Spins suck!

Life is hard when you are maintaining a Fedora spin. Why? Because spins suck, at least that’s what I was told. Instead of focusing on the spins, we should rather work on the installer and have a everything in there:

If I want KDE or LXDE, it should be part of the installer.

Actually Xfce and LXDE are already part of the installer, they are just not on the install media. But when you suggest to include them in the DVD, then the same person tells you that:

You’re only thinking about you and your images aren’t you? What happens when we put your stuff on the DVD?

As a spin maintainer, you can’t do right. :(

16 thoughts on “Spins suck!

  1. Hmm… In my experience, installers should have as few options as possible. If there is something to configure, it ALWAYS needs to be changed later. So time/date, language selection, package selection, do not all end up with two different UIs doing the same thing.

    Microsoft are getting good at this now:
    1). Ask for the keyboard and locale
    2). Find the likely disk partition and get the user to confirm
    3). Ask for computer and username
    And that’s it…

  2. And your point being? There are many ways to continue…

    You should try to create a spin and see if it really sucks. It takes you some time to get the hang of it… but it is worthwhile. By the way both xfce and lxde have a spin: http://spins.fedoraproject.org/. I would suggest to get in touch with them and ask their experience and participate with them.

    The other is to document how to get those desktops running when people have used the base installation. You could even thing of a tool to do a one-click installation.

    and thus, your point being?

  3. @ddd: I think installers should have all the necessary options. Instead Microsoft forces me to change things after installation: I have to remove games and MSN stuff and install things I really need. Some options are only available through in the unattended install and can never be changed afterwards. And after the installation I am forced to create a user that I don’t even need. Sorry, but Microsoft is a good example of how an installer should not be.

    Or take OpenSUSE as an example: They have a set of defaults that can be changed, but you can also just take use the defaults and install them with a single click. Sounds great – in theory: Because the defaults wipe your harddisk, this method is very effective in blasing all your data. Hooray!

  4. @Gerard:

    You should try to create a spin and see if it really sucks. It takes you some time to get the hang of it… but it is worthwhile. By the way both xfce and lxde have a spin: http://spins.fedoraproject.org/. I would suggest to get in touch with them and ask their experience and participate with them.

    I do know about the spins and their value, but some board members don’t. In case you didn’t know: I’m the creator/maintainer of both the Xfce and LXDE spin. ;)

    The other is to document how to get those desktops running when people have used the base installation.

    And we already have
    https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Xfce#Installing_Xfce
    https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/LXDE#Installing_LXDE

    You could even thing of a tool to do a one-click installation.

    We do have a single click install of both desktops in the installer already, but it requires an active internet connection because the required packages are not on the installation DVD. The problem is you still don’t get the application selection a spin has: For KDE, Xfce and LXDE you have to go through all the package groups and uncheck the GNOME stuff that is set default everywhere and pick your own applications. This is why I think that the spins still offer additional value, but a board member tells me that “spins are a detriment to Fedora”.

    and thus, your point being?

    That I put a lot of work into these spins and we, the spin maintainers, get no or little support from various groups in Fedora.

  5. Let’s fight together against GNOME-centricism in Fedora!

    The application selection issue on the DVD is something which also annoys me a lot. Basically, the DVD is completely and utterly useless for non-GNOME users, I can only recommend to NEVER use the DVD.

    Hint: the DVD sucks for upgrades too, as DVD upgrades do not use the updates repository! Even the repository selection screen which lets you add the updates repository is disabled for upgrades. The result is that several packages (all of KDE, in particular, but also many others) don’t get upgraded because the version on the DVD is older (especially if you aren’t one of those who rush to upgrade within minutes of the release), which usually results in broken dependencies. Use Preupgrade or folllow the YumUpgradeFaq to upgrade. NEVER use the DVD.

    In short: the installer DVD is useless for both installations and upgrades. IMHO Fedora should just drop it.

  6. @Christoph
    I knew you are the maintainer of the Xfce spin. But you talked here from a third person: ‘Because spins suck, at least that’s what I was told’. You could refer to the action of creating the spin itself, while you meant to day: ‘usage of a spin’. Didn’t get the point of your message at first :-P .

    You can understand the installation should remain small for easy distribution. You can’t expect a new user to understand choosing between different Window Managers when he just wants to install for a first use. It is all of the first use experience… those users are already bothered with the question of partitioning and other stuff they don’t want to bother about. This is also the reason why Ubuntu gained a lot of momentum…

    When a user starts to get ‘accustomed’ to the desktop he has, he might start to become adventurous and maybe choose the ‘Window manager preference’ and see alternative options.

