3.8.24 installation comments with noob ex-Windows users in mind

A friend of mine asked for advice in buying a new laptop ..... his was becoming very, very slow (it really was) running Win10.
It was an Acer Easynote TJ75 with 4Gb RAM .... so I offered to install Linux (Elive) to show that there was still a long lease of life in the machine.... and he agreed.

Considering he wasn't very adept in using the internet or the machine .... I did the installation for him, opting for a dual boot so as to give him a chance to fall back on his slow Windows and get used to Elive.

And that's where I ran across some things in the installer that I think need some attention.

As a first:
The partitioning part is very unclear on how to create a dual boot situation and isn't actually very helpful with the online 'Help' it opens.

I followed the advice and did reboot windows and resized the partition from there leaving enough free space (something my acquaintance would never have achieved) ... and rebooted into Elive-live again.

The necessary actions in this case:

  1. Create a 4th partition, where in this (and most) case the first 3 were primary partitions requiring an extended partition ....... again: Impossible for my noob friend, i.e something totally alien.

  2. Make said partition recognizable (ext4) for the installer partitioner, or else you're stuck ... where I made a 'root' (/) and a separate '/home' partition for the installer to find. Note that I didn't create a swap partition.... more on that later. Again: No noob will ever think of doing that.

  3. This laptop had Acer specific software that apparently was using part of the MBR which gave a lot of warnings that would've really freaked out any noob and also had me slightly worried.
    It booted quite nicely into 'grub2' afterwards though. :smile_cat:

So all in all:
I think we need the installation script to be more helpful in creating a dual boot installation for noobs. If Ubuntu et all can do this, than so can we. :thinking:

Then there's the swapfille versus swap partition situation.

The installer has to remedy this i.e offer either option or .... in case of a missing swap partition have a (noob friendly) small script handy to create the swapfile.
I think it would also be a good addition to 'elive-tools'. :smile_cat:

On a side note:
There is a Howto on the forum for creating a swapfile but that can be considered total abracadabra for a noob and has some issues IMO.

Then there's mounting the (larger) windows partition.

Where probably a lot of stuff resides that most users will want to visit again. Like to get access to important documents and data or even bookmarks and address books.

IMO that (larger) Windows partition has to be added to '/etc/fstab' beforehand as any noob coming from Windows will have no idea how to mount it. :face_with_thermometer:

And a note on virtual desktops (and the DE in general).

Virtual desktops are something most Windows users have never heard of let alone do they understand what the 2 shelves in the e16 could be meant to be useful for ..... they're too small anyway. :frowning_face:

  • Put the shelve with the desktops top-right as they were in Stable and kill 'conky' which is a useless geeky toy.
  • Cairo-dock had my friend befuddled ..... especially the access to 'places' and certainly the 'leave' icon that isn't fully functional.
  • The left-click menu on the desktop is in English, where the sub menu entries were in Dutch (the default language) .... nasty! :face_with_head_bandage:
    On a side note: Dutch translations are really a mess. I don't really have time myself to get into 'eltrans' for that ... so I hope someone else will make that effort.
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Please send feedback; I'd love to improve it

Nice write up and critique. As a more experience linux user and installer, I also run into oddities in installers from time to time.

And, you make me feel guilty for not writing up similar critiques on any developer's forums. I want to thank you for the time and effort!

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It doesn't need improvement (well a bit yeah) but an app that does some hand holding is needed.
On top I don't want to be only one that edits Howtos ( I know, you do too) so trying to make some space available for others. :face_with_head_bandage:

Yeah, personally I always completely wipe Windows and use the whole disk.
This was a new (albeit also old) situation which made me realize that it isn't friendly at all, for new adopters coming from Windows.

And those adopters are what we're supposed to be after .... it's abit sad if we can only fish in the pond that contains only 'already converted' Linux users.

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In my experience, you are not wrong but I would prefer another approach.

Dualboot isn't a beginners topic! Have Windows or Linux, there is no need to have these side by side, if you aren't familiar with any of them. If you'd like to have two systems, install the first, emulate the second. The Last comment doesn't fit in exact this situation.
Even the (for more advanced users) Kali installer (at least timĺ 2019.1) is creating a 500mb /boot for single boot, that won't last for 3 kernel, since quite a time not for only one.
Install newer Kernel -> dpkg breaks
unsinstall running kernel -> a lot of not understandable warnings/errors
Delete /boot, install the new kernel -> uninstall break ...
-> There is no 'easy' solution.

If a noob is trying to resize Windows, he/she shouldn't see more than two partitions. The Limitation of 1-4 primary and 1-3 primary, one extended 'container' is not an easy topic. And never will be, if you are not into computers.
If a noob would start, he/she would make space, fire the installer and got the option 'use all free space'. Fine. Even the Point before is covered with auto partitioning of the debian-installer (and other).

