Now Linux is doing this "ease of use" crap



  • Backstory: I have an older box in my apt. that I use as a webserver. Those in-the-know know that a webserver actually doesn't take a whole lot to run when you're just using it for your own personal projects (mostly wordpress themes.) It's my old gaming rig from about 3 versions ago, running a 3.2 GHz Pentium D and 2 GB of DDR2 memory. For the purpose, I only install (along with the base OS, Centos) vsftpd (Very Secure File Transfer Protocol Daemon), Apache Webserver, mySQL and the default Mail server (since a lot of applications use it for error reporting.) So in other words, it's the definition of a barebone system, with little to nothing installed. Typically, upon first bootup, the memory footprint will be about 188 MB.

    The past few weeks, I'd noticed the system showing it's age (not surprising, considering it was 1.2 versions out of date, and had been used and abused for about 5 years.) Figured it was time to reinstall. I downloaded all my current projects, and an ISO for Centos 6.3. Burned ISO, inserted, usual procedure. First thing I noticed was there was no obvious reference to a text installer. The graphics card in this particular machine was always fussy with linux, so I stuck to text for everything, and used the whole thing from CLI (who needs a GUI to run a server anyway?). It started a gnome based installer which worked, I guess the planets aligned that day. Went through the whole thing, and noticed a couple things:

    • The new partition manager was incredibly hard to operate without a mouse. Everything was vague in wording, and, when I encountered an error, I literally could not continue without canceling the dialogue and reopening it, there was no way to tab or alt-tab back into the fields.
    • There was no package selection menu, package manager, or any reference to either one.

    Because of the second one, I couldn't de-select the gnome desktop in the packages, so it was installed. Naturally, when the system booted, I got a corrupted video signal (what always happens when this graphics card encounters a linux GUI). And forgetting that problem, the more important one is I ended up installing about a gig and a half of stuff that I didn't want. For me, at least, the whole attraction to linux has always been customization; you get what you want, and not a whole lot more.

    In an attempt to salvage this, I tried to start it in run level 3 (text and networking), to no avail. The new pretty start up screen was halting the system. Or, it was just taking a really long time, I couldn't tell you. I let it sit for 20 minutes, and got nowhere. In the end, I got out my binder from school and my 5.1 centos disk, and got back to sane linux.

    So, to recount the WTFs:

    • In an effort to be more user friendly, they've removed huge blocks of functionality from the installer, and modified tools to the point they're near un-usable without a mouse.
    • There is, contradictory to their own documentation, no way to completely disable the GUI for debug or recovery purposes.
    • This new version was so broken that I ended up going back to an outdated one.
    • There is seemingly no way to install this OS without the GUI. At all.

      Damn linebreaks.


  • CentOS is from the Red Hat stable, and traditionally everything that comes out of there takes an "everything and the kitchen sink" approach to default installations. The kind of experience you talk about is exactly why I prefer Debian, which installs very little by default. The Internet-based mini installer is also very small and still has a text-based installer that doesn't install any graphical bootup nonsense by default.

    When I first moved to Debian I was occasionally disconcerted by the need to apt-get things I expected to find preinstalled (it doesn't come with traceroute? Seriously?) but since all that's required to pull in all the packages I generally need is a simple two-line script, I would not now have it any other way.



  • The CentOS text-based installer is (apparently) a bit worse than its GUI-based installer:

    "The text installer has limited capabilities compared to the GUI installer. Most notably there is no support for configuring partition layout, storage methods or package selection. Please refer to the official documentation for details. Here you can find some useful information on creating and using kickstart files which can be used to perform advanced configuring without the need for the GUI installer."

    (via: the 6.3 errata docs. )

    I suspect that TRWTF is RedHat.



  • @flabdablet said:

    CentOS is from the Red Hat stable, and traditionally everything that comes out of there takes an "everything and the kitchen sink" approach to default installations. The kind of experience you talk about is exactly why I prefer Debian, which installs very little by default. The Internet-based mini installer is also very small and still has a text-based installer that doesn't install any graphical bootup nonsense by default.

    When I first moved to Debian I was occasionally disconcerted by the need to apt-get things I expected to find preinstalled (it doesn't come with traceroute? Seriously?) but since all that's required to pull in all the packages I generally need is a simple two-line script, I would not now have it any other way.

    Plus, "Debian stable" is what the name implies. It's kind of outdated for those of us who want the latest stuff, but it'll stay up for years at a time.



