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Fedora 18 Beta slips again

Fedora 18 Beta slips again

Posted Nov 1, 2012 22:41 UTC (Thu) by wagerrard (guest, #87558)
Parent article: Fedora 18 Beta slips again

I like what I've seen so far in this release. But, the simplified partitioning in the new Anaconda isn't anywhere near being ready for real people. As of version 18.22, it still won't let you put specific partitions of specific size on specific drives. And, it won't let you do anything with partitions you created earlier. The partitioning bit in Anaconda looks like nothing I have ever seen in any other Linux distro, and the screen is essentially bereft of guidance offering an explanation of what's going on.

If you have more than one drive, and resort to automatic partitioning, it may or may not ignore one of those drives. It doesn't even use standard nomenclature like /dev/sda and /dev/sdb to identify drives, so you have no idea what's really going on.

If the release version of F18 doesn't allow me to create my own partitioning scheme, it will have been a waste of developer time.

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Fedora 18 Beta slips again

Posted Nov 1, 2012 23:31 UTC (Thu) by dowdle (subscriber, #659) [Link]

One thing that troubles me about the new partitioning GUI is that it does not tell you what will be formatted and what won't.

I think there *IS* a bit of explanation available with it but you have to actually read it... which I had to wise up to... because I was so used to the previous that I had been on auto-pilot for many releases now.

The interface was either done mostly by or co-ordinated by Marin(sp?) Duffy and she blogged about it several times... but I know I didn't read all of that nor give any feedback because I knew it was going to take a lot of effort... and I just didn't want to dedicate the time... not that I'm that active in Fedora... nor do I have any pull... but I saw it coming.

I've been remixing F18 and have installed it now about 30 times in various scenarios and the new installer is growing on me... and there are some areas it does remarkably well on and others where I didn't get a bootable system when it was over with. I'm glad to see they keep delaying it and delaying it... because yes, there is a ton of awesome stuff coming with it... so it would be horrible if pesky installer issues ruined it.

Fedora 18 Beta slips again

Posted Nov 1, 2012 23:55 UTC (Thu) by dowdle (subscriber, #659) [Link]

Just to clarify, when I called out Máirín Duffy by name... I wasn't trying to point the finger or say she has done bad work. Quite the contrary. I think she is doing a great job with the design. It is a big task to try to simplify the partitioning and mount-point GUI. I'm also sure the implementation side is very challenging even with the quite competent body of code they had before... trying to make it smart so it does most of the work when asked to do so... yet also getting it to get out of the way when someone wants to manually do it. Monumental challenge it be.

Fedora 18 Beta slips again

Posted Nov 2, 2012 6:09 UTC (Fri) by wagerrard (guest, #87558) [Link]

Anaconda 18.23, in the net install (, has revised and improved the partitioning segment. On the second screen, after you highlight the drive(s) to be used, there is an option to choose LVM, Plain, or BTRFS. When I selected Plain, and the opted for manual partitioning, it seemed the intent was for me to highlight each existing partition and reuse and/or modify it. I.e., click on and existing /home partition and gain access to a partition editor. That didn't happen in my case because the installer crashed when I clicked on the name of an existing partition.

After filing a bug report, I rebooted and opted for an LVM install, manually reclaiming all the space on the drives. That triggered "Automatic partitioning" and the rest of the install. (The net install is quite fast. I don't know if this was a design intent or just the broadband gods smiling on me, or both, but it's nice.)

LVM installation worked fine. Maybe it's time for me to learn to love LVM.

I didn't see any place in the installer where the drives are identified in traditional fashion as /dev/sda, etc. Regardless, I'm looking for a way to select an individual drive and either edit an existing partition table or create a new one, select Ext4 or whatever, give it a mount point, etc.

I *like* Anaconda's new look and agree 100% that tackling partitioning is a challenge, especially once you go beyond the "everything on a single drive" notion. At that point, I think you just have to assume the user can handle things and offer the traditional interface.

I'm not sure if the flow through is precisely right yet. (Why am I asked for a root password as the partitions are being created and formatted, with that window obscuring things? ) It took a while for me to figure out that I'm meant to click on the icons (duh). That is, as much of the configuration as possible is done for you and presented as something of a fait accompli, so it didn't occur to me that by clicking on, say, the Language icon I could edit that choice.

All these things are inevitable in pre-release when something as significant as the installer is being redesigned. It's looking to be a very nice iteration of Fedora.

