Nickel a spin…

One of the big things that we're trying to get to with Fedora 7 is making it a lot easier for people to take Fedora and create a version (a “spin”) that's suited better for their particular environment. This has a lot of applications for different types of environments. One of the downsides is that it raises the pretty large questions around what spins we should provide by default for download.

The original thinking here was that we would create a desktop oriented spin, a server spin and a KDE spin. Heated discussions have ensued since then. The questions have revolved around a few big things:

Desktop spin
As is probably evident from above, it's been the plan that the “desktop” spin would try to provide a pretty similar set of functionality to what you have historically gotten with a default install of Fedora. This then includes GNOME, OpenOffice.org, support for lots of languages, etc. With all of this, we pretty quickly get to 3 CDs.

The first question that then comes up is “how do you get it smaller?”. Unfortunately, the answer really is that you have to cut functionality. Either support for large chunks of the world or something like OpenOffice.org.

The second question is always “what about doing development”? The spin as provided above doesn't have any of the development tools (gcc, etc) that one might want or any of the development libraries or headers. Adding the development bits to this spin isn't that big of a deal, though — most users are likely to get a DVD iso as opposed to CDs so adding an additional CD worth of size isn't a huge burden.

In addition to just the spin described here, we are planning to provide a Live CD that maps pretty closely to the default install of this spin. Some of the functionality will be reduced for the fitting on a CD, but what can be done will be. That then can help the people for whom the additional CD of development is a problem.

Server spin
The server spin is perhaps even more contentious. There's not a clear answer if the server spin should be “bare minimal to get a shell and run yum” or if we want to provide something which is more usable someone wanting to set up their first Linux based server. The latter implies some amount of graphical environment and tools for configuration. The graphical environment is also somewhat for parts of the world which don't use a roughly Latin alphabet that they can actually read what's being printed on the screen. The other wrinkle with a server specific spin is the lifetime — Fedora releases are maintained for a far shorter period of time than a lot of people who run servers will want. How do we deal with these?

What do we want to solve?
By FUDCon (and especially after the Fedora Server spin discussion on Friday), it was starting to become clear that our original idea of doing a desktop, a KDE and a server spin wasn't going to do a good job of meeting the needs and desires of our users. So we stepped back to think about what we're concretely trying to achieve. We came to a pretty short list.

  1. Must provide a way for people to do their own custom versions including packages from all of the Fedora universe.
  2. Want to provide at least one installable “single CD Fedora” to help in parts of the world with less bandwidth
  3. Need to provide a way to install via media for the following cases:
    • Desktop environment
    • Developer use
    • Simple LAMP server
  4. Try to be as little of a burden on our mirror and testing infrastructure as possible.

We're well on our way with the first point and a lot of what's from here is documentation, cleaning up of error handling and just providing examples for people. We still have a pending action item to provide clear guidance on what you can call such a thing.

The second is actually something which is pretty well handled with Live CD. The idea of a single installable CD for the desktop is still appealing, but feels less and less doable as the set of expected stuff grows. The Live CD, though, can have a few different constraints get us there. And with the work that's been done so that you can install from the Live CD using anaconda,

The fourth is the really tricky one. While tools such as jigdo help here, they inherently make things more fragile and also limit the platform you can use for downloading isos. Also, the additional testing is there for every additional media set, no matter what.

The Fedora 7 Proposed Solution
Given all of the above, we think that the best idea for Fedora 7 might be to provide the following as the official, release-day Fedora 7 spins:

  • Fedora 7 Desktop LiveCD
  • Fedora 7 KDE LiveCD (to be driven by Rex Dieter and the Fedora KDE community)
  • Fedora 7 DVD. With everything for desktop, development and “mainstream” server tasks. This ends up replacing what was previously Fedora Core. The current thinking is that this would be provided as a DVD iso only.
  • Fedora 7 Everything. 2+ DVDs. More bits than you can shake a stick at. Not available on the mirrors; bittorrent only. Hopefully can share the first disc with the Fedora 7 DVD.
  • Make your own Fedora 7 step-by-step guide. This is important to help ensure that people understand and can make their own custom spins.

The question now is “what do people think of this?” In a lot of it's the easy way out — we avoid answering the hard questions just by bailing. At the same time, it gives us more time to have discussions about those hard problems as well as making it so that the discussions can occur with people really trying things out. Instead of saying “I want everything to fit on one CD”, people can use pungi and try to actually get to one CD. Or two. Or whatever. And then come to the discussion with facts as opposed to a vague idea.

