Improving the Fedora boot experience

Nils Philippsen nils at
Wed Mar 13 15:53:33 UTC 2013

On Wed, 2013-03-13 at 11:04 -0400, Máirín Duffy wrote:
> On 03/13/2013 10:57 AM, Nils Philippsen wrote:
> > I'm with you that users shouldn't see this by default, but rather e.g.
> > upon encountering an error condition (or if configured differently).
> > However, we still could use better wording for such a message, even if
> > we restrict ourselves to English, e.g.: "Press <keycombo> if you want to
> > change how your system starts." That's hardly in the league of Japanese
> > for someone not speaking it.
> Why not put it in the control panel on the running system along with
> other system-level options, though? Doesn't that make more sense rather
> than separating it out for access only in a completely different context?
> I mean, I 100% agree if you can't boot, it should pop up automatically.
> But for cases where you've booted into the machine and just noticed your
> network doesn't work - we don't automatically notice if the network
> isn't working and reboot into the boot options screen, and I'm not sure
> if that would make any sense because there's more reasons the network
> might not be working besides a new broken kernel update.

Right, sorry I got distracted by the wording thing which is mostly a
side-show anyway.

> In that situation my first instinct would be to go into the control
> panel and poke around and see if there was something I could fix there,
> and maybe search online for an answer. My first instinct would not be to
> reboot the system and go into the bootloader menu - it's not intuitive
> that the problem happened because of a new kernel, and usually when I
> find myself in that situation it really does take me a while to think it
> might be a new kernel with a broken driver. I mean, it could be other
> things too - for example, my network card could be turned off in network
> manager (has happened before, when i turned off wireless after a plane
> trip).
> If I just wanted to explore my options with configuring the computer, I
> would also go to the control panel first to poke around - again I
> wouldn't think to reboot the system and poke around with the menus
> there, I really feel it's not intuitive to configure a particular system
> before the system is even loaded, if that makes sense?

I'm not 100% sure about the ideal way of booting, considering all the
conflicting requirements (easy, pretty, fast, reliable,
deterministic, ...). In contrast however, I feel very confident that
right now discovering what options are available should you need them is
lacking. Using general purpose search engines to find out such
information -- before or after disaster strikes -- isn't something I'd
like as the only way to find this out. Too often you find pages that
deal with something similar, but not quite what you're looking for. Then
you find forum threads were a number of people with "dangerous
half-knowledge" discuss about the best way to "fix" sound/SELinux/...
which is switching it (be that pulseaudio, or SELinux, ...) off since
that's what worked in 2004. Neither is pointing people to
#fedora/freenode I'm afraid. Nor is advertising the boot menu during
boot for that matter -- can anyone say "Clippy"?

I imagine that some kind of well discoverable (e.g. advertised during
installation, or in the default browser homepage) knowledge-base beyond
installation guides, release notes e.a. could get us a far way, which
would have vetted information about troubleshooting ("So you updated and
sound/wireless/suspend broke? Here's what you should check and
how: ...") and power-user-ing ("So we welded the hood in Fedora a little
too shut for your taste? While we're busy munching self-baked cookies by
the thankful Aunt Tilly, here's how you gnaw the hood open again: ...").
That this needs a little cooperation on the OS components side is
obvious, workarounds for power users either need to stay stable, be
replaced by something more or less equivalent (with updated
documentation), or rendered obsolete.

Nils Philippsen      "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase 
Red Hat               a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty
nils at       nor Safety."  --  Benjamin Franklin, 1759
PGP fingerprint:      C4A8 9474 5C4C ADE3 2B8F  656D 47D8 9B65 6951 3011

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