In the GUI part I'm out. I need the DE/WM only as Terminal Multiplexer. And to open a browser to visit forum.elivelinux.org ...

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Reality is that it is on the first effort a beginner will prefer a dual boot situation. A way to keep a certain peace of mind, in the knowledge that one can hop back to the 'old and known' Os.

  • Another reality is (to my experience) that in general you do eventually bork the existing Windows installation by doing something stupid ...... leaving you in the deep end with (if you're lucky) an option of copying needed data to your new Os. :shocked:
  • Emulating an existing installation after installing a new one isn't an option and .... no easy feat, even for an experienced user. It's not about having 2 systems but having a 'safety net' available.

IMO the "easy solution" is to do a lot of hand-holding through 'dialogs' and offer to resize (if need be) the existing partitions from the installer. Ideally in a 1 or 2 click process and NOT scare away the aspiring new Linux user, nor bork the existing windows.

I don't consider a Kali user in any way "advanced", in the sense that one must be a fairly senseless pen-tester if one needs to have literally all the tools installed in advance. :face_with_head_bandage:

I am surprised that Kali breaks dpkg when installing a new kernel....it's easy enough on Debian based system.
Personally I have 1 self installed kernel (5.14.0) which takes about 84Mb of space in a 400Mb partition. Removing old cruft after a while is good house-keeping IMO.

Albeit that this isn't the scope of my comments and certainly NOT a noob thingy.

Which is exactly one of my points:

  • I didn't see that option on the installer, maybe I missed it but I don't think so.:thinking:

In the case it did offer that: The installer should use the available space to create partitions as ideally as possible with the utmost clarity on what is going to happen, IMO.

Of course there's always the option of the 'peristent live' version running as a longer term safe try-out, but that's beside the point.

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Yeah. A lot of beginners also want to write a better excel or want to drive a 400hp car ... Because they want it doesn't mean they've should.
I loved the older Thinkpad. Just one screw to remove the cover and and you're able to swap the HDD. One HDD Windows, one Linux ... In my opinion 'the better dual boot'.

Topic partitionlayout:

In former days we'll said "SWAP = up to two times the RAM", because of some hibernation magic. I don't think that is still valid. But we're about to keep legacy in mind.
Interesting summay: SwapFaq - Community Help Wiki

Personal I've got a dualboot with two linux.sda1: 25GB root_one - sda2: 25GB root_two - sda3: 2GB SWAP - sda5 (sda6: 250gb home) -- sdb1 150GB work - sdb2 500GB media ...
I'm able to install a new linux in every favor, alternating sda1/sda2 and reuse /home. Sometimes just to test another kernel sometimes to switch between debian/ubuntu/elive/centOS/gentoo.

At first 40GB HDD was big. The size increased and than 1TB was nothing ... Than SSD came up and 40GB was the new expensive solution, but to make it difficult some vendors switched to 2 disk solutions. I don't think you can handle this 'easy'.
Let's try to create a startpoint.
1TB HDD or SSD, 1GB RAM: sda1 25GB / - sda2: 1GB swap - sda3: 500GB /home
250GB SSD, 1TB HDD, 2GB RAM: sda1 25GB / - sda2: 2GB swap - sdb1 500GB /home

Any comments? Sure anybody will shout for 'use the whole disk'. SWAP is so 1990. I'm curious for the arguments.

Than there is still a lot of place for /boot (or /efi) and further improvements.
Plain ext4 vs. LVM. Is btrfs still a thing?

I think we need to cater more to giving absolute noobs the peace of mind they are looking for.
They're the new users we want ...... not the existing Linux users.

  • We direly need more fish in the Linux pond.

I'm not talking about a DE that's similar to Win or Mac or taking away choices as most in the community seem to advise. I'm talking about helping a new adopter through the toughest 1st step: Partitioning.

  • Especially if you keep in mind how Win designates partitions as separate disks, putting any noob on the wrong foot.

Ergo I'm talking politics here, not what would/should be best partitioning practice.

It's actually swap you're reacting to which was another thread.

I don't really think so but you will need enough room for 'hibernate' to save the needed files i.e depends on the DE and apps in use.