    Maybe the target group of xfce and lxde are not the average user?… can’t you assume in a way they already have an internet connection? if not, they should choose the spin. The alternative would be an approach as the Fedora Community remix http://fcoremix.wordpress.com/. But those discs are bloated for the average user.

    The current DVD image is targeted to the upgrading user. Maybe this is the wrong targeted usergroup?

  7. @Kevin
    I absolutely agree with you on the DVD thing! The DVD in its current state is absolutely useless for anyone who doesn’t want the full-blown GNOME desktop. Just de-selecting GNOME and selecting KDE in the package collection doesn’t result in a nice KDE system (which I as a user would expect). And for cleverly selecting only certain packages to get a server OS, the DVD is just a huge waste of space.

    Spins are the only way to get a decent system with an alternative package collection. In theory one could install a minimal CLI system and then add the X server and desktop packages, but that’s not an option, especially not for “normal” users. I think the problem lies in the inflexible way package groups work. “Graphical internet applications” for example, will always give you the same applications (ekiga, transmission etc.), regardless on what desktop you have chosen. Users who just want Fedora with an alternative desktop environment basically have no choice to achieve that with the DVD. And I think I don’t even have to mention removing groups on a running system, which will most likely remove programs required by other groups.
    Additionally, creating install media that pre-selects another desktop environment is impossible without directly editing the comps file in the installer .iso because pungi does not allow to adjust the comps file in any way.

    @Gerard
    In general I agree with you, but I am sure that users are intelligent enough to make a choice between desktop environments. When you ask “Maybe the target group of xfce and lxde are not the average user?”, then we end up with the question of the Fedora target audience, which is discussed elsewhere. I think, when even openSUSE, the distro dedicated to make the Linux desktop easy to use for anyone, offers a desktop choice on their DVD, what’s wrong about doing that on the Fedora DVD as well, if that’s what the Fedora community think is good? To find out about that, we would of course need some kind of process to determine which groups should end up on the DVD. As Mike pointed out in the mail Christoph linked to, when XFCE and LXDE get on the DVD, then the Sugar guys may want to as well, and then maybe the Moblin guys or Eclipse advocates etc… The community should decide, in my opinion.

  8. @Julian

    offers a desktop choice on their DVD, what’s wrong about doing that on the Fedora DVD as well

    Right on topic. As my last stement, the point is; the targetgroup for the DVD is wrong. Don’t get me wrong about this statement; xfce and lxde not being average user. It is the choice between a ‘try to fit all purposes solution’ and the ‘let me make my own choice solution’.

    The choice of which manager to install is appropriate for the DVD distribution and this could be consider for the non-average (or more experienced?) user. It would justify to ask a user this question from the DVD installer when on download he already made the choice between ‘no worries, easy install’ or ‘more experienced, or advanced’ install.

    I agree that the community should decide… since the current DVD does not do well what it is advertise for…

  9. Sorry Christoph, I’m just the messenger. I have no part or say in spins, what goes on the install dvd, none of it. I’m just pointing out that it’s broken. Perhaps you should blame ISO for making dvd images too small?

  10. I think the problem lies in the inflexible way package groups work. “Graphical internet applications” for example, will always give you the same applications (ekiga, transmission etc.), regardless on what desktop you have chosen.

    Right, that’s exactly the problem. Comps needs to be conditional on a desktop selection done a step before the package selection if we want installers to be useful. (I guess “none (text mode only)” could also be one of the choices for the minimalist server crowd, e.g. it’d install things like lynx, mutt etc. if you choose the Internet client apps group.)

  11. > Oh, and if there’s not enough room on a standard DVD, maybe we should consider > a DVD DL or something?

    There still would be the problem that someone has to host it :/

  12. In my mind we should redesign the DVD and improve the LXDE / XFCE and KDE part.
    Actually the DVD is the most annoying part in Fedora.

    We should implement a menu where you can choose your desktop.
    Gnome / XFCE / LXDE / KDE
    These could be slim, everyone can simply install new software using yum.
    This way we have enough space on the dvd.

    KDE is the fattest part, XFCE, LXDE and Gnome often use the same software.

    This should be possible, or not?

  13. Michael: “This should be possible, or not?”

    It’s certainly possible – both SUSE and Mandriva already do it. Mandriva has groups much like Fedora, but it has more fine-grained groups, so if you select a KDE install you get a rather different package set from a GNOME install (not just the actual desktop packages differ, the auxiliary applications you get change as well).

  14. Pingback: “We Are Working On An API:” This Is Why Embargoes Suck | Startup Websites

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