Proposal to drop Ubuntu alternate CDs for 12.10

Stéphane Graber stgraber at
Mon Aug 27 22:20:16 UTC 2012

On 08/27/2012 05:50 PM, Steve Langasek wrote:
> Dear developers,
> As part of ongoing efforts to reduce the number of images we ship for
> Ubuntu, and to make the desktop image more useful in a variety of scenarios,
> Dmitrijs Ledkovs has been hard at work in quantal adding support for LVM,
> cryptsetup, and RAID to ubiquity.
> The good news is that this means today we already have support in ubiquity
> for cryptsetup and LVM in the guided partitioner, with manual partitioning
> support soon to follow.  The somewhat bad news is that we will not have
> support for RAID setup in ubiquity this cycle.
> I would like to propose that, in spite of not reaching 100% feature parity,
> we drop the Ubuntu alternate installer for 12.10 anyway.
> The arguments that I see in favor of this are:
>  - RAID is relatively straightforward to turn on post-install.  You install
>    to one disk, boot to the system, assemble a degraded RAID with the other
>    disks, copy your data, reboot to the degraded RAID, and finally merge
>    your install disk into the array.  It's not quick, but it's *possible*.
>  - Desktop installs on RAID will still be supported by other paths: using
>    either netboot or server CDs and installing the desktop task.
>  - RAID on the desktop really is a minority use case.  Laptops almost never
>    have room for more than one hard drive; desktops can but are rarely
>    equipped with them.  So the set of affected users is very small.  Some
>    rough analysis of bug data in launchpad suggests a very liberal upper
>    bound of .8% of desktop users.
>  - RAID on the desktop correlates with conservatism in other areas:  we can
>    probably continue to recommend 12.04 instead of 12.10 for the affected
>    users.
>  - It lets us tighten our focus on making the desktop CD shine: fewer images
>    to QA, fewer different paths to get right (like the CD apt upgrader case)
>    means more time to focus on the things that matter.
> So my opinion is that we should drop the Ubuntu alternate CDs with Beta 1. 
> Other flavors are free to continue building alternate CDs (i.e.,
> "debian-installer" CDs) according to their preference, but we would drop
> them for Ubuntu and direct users to one of the above-mentioned alternatives
> if they care about RAID on desktop installs.
> Please note one implication here that, with the possibility of not having
> i386 server CDs for 12.10, the only install option for an i386 user wanting
> RAID on a desktop would be to install via netboot or with the mini ISO.
> Do any of you see reasons for not making this change, and dropping the
> alternate CDs?  Are there shortcomings to the proposed fallback solutions
> that we haven't identified here?

Another use case that would be dropped when dropping alternate is LTSP.
At the moment LTSP is installable from Ubuntu Alternate by pressing F4
and selecting "Install LTSP server", it's my understanding that it's the
most widely used way of install an LTSP server today.

In order to install LTSP from a media, you need ltsp-server and its
dependencies + a full Ubuntu desktop (for the application server), so it
can't simply be moved to the server media as it'd require the addition
of several hundreds of Megs of packages.

What we were planning for LTSP, knowing that alternate would disappear
was to keep it in main (by adding it to the supported seed) as it's
currently supported by Canonical and quite popular in some governments
and educational networks.
We'd then recommend using Edubuntu as the easy way of getting LTSP.
However Edubuntu is a live-only product so that plan isn't possible
until we get RAID support in ubiquity...

Almost all LTSP setups that I know of are using RAID1 or RAID5 (or a mix
of both for system/home), no longer having the alternate and not having
RAID support in ubiquity would likely prevent a significant part of the
LTSP users from installing it on 12.10.

That being said, we could certainly try to get these people to install
using the server media, then getting ltsp post-install. This will still
require them to download a substantial amount of packages and my
experience is that setting this all up by hand properly is scaring a lot
of people.

I'd certainly expect most large scale deployments of LTSP to stick on
12.04 LTS, so I can't provide any number on how big a user base we're
talking about, but I'm sure we'll be getting quite a few questions and
complaints should we drop the alternate media without a viable
alternative for these users.

I don't think this use case alone is enough to keep the alternate
images, but it's surely something to keep in mind and make sure is
clearly communicated to the users, telling them that this is a temporary
situation and will all be resolved in 13.04.

> Thanks,

Stéphane Graber
Ubuntu developer

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