Live Installer vs Calamares

Questions about SolydX and SolydK installation.
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Arjen Balfoort
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Live Installer vs Calamares

Postby Arjen Balfoort » 15 May 2019 08:28

Calamares: The universal installer framework

I've been looking into the Calamares installer as a replacement for our current Live Installer.
After some fiddling Calamares was able to finish without errors but unfortunately, I've never been able to get passed the initramfs prompt after reboot. So, I cannot say that I am convinced that spending time on Calamares will help SolydXK.

Does anybody have any experience with Calamares on other Debian based distributions?

Below you find my notes on the tests I did with Calamares on SolydK 10:

In a live session:

Code: Select all

apt install calamares calamares-settings-debian
=====================================================

Location not determined by IP but live session locale.

=====================================================

Manual partitioning.

No pre-mounting of partitions according to partition content.
Partition labels not shown and cannot edit partition labels.
Cannot add data partitions to fstab (custom mount point is not accepted).

=====================================================

During installation I got the following error:

Code: Select all

Boost.Python error in job "unpackfs".
<class 'AttributeError'>
module 'libcalamares.utils' has no attribute 'warn'

Traceback:
File "/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/calamares/modules/unpackfs/main.py", line 340, in run
    return unpackop.run()

  File "/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/calamares/modules/unpackfs/main.py", line 224, in run
    error_msg = self.unpack_image(entry, imgmountdir)

  File "/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/calamares/modules/unpackfs/main.py", line 270, in unpack_image
    return file_copy(imgmountdir, entry.destination, progress_cb)

  File "/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/calamares/modules/unpackfs/main.py", line 152, in file_copy
    utils.warn("rsync failed with error code {}.".format(process.returncode))

After running this command, Calamares finished without errors:

Code: Select all

sudo sed -i 's/utils\.warn(/utils\.warning(/g' '/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/calamares/modules/unpackfs/main.py'
In Calamares' Github repository this is already fixed:
https://github.com/calamares/calamares/ ... fs/main.py

=====================================================

Reboot: no startup.nsh when installing in VirtualBox which results in ending in EFI shell.

Reboot in live session:
mount EFI partition and cd into mount.

Code: Select all

sudo sh -c "echo '\EFI\Debian\grubx64.efi' > startup.nsh"
=====================================================

After reboot ending in initramfs prompt.
Booting into live session and chrooting into the new system and running update-initramfs -u does not change anything.


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ilu
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Re: Live Installer vs Calamares

Postby ilu » 07 Jun 2019 15:44

I've asked one of the debian installer developers about calamares and he cautiously voiced the opinion that the project could be maintained better. It seems that also other distros have problems using it and that the workload for the only developer is probably too much.

In case you really need to abandon SolydXK installer Debian people would be willing to talk about providing some very basic customizations with the d.i. Of course you would not have all the possibilities you have now, so that would probably no alternative anyway.

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Re: Live Installer vs Calamares

Postby Arjen Balfoort » 07 Jun 2019 18:16

Thanks for checking that for me.

I think that, if I have the time :? , I will modernize the GUI. Now, it feels rather out-dated but it has very low priority right now. It's a pity we don't have more python programmers here.


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bin
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Re: Live Installer vs Calamares

Postby bin » 09 Jun 2019 06:26

Q4OS uses Calamares installer on the Buster 10 testing version.

I've used it for lots of installs, it works - the only issue is the low visibility of Re-use home option on a populated drive. It's there, just easy to miss.

Honestly - the current installer works, unless there's a technical reason to change I don't see why it needs to be replaced.

Functionality over Eye-Candy every time :)

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Re: Live Installer vs Calamares

Postby ilu » 16 Jul 2019 03:34

I was curious and had a look at the debian10 xfce ISO with the debian installer because I thought there might be synergetic potential there. But sadly it has several drawbacks.

1. Live image without gparted, so no way to edit partitions
2. No way to install anything in liveimage - at least I could not find a way to install gparted
3. Installer doesn't start from live image on efi systems (I assume so but n=1), reboot needed to start debian installer
4. On non-efi systems the live image offers calamares which looks nice
5. No wizard neither on Calamares nor on Debian Installer
6. Calamares seems to use its own tool for manual partitioning/shrinking - I would prefer a trusted tool like gparted for this sensitive task
7. No way to assign partitions other than "reuse home"
7. Calamares crashed when I tried to use a different partition
8. Debian Installer creates root and user separately
9. Debian Installer doesn't help with manual partitioning, shrinking is not possible

In the end I'd say Debian should use our installer.