  • The Debian text installer is reasonably good at doing partitioning, but it also allows you to install gparted, mdraid tools and LVM tools as additional installation packages. Having done that, you can flip to an alternate text console when the installation process gets up to the partitioning step, run the exact tools you want in the exact order you need to build the exact partition layout you prefer, then flip back to the installer and tell it to accept that partitioning as-is. This is quite nice, as is the fact that a reasonably informative installation log is maintained on (iirc) VT8 throughout the whole process. When things go wrong it's usually not hard to use the log to work out what needs to be done on VT2 to fix them.

    I also think there are enough server-heads in the Debian Installer team to make sure its text installer stays viable for the foreseeable future.



  • @flabdablet said:

    CentOS is from the Red Hat stable, and traditionally everything that comes out of there takes an "everything and the kitchen sink" approach to default installations. The kind of experience you talk about is exactly why I prefer Debian, which installs very little by default. The Internet-based mini installer is also very small and still has a text-based installer that doesn't install any graphical bootup nonsense by default.


    Not my experience, the 5.1 disk I have outright asks (in the text installer) if you'd like to configure packages for installation, where you get a long list to arrow and space your way through. That said this new disk does exactly what you say, so, possibly a change in how they do things?
    @flabdablet said:

    When I first moved to Debian I was occasionally disconcerted by the need to apt-get things I expected to find preinstalled (it doesn't come with traceroute? Seriously?) but since all that's required to pull in all the packages I generally need is a simple two-line script, I would not now have it any other way.


    Perhaps I'll look into Debian then. The only issue is me and CentOS are damn close, I learned linux on that platform.



  •  That is, why I use Gentoo - it installs by default nearly nothing and you then can choose, what kind of system you want and what programs you will install. Take a little longer to install working system, but it is then customized to your will and maintainance is easy after that.



  • @spamcourt said:

    The CentOS text-based installer is (apparently) a bit worse than its GUI-based installer:

    "The text installer has limited capabilities compared to the GUI installer. Most notably there is no support for configuring partition layout, storage methods or package selection. Please refer to the official documentation for details. Here you can find some useful information on creating and using kickstart files which can be used to perform advanced configuring without the need for the GUI installer."

    (via: the 6.3 errata docs. )

    I suspect that TRWTF is RedHat.


    I wouldn't know, I couldn't start the text installer. 😕



  • @gilhad said:

     That is, why I use Gentoo - it installs by default nearly nothing and you then can choose, what kind of system you want and what programs you will install. Take a little longer to install working system, but it is then customized to your will and maintainance is easy after that.


    I prefer that though, I'd rather invest the time and know exactly what's on my system then just go with some pre-configured hope-it-works setup.



  • @toon said:

    "Debian stable" is what the name implies. It's kind of outdated for those of us who want the latest stuff, but it'll stay up for years at a time.

    If you only need a fairly limited range of recent stuff, stable + a few packages from backports is usually plenty good enough. If you enjoy swimming upstream, there's unstable (sid) (which comes with occasional bouts of swearing and putting holds on packages until whatever regression has just hit you gets fixed). And in between there's testing which seems to avoid most of the spatter from the bleeding edge while still remaining reasonably up to date.

    The Debian release model, in stark contrast to everything else that's happened to software development since Shuttleworth cranked up his six-monthly Ubuntu upgrade treadmill, strikes me as the pinnacle of good sense.



  • I tried living with Gentoo for a while before settling on Debian. I initially thought a source-based distro would be cool, because obviously updates would be teeny tiny - just patches! Wrong - Gentoo updates are entire source packages, and these are often actually bigger than the binaries that other distros push out.

    Keeping a Gentoo box up to date involved far too many choices for me. I can see the appeal for people whose primary goal is playing with the technology, but I'm a bit old and crusty for that now, having reached a stage where most of what I need a computer to do is help me get work done. In my experience the Debian package maintainers do an excellent job of making sure stuff Just Works right after installation while keeping plenty of customization flexibility available if needed.

    Debian and Gentoo both run a "keep everything neatly stacked in the shed out the back until I need it in the house" philosophy, but in my experience Debian does it in a less irritating way; unpacking and installing pre-compiled binaries is a hell of a lot quicker than waiting for every. damn. thing. to compile before I can use it.

    I'm glad Gentoo exists, and more power to those whose needs it meets. But it's not for me.



