The Simple Things in Life

Matthew Paul Thomas mpt at
Fri Jul 22 10:28:37 UTC 2016

John Moser wrote on 19/07/16 22:48:
>> I've been repeatedly distressed and confused by this hidden boot
> process.  I've sat and waited at blank screens and splashes that give
> no feedback, wondering if the kernel is hanging at initializing a
> driver, trying to find network, or making decisions about a disk.
> There is no standard flow which can be disrupted with a new, non-error
> status message curtly explaining that something is happening and all
> is well; there is a standard flow in which the machine displays a
> blank, meaningless state for a fixed amount of time, and deviation in
> that time by any more than a few tenths of a second gives the
> immediate, gut-wrenching feeling that the system has hanged during
> boot and is terminally broken in some mysterious and
> completely-unknown manner.

You can press Esc to see the startup messages so far. But that works
only for people who know about it. And if your PC won’t start up,
showing *all* the text is a poor way of communicating what’s stuck. It
doesn’t tell someone what to say, for example, when phoning their techie
friend/relative for help. “The screen’s gone black and it’s full of

> What Ubuntu needs most is a simple, non-buried toggle option to show
> the boot process--including displaying the bootloader, displaying the
> kernel load messages, and listing which services are loading and
> already-loaded during the graphical boot.

The current graphical startup, and showing all the startup messages, are
two extremes of communication. A setting to choose between those
extremes wouldn’t stop them from being extremes.

When displaying progress of a task, a good rule of thumb is: it should
look different at least every few seconds, but text shouldn’t change
faster than people can read it.

The looping startup animation fails the first part of the rule, because
it looks identical now to how it did ~4 seconds ago and ~4 seconds
before that.

And showing all the startup messages would fail the second part of the
rule, because usually they’re too fast for most people to read. (Not to
mention that most of those messages are not written with end users in mind.)

Ubuntu does a decent job of this when checking a disk during startup.
It’s something that will make the startup take much longer than usual,
so steadily-changing text appears together with the usual graphics.

This technique could be extended to the rest of the startup. Instead of
the dots, show a determinate progress bar (that is, one that fills up).
In addition, *if* the progress bar hasn’t moved at all in the past ~5
seconds, show the most recent startup message below it.

>                                           Ubuntu's best current
> feature is the Recovery boot mode, aside from not having a setting to
> make this the standard boot mode sans the recovery prompt.

I expect most people would rate a Web browser or a file manager as a
better feature than a Recovery boot mode.

>> Even Android displays a count of system assemblies AOT cached during
> boots after update so as to convey to the user that something is
> indeed happening.

A roughly equivalent bug for Ubuntu Touch is “hook into system-image
updates to precompile policy prior to reboot”


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