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The Fedora anaconda installer
I would like to add a few more words about anaconda. In my previous post about Fedora 18, I tried to include some tips specifically about the disk and partition allocation operations, because I felt I got rather lost in that part and thought others might need help.
I've been rather blunt in my comments and criticism of anaconda, both here in my own blog and in comments I've posted elsewhere. But on reflection, I think it's important to remember that writing a program like anaconda is a huge task: it's extremely complex and absolutely full of variations, different paths to the final goal (installing Linux), tons of minute details, every one of which has got to be exactly right. And the complexity is increasing, not decreasing. Get anything wrong, often even in the smallest detail, and you end up with a failed install — or even worse, with an unbootable or even wiped disk or an otherwise unusable system. I have never worked on or contributed to anaconda (other than flippant criticism), but from having been on other such projects I can tell you that you seldom hear about how well you have done, but you always hear (generally at high volume) when something goes wrong.
So I want to say right here and now, loud and clear, WOW. What a good job. For this to be the first release of a complete redesign and rewrite of anaconda, and for it to be this solid, is extremely impressive. Those of us who know Fedora will know that this is not the 'last' version, it isn't 'cast in concrete', it's going to continue to develop and improve, and future releases will be even better. But this first release works, and works quite well.
For this to be the first release of a complete redesign and rewrite of anaconda, and for it to be this solid, is extremely impressive
I have specifically mentioned the disk partitioning section as being confusing. But when I think about it, what's not confusing about disk partitioning? If you take the 'do this for me' approach, which of course is offered by anaconda, it will work. I think someone commented previously that it would produce two partitions, and I'm not convinced that's correct because I believe it will make at least root, home, boot and swap partitions — and if you are installing on a UEFI system, it will also make a /boot/efi partition. But that's all fine, it works, and if you don't want that many partitions you can set it up manually and get it down to two (or three for UEFI).
If you want to understand how all of this works, as Adam Williamson has kindly pointed out that there's help in anaconda itself, an overview in the Fedora 18 Release Notes, more information in the Fedora 18 Installation Guide, and even more in the anaconda documentation; there are also blogs and chats that follow it. The new anaconda presents the disk layout in a completely new way, with partitions grouped by logical installations, and that certainly confused me at first. I'm accustomed to the gparted presentation, which is nothing more than a graphical depiction of the physical layout of the drive, and that in itself assumes that you know enough to understand what each partition is and how they fit together. That isn't a very good assumption for the average user, is it? Showing partitions in logical installation groups may well be a better idea, and I just need to adjust to it.
So, before ranting and raving about anaconda being different (not only from previous anaconda releases, but really significantly different from just about any other Linux installer out there), stop and think. Look for help, open your mind and try to see what it is trying to tell you. You might be surprised. I was.
One more note: if you need to take a screenshot while running anaconda, press Shift-PrintScreen. It will be saved as a .png in /tmp/anaconda-screenshots. Then copy the screenshot-xxxx.png file to some sort of removable media so that you'll still have it after rebooting.