Have comments? Leave a comment or use some other smoke signal method of letting me know.

18 thoughts on “Nickel a spin…”

  1. Because there’s a very real need for some parts of the world to be able to get bits from someone local like a Cheapbytes, etc. I’d love to not have to do this (testing alone is not going to be pretty), but I just don’t really see an alternative :-/

  2. I have to ask this, and not as a troll – I’ve been using Ubuntu a LOT more lately, because somehow they manage to make a LiveCD that’s an Install CD for a basic desktop *AND* a LAMP server. Admittedly, they don’t provide OO.o by default, and that may help with the “single CD” situation. But what else might prevent this sort of solution for fedora?

    (Yes, you can delete the anon post I mistakenly just made. Guess it’s login expire day…)

  3. A pitch for CD ISOs

    This is a pitch for providing CD ISOs for the “Fedora 7 DVD” option.

    Maybe I’m just a cheapskate, but I don’t have a DVD writer. Maybe other people are in the same situation. Being able to burn a set of CDs is a nice thing.

    Perhaps there is a way to just cut the DVD along random chunk lines, versus trying to make a sane CD set. That is, ignore the usual work of dividing packages into groups by CD to get the most common packages closest to the first CD.

    I know I can do all this with a rescue CD and a DVD ISO mounted over HTTP, but there are enough times where it is just plain nice to do it all via CD.

  4. step-by-step

    I think this is the right choice for fedora: provide a mean to build your own install media.
    _BUT_ *please* do it in a way that does not require to download all packages just to pick the interesting ones!

  5. It’s all about the package set. One of the things on my whiteboard is actually doing the comparison with the Ubuntu package set. Maybe there’s something obviously huge that we’re including that we don’t “need” to.

    My hunch based on previous times of looking at this is that huge amounts of space end up being used for fonts and dictionaries for various languages. But that’s an area that’s hugely important to support IMHO, just because it’s so necessary to be useful for some parts of the world.

  6. Re: disk one of 2

    This is one of our goals. It requires writing some code that doesn’t exist and a little bit of finger crossing, but it should be doable.

  7. Re: step-by-step

    It currently doesn’t and the plan is that you basically just have to download what you’re wanting to have on the media.

  8. Re: Ubuntu

    A gui on a server for you or me? Sure, pretty much overkill.

    A gui on a server for someone who speaks (only) Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, Persian, Thai, … well, now we have a much more compelling question. The console _doesn’t_ display those languages. Native language support is incredibly important to have.

    Also, while having a GUI isn’t necessary for experienced Linux/Unix people, if we want to continue to grow our userbase, then we have to provide a way for them to more easily get started using Fedora. Making it easy to install without one is good, but you definitely don’t want to leave those people out in the cold. Because otherwise, you’ve self-selected your userbase and not really left a way for it to grow.

  9. Re: A pitch for CD ISOs

    Cheapskate πŸ˜‰

    I think that to some extent, it comes down to which matters more — having CD isos or trying to have the Fedora 7 Everything edition. Especially given that we want to make the latter rely on the first DVD. If the Fedora 7 DVD is also a set of (optimistically) 5 CDs, then just the interface around handling that gets a lot trickier.

    The problem is that I can’t see a real clear winner… hence why we’re going for some feedback so that we can hopefully make the right decisions.

  10. Re: A pitch for CD ISOs

    Maybe I’m just a cheapskate, but I don’t have a DVD writer. Maybe other people are in the same situation. Being able to burn a set of CDs is a nice thing.

    Actually.. i just had a lovely conversation with a researcher who works with
    several international partners concerning the superDARN radar network.
    They have this exact issue concerning how to manage the collection of data from around the world. They have to standardize on cdroms via snail mail, even though its gigs and gigs of radar data, because dvds or anything more advanced is not available affordably in most places.

    Its very much something to think about.

    -jef

  11. Every step you take, i’ll be watching you

    Make your own Fedora 7 step-by-step guide. This is important to help ensure that people understand and can make their own custom spins.

    I feel moderately strongly, that such a process should provided an evolving
    web interface by which detailed package selections can be made for iso creation and kickstart creation. Something much more interaction rich and detailed than the streamlined group/package selection paradigm that the installer interface uses.

    -jef

  12. Re: A pitch for CD ISOs

    Sure, but we still want what we provide to cover as much of the use cases as we can. Both to help cut down on the pain for users as well as the pain for us from the inevitable incorrectly created spins πŸ˜‰

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