D.6. The Graphical Installer

The graphical version of the installer is only available for a limited number of architectures, including AMD64. The functionality of the graphical installer is essentially the same as that of the regular installer as it basically uses the same programs, but with a different frontend.

Although the functionality is identical, the graphical installer still has a few significant advantages. The main advantage is that it supports more languages, namely those that use a character set that cannot be displayed with the regular “newt” frontend. It also has a few usability advantages such as the option to use a mouse, and in some cases several questions can be displayed on a single screen.

The graphical installer is available with all CD images and with the hd-media installation method. As the graphical installer uses a separate (much larger) initrd than the regular installer, it has to be booted using installgui instead of install. Analogous, the expert and rescue modes are booted using expertgui and rescuegui respectively.

It is also available as a special “mini” ISO image[23], which is mainly useful for testing; in this case the image is booted just using install. There is no graphical installer image that can be netbooted.

The graphical installer requires significantly more memory to run than the regular installer: 96MB. If insufficient memory is available, it will automatically fall back to the regular “newt” frontend.

You can add boot parameters when starting the graphical installer, just as with the regular installer. One of those parameters allows you to configure the mouