Subject: Re: Something to shoot for someday...
To: Perry E. Metzger <>
From: Hugh LaMaster <>
List: tech-install
Date: 07/01/1999 11:53:01
On 1 Jul 1999, Perry E. Metzger wrote:

> Not true. I've been working on it for a couple of weeks now. As I
> said, it's my summer project. I'm not going to finish before the 1.5
> branch, but it should be ready by September or so for public work.

Since work is started already, I'll my $0.02 and say that
I certainly prefer *visual* tools, including install tools,
and editors.  For example, vi.  So, here is my accumulated
wisdom on GUI-based tools:

1) I don't think it is a great idea to use a cute-looking mouse-driven
GUI, however.  Much better to stick to curses.  You need the same
tools to work under SSH, telnet, a console port, etc., and you need
the tools to fit on a floppy.  And mice are inconvenient when you
are upgrading or reloading via floppy and CDROM down in a machine
room with a keyboard or PC to a console port, no network configured, 
and there is no place to put a mouse.  The install tools should 
look the same over a network, or with a direct keyboard & screen,
and should be the same on a personal PC or a rack-mount box.

2) Now, on a related issue: two software managers I have used,
the Sun/Solaris 2.x software manager, and the Irix tool.
Both are "visual", but, the SGI tool gives much more direct
feedback on the two things which really affect an installation:
disk space (how much is available, how much the added packages
consume, including their dependencies) and dependencies, which 
are usually a problem if/when you need to back something out:
the *de-installation* dependency problem is actually much more 
difficult and useful to solve than the installation problem.

3) For some reason, there seems to be a growing tendency to store
program/tool data/databases in inscrutable formats.  Whenever possible, 
do it the old-fashioned Unix style with an eye-readable and editable 
ASCII text.  It is extremely frustrating to have access to important
configuration information stored in some unreadable and uneditable
format, and then get cut off from the GUI tool that built it due
to a failure, with no way to edit the data.  Or, because of a bug,
the GUI tool has incorrect data, and there is no way to edit it,
so you have to rebuild or reinstall everything from scratch.

 Hugh LaMaster, M/S 233-21,    ASCII Email:
 NASA Ames Research Center     Or:
 Moffett Field, CA 94035-1000  No Junkmail: USC 18 section 2701
 Phone: 650/604-1056           Disclaimer:  Unofficial, personal *opinion*.