Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why No Linux Installation has an 'I Only Speak One Language' Option?

Now that Fedora 11 has come out, I decided to give it a spin in a VMWare box -- i'm not entirely satisfied with the drive read speed of Ubuntu Jaunty, nor the compiled in IPv6 option making Transmission crawl into the floor in terms of connection speed with no true way to disable it, I am unsure if users will the new 'update notification' (it's almost like Windows XP in that regard, just without the forced rebooting when it's finished) and I can certainly take or leave the 'new' notification system, which makes VMWare go nuts with screen flicker while the notification is on-screen.

Needless to say, that while I thought Ubuntu Hardy was brilliant for both technical professionals and new users alike on the Desktop -- having used Jaunty for a month, I almost feel like i've installed a totally different system that feels totally foreign -- and one that has been dumbed-down to the least-common-demoninator level, an unfortunate side-effect of 'visionary progression' within parts of the Linux on the Desktop supporters.

Coupled with the fact i'd like to play with RPM building again and thought PackageKit sounded remarkably cool -- I thought this would be a good time to try Fedora (my last experience with it on the desktop was 4, other than building libgpod for 9 and 10) -- I only upgraded from Ubuntu 8.04 to 9.04 to try GNOME 2.26, which Fedora 11 has included.

Now, i've never, ever, ever accepted the defaults for a Linux installation -- so I selected the 'Customise Now' button to remove the packages I didn't need at install-time (F-Spot, Java, etc).

Fedora, like RHEL still has a very nice package selector, with an 'Optional' button that allows you to select with tick-boxes which packages the user would prefer.

So, after a while -- I found the Base section.

The Package Selection Dialogue

28 of 80 Fonts?

So I click the "Optional Packages" button, to find:

The 'Optional Packages - Fonts' Dialogue

Now, in my personal case -- as far as foreign languages go, I speak semi-minimal German. As a native English speaker, everything I do with a computer is in English, aside from seeing what the other fonts look like, all they really do for me is take up room and slow OpenOffice down when it loads.

I de-selected all the optional fonts with the exception of the DejaVu fonts and continued on with the install as normal.

I personally think that the internationalisation of Linux is incredible and a wonderful thing to watch, but installing over 100 megabytes of fonts that I will never use, never see and couldn't really understand anyway -- seems like 100 megabytes of space that could be better used elsewhere.

To be fair, On the Red Hat / Fedora side, this problem bugged me more back in the pre-Red Hat 9 days, where ISOs were shipped on a 650M CDROM and every piece of space had to be meticulously accounted for -- they've worked around the issue by using multiple CDs to do the install, as well as supplying an 'Everything on DVD' release.

Ubuntu, on the other hand -- has always had this problem, Epiphany (the GNOME based Web Browser Front-end) needs to be installed post-install, but South African English, several Thai and Indian dialects as well as Japanese fonts are installed from the core 700 megabyte ISO.

It just seems as though the installer needs a box that asks 'Is that the only language you speak?' ... and only if you select 'No' does it select the internationalisation components of whatever distribution you're running.

The one question it raises is how much of all the languages you should include by default -- since the advent of network-based installs, it might work if the various installer code provided the strings for 'Do you Speak ...' 'Is your Network Set Up (followed closely by 'How would you like your network set up' if you have a Wireless configuration) and then sent off to mother-goose to install the relevant packages based on the locale configuration to that point.