Kickstart Autodetection

Some Fedora users don’t just pop in a disk and install.  Instead, they use something called Kickstart.  With Kickstart, you can write a file that tells Anaconda what choices you want it to make, you can just hook it all up, turn it on, walk away, and come back with your machine installed exactly like you asked. It’s a great tool, especially if you have a lot of machines that you want configured identically.  With the new UI for Anaconda, Kickstart’s about to get a whole lot cooler.  It’ll still work the way it has always worked, but it will also now be able to accompany a traditional graphical install and pre-fill all the selections with what you’ve picked out.  The problems we ran into here include: What if someone has multiple Kickstart files?  How can the person be sure they have the right file?  What if someone only wants part of the Kickstart file?

We came up with the following four images to represent a potential screen layout.  There’s a different screen for multiple Kickstart files detected than there is for only one, because the drop-down would be a waste of screen space if there was only one choice.  If you click the little plus box for “More Options” you can choose which parts (roughly) you want to use of the Kickstart file; you can turn off everything in %post if you want, or everything in %packages, for example.  There’s no good way to differentiate between separate sections of the same type, so you cannot choose one %post and another %post.  You can use all of the %post sections or none of the %post sections.  If you click on an item in the list on the left, you can read the relevant portion on the right so you don’t accidentally use the wrong Kickstart file, and you can review what you’ve chosen before you put it into effect.

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About beefybeliever

I love potatoes and garlic.

6 responses to “Kickstart Autodetection”

  1. Jef van Schendel says :

    Hi Mackenzie! Looks great, it seems you guys are putting loads of effort into improving Anaconda!

    Here’s a few things that came to mind when browisng these mockups:

    – In the first mockup, it first asks you to select one of the Kickstart files, but after that you can still choose “Ignore Kickstart”. So the order here seemed a bit odd to me. More on this later.

    – How many Kickstart files will most users have, on average? I’m assuming this is very low: in many cases it will just be a single one or they can be counted on one hand (keep in mind that I know virtually nothing about Kickstart, so I may be terribly wrong). However if that’s true, selecting the right file could be done more efficiently and clearly by using radio buttons. And if you include a radio button for “Don’t use any Kickstart file” you would also solve my previous point. (One could also use a dropdown, but since the number of items will probably be low and you’ve got plenty of screen space, that would not work as well. You don’t want to end up with something as dumb as this: http://i.imgur.com/SLp4h.jpg )

    – Looking at “More options” in mockups 2 and 4, the function of the on/off switch was not immediately clear to me. I only understood it after I read your post (I look first, read later 😉 ). Anyway, the reason I didn’t associate it with the items on the left was that it’s located pretty far away and there’s an elements between them. Would it be possible to put some checkboxes in the list instead, such as this: http://i.imgur.com/LBDEB.gif ?

    – I’m wondering if there’s a good way to identify different Kickstart files other than their showing their path. For instance, maybe you have two unique files, one of which contains additional design applications. It’d be great if it could say “hey, I found two Kickstart files, the only difference is that one of them includes the “inkscape” package.”. That would make it very clear which one you should pick. Anyway, that’s more of a “bonus feature” than something necessary.

    I hope that makes sense and is of some help. If what I wrote is unclear, let me know and I’ll whip up a few mockups to explain.

    Looking forward to seeing more of this! 🙂

    • beefybeliever says :

      “In the first mockup, it first asks you to select one of the Kickstart files, but after that you can still choose “Ignore Kickstart””

      Good point. I’ll be sure to alter the buttons.

      There’s no foolproof way to anticipate how many Kickstart files someone will have. We don’t generally expect more than eight, but there are always edge cases to consider. Having radio buttons would use a lot more screen space, and would not use it in a consistent, predictable fashion.

      The original concept used checkboxes, not on-off switches. We ended up changing for various reasons, but I’ll bring your concerns to the team’s attention.

      The path would by definition be unique to the particular file. However, you can also tell the difference also by picking from the list which sections you want to look at and reading the preview in the pane on the left. If you really want to diff the files, you can always do it yourself in another tty.

      Thanks for commenting, I’m always glad to get new input from different perspectives!

      • beefybeliever says :

        “In the first mockup, it first asks you to select one of the Kickstart files, but after that you can still choose “Ignore Kickstart””

        Actually, you’ll only see one page. You’ll either have multiple files or a single file, and simply expanding More Options will not be counted as an indication of choice. I got confused because we used to have a two-page process set up. The buttons will remain as they are (or near.)

      • Jef van Schendel says :

        (I can’t reply to your reply below, so I’ll do it here; I assume the site only allows three levels of comments)

        My points is that parts of the process seem to be in the wrong order. First, it asks you which Kickstart file you would like to use. Then, you have even more options. And at the end, you can still click “Ignore Kickstart”, in which case the settings would not matter.

        A better way would be to say “Multiple Kickstart files were detected” and then letting the user choose whether or not to use a Kickstart file, and *then* showing further options. This doesn’t have to be done with multiple screens, you could also use a checkbox and grey out the irrelevant options, something like this: http://i.imgur.com/EnJcN.png

        (There are things wrong with that mockup, but just to illustrate.)

        If there were no options and just a single Kickstart file, two buttons with “Use Kickstart file” and “Don’t use Kickstart file” would be fine.

  2. Mark says :

    This seems to assume a local kickstart file. In many cases (e.g. from scratch installs), it’s more common to find kickstart files on a network.

    http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Anaconda/Kickstart#Making_the_Kickstart_File_Available_on_the_Network

    Is there any need or desire to specify part or all of kickstart files on remote hosts?

    • beefybeliever says :

      This will not change how Kickstart currently works. You can still do a traditional Kickstart install the exact same way, over network or whatever you want. We’re just adding the possibility of a hybrid gui/kickstart install, which is done by running the ordinary graphical install, which will search some places (but not all, that would take too long!) for kickstart files. The autodetected files will be displayed for the user to choose or ignore.

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