
To: None <>
From: Richard Rauch <>
List: current-users
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
      graphical install?

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."