RAID Re-do for Anaconda

Remix of Cartoon Rattlesnake by Sirrob01, Spray Paint in Action by Guillaume W., and Tango Drive Hard Disk by Warszawianka on OpenClipArt. Yes, that is a snake spraying RAID onto a pile of disks. So I think out of all of the feedback we got about the Anaconda UI redesign, the one piece of the UI that’s received the most negative feedback is the RAID configuration piece of the custom partitioning UI. The designs for how this UI ended up getting implemented in Fedora 18 was posted to this blog in December 2011. I really wish we’d received the level of feedback we received post F18-Beta and post F18-GA at that point, so the design could have been modified before it was implemented! That being said – I’m not placing blame with anybody but myself – I got this design wrong, and for that I am sincerely sorry. The initial design The idea behind the initial design was to not have a simple dropdown with a list of RAID numbers, because we found in our research even trained sysadmins don’t tend to remember what every single RAID level means or which one is best for which situations. When you don’t …

Refreshing storage in Anaconda

Remixed version of bottles by Tomas Arad on OpenClipArt. You must be thinking: “What do you mean by refreshing storage? I didn’t think you could drink storage?” No, sad to say, this blog post isn’t about the type of refreshment you get from a crisp cold glass of Anaconda Cola (yum!) It’s about the action of manually refreshing anaconda’s view on the storage configuration it’s working with. Why would you want to do that? Let’s step back a second first. The custom partitioning tool in Anaconda (Fedora’s installer) still has a lot of rough edges to the design in Fedora 18 GA. The Anaconda team has been putting a lot of work into improving it in their Fedora 19 branch. We’ve got a ton of bugs, thoughtful (and some not so thoughtful 🙂 ) comments from forums and blogposts, and some preliminary anaconda usability test data! (You’ll be hearing a lot more about that last bit soon, don’t worry! 🙂 ) The team has pored over all of this information and has had a number of brainstorming sessions and discussions on how to address the identified issues, both over IRC, the mailing list, in bugs directly, and in person. The …

Anaconda Bootloader, Reusing /home, Assigning partitions to disks

Bootloading So this is what the Fedora 16 bootloader configuration UI looked like: It allowed you to do a few things: Opt out of installing a bootloader at all. Specify whether you want the bootloader to install to the MBR or to /boot on the first-order physical disk. (You could go back to disk selection and change the order if you wanted to install the bootloader to a different physical disk.) Set a password for your bootloader. There’s a few use cases for why you’d want to configure the bootloader: I have three disks in my system, but only two are bootable – that’s all my BIOS will support. These folks need to know which disk is set as the boot disk, and they need to change it in case a non-bootable disk is set as the boot disk by default. Sure, they could crawl under their desk and play with hard drive jumpers if they can’t change the boot disk, but what if they don’t have physical access to the system? Or if it’s hardware made by a manufacturer who doesn’t make it easy to open up? (I won’t name names.) I want the thing I just installed to …

Reclaiming space from partitions during installation Round 3

So you’re getting a blog post on this because I missed having something to show Garrett before he finished work for the day (he’s several timezones ahead of me and I was overly slow.) 🙂 This may be crispier than it would have been had I caught him. Let me catch you up on where we are with reclaiming space from pre-existing partitions during installation. First of all, what is this design meant to address? Well, if you’ve selected what you want to install and selected disks to install it on, and don’t have enough free space in any single continguous free chunk but you do have enough latent space to cobble together enough space to install to – this is the screen that tries to guide you through shrinking your pre-existing partitions to make that latent space useful. This is not the custom partitioning screen design (just to make that clear. 🙂 ) So where were we?: Rough Thoughts on Reclaiming Space from Partitions During Installation – We walked through the lightbox dialog that appears when you’re in the situation described above, and then a few possibilities for what the actual space reclaiming dialog looks like. We tried a …

More Anaconda Custom Partitioning

We’ve been having a bit of a Anaconda custom partitioning UI thrown down the past couple of days in #anaconda to try to make some more progress on it. You may recall, the direction we’d most recently taken the mockups involved a UI centered around the mount points that are / will be created on the system: We hashed out some issues to address with this approach. Some we have addressed over the course of our discussion, some we haven’t. Here’s how it broke down: Issue #1: If you have more than one mount point of the same type on the system, you have an odd name clash. See, we let you select whatever hard drives / storage devices you want as part of the installation. Now, the drives you select may not be blank / nicely-formatted. Rather, they may have pre-existing OS installations on them, and some of those you might want to keep around – maybe you just want to install in the available empty space on the drive(s). The UI above assumes you’re only displaying mount points for one OS. What if I have a Fedora 16 installation on a 1 TB disk that I want to …

