txt-sysinstall scrapped

Garrett Cooper gcooper at FreeBSD.org
Sat Nov 6 04:47:05 UTC 2010

On Fri, Nov 5, 2010 at 9:16 PM, Josh Paetzel <jpaetzel at freebsd.org> wrote:
> It's been incredibly busy for us in iXsystems land, with a lot of irons in the
> fire.
> One of the many things we've been working on is a new installer.  Several
> months ago pc-sysinstall was imported into HEAD from the PC-BSD project.
> pc-sysinstall is a fine tool, and very useful as the backend for doing
> scripted installs.  If you're using scripted sysinstall I recommend you check
> it out, it's a lot easier to use and configure than sysinstall, the
> documentation is much better, and reasonable requests for functionality can
> and will be brought in.
> This is all fine and good, but without a front end to generate the config
> files pc-sysinstall needs it's not much use to an end user for doing installs.
> We (and by we I mean the forces at iXsystems) have been working on txt-
> sysinstall, which is a front end for pc-sysinstall using curses and dialog to
> generate a pc-sysinstall config file from user input.  What we've encountered
> is that doing disk configuration in dialog isn't possible, and we started down
> the road of using curses....but we already have a curses and dialog based
> installer, and wouldn't it be neat if we could use the disk configuration tool
> we are writing for FreeNAS, too bad it's a web app.....
> But if the installer just launched a web server.....
> Ok, wait a minute, that couldn't work...how would you configure networking?
> Oh wait, that's already solved in FreeNAS, before you access the system you
> use a console/CLI app to configure the network.  Ok, but people do installs
> over serial ports....oh wait, you could run lynx from the console too...
> We quickly realized that the objections we could come up with were easily
> overcome, and the more we talked to people here at MeetBSD the more we
> realized it was a viable (and good) idea.  People quickly came up with
> improvements.
> This gets us the best of both worlds.  Want a super fancy GUI installer, just
> hit the box with firefox or whatever from a full desktop, want a text
> interface that's simple, need low bandwidth, running over a serial port, use
> the embedded lynx browser.  Installing in a remote vm/cloud, just configure
> the ip and hit it with a browser (yes, we're dreaming up ways to do it over
> ssl and such)
> I'll do a better write-up very soon, I'm pretty tired now and have a long
> weekend looming, but just wanted to get the word out.
> Just to give credit where credit is due, this all started with Warner Losh
> saying, "Can you listen to a crazy idea I had?"   It didn't take long to
> realize that it wasn't crazy, it was a stroke of genius.
> Secondary props go to Philip Paeps and Kris Moore for implementation details,
> Matt Olander for recognizing the benefits and approving the change in focus,
> John Hixson for the priceless look on his face when he realized we were
> serious about changing (He's done the bulk of the work on txt-sysinstall) the
> random NetBSD user here at MeetBSD (sorry I don't know his name) who said it
> was a horrible idea because it would "bloat the installer way too much" (I'm
> still laughing at that, he was saying something about floppies too, I guess
> we're locking out people using 386's or something.) and quite a few other
> people who are too countless to mention but offered random advice or
> encouragement.

    Just to add to that (because I do find it a novel idea), 1) how
are you going to properly prevent man in the middle attacks (SSL, TLS,
etc?), and 2) what webserver would you use?
    I bring up the former item because I wouldn't want my data going
unencrypted across any wire, and what BSD compatible web servers did
you guys have in store and who would maintain the server, and what
kinds of vulnerabilities would you be introducing by adding a service
which would be enabled by default at runtime?

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