Sunday, August 24, 2008

You can now get the same desktops (Gnome, KDE, XFCE, and LXDE) with Sid instead of Lenny.


  1. August 29, 2008 11:30 AM

    I am intrigued by your pre-seed project and am strongly considering installing the LXDE version on an old low end AMDK6-450 machine (the Lenny version.)

    However, what I believed about pre-seeds before reading your web site is that a
    nearly complete install disk could be pre-seeded (i.e. an already downloaded 700 MG .iso) The big drawback to your pre-seeds is that the pre-seeds also perform the 700 MG download, while I would much prefer to download an already preseeded 700 MG .iso file so that I could burn this to a CD and then install it on a PC miles away which might not have any internet access at all (or only country dialup.)

    Any consideration for this type of preseeds? Also, is this how ubuntu and debian preseeds are different?

    Thanks for all your work on these. Even so, they sound like they will be quite helpful.

  2. August 29, 2008 1:01 PM

    A pre-seed file is simply a file which answers the questions from the installer so that you don't have to. That file can go on any disk or be called from a net connection (inter- or intra).

    In the wiki for this project (which is linked on the project page but isn't prominent), I discussed this at length with myself over a period of weeks. I ended up with the mini.iso for four reasons:

    Fistly, and most important, is the legal reason. These pre-seed desktops download and install things that most users end up installing but which are legally gray in many areas of the world. w32codecs isn't even gray -- it's just plain illegal. If I offered a CD with those packages, I open myself up to liability (I may, anyway, by linking, but it's certainly not as strong a case). Even though I live in Asia, I'm an American, and the American system could yank me back there and try me with little difficulty.

    Secondly, there's the beta problem. Lenny isn't finished. If I packaged a 700 MB CD, I'd have to package another one when Lenny came out. Heck, I'm pretty sure the downloads for Gnome or KDE desktops + codecs + extra apps come to about 1GB, so it would probably have to be a DVD, anyway. The mini.isos are finished. They will work for ten years. If I decide to add functionality, I do that in the pre-seed file on my server and no one needs to download and burn another .iso.

    Thirdly, the reasons are financial. No, I don't have money problems, but I don't want to, either. The domain costs me USD10/year. It includes this blog, Google Pages (which kind of suck), and Sites, which forms the wiki. I can also just sign up for another blog and add it to the DNS setting, which I did with GamesThatWork. It's a very good deal, but the limits on Google pages are 100MB total and 10MB per file. There's no bandwidth charge, though. I was originally going to put up businesscard.isos with the pre-seed files on them, but they ended up going over the limit, so I went with mini.isos. My other choice would be to find and pay for hosting for the isos.

    Fourthly, there's the convenience. Having one .iso means that you can carry around just one to install any of the four desktops. That's pretty powerful. The minis have the drawback that the pre-seed can't be located on the disk and that the questions up to the network/apt section can't be pre-seeded. They also can't do wireless. Then there's the bandwidth for the user. Given the flexibility of having the pre-seed files on the server and a simple menu of desktops, I'm willing to take that trade-off.

    The bottom line is that I knew this choice to go with the minis would limit the audience severely and make it much less useful, but I made it after careful consideration and with the various liabilities and benefits in mind.

    Not trying to say "code it yourself," but you CAN do an LXDE install, grab the pre-seed file from my site, edit the menu files, and package a CD. That would at least be useful for you and you could take it around to install several times.

    Thanks for the feedback and let me know if you ever get it installed. The system is good enough for me, but others might need more functionality from the start.

    p.s. If you do a bunch of installs at the same place, it would be worth it to user apt-cacher to keep your bandwidth down.

  3. September 2, 2008 12:02 PM

    Wow, thanks for the thorough reply. I currently run ubuntulite (LXDE on a base cli of ubuntu hardy) on my main file sharing service dhcp packetforwarding Pentium II 333 Mhz box with 320 Mgs RAM (dual boot with Win98SE, but 88 % of the time is running on
    Ubuntu.) The main reason I was contemplating Debian for my next lite install is stability. My main PC will occasionally get flaky (i.e. the desktop icons sometime vanish and will not return until a full reboot, also
    it will not run wine properly.) I don't get why these pre-seeded full installation would bust the 700 Mg cd threshold when Ubuntulite totals at about 392 (which would still leave room for codecs, extras, and fudge factor.)

    I will probably do the install from a thumbdrive (and wired DSL
    ethernet), once I finalize. I also contemplated siduxlite, but
    am concerned about the stability aspect. Ubuntulite is still in beta, also, though. Is stability
    the reason for your straight debian preference over Ubuntu?

    Also, I guess I could code it myself someday, but my ability level is not yet at that point (that's why people like me need people like you sharing your knowledge and expertise through this blog and your preseeds.)

    Also, difficult to understand the
    "illegal" codecs issue. (Need to
    re-read explanations of it each time and then it can still be fuzzy.)

    Thanks for your work and sharing of your expertise and knowledge.


    Robert in St. Louis

  4. September 2, 2008 12:15 PM

    First, about the size of the CDs -- The LXDE pre-seed probably wouldn't cross the boundary, but the Gnome and KDE ones would. With the 10MB file limit on my account, there wasn't even really a choice of using the netinst.isos.

    Many of the codecs are patented in the US and require license fees, so you can't legally use them without buying them. The w32codecs nedd a Windows license for some of them, so I can't just include them willy-nilly, either. It's really about protecting my ass.

    I used Debian for a long time and really loved it, but the period between releases was really long, and Ubuntu's 6-month release cycle seemed interesting to me. Once I had some friends I was supporting on Ubuntu, I decided to go with it full time. Ultimately, I couldn't stand the hypocrisy I saw (and I had real trouble dealing with the "where's the 'any' key" questions on the Ubuntu forums) so I came back to Debian.

    I love the stability, but that comes at a cost. You don't get the newest software, and if there's a usability bug, it's going to be there for a LONG time.

    Keep digging into the internals of the system and reading up on what you can. You sound like a bright guy. One day, you'll be able to code whatever you want.


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