  •  Gentoo can take more time to keep up-to-date, but I usually do not do it. I update only when there is some problem, or when I need new functionality - which results in boxes with years old versions, where everything "just works". Rolling updates are nice, when you want to be on the edge of technology, but it is optional. You can update every day, every week, every month, every year - your choise 🙂



  • @Master Chief said:

    The only issue is me and CentOS are damn close, I learned linux on that platform.

    My first Linux was Red Hat 9, then Gentoo, then several Ubuntus. I switched to Debian when Ubuntu lost the plot, then switched to XFCE on my desktop Debian installations when GNOME lost the plot. Adapting to a different distro is like driving a different car - it's different, but not radically different, and I think the experience makes you a better driver.



  • @gilhad said:

    I update only when there is some problem, or when I need new functionality - which results in boxes with years old versions, where everything "just works". Rolling updates are nice, when you want to be on the edge of technology, but it is optional. You can update every day, every week, every month, every year - your choise 🙂

    I take pretty much that same approach with my Debian boxes, most of which are using Debian Testing which is a semi-rolling distribution (for a few months before every new release of Stable it's more of a crawling distribution). It works, but occasionally I will need to install or update something that also needs a crapton of libraries updated underneath it, and in many cases that means a crapton of updates to other stuff that uses those same libraries.

    I still prefer that to the Windows approach of keeping all the old libraries around forever so the installation size balloons over time, but the point is that choosing not to keep a rolling distro reasonably close to up to date can occasionally cause a day to go down the gurgler when I wasn't expecting it to.

    The fact that everything you stick on a Gentoo box gets compiled against whatever libraries you already have lying around should be able to put this effect off for a while, but it must surely bite eventually, and when it does, that Gentoo box is surely going to be spending a long time recompiling stuff, some of which may then break in mysterious ways. Has that been your experience?



  •  When I update boxes2+years old, then there are sometimes problems. I solve them by simply uninstalling all problematic packages and installing them again after update is done. Ususally I start the update evening with --keep-going so at morning the most of it is already done and I have to solve the rest. Sometimes it took more cycles. But I was successfull each time (sooner or later).



  • @flabdablet said:

    @Master Chief said:
    The only issue is me and CentOS are damn close, I learned linux on that platform.

    My first Linux was Red Hat 9, then Gentoo, then several Ubuntus. I switched to Debian when Ubuntu lost the plot, then switched to XFCE on my desktop Debian installations when GNOME lost the plot. Adapting to a different distro is like driving a different car - it's different, but not radically different, and I think the experience makes you a better driver.


    I suppose, I just get attached to things. I know Centos's quirks and bugs, and I know how to resolve them almost immediately. It's not out of the question, I'm just one of those guys who hates change. 😛

    Interestingly, my favored desktop linux flavor is Kubuntu. It was a big revamp when they moved to KDE 4, but I stuck around, and I really enjoy it. I'm actually writing this on Kubuntu 12, just installed a few weeks ago. The battery optimizations are much better, desktop effects run better, and in general, everything is just more streamlined and optimized.



  • @gilhad said:

     When I update boxes2+years old, then there are sometimes problems. I solve them by simply uninstalling all problematic packages and installing them again after update is done. Ususally I start the update evening with --keep-going so at morning the most of it is already done and I have to solve the rest. Sometimes it took more cycles. But I was successfull each time (sooner or later).


    That's what I usually do, but I couldn't even start in the failsafe mode, again because of the pretty start up screen.



  • @Master Chief said:

    * In an effort to be more user friendly, they've removed huge blocks of functionality from the installer, and modified tools to the point they're near un-usable without a mouse.

    What makes you think not implementing keyboard controls has something to do with being user friendly? I'd call that extremely user unfriendly. Especially to those users who may be disabled and unable to use a mouse or pointing device at all.

    Sorry to interrupt the 47 posts about which of the 500 virtually identical Linux distributions is best suited for this task.



  • @Master Chief said:

    Interestingly, my favored desktop linux flavor is Kubuntu. It was a big revamp when they moved to KDE 4, but I stuck around, and I really enjoy it. I'm actually writing this on Kubuntu 12, just installed a few weeks ago. The battery optimizations are much better, desktop effects run better, and in general, everything is just more streamlined and optimized.

    Ubuntu is just Debian with spackle, so if you're already happy with an Ubuntu on the desktop you should have no problem coming to grips with Debian on a server.



  • I've never had issues installing CentOS 6.3. I should point out, however, that I only use it within ESXi/VMware which tries pretty hard to present generally-compatible hardware, and it's the minimal install which pretty much installs the basic OS and that's it.


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