Fedora 20's Anaconda installer, hands on

Fedora 20's Anaconda installer, hands on

Summary: A screen-shot walk-through of the excellent Fedora Linux 20 installer - and why I love it.

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  • Anaconda Installation Destination

    This is the Installation Destination (disk selection) screen. Note that it shows two disks, the hard drive in the computer and the USB stick I am installing from. I have selected the 500GB hard drive as the target.  At the bottom of the screen there is a link for Full disk summary and bootloader that you can click if you want to do special things with the bootloader installation. At this point you only specify the target disk(s) for the installation, when you are Done here, the next screen will get more details about this.

  • Anaconda Disk Options

    This is the Disk Options screen - you can specify the filesystem type and decide whether you want to accept the default partitioning or you want to manually specify the partitioning.  The defaults are perfectly reasonable.  If you don't know any better, or you don't care, or you just want to the installation done in the quickest, easiest and most reliable fashion, just click Done to accept the defaults. The default filesystem type is LVM, but you can change that easily on the drop-down menu in the middle of the page. Until now I have always used ext4 filesystems, but starting with this release I am going to use BTRFS. If you want to manually specify or adjust the partitioning, you can choose that option here as well.

  • Anaconda Disk Partitioning

    This is the Manual Disk Partitioning screen. Please excuse the fact that I am installing this on one of my test systems which already has a variety of Linux distributions on it, in addition to Windows 8. 

    If you are installing on a "normal" system, you would see only two lines here, the top one for New Fedora 20 Installation and the bottom one for Unknown (that is where anaconda lumps everything else, such as Windows, Recovery Boot and whatever other miscellaneous partitions are on your disk.

    The important thing to remember here is that this screen can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it.  The simplest thing to do here is to click Create them Automatically, and anaconda will do what is necessary and then show you what it did so you can approve or edit it. I want to have a lot more control or where and how things are installed on my disks, so I set up all of the partitions manually. You can choose either of those extremes, or something in between.

    I want to say a few more words about the presentation on this screen, too. Every other Linux distribution I am familiar with (and every other disk utility I am familiar with, for that matter) presents you with a view of the disk which corresponds to the physical layout of the disk partitions. 

    That is a more or less linear view showing sda1, sda2, sda3 and so on.  But the thing that the Anaconda developers have realised here that is so absolutely brilliant is that a linear view of the disk is not really very useful in understanding how the disk is actually organised and used. 

    This was already true about MBR partitioned disks, especially if they used an Extended Partition which contained multiple Logical Partitions, and it is even more true of GPT partitioned disks and UEFI BIOS systems. 

    What Anaconda is showing you is the logical layout of the disk, which is much more useful at this point than the physical layout.

    The system I am using here happens to be UEFI BIOS, so it has a separate EFI Boot partition which is shared by all of the different operating systems I have loaded (but doesn't necessarily have to be shared, there could be separate ones), and because there are other Linux distributions installed it already has a Linux swap partition which I will also want to share.  A physical view of the disk would just show that those various parititions, but this logical view shows how they are grouped and used, and that can be extremely useful.

Topics: Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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12 comments
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  • I like Anaconda better than Ubiquity.

    If there's only thing that I'd like to see is have the language/country selection in the summary/dispatcher screen. That would make things very quick since I can glance at the screen very quickly. The most I'd spend a lot of time is manual partition. I'm very good at partitioning my hard drive. / for root, swap for swap, /boot for boot partition, and /home for home partition. The installer is a bit expert-friendly, which is not a bad thing.

    I prefer to get into hard drive partitioning as my first step of installation. The last step will be to fill in my hostname, username, and password. Bam! Two steps! Less number of clicks or hitting "Enter, Enter, Enter..." :)

    The text-based Ubuntu-based installer required me to hit enter 5 times for language and keyboard selection, a couple more for time zone, etc. until I get to the disk partitioning step. Then I'll have to wait until I fill in the username/password. Installers do require me too much of hand-holding.