We could hold a poll on that .... I'm all pro ext4 on LVM :smiley14:

Okay, understood. I'm out.
I'll never be a good politican, because I know when to make space for other opinions (approx. 5 comments ago, I think :wink: )

I wasn't actually looking to opine but more to try and make clear where we (the already reasonably proficient Linux users) tend to take stuff for granted that are completely alien to adopters coming from Windows.
We should IMO try less telling them what they should do and be more helpful, considering that those aspiring adopters are actually floundering around in the deep end.
At least that is what it seems like to them once confronted with options and choices they never knew existed .... remember that they come from an OS that permanently tells them that every malfunction, virus, slow-down or bug is their own fault, never the buggy software. :shocked:

As I mentioned due my last install report on MacBook;
yes, the installer itself is not comfortable/clear in comparison to others, e.g. Ubuntu, MX Linux ( Debian) or Mint.
It lacks information and gives you a hard time when it comes to dual boot.
Other installers make it very clear, even for noobs, what's going on and which are the possible option aside giving a recommended advise ( for non- nerds).
Especially the fallback to gParted and way back to the installer ( after manuell partitioning)
Is not really working.
@Thanatermesis :
If not clear, what we mean/ encounter -
give Mint or MX a spin in a VM and you will see, what's missing in our installer.
A bit hard to point all the fine details out one by one.

Hope this helps :work:

To be fair: This is only the case of partitoning and recognizing them,which is a hard nut to crack (but can be done) for any noob.
All other stuff is fine.
GUI -wise, it would be nice to have a single window for the installer in place of the constant zenity pop-ups. It would create a more 'in control' feeling than the pop-ups that appear randomly with either a warning or a wanted confirmation of a choice.

I also think that the Beta stage apologies and warnings can safely be removed with Retro. Elive with current E16 is stable enough and pointing to 3.06 Stable as a better experience is simply NOT true anymore. It's become too outdated.:cry:

Agreed.

That's what I've been saying, but Thana doesn't seem to think so :ohmygod:

You can't blame him. Using GTK3, Tk, Qt or any other such widgets aren't as easily incorporated into shell scripts as zenity.
Big downside of zenity is that it doesn't allow for multiple input in forms, but hey ...... surprisingly, 'yad' does.

i don't think this is really possible, I agree with all the points but the problem is that "the noob doesn't has the knowledge of what a partition, and related things, are", and there cannot do anything to improve that, only: educate that person (teach), and this is what the installer includes, a small help explaining the details that needs to know to be able to reach all those steps, NOW, if this help is not enough, the only thing we can do is to improve it (from eltrans). Finally, if this doesn't suffice (partitioning and stuff is a small science), like for example in your experience you may have encountered "extra steps" not explained in the help (so again, the help is what needs to be improved), and so if the help is not enough, the only way to go is to pick the "automated partitioning" mode, so yes, this will do all the job needed which is what the noob user needs (except that he cannot dual boot, but again, if wants to, needs to learn how, or somebody helping in the process)

Maybe is not the answer you expect but i don't think there's really a better one if we are realistic, i mean, like explained before, a noob is a noob, and needs to learn to reach these advanced steps... to see this problem more easily: I recently installed a mac os system, the installer was totally friendly and nice... but now i cannot imagine the same process having a windows already installed on that computer, and mac installing making the repartition and dual boot and all... OH! btw, I just remember now that the installation of mac required the user to partition the hard disk, and this was not really more easy than in linux lol

if you mean that the "automated partitioning" will know how to resize and all, that's not technically possible, since the partitioning in every hard disk can be very different, included default installations of windows

yes, I was thinking on add this too, but maybe the user don't want to have a swap partition (can be useful, or can bottleneck the computer, not really a good thing to have for some, at least in mechanical disks)

yes this is important, if I'm not wrong it automatically appears on thunar as being able to be mounted, is not a good idea to have it mounted all the time (data risk, and ugly filesystem can hang the kernel), also having it mounted by root could lead to unreadable files to the user, better if the user just "click" on the windows partition shown as a disk on thunar and use it from there :thinking:

by other side could be good to have a bookmark (after the disks listed) on the panel that points to the windows user directly (but probably could be not accessible unless the disk is previously mounted on thunar)

mmh, not convinced about this change, first of all the theme doesn't include the inverse-sided pager (can be done), but especially we need to remember that most of the users are geeks (medium & advanced ones), so they normally likes conky, but i mean especially on the e16 version, for e25+ there's no place for conky, they are different desktops / topics, so it will be done anyways, but for e16 i think is better to keep them as is

hum.. i just tried it (logout icon) and it seemed to work good :thinking: the problem is that the users don't really know how to shutdown the computer on e16, so this icon is just an extra help / way to do that... on the other hand, if the user shutdowns incorrectly the computer, he will be teach how to do it correctly
so will be better to have this icon or to remove it? good question...