Fedora 18 Beta slips again

Posted Nov 2, 2012 17:24 UTC (Fri) by duffy (guest, #31787) [Link]

Hi Dowdle, thank you for the nice comments and feedback - I really appreciate it. Please let me or the folks in #anaconda (freenode) know if you run into any issues you don't see getting addressed. If there are particular scenarios you've tried that aren't working out, that is good feedback - especially if you can help walk us through the scenario. We have been modifying the design as we go in response to user feedback, so it's really helpful to have it keep coming in: we absolutely do listen and take it into account.

At this point in the release cycle it's not really possible for us to make major changes, but once Fedora 18 is out we're planning to conduct a usability study on the interface, as well as comb through the user feedback from the F18 release. We'll plan and make modifications to the design based on that data, so you'll be seeing more blog posts and such asking for that kind of feedback.

Fedora 18 Beta slips again

Posted Nov 2, 2012 17:39 UTC (Fri) by duffy (guest, #31787) [Link]

Hi Wagerrard,

I'm not sure how my version of Anaconda compares to yours - I'm working with a recent test build with a git master updates.img on the top - but I think some of your concerns are addressed in the UI, at least the version in git master:

- It's true that depending on the options you pick (e.g. mirroring) that you can't always specify the exact size of a given partition: we ask users to specify their desired disk capacity, so if you put you want 100 GB on a partition and select mirroring, that partition with be 200 GB in actuality. But there is a way to specify size - does the fact that the field is for desired capacity cause you any issues?

- Per partition, you can specify which physical disk a partition lives on. Select the partition you want to move, then click on the gear icon (older builds) or the screwdriver icon (newer builds) on the bar at the bottom right of the partition list. It should pop up a dialog that asks you which physical disk you'd like the partition to live on. (It should look something like this: )

- I know initial versions of the new installer didn't support working with pre-existing partitions so well, but I'm pretty sure that's either been fixed or in the process of being fixed. The engineering team is definitely aware of it and I've seen discussions between them and QA about correcting that issue, so it's definitely on the radar and the fact it wasn't working was not intentional (I think it was more that it simply wasn't finished.)

- Re: "standard nomenclature like /dev/sda and /dev/sdb to identify drives" - the problem with relying on strings like this to identify drives is that they are not guaranteed to be consistent, especially if you physically move drives around but also depending on the order in which the system recognizes the disk. We try to instead provide more reliable identifiers such as the FS label, mount point, the disk manufacturer data and serial number, etc. - although when we can't get any other useful information on a partition, we will be displaying the /dev/sd* nomenclature as well. I know that we're going with a bit of a new way of representing the partitions here - the idea is that users would want to see how their installed system would look primarily, and the hardware and partition-level data and options is more secondary. It may prove to be the wrong approach but we did a lot of mockups and design changes (I think there have been over 100 iterations just on the custom partitioning screen design) and talked to long-time users and gathered feedback on them, and we didn't find any huge red flags pointing to this approach being fundamentally flawed. If it does end up causing a lot of problems for users though, we will definitely re-evaluate it.

I mentioned in another comment that we're planning to do a usability test of the installer after the Fedora 18 release - we'll also be reaching out for even more user feedback at that point, so if you're really stuck please let me know. We really want to improve the installation experience for all users - the redesign process has spanned almost 2 years now starting with the storage filter UI design, we've put a lot of effort into this but if it's not working for users then we've goofed, and we'll try our best to get it right.

Fedora 18 Beta slips again

Posted Nov 2, 2012 19:44 UTC (Fri) by wagerrard (guest, #87558) [Link]

Hi, thanks for your thoughts. I've been working with the "Smoke" net install ISO's lately, and with the nightly images earlier. 18.23 was the version that went up late last night my time.

I haven't seen that dialogue popup to "Configure Mount Point" yet. If memory serves, clicking on the gear/screwdriver icon had no effect here. I can't preclude the possibility that the popup was there with the nightly images. I need to use "nomodeset" to boot the nightlies and the resulting resolution is very low. A popup may have been offscreen. The net install images don't require nomodset and come up per normal. (Last night, it crashed at the point of highlighting a partition, so I didn't get as far as the gear/screwdriver.)

You're right, of course, that identifying drives with "/dev/sda" nomenclature is subject to inconsistencies and other issues. As long as the individual drives can be differentiated in some fashion, as they can be, this user will be OK.

I've used Linux since 1995 and have to say that taking on the challenge of improving an installer's handling of manual, especially multiple drive, partitioning is a formidable task. A very large number of variable scenarios and a very large number of user habits to contend with. This issue with partitioning is the *only* problem I've had with F18 at this point, and it's still about 2 months from release.

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