    My favorite partitioning editer is gparted, though even a text-based installer in Ubuntu is as good as the GUI counterpart.
    Grayson Peddie
    • Two ways to look at it

      I think there are two ways to look at this - either move everything into a single screen that you fill in before hitting "Go", then once it starts you can just ignore it while it runs, or move as much as possible into a single screen that comes up after you hit "Go", so the installation is being done while you scratch your head over the rest. Neither really works completely, so maybe anaconda has hit the right balance between them - they have actually consolidated a bit more since the earlier releases is this version of anaconda. Anyway, I agree with you about moving Language into the dispatcher, but I think there may be some reluctance to do that because of the amount of text presented on that screen, they want to figure out the language to show that in first.

      Oh, and I also agree with you whole-heartedly about gparted.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      jw
      j.a.watson1
      • Yup

        On the language screen, yes, it kind of has to be pre-hub to minimize the amount of English necessary. If it's part of the hub, it's very confusing to someone who doesn't speak English, and they may not be able to figure out how to get to their native language, or just assume it's not possible and give up.
        AdamWill
        • Oh

          Oh, and there's another case - sometimes we have to show a network configuration screen before the hub screen, and so if you need to see that in a language other than English, we need to know...
          AdamWill
        • Gtk

          There is also one technical reason for the language selection being done in advance and that's the fact, that Gtk is really terrible in switching language of a loaded UI.
          vpodzime
  • May be Me

    but, I do not see anything here to get excited over. I do not do large volumes of Linux installs of different distros so, I may be missing something. Seems no different in the than the installer in OpenSUSE 12.3, the last distro I installed or several other distros with graphic installers.
    BrianLevyEsq
    • Basically Right

      You're right, for the average user a Linux installer is something you deal with somewhere between once in your life and once every six months, so in that respect it's not something to get really worked up about. But it is also something that has to get everything right, every time, because even a small mistake can have large consequences, and it has to be able to handle a lot of very different and very strange edge cases, and I think anaconda is particularly good at that. Your other example, openSuSE, is another that I think is well above average. A prime example of a less-than-stellar installer is Ubuntu's Ubiquity; it was better than average when it was first developed and released, but today it is showing the effects of age and neglect.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      jw
      j.a.watson1
  • Article: "Every Linux distribution has to have an installer program"

    Not strictly true. The best, current counter-example I know of is Puppy Linux which, while it can be installed onto one's hard drive using it's own installer, is designed to run *by default* in RAM booting from a LiveCD/DVD. Optionally, one can choose to perform multisession saves when powering down or rebooting to Windows (if installed on the hard drive).

    Puppy Linux, more than any other distro, is recommended to Windows users for safe online banking. Just remember to download+burn to CD/DVD the most current ISO for the Puppy version you use AND to reboot prior to initiating online banking, trading, etc. sessions.

    Finally, note that Puppy Linux has consistently been at or very near no. 10 at distrowatch.com for the last few years.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Too many screens in 2013

    Upgrading to Windows 8.1 just required I open the Store icon from Start Screen and click upgrade, done, up and running in 10 mins.
    adacosta38
    • Upgrade != installation

      Upgrading is different from installation from scratch which is the main topic. Installing Windows 8 in the same manner has "too many screens".
      finalzone
  • Timezone pre-selection

    "If I did not have an active internet connection, this would have been set to some default in the US and I would have to choose Switzerland."

    I'd just like to mention that if "German (Switzerland)" was chosen as a language, the timezone would be pre-selected to Europe/Zurich even without an Internet connection. Thanks to the great langtable [1] project!

    [1] https://github.com/mike-fabian/langtable
    vpodzime
  • Layout for the Anaconda session

    "The layout for this session in Anaconda has changed to "ch" (Swiss German)! Hooray! Whoopie! This is new, it didn't used to do this, and whoever made this change, I love you. I worship you. You are my hero/heroine. Thank you, thank you, thank you."

    You're welcome. :) But the real thanks goes to the people who suggested and discussed that change request in the bugzilla (not going to search for the particular bug # now, sorry).
    vpodzime