Google Summer of Code project started (Ubuntu)

More on the Google Summer of Code: as well as the project I’m mentoring for Debian, I’m mentoring Evan Dandrea (no blog yet?), writing a migration assistant for Ubiquity.

I haven’t talked much about Ubiquity, mostly because I’ve been far too busy writing it. Ubuntu has needed an installer for its live CD for a while, partly because, well, loads of users want it, and partly because it will cut Canonical’s costs quite a lot if we only have to send out half the number of CDs in shipit (apparently single-CD packaging is significantly cheaper than double-CD packaging). I’d been resisting doing something from scratch because I love d-i and I think it would be a really bad idea to end up maintaining two installer implementations from the ground up (live CDs are nice, but they don’t cut it for everyone). So when I was given the task of doing a shiny live CD installer with a custom-designed UI, while I started with a more-or-less from-scratch implementation put together by Guadalinex (thanks!), I fairly quickly diverged from that and morphed it into something that uses d-i code for as much of the backend operation and logic as it sensibly can. I’d call it a sort of debconf frontend except that its design is almost opposite to how a debconf frontend should work, in that it’s highly specialised to react to particular question names. This had a lot of advantages in terms of being fairly quick to write, although in the long term I think I might prefer something closer to cdebconf plugins for the job; we’ll see how things turn out.

Evan wanted to write an extension to this to automatically migrate settings and documents from an existing Windows installation, which I think would be an absolutely excellent thing to have: automatic migration is a real killer feature in an installer. In fact, d-i already has a start at this, namely os-prober, which in conjunction with some bootloader installer code magically sets up boot menu entries for other operating systems on your disk. So, I suggested to Evan that he might want to put most of the clever logic in a udeb, so that it can be used in d-i too, and to my relief he seemed quite enthused by the idea. He’s starting on the preliminary work now and I look forward to seeing his progress.

Best of luck, Evan!