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Ubuntu Considering an HTML5-Based OS Installer ( 179

An anonymous reader writes: Ubuntu's Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life, Mark Shuttleworth, is considering backing a new Ubuntu installer that would be using HTML5 via the Electron Framework. This theoretical installer would re-use the company's existing HTML5 code for managing MAAS installations, integrate with Electron, and also better support their Snap packaging format, according to his proposal. What could possibly go wrong with an HTML5/Electron operating system installer? Mark also announced that Ubuntu 18.10 is codenamed the Cosmic Cuttlefish.
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Ubuntu Considering an HTML5-Based OS Installer

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  • Cool! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @02:41PM (#56575498)

    I hope it has jQuery. It's the best!

  • by bobmajdakjr ( 2484288 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @02:49PM (#56575536)
    i wish the live cd/usb booted slower its just not slow enough. thisllfixit.
    • ipmi with an iso over an slow link can get you that slow down.

    • If you find yourself booting from ISO images all the time, get something like the IODD 2531 and put an SSD in there or use Yumi or Easy2boot with a good flash drive.

  • For servers the text mode one is best GUI one is limited in choice now the redhat/centos and suse GUI ones are a lot better.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If only Linux distributions spent as much time on improving the operating system as they have with the installer over the years (how many times Fedora/Ubuntu/etc installer have been rewritten?), the year of Linux on desktop would have happened ages ago.

    • by afidel ( 530433 )

      Well, when I recently installed Ubuntu LTSR server I was timewarped back more than 20 years because the install process was exactly the same one I used to install Redhat Linux in the 90's. The CentOS installer on the other hand was very modern and user friendly. If you want to have the year of the Linux desktop having an installer that doesn't automatically turn off 99.9+% of users is probably a good idea.

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        Did it have the redneck language choice?

      • by Jerry ( 6400 )

        Well, when I recently installed Ubuntu LTSR server I was timewarped back more than 20 years because the install process was exactly the same one I used to install Redhat Linux in the 90's. .....

        On May 1, 1998 I installed RH 5.0 as my first Linux experience. It's installer did not look or behave anything like the installer on Kubuntu 18.04 (Bionic Beaver), which is based on Ubuntu 18.04, that I installed last week. RH did not have the graphical map of the US that allowed geographical selection of the time zone. It did not have a partition editor comparable to gparted because Gnome wasn't around back then.

        Besides, if you are the Linux guru server installer that you seem to want us to believe,

      • But turning off 99.98% of lusers is the point â" these people are not worthy of Linux anyway, and we wouldnâ(TM)t want to have them defile Linux.
    • Don't look at this as taking work from the operating system. This is a playpen for the swaths of people padding their resumes with "contributed to Ubuntu" that do not actually have the technical skills to contribute.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Electron is the bloated cancer which is killing the software industry.
    An 80mb "runtime" with every simple 100 line application. WORST TIMELINE.

    • 2008: "They should write it in Java", "Java sucks, it's sooo bloated"
      1998: "They should write it in C++", "C++ sucks, it's sooo bloated"
      1988: "They should write it in C", "C sucks, it's sooo bloated"

      (I don't have one for 1978, because back then personal computers came with BASIC in ROM, there was nothing to install.)

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @02:55PM (#56575554)

    It seems like this is just another example of NIH syndrome made manifest. Who needs something to be functional when you can have original, fancy and slow?!

    • Slow?
    • It seems like this is just another example of NIH syndrome made manifest.

      They are switching to a web interface.. that they invented. This is about consolidating development resources onto a single installer instead of developing two separate interfaces that do the exact same thing.

      As to slow, who cares, it's an OS installer interface. It's not exactly a high performance application to configure a .conf file.

  • Sounds Awesome! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by darkain ( 749283 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @02:56PM (#56575558) Homepage

    In theory, HTML5 based installer sounds awesome. The core system management would still be the same, just a few shell commands initiated from JavaScript within a minimalistic browser environment...

    But then I looked into what this "Electron" framework actually is, and who's using it for what.

