Subject: Re: Graphical Sysinst in 2.0
To: Richard Rauch <>
From: Bill Studenmund <>
List: current-users
Date: 09/07/2004 17:18:13
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On Fri, Sep 03, 2004 at 10:09:43PM -0500, Richard Rauch wrote:
> I have a couple of random observations that I think are new to the thread,
> based on the parts that are visible to me:


>  * 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.

We could do that, but I think it'd just be easier to stick with a simple=20
graphics mode that all the hardware should support (if it does graphics).=
None of the graphical installers I've played with have taxed the graphics=
setup at all.

>    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").

I'm not really sure if they'd go. While some may, I strongly suspect that=
either they will continue a pattern of strong negativity or they will=20
discover what a large number of NetBSD developers swear by - the 'd' key=20
(or 'Delete' depending on your mailer). :-)

>    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.

That was the main point I was trying to make. :-)

The one reason I could see against lots of new blood would be if we=20
experienced an extreemely rapid growth spurt, like doubling the number of=
users over less than a year. I think that scenario would be a stress on=20
our previous users. However, I really don't think that will happen soon.=20
:-) That's one of those problems we wish we had. ;-)

>  * 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.)

One other group I think we should keep in mind is that of reluctant users.=
Like someone whose boss told him or her to use NetBSD to do X or Y. While=
I agree we don't want to add features without bound, making life easier=20
for them will help us, I think. And since folks who have to try an OS or a=
product against their will and have a negative experience tend to talk=20
about that (negative) experience a lot, I think we'll do well to avoid=20
such situations. :-)

As a specific example, I list myself. I had to install both Windows and=20
Linux for work reasons. I didn't want to, but oh well. With some measure=20
of finagling, both installs went well (tripple-booting a Dell isn't so=20
easy). Given the ease with which I installed both of them, and my ability=
to successfully configure them, I now do not dislike either OS as much as=
I did. I expect there are/will be other folks who now like the other OSs=20
and can come to like NetBSD.

>  * 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
>       quick.
>       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.)

I don't think we should worry about this now. Among other things, I think
the motif of common tool base with different equi-functional presentation
methods (curses or X) is one that we can get a lot of milage out of.

We already have sushi, a management tool inspired by smit, an admin tool=20
for AIX. Having admined AIX 3 boxes, I grew to like smit. I liked how it=20
had both curses and X front-ends, the different equi-function presentation=
aspect. :-) I expect we can and will end up with the same.

As a total aside, sushi is supposed to be able to list the command it will=
run for a given function. So either of the front ends could tell you what=
you need to type to do the same thing. Unfortunately I had trouble getting=
this to work last time I tried it.

>    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 =3D=3D easy".

I think a fairer way to put this is that a graphical installer will be=20
easier for some folks, and also a graphical installer will be more=20
comfortable for some folks.

>       (Then again, I'm somewhat guilty of "graphical =3D=3D 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?

See above.

Take care,


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