Why won't you provide a choice between Gnome and KDE? You suck, tasksel sucks, etc.

A: Tasksel's purpose is to allow the user to quickly set up their computer to perform a certian task. It is not intended to be a way for the user to choose what software to install, but instead is supposed to be a way for the user to choose what they want to do, and provide a solution to let them perform their task. Wanting a desktop environment is a shorthand for wanting to perform tasks like word processing, web browsing, email, etc.

Making the user have to choose between two or more desktop environments, which they may not even have heard of is counter to this design principle of tasksel. Debian offers plenty of other ways for users who know what KDE and Gnome are to select the one they want; tasksel is not the right place for this kind of fine-grained selection to take place.

Aside from wanting to keep tasksel pure etc, I look at this from the perspective of wanting to maximise successful use of tasksel. From my perspective, these are all successful scenarios:

  1. A new user installs Debian and tasksel automatically selects a gnome desktop, and the user is able to immediatly dive in and get some work done.
  2. An experienced user installs Debian, takes care to unselect every default task, even the "standard system" one, and installs exactly what they want with apt-get on the command line afterwards.
  3. An experienced user, at his parents on thanksgiving, installs Debian on their machine for them, and uses the desktop task because, even though he might prefer doing the above on his own systems, he wants a quick route to a working destop.
  4. An experienced user who prefers KDE installs Debian, is annoyed at not being able to select it in tasksel, and installs it in aptitude instead.

These are unsuccessful scenarios:

  1. A new user installs Debian, doesn't know what "KDE" or "Gnome" are, doesn't pick either, and decides that this black screened operating system sucks, and gives up on it.
  2. An experienced user decides not to install Debian because they don't like tasksel's desktop task selection.
  3. A user installs Debian and the desktop task doesn't work for them.

I simply feel that unsuccessful scenarios #1 would be more common if I split the tasks than scenario #2 is today. I also have a lot more sympathy for the user in scenario #1 than #2. And this is all a red herring since scenarios #3 is the most important one to work on avoiding.

Note that recent versions of tasksel do allow chaging the default desktop environment that is installed by preseeding tasksel/first to kde-desktop (or xfce-desktop), or, in the most recent version, by preseeding tasksel/desktop. There's also a special KDE CD that will automatically install KDE, and an Xfce CD for Xfce. These are fine because they don't get in the way of a user who just wants a desktop, while allowing people who care which desktop they get to choose.


I think there should be a task for geneological research / mushroom farming / running a dog walking business / program development / playing pong

A: I'm willing to entertain any ideas for new tasks, but tasksel has a limited number of available slots for tasks that are displayed by default during the install, and so new tasks have to be compellingly useful to get added. I've even had to drop my own pet tasks (a collection of games and a unix shell server task) from tasksel as part of the effort to keep its set of tasks slim and trim.

Note though that tasksel allows other packages to add tasks to it, so if having some other package need to be installed before your task is available will meet your needs, you're in luck. Debian-edu is an example of one custom Debian distro that uses tasksel this way.


Who appointed you god anyway?

A: Nobody. However, until someone manages to come up with an argument that changes my mind, or until Debian decides that they don't welcome my contributions anymore, my decisions are final. The buck has to stop somewhere.

(It might be worth noting that I was initially opposed to most of the core design of tasksel as it exists today and that most of the precepts I use in making my decisions were not developed by me. Blame AJ..)