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Debian desktop installation asks too much

Yesterday I did a trial installation of Debian "sarge", the next upcoming release. I selected a "Desktop environment". In time I plan to work through all the preconfigured options available. The thing that struck me about this first installation was how much needless interaction there is.

After the usual configuration questions about networking, language and timezone, I counted well over sixteen questions I then had to answer. Unfortunately I really didn't see why in most cases there couldn't be a sensible default chosen. Here they are:

  • fontconfig: enable sub-pixel text rendering. (Can't LCD panels be automatically detected?)
  • pango: use defoma to manage fonts? (Only deep wizards know what this means, default of "yes" should be taken)
  • cdrecord: make CDROM so users in group cdrom can write to it. (For a Desktop install, makes sense to have this as "yes".)
  • docbook dsssl stylesheets: override papersize or use system papersize. (Oh come on! This one really doesn't need to be asked.)
  • system paper size: letter, A4, etc. (Really this should be decided based on my locale.)
  • mozilla-browser: choose audio wrapper from auto esddsp artsdsp none. (Why ask me instead of just using auto?)
  • kpilot: choose port to connect to Palm Pilot on. (I wasn't planning on using KDE, I don't have a Palm Pilot. Can't kpilot ask this question the first time it's run?)
  • nautilus-media: choose to use as nautilus video thumbnailer. (Hard to see why I should care. Should be handled via alternatives anyway, not debconf.)
  • xserver-xfree86: endless, endless questions. Crazy stuff about keyboards that unless you are American or have internalized ISO 3166 country codes will drive you mad. So many of these could be pre-guessed based on locale or autodetection, so at least there'd be more guidance. Several screens full of text that went away when you actually had to type the answer to the question.

With the exception of the XFree86 server I see no reason why these questions shouldn't just go away. I consider myself an advanced user and even I have no interest in choosing anything other than the default for these options. I hope some of the work done with Ubuntu on X installation could be folded back into Debian.

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