Of E16? this translation should be sent to the E16 itself, is not a part of elive directly (not in eltrans, but eltrans has the instructions of how to do it)

mmh, maybe a simple way can be to implement an "use a file for swap" in the installer while asking for swap partition, that sounds not very hard, i will note it in my todo...

yeah but like said before, the best is auto (which also has improved optimizations), everything else is for advanced users to do things more manually :slight_smile: (i do auto most of the times too)

well, that's a more general problem (and a bit :offtopic: here), but the truth is that most of the users are already medium/advanced, there's very few "noobs" that search for linux on internet, and if they find, we try to provide all the things as easy as possible (tell to my mother how to record the USB with elive? she can't...) so in the end there's many things that requires multiple advanced knowledges, that's why the Microsoft (and apple) strategy worked so good: just give the computer with the system ready to be used :thinking:

Now reading @LupusE yeah, i agree with this approach, on the other hand Elive always tried (and does) to make things the easy as possible to the end users, but installing (can auto), recording the USB, etc.. yeah, that can be a little more difficult... and so again, i think the best (and only solution) is to point to a correct documentation for these steps (is the website instructions to record the USB enough clear? that's the first and most important step :slight_smile: )

Note: extended partitions is only an issue of the MBR type disks, GTP type disks can allow many more without the 4 partitions limitation

hum, i don't want to blow the installer with many popups (remember we removed a lot of them in the past because they were very annoying), but instead we can put all of them in a single place (the main help), and then we can bloat this help with all the details as we want, so in the end, there will be only one popup (if users selects to have this help)

I think the info / help of the installer could be old and not very accurate in details, if I'm not wrong this is perfectly possible to improve from eltrans itself, and if it needs to be changed in a better way we can discuss it to change the installer behaviour to show the help

what about? if there's internet, open a forum howto about how to dual boot & other things, if not internet OR less than 2gb of ram, a snapshot of this text is shown from the installer

i didn't tried much them, on what exactly they are more friendly / informative? (and compared to how the information is shown in the elive one)

There are various solutions to do this;

  • Combine seemingly alike pop-ups (like language and keyboard layout or 'partitioning') into single multi input panes (i.e use 'yad' and not 'zenity' for pop-ups)
  • Have a 2nd continual pop-up that shows the help required (webkit or pdf?).
  • Use more images to explain/show what's going on (here's 'yad' again :applause: )

That's where you and I disagree ...... 'conky' is for would-be advanced users trying to show off.
If the current 'conky' has a negative impact (it has) on available screen space (i.e lay-out options) it should be removed. :shocked:
But this is indeed :offtopic:

Yes it does but the naming scheme isn't altogether clear. It would be good to have the (generally) larger partition named 'Windows C:' or something recognizable.

As always:
It's the little details that make a huge difference when it comes to impressions and usability. :magick:

And in that sense Ubuntu does the right thing, if it finds 'free space':

Followed by:

Or if the partitioner doesn't work out what the free space is it will offer up the partition tool:

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Yes, exactly: IF it finds 'free space'. I have no actual overview, but how many systems are in the wild with a needed amount of unused space?

In my little environment:

lupus@zoe:~$ sudo parted /dev/sda unit MB print free | grep 'Free Space' | awk '{print $3}'
1,05MB
1,05MB
0,48MB
lupus@zoe:~$ sudo parted /dev/sdb unit MB print free | grep 'Free Space' | awk '{print $3}'
1,05MB
1,05MB
1,07MB
lupus@kira:~$ sudo parted /dev/sda unit MB print free | grep 'Free Space' | awk '{print $3}'
1,02MB
1,05MB
0,19MB
lupus@karl:~$ sudo parted /dev/sda unit MB print free | grep 'Free Space' | tail -n1 | awk '{print $3}'
0,25MB
lupus@elsa:~$ sudo parted /dev/sda unit MB print free | grep 'Free Space' | tail -n1 | awk '{print $3}'
0,58MB
lupus@elsa:~$ sudo parted /dev/sdb unit MB print free | grep 'Free Space' | tail -n1 | awk '{print $3}'
1,22MB
lupus@yelena:~$ sudo parted /dev/nvme0n1 unit MB print free | grep 'Free Space' | awk '{print $3}'

Oh, I think this is an issue with parted at NVME. Not important enough to debug now.

lupus@horst:~$ sudo parted /dev/sda unit MB print free | grep 'Free Space' | awk '{print $3}'
760147MB

Ups. But this is only the base system. All workdirs are on iSCSI. So I would never use dualboot on this device.

If I remember right the question was 'how to make dualboot easy' and not 'how to install Elive on a free space'.

Exactly, usually there won't be any 'free space' and the 'elive-installer' offers a nice tutorial on how to create the needed free space:

After which the installer on a subsequent restart can make use of the available free space....and that's where the 'hand holding' can be done, in the same fashion that the Ubuntu 'calamares' installer does.

Uhuh, with the addition 'for noobs coming from Windows', so your setup isn't in any way representative. Go back down memory lane and remember your first encounter with 'unix' to empathize.

Keeping in mind that resizing a Windows partition is best done from Windows itself and subsequently the elive-installer then leaves a new adopter in the dark on how to best proceed. :slightly_frowning_face:
That's where an extra effort is needed else the newbie risks losing the partitions that were just resized after all.

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I think the installer should just point to the HowTos on the forum.

Thana made 2, I think.