Managing Expectations (was Re: Debian 3.0 CDRs)

Drake Diedrich dld at
Thu Aug 8 17:20:55 EST 2002

On Thu, Aug 08, 2002 at 04:06:44PM +1000, Alfred wrote:
> I got it working after a couple hours, but I felt frustated by taking so 
> long to do something that was automatic with all my previous 
> distributions (i.e getting a current windowing system).
> Its first impressions that are important, and Debian let me down in that 
> department. Perhaps some of the Debian team can take this to heart :)

   Yep, installation has always been Debian's weakest point (followed
closely by the simple explosion in number of packages I suppose).
woody is using the last incarnation of the boot-floppies installer, so it's
still about the same.  A bit of work has happened building some
autodetection into the X11 packages, but help from the installer is really
probably necessary (to force the other autodetect stuff onto the system
before X11).
   The new debian-installer package was begun, oh, probably a year ago, but
wasn't going to be ready until woody was finished.  woody took such a long
time that it could probably have had debian-installer based installation
disks, but by no means was that certain, and they don't exist today in any
usable form (having gotten little development time during woody's freeze).
debian-installer is getting time now, and has a very modular design
(.udebs), allowing in principle many front ends, back ends, auto detection,
... to be mixed together.  Debian needs this flexibility (and complexity)
more than other distributions, especially now with 11 official architectures
and several more unofficial ones.
   For standard i386 boxes, there have been a number of autodetect
installers written for Debian-based distributions.  Corel, Progeny, Knoppix
come to mind.  PGI (Progeny Installer) in particular is arriving piece by
piece in Debian/unstable. bdale (the project leader) had as his platform
some points about encouraging spin-off projects and such, so it's far more
likely that Debian will have an official installer for common machines
that's much better than the current set (one way or another).  And anyone
could (and several have) build a derived distribution and installation
system.  Building a *company* around that though hasn't enjoyed a great deal
of success.
   All that said, one of Debian's strengths is on odd hardware.  Because
there is no autoconfiguration, it's easier to find ways to shoehorn it onto
difficult hardware, and lots of expertise in local user groups doing just
that, since it's so similar to an "easy" install.

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