    1) Skype - buggy as fuck
    2) GitHub Desktop - clunky as fuck
    3) Atom Editor - slow as fuck
    4) WordPress - need I say more..?
    5) Slack - too many issues to even name any
    6) Discord - known for literally blue-screening computers
    7) Visual Studio Code - classic VS was amazing, why fuck up a good thing?

    I'm all for rapid development within HTML5 + JS + CSS, but PLEASE, for the fucking love of god, use tool sets that don't have such a horrendous reputation!?

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      I don't think I'd go so far as to say HTML5 based installer sounding awesome... It's an installer, not much to say about it for the last decade or so. There's no amount of innovation in an installer that's going to change the fortunes of the platform at this point. Even if wanting to make changes, I would think that reworking so much of it would set you back so far and there's no way walking back from that sort of rewrite will save time for whatever incremental functionality people can dream up. The mai

    • by afidel ( 530433 )

      I haven't used it a ton yet but VS Code is pretty good for the couple dozen config files I've managed for my OpenHAB install, it's like Notepad++ with Intellisense, very nice.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      VS Code is actually pretty decent. The Visual Studio branding is weird but it does justify its existence compared to the normal VS by being cross platform and highly extensible resulting in support for a huge number of languages. Yes classic VS has plugins but it is much easier to develop them for VS Code and it shows in the enormous variety of extensions available. It shocked me because, as you say, every other Electron app I've tried using is total garbage.

    • HTML5 is just the new VT100 or ANSI.
      Being that it is an interpreted formatting language, it has its limitations, and tools to push past them, tend to not work too well.

      There were Hacks on the IBM CGA screen, where the Text format was quarter. So you can get 16colors at 160x100 resolution. But text will not be readable.

      The big issues with these tool sets is it is asking html5 to do things that html5 doesn't want to do by default.

      • by Junta ( 36770 )

        The main thing is that electron means everyone has a distinct browser process. It eschews OS platform provided facilities and as such has to reinvent the wheel and resource sharing between applications is pretty well defeated.

        Beyond that, there's the *tendency* for these developers to be sloppy and stop at 'mostly works'. This is not to say you cannot make a solid application with these tools, just that a lot of people who cannot otherwise manage to produce desktop applications can *appear* to succeed wit

    • Sorry bro, you had good points until you got to 7. And because VSC is so freaking awesome, you sound like a crazed hater and haters just hate. So points 1-6 get tossed out.

      What VSC does, it shows how to properly develop a great product on top of Electron. 1-6, just used Electron as a shortcut and haven't put in the time.

      So catch the baby, refill the bath water, and keep calm. Ubuntu will probably get it right in the long run.
    • by sirber ( 891722 )
      Visual Studio Code is amazing and fast compared to Atom.
    • An installer doesn't have to do much, so it's hard to imagine Electron fucking much up from a technical perspective. Will it use way too much ram? Sure, but nothing else is running at that point.

      I imagine what's behind this move is how hard it is to find macbook-pro-having designers to work with Linux GUI stuff.

      All in all, I give this idea a "meh, why not?"
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      That explains why Discord is so bad and why it needs updating every few days.

      GitHub Desktop succeeds the old GitHub client that was also really slow and crappy. IIRC it was Java... They seem to love bloat.

  • I've got an idea and cause to do something like this (telling users to go to a localhost URL seems to be too difficult...) but I've heard lots against Electron. Custom UI's for Mac & Windows would be too time-consuming, especially with an existing HTML/JS gui. :/

    What are good alternatives? I know sciter but it's not open source, and for reason I'd prefer it to be open source.

  • So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c ( 8461 ) <> on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @03:02PM (#56575590)

    He's talking about replacing Ubuntu's configuration/install engine with... a different configuration/install engine. It's fundamentally just a big script that gathers input from the user and punts the results to a bunch of other scripts and applications to do the actual install magic.

    Other than the people maintaining it, who really gives a shit what language/framework it's built with?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      People who like being able to install with less than 8GB of RAM.