Reclaiming space from partitions during installation Round 2

So with some great feedback and great suggestions from you, I’ve been iterating more on the partition resize screen for Anaconda. I started out by poking around with the visual design of the drag handles, and Robin had the idea to make the space between partitions draggable and to use a model where you only drag between two partitions at a time. I think it will make more sense to do it that way, at least in this iteration. Initially I wanted there to be a free bucket on the right side that would grow as you shrank the partitions, but I think that makes it a little confusing as to how you would re-grow that partition if you changed your mind. Non-intuitive in the manner that the affect of your dragging can be displaced by more than just the next box over and it might not be immediately apparent to you that you can grow your partition even though it isn’t immediately adjacent to a block of free space. Smooge had the idea that there should be a clear indicator of how much you can squeeze down a given partition, so now the partitions have a lightly-colored graph to …

Rough thoughts on reclaiming space from partitions during installation

So there’s a path in the storage flow of the Fedora installer redesign where if you don’t have enough free disk space to complete an install right now, but you have enough latent space available in your partitions if you were to shrink them. We offer to let you shrink them to continue the install in this situation. (This is highlighted in yellow in the flow chart above.) A partition should be considered shrinkable if it has at least one 500 MB+ of contiguous space within a shrinkable partition (not HFS journaled, not VFAT, not EFI, etc. etc.). Here’s the screen you get should you end up in that situation: So we’ve been talking about what happens when you click on that ‘Reclaim space’ button. Tree list approach First I took a tree list approach. While I hate tree lists, my brain was hurting around the concept that the general ‘list of parent items on the left, click on one, and details about its children are present on the right’ pattern that I find everywhere in the GNOME UI is typically only used for viewing details and not acting on them. There are some cases where you can act on …

What's your partitioning persona? And, the partitioning UI thus far.

Partitioning personas Redesigning the UI for something as complex as an OS installer has the potential to be disruptive to some classes of users, so in designing and re-designing and re-re-designing the partitioning screens for Fedora’s installer, we’d like to make sure you’re going to be covered. Do any of these cases describe you, and if not, can you let me know how you use the partitioning functionality of Anaconda or really any OS installer so I can account for your use case? The partitioning UI thus far What are we doing to the installer’s partitioning UI to bring us to ask such questions? What is all this redesigning that’s going on? Well, let’s talk about partitioning as it works today in Anaconda. Note that this is a screenshot of Red Hat Linux 8.0 from 2002, almost 10 years ago now. Aside from the online help / release notes pane on the left which has long since been dropped, this partitioning screen does not look much different today. Our partitioning UI is currently very technology-centric. I suspect users care a lot more about the mountpoint layout of their OS with the technology underneath having a less primary role for them. …

Firewall Zones UI Design

Over the past couple of months I have been working with Thomas Woerner on some enhancements to and new UI for Fedora’s firewall controls. These additions are part of Thomas’s work in adding the concept of firewall ‘zones’ to Fedora to simplify firewall configuration and help make it easier for folks to keep their computers safe. Today, we provide users with a lot of control over their firewall in the system-config-firewall, but the problem with our current model is that with a laptop, you may connect to multiple different networks during the course of the day, and firewall rules that make sense for one network might not make much sense or may even be dangerous on another network. An example of this is if you’re sitting at home or at the office, you can pretty much trust the other systems on your network (well, at least if you’re at my office where we don’t have Windows systems 😉 ), so you might want to have your httpd service running if you’re a web developer and want to show others working links to web application code running on your laptop. However, when you’re at a coffeeshop with other systems on the …

Slicing and dicing disks (first draft)

So, last time we chatted about Fedora’s installer redesign, we walked through how users would select which disks they’d like to be part of the install. Once our intrepid installer users have selected disks to install to, they should be set and the install will just work. (Okay, there’s the case where they have to squeeze space out of existing filesystems owned by another OS, and that’s in the plan, but not for this blog post.) In either case, these folks will not have to encounter screens like these at all. Some users, though, prefer to review and/or manually modify the disk partitioning, so this set of screens is what those users opt-in to see. So, most users simply trying to install Fedora on their laptop won’t ever have to bother with these screens unless they really want to. The way it’s mocked up now, they are tabs across a single screen. Serving up partitioning buffet-style like this is not ideal in my opinion, because then we’ll be enabling users to do things like btrfs raid on top of md raid which can, if I understand correctly, eliminate some of the advantages of having RAID in the first place. Buffet-style …