[pkg-fso-maint] debian-installer for the FreeRunner (was Re: [Fwd: patches against install.sh])

Luca Capello luca at pca.it
Mon Jan 19 18:41:26 UTC 2009

Hi there!

To Karl: sorry for not having answered you before (I read your first
private mail, thanks!).

To all the others: I am still alive, even if the burden of real life
(including paid work) is rising instead of going down as I planned.

On Wed, 14 Jan 2009 20:45:53 +0100, Joachim Breitner wrote:
> Am Donnerstag, den 15.01.2009, 00:38 +1030 schrieb Karl Goetz:
>> Personally, I'd use custom to install navit (as in the submitted code.
>> perhaps a bad example), along with screen, irssi, and several other
>> 'key' applications I use.
> I must say that I somewhat disagree here. install.sh is not the full
> scale debian-installer, rather it should be the minimum to get going
> with Debian.

FWIW, I fully agree here.

> Or, for extra points, port debian-installer to the FreeRunner :-)

I was thinking about that since DebConf8 and the more I think the more I
cannot find how to approach this.  The major problem I see is booting
d-i directly on the FreeRunner in a sane way:

- AFAIK there is no way to boot from external devices and anyway
  requiring to buy a USB mini-to-B adaptor just to install Debian is not
  an option.  Please consider that we should require as less
  modification as possible to a *stock* FR, which means that we should
  cope with "upstream" bootloader status.

- the FreeRunner (as most embedded devices) does not have any keyboard,
  which means that we have two possible directions:

  1) automatically start the graphical installer if no keyboard is
     attached.  This obviously has the drawback that the graphical
     installer must support the touchscreen, which is something
     difficult given that tslib ATM needs to be configured (either in
     xorg.conf or by HAL).

     In case a keyboard is attached, then it will be up to the user to
     choose which installer (textual or graphical) wants ;-)

  2) the very same approach used for NAS devices, with the difference
     that on these devices you do not have two different "installation"
     (internal flash vs. microSD).  This means we need "sane" preseed
     values for d-i to come up with an SSH server, to which the user can
     connect and continue the installation.

- the point 2) just above reveals another difficulty, i.e. where d-i
  should install Debian.  ATM it is obvious that there is only one
  option: at least a 512MB microSD, because of the Python &
  Co. dependencies.  OTOH I am persuaded that any effort we put into
  this task should consider installing into the internal flash as well,
  because from a user POV nothing should change.

- we for sure need a new tasksel option, something like
  "freesmartphone.org", otherwise the installation will end with either
  a full GNOME desktop (counting the default d-i values) or a standard
  system (i.e. no X).

I still need to investigate about d-i internals, because a possible
solution would be something quite simple: we provide a customized d-i
image to be copied into the microSD, from where d-i is loaded into
memory and then we forgot about it.

At the forthcoming FOSDEM [1], I will try to find the time to discuss
some of the points above with other people in the group (I know Enrico
will be there, any other?), Neil Williams (the Emdebian guru [2], since
this is a problem common to other embedded devices) and with Martin
Michlmayr, too (the major hacker behind Debian on NAS devices [3]).

I guess that from what I wrote above is clear that I now consider any
not-bugfix addition to install.sh not worth it.

Thx, bye,
Gismo / Luca

[1] http://www.fosdem.org/
[2] http://www.emdebian.org/
[3] http://www.cyrius.com/debian/
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