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Re: Live Installer vs Calamares

Postby hayden » 28 Oct 2019 20:36

I am new to the forum but KDE and Debian or one of its derivatives (Mepis 8 & 11, Kwheezy) have been my main OS for eight years. I know nothing about Calamares. I just installed SolydK 10 and thought the installer was very clean and direct for an experienced Linux user but not too easy to figure out for a beginner. Puppy Linux has a much friendlier installer. The price of an unclear installer is lots of traffic in the forum from beginners who did not install correctly;-)

I do not have the installer screens in front of me but seem to remember a screen that looked like a table of contents for my hard drives. At this point I am not sure what a beginner would think. They might just take this as FYI. I'm not sure it is clear that they need to do something here, or what to do, or how to decide. My recollection is that I had to type a forward slash into a box to chose the partition and mount SolydK at root. This will not be self-evident to a beginner. A prompt like "Where would you like to install SolydK?" would help with some check boxes and a pointer to those. The default could be the largest contiguous piece of unused space. The beginner will have no idea what a mount point is so choosing a partition could cause that to be automatically set to "/". (An expert can change that to whatever they like.)

There is also a column labelled GRUB and that too will mean nothing to a beginner. It confused me because I am used to deciding where to install the GRUB program and also which MBR to overwrite. I thought this meant the former and ended up overwriting the wrong MBR. The default is the drive on which you install SolydK. Is that for folks who switch the boot drive in the BIOS on booting? Most beginners will not know they have a BIOS. I would suggest the default be sda. The general principle is that the default should be what is likely to work for beginners and let the experts edit it if they want.

This machine has SolydK 8, 9 and 10 on it so I do like your distribution. I would like to see it succeed and think that requires an installer that makes it highly likely a beginner will get SolydXK to boot. Otherwise they will just give up in frustration without ever having a chance to try it.

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Re: Live Installer vs Calamares

Postby ilu » 29 Oct 2019 07:26

Your arguments sound well-thought and maybe such an install-wizard that asks questions would be a good additional option - if somebody feels up to programming it. But as somebody who is doing a lot of support in this forum I can say that installer problems are rather rare. Our present installer obviously starts with sensible defaults. We mprove these from time to time, whenever a problem comes up. On a fairly standard system you don't need to change anything on that table you mentioned, just click "proceed".
I would suggest the default be sda.
Here I disagree. Default needs to be "same as root". Otherwise you run into problems if a drive gets replaced later. Which drive counts as sda seems quite random to me.
It confused me because I am used to deciding where to install the GRUB program and also which MBR to overwrite. ... he default is the drive on which you install SolydK. Is that for folks who switch the boot drive in the BIOS on booting?
I'm not sure what you mean by this. Normally you should have only one MBR and that's where grub goes. And why would you switch the boot drive in BIOS for anything?
Most beginners will not know they have a BIOS.
There's almost no way to succeed without knowing about it. On most systems without changes in your BIOS you will not be able to boot anything else but Windows from your harddisk. Secure boot and UEFI lockups will stop you.

hayden
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Re: Live Installer vs Calamares

Postby hayden » 30 Oct 2019 14:41

Thanks for the reply.

I am not sure that questions that make it to the forum are a good indicator of installation woes for beginners. I suspect most of the beginners whose installations fail either try another distro or give up on Linux altogether. They would have to have a pretty strong commitment to SolydXK to sign up for the forum and post a question, or even to know there was a forum. And if they did post a question, I expect it would be met with a host of technical questions they are unable to answer;-)

I am not a sysop or Linux expert but I have installed dozens of different distros more than 100 times since Linux stopped coming on floppy disks. The box I am typing on has eight OSs installed. 99+% of all non-Macs come with Windows installed on a hard drive. The hardware is set to boot from that drive. I cannot recall an installer that called that drive anything other than sda (or hda in the old days). The first time I installed SolydK 10 I put it on another drive that the installer called sdb. I did not notice that the installer was planning to overwrite the MBR on sdb rather than sda as I had not encountered that behavior before. The result was that when I rebooted the boot was from the MBR on sda and SolydK 10 did not appear in the boot menu. I think this would be pretty frustrating for a beginner. (In my case I was able to boot SolydK 9 which had been previously installed, and update GRUB from there.) I realize drive labels could change if you replace a drive but that's a problem that can only affect folks who managed to get Linux installed in the first place.

On the ambiguity over "Where is GRUB?"

One answer on my machine is that the GRUB program files such as grub.cfg are installed all over the place -- GRUB 2 on six partitions and GRUB4DOS on another. (My life might be easier were it only in one place but installers do not always offer that option. ) Another answer might be that the GRUB in the SolydK 9 partition controls the MBR on sda and (presumably) the GRUB installed in SolydK 10 controls the MBR on sdb. The only way I know of to get the machine to boot from the SolydK 10 MBR would be to change the boot order in the BIOS. I don't think that would occur to a beginner, and a default configuration that prevents booting seems odd. (It appears that any beginner who installs SolydK to sdb_ and just accepts all the defaults will not be able to boot their new installation.)

I will admit I am using older hardware so I have not experienced modern inconveniences like Secure Boot and UEFI. It's also possible that my other comments above are not relevant to these systems.

An alternative to an installer wizard like Puppy has used for years would be an installer guide. I could not find one, though I did find a post in the forum saying that's impossible to write one as there are so many different options. But such a guide could explain what a "mount point" or "/" are, for example.


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