The main reason for me writing this
text is that I tried the new Debian Installer
today and was quite pleased. It is a good way to set up my favorite
distribution. Nonetheless I stumbled over a few usability things and
thought that it might be a good idea to write a walk-through from
another point of view: Bob User
Bob is the guy most of us
target at in order to get him to "switch". The "Windows Power User"
which knows Windows from the
beginning, knows how to keep his system clear and safe. He is
quite unhappy with Windows for the obvious reasons. But he is used to
the "reboot-solution" and doing everything without a manual, not even
really knowing what is going on.
Bob heard some of his geek friends talk about something like Debian,
which has a rich repository of easy to install software, can be
bleeding edge if he wants and has all the other features of a
common Linux like stability, safety, reliability and freedom.
He had a look at this Knoppix
thing and found it quite impressive, now he wants to do more, he wants
to install Debian...
Bob grabbed a bunch of CDs from the
newly released Debian Sarge and put the first CD into the disk drive of
his old test computer which used to run Windows 98.
"Huh" he thought and was pleased to
see this nice graphics. The main problem that he had was that he had to
think twice what to do next. He was given two options which
didn't fit. What he wanted to do was to actually install a Linux, he
didn't need any help and wasn't quite sure what "boot" would do. As an
average windows user he just hit ENTER and awaited the things to come.
This seemed to be the right step.
Some funny lines ran over his screen and a few seconds later he was
confronted with a nice screen that asked him to "Choose
language". The screen told him that this also affects his default
locale and his location. He knew of the powers of Linux but was quite
sure that this wouldn't affect his location, otherwise he would be
really surprised. He didn't really know what his "default locale" was
but he believed it to be a good idea to stick to en_US.
Though the earlier screen had told
him that his selection would affect his location he was still at the
same place, in front of his old PC.
The next dialog asked him about his "Keymap" which seemed to be
something similar to a keyboard layout, which actually should have
been affected by is former selection but apparently was not.
So he selected American English again and went on.
The next things were quite familiar. Some hardware detection happened
and some components were loaded. This was fine with him.
The hardware detection seemed to be successful and he was prompted to
enter a hostname. The next familiar thing he thought and as it actually
was his Debian system he stuck to the default.
Some more hardware detection happened and afterwards he was
prompted to do some partitioning.
He had seen such thing before and never really understood them. But it
didn't matter as he just had deleted his Windows 98 with fdisk.
So he thought it would be a good idea to stay with the installer and
let him do the work. Manually was something he didn't like, anyways.
Though he had an idea of what a home directory might be he was quite
unsure and used the given recommendation.
A "mount point" wasn't that much help to him, but as the
installer had done it it was OK with him.
The only thing that confused him a bit was the lightning symbol next to
his "primary" partition. He decided to just stick to the smiley next to
it and go on. The other words weren't that much use to him as he had
never heard something about "swap" or "ext3".
Then he noticed the two exclamation marks at the top of the
screen. Were they a sign for an error? He couldn't remember if the had
been there before or not.
He got a little bit worried. Two possible error signs on one screen.
But as he was using his test computer, he felt safe and decided just to
Despite his worried mind he got to a new screen. The creation of file
systems sounded like a good thing to him and as he hadn't any important
data on his computer he decided to go on.
Now the things got really going on. The system was doing something like
installing a base system. This seemed to take some time, so he went out
for a smoke.
When he came back a nightmare awaited him...
He read the appearing thing twice, but this didn't make it all clear to
He would have wished for a choice between different options in opposite
to entering some cryptic stuff that he didn't really understand.
If he had kept another OS on his machine what would this dialog have to
offer to him? he thought.
But as he was quite sure that going with the defaults was a good idea
he didn't touch this bad magic and just selected continue.
Though he didn't know how he would have created a boot floppy during
his way through the installation he took the CD out of his drive
After the reboot he was presented with a small menu that offered him
something that looked like the normal system and something that had
"recovery mode" in parentheses around it.
He decided to use the standard and got again a whole bunch of
lines of funny things he didn't understand. "Quite a lot of stuff
I don't understand today" he thought.
Something that said something about an error and about PCMCIA drew his
attention. He thought that PCMCIA was something for Notebooks and his
old home PC was not a notebook, so why in hell was this stuff even
After the first Boot
After that he was greeted with a nice and friendly welcome screen which
congratulated him for his new Debian System. Another screen asked him
about his Time Zone and as his system with the defaults had worked till
now he stuck to the defaults.
He did some other quite familiar things like entering the Administrator
or so called root password and created himself a Bob User account with
the short name bob. Afterwards he configured apt (the Debian
Package management tool) to use one of his local mirrors, as he had a
broadband internet access and didn't want to play CD jay. This seemed
to work out of the box. After he had confirmed that he didn't want to
add other sources because 12000 packages seemed enough for him he
selected that he wants to have security updates which always seemed to
be a good idea. Afterwards he selected the package installation. He
added something like a Desktop to his installation using the task based
selection tool as he actually wanted to use his machine as a desktop
and continued to the installation. The tool informed him that it will
install about 1GB of software and started a download process. As this
seemed to take some time he decided for another cigarette.
As he got back to his machine he found himself asked a whole
bunch of questions, regarding his video hardware , his default
dictionary and stuff like if he want's to take part in a
"popularity contest". He was quite sure that he didn't want to
and answered all the questions as good as he could. After he had
finished answering this questions the system started to do a lot
And he lived happily ever after...
(to be continued ?)
- I know that there is a install manual that would have helped Bob.
- After the first reboot the capture feature of Vmware left
me so I couldn't provide screenshots
- I hope I did a reasonably good job in denying my knowledge and
feeling like Bob
- My two main points of criticism are:
- the first screen, s/boot/start installation/
- the grub config, this should be a select dialog and only a
custom switch should offer to enter it by hand.
- This page was done with NVU,
as I didn't want to waste time with layouting
- The spell checking feature of NVU doesn't work yet, so just
ignore any typographical rules
- I haven't tested the hardware detection capabilities as
this would be better on a real system and this is just for
If you got any questions, suggestions or something else interesting
mail me at email@example.com