Installation - More user friendly

Matthew Seaman m.seaman at
Mon Mar 8 12:15:22 PST 2004

On Mon, Mar 08, 2004 at 11:20:01AM -0800, Johnson David wrote:
> On Sunday 07 March 2004 12:57 pm, Donald Turnbull wrote:
> > Plans exist aplenty. Talk is cheap. See, for instance the libh
> > project stuff -- -- which
> > was a nice idea in many ways but has entirely failed to produce any
> > results for about the last two years. What is missing are concrete
> > pieces of code: applications that work. If you think you can do
> > better than what we have presently, you are very welcome to submit
> > samples of works in progress.

Nope.  I wrote that, not David Turnbull.  

> What needs to be done is to go back to the UNIX way of doing things, and 
> divide up the problem into a set of small tools each doing one thing 
> very well. Then "sysinstall" would merely be a shell script combining 
> the parts into a whole. I'm actually starting on one small piece of 
> this. Contact me off list if you're interested.

Now this I think will be a very productive way forward.  It's much
easier to write a program to do one particular thing well, and
integrate it into a collection of similar programs, than it is to
throw away everything and rewrite the whole lot from scratch.  Problem
is, sysinstall isn't really set up for piecemeal replacement, and
while sysinstall may have been the canonical 'throwaway hack pressed
into production' actually throwing it away means there has to be
a complete full-featured replacement ready to slot in instead.
> I think we need both text and graphical interfaces to sysinstall or its 
> replacements. We need the text UI for all of the reasons everyone gives 
> whenever the topic comes up. But a graphical interface is more than 
> just eyecandy if done right. A GUI can display information/controls 
> more efficiently than a text interface, and can provide a better "help" 
> interface as well.

It also works well with the idea that you need several different
installers for different circumstances: something that you can script
and that will run unattended for diskless clients or 'jumpstart' type
setups; a minimal graphics installer for use over serial links; a
sleek and slimmed down installer to let the gurus be as productive as
possible and a nice friendly, hand-holding installer for the new and

So the installer becomes some sort of shell gluing together CLI
programs to do the actual work of installing the system with a series
of user-interface front ends ranging from no- or low-graphics versions
up to fully hand-holding-for-beginners styles.

The more I look at this, the more it looks like the best thing to use
is the OS environment that's meant to be being installed.  For the
case of the 'friendly to newbies' install, maybe start with something
like a FreesBIE disk -- then you've got immediate access to the standard
system commands such as fdisk(8), disklabel(8), newfs(8) etc. and an
environment where you can run X-based front-ends straight away.

Good luck fitting all that on a pair of floppy disks though...



Dr Matthew J Seaman MA, D.Phil.                       26 The Paddocks
                                                      Savill Way
PGP:         Marlow
Tel: +44 1628 476614                                  Bucks., SL7 1TH UK
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