d-i: after sarge

The period just after a stable Debian release has always been an interesting time, but never before have I been trying to keep the Debian installer working during a flood of post-release changes. It's been frustrating.

Suprisingly, the worst breakage so far has been in debootstrap, which had some major changes just after sarge released. I hope these will actually make ongoing dependency change issues less likely to break d-i, but in the short term fixing the various things broken by these changes has kept d-i from working for weeks. I've had to NMU debootstrap twice, though the second NMU is for what's really a bug in busybox.

A bug in dpkg also breaks debootstrap; this has oddly been tagged pending for two weeks without an upload.

The ongoing slang 2 transition has helped keep things interesting, as more and more things are rebuilt with slang2. This tends to make debotstrap work even less well than it did before, and the installer's build process also has to be updated on a nearly daily basis. Alastair has been doing a good job at coordinating this transition though, and it's not kept d-i from working for any long length of time. Finally today it looks like d-i is (mostly) working with a fully slang2 build.

The CD builders were tired after the sarge release, so the first ever etch CDs were just built today. They don't work yet, probably thanks to yet more debootstrap breakage).

There was also a small libiw transition, and probably several other things that I've thankfully already forgotten about.

One of the first things the d-i team wants to do is switch d-i to using the 2.6.11 (or .12 if packaged) kernel, but there's no point on rolling that out when the install dies half way through, so it's been put off due to the debootstrap and other breakage.

We have managed to make some good progress on d-i despite it not quite working to install etch yet. The rescue mode that didn't make the cut for sarge is rolled in, adding one of our main outstanding missing features. We've switched over to languagechooser, updated the manual for etch, fixed quite a lot of bugs, fixed a large number of places that hardcoded "sarge", and have generally managed to fix many annoying bits that were put off until after sarge.

At the moment though, my main concern is that d-i be able to install etch again, and that it keep working until after DebConf. If it does, we should have a productive development session before DebConf, and work on lots of neat stuff, but if it doesn't we'll have to continue with the frustration of patching up after unstable uploads that break the installer.