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The Debian graphical installer needs your help!

Your Debian needs you! Frans Pop asks for help on font selection, packaging and configuration; support for complex scripts, helping realize the upgrade from gtk+ 2.0.9 to 2.8.3, development of cdebconf plugins and graphical design and improving usability (including accessibility).
As you may have noticed in Joey Hess' release announcement for D-I
Etch-beta1 [1], Debian at last has a graphical installer (currently in
alpha release) based on gtk+-directfb.
The graphical installer is currently available for Intel x86, AMD64 and
PowerPC architectures; others are expected to follow.

A huge amount of work has been done over the past 3 months or so to get it
to its present state [A] and we are very happy with its current
stability and usability.
The graphical installer also allows support for languages with complex
scripts such as Indic and Arabic scripts.

We expect to be able to offer the graphical installer as a mature
alternative with Etch, but there are some issues that will need to be
resolved to make that possible.

The main areas where we would very much welcome additional expertise and
involvement are:
– font selection, packaging and configuration; support for complex scripts
– helping realize the upgrade from gtk+ 2.0.9 to 2.8.3
– development of cdebconf plugins
– graphical design and improving usability (including accessibility)

If you are interested, please join us on the debian-boot mailing list or
#debian-boot on Freenode.

We've set up some wiki pages that can help get you started:
– General information and links to images [2]
– Overview of current issues and ToDo list [3]
– Instructions for building graphical installer images [4]

Some extra information on the first three areas mentioned above.

Font selection, packaging and configuration; support for complex scripts
We currently have put together a basic set of fonts. These cover most
languages, but for some (especially Arabic and Indic scripts) there are
issues to be solved.

In general we need font packagers, people with experience in font
management and configuration and translators working together to:
– find the optimal set of fonts and configuration to use
– identify and solve the issues with complex scripts
– package the lot for the installer (into udebs)
– make sure the optimal font is actually used at runtime
– minimize the space required for fonts in images (space is expensive
in an installer!)
– check that languages are represented correctly

Further information on the challenges regarding fonts can be found on [3].

Upgrade from gtk+ 2.0.9 to 2.8.3
We have already experimented with 2.8.3 and that version is known to fix
some relatively minor issues we're seeing currently.

Of course switching to 2.8.3 means gtk+ 2.8.3 first needs to be packaged
for Debian, along with library udebs for the installer. Some additional
library udebs will be needed (libcairo, libslim).

We have hopes that code for the directfb backend will be merged into gtk+
and cairo upstream source which would make packaging a lot easier.

There is also room for people wanting to get involved in directfb
upstream development.

Development of cdebconf plugins
The useability of some components in the installer could really be
improved by making use of the possibilities offered by a graphical
environment [B]. A while back cdebconf was extended to allow external
plugins that could provide such specific interface development.

This is real frontline work with loads of challenges.

Frans Pop


[A] A quick thank you to the people most involved:
– Attilio Fiandrotti – for all his work on the cdebconf-gtk frontend
– Davide Viti – for pioneering how to put it all together and porting
the build system for AMD64
– Alastair McKinstry – for providing the gtk+2.0-directfb packages
– Frans Pop – for integrating it all into the d-i build system
– Eddy Petrisor, Sven Luther – for porting the build system to PowerPC
– Mike Emmel – for his excellent upstream support for directfb
– everybody else in the d-i team for providing the basis

[B] There is already work being done to make it possible to run parted
in the installer.

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