      • by c ( 8461 )

        People who like being able to install with less than 8GB of RAM.

        Of the Linux distros I'd choose to run on a lighter system, Ubuntu is not (any longer) on the list.

      • I use Atom with a bunch of plug-ins and generally have almost as many files open as I have tabs open on Firefox (because THAT'S HOW I WORK DAMNIT MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS).

        Right now it's taking up 50Mb. With an 'M'. The worst I've ever seen it was at half a G.

        Electron isn't very efficient, but I don't think any supported Ubuntu platform should have a problem running an Electron based installer.

        • (Correction, it's just over 100Mb at the moment, there were some background processes running that Windows didn't group with the main process. Again though, how's that going to be a problem running an installer on a machine that is never likely to have less than a gigabyte of memory, even if it's shitty?)
    • Other than the people maintaining it, who really gives a shit what language/framework it's built with?

      144 Slashdot posters evidently...

  • by Daneel Olivaw R. ( 5113539 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @03:04PM (#56575608)
    I understand that Javascript is evil/slow/only for soyboys and "real" programmers use QT (or some other equivalent hell)... but remember thanks to Electron, writing Desktop UI is no longer shitty, most of the heavy lifting for cross-platform is taken care of, and most importantly, developers get more time to do shit that matters. Yes, it does mean memory hungry programs, but thats an evil I can live with especially when I am getting something for free. P.S: I am allowed to make soyboy comment bec I am vegan
  • by ctilsie242 ( 4841247 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @03:08PM (#56575626)

    Debian/Ubuntu's apt system has been good over the years, since it doesn't have the "rpm hell" RedHat based distributions have, especially if one has multiple repositories.

    It would be nice if they had the ability to roll back a version update without having to reinstall. AIX had this functionality, where if an update caused major problems, rejecting the update and rolling back was easy.

  • I suppose that's great because it's really easy to tweak the UI and make incremental changes.

    But really, who cares which tech is used for a UI that you're not using on a daily basis?

    As long as it works for its intended purpose, they could write it in COBOL for all I care.

  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArchieBunker ( 132337 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @03:22PM (#56575722) Homepage

    Just write the damn thing in Python or whatever language is hot at the moment. Use framebuffer graphics and a simple mouse driver like FreeBSD uses. How high up the abstraction layer can we go just to copy files to a storage device?

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @03:37PM (#56575794)
    I just can't wait for the Masturbating Monkey release!
  • All I can think of at Cosmic Cuttlefish is the Rudy Rucker novel. Postsingular.
  • Is all that is needed. What does all the extra complexity buy you for something typically done ONCE at install time?

    >br geez, re-inventing the wheel....again.

    • A GUI is exactly what's needed if Linux wants anyone other than nerds like us using it.

      And if done right, a GUI can be much more useable than a TUI even for nerds.

  • "a ton of GREAT apps on Ubuntu are Electron apps" -- Mark Shuttleworth For sure, a new installer is the "top priority" issue of Ubuntu OS. [] returns ONLY 137332 open bugs (434 critical)
  • ... like when a pre-SCO Caldera had Tetris in their installer. You'd start the installer, set up your disk, it would start copying essential files from the CD, you'd get asked a few config questions (network settings, select optional packages, etc.), then, when you were done, half of the screen would be Tetris and the other half would show the progress of the remaining files. []

  • It's a good solution for server installation!

  • HTML installer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Christian Smith ( 3497 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @04:53PM (#56576386) Homepage

    At my previous company, we used a Mozilla based installer front end. We used a cut down mozilla browser, without address bars or anything like that, which allowed easy UI creation for a wizard, embedded HTML online release notes, built in JS engine for customization at the product/package level, easily extended to interface with back end installers using XPCom. All in all, it was a great piece of work and very stable, this was 2004/2005.

    Then we were acquired by an unnamed big blue bohemouth, who didn't like the MPL, and moved us to one of their in-house installers (which was awful beyond words.) And just like that, it was gone.

  • I didn't know that the current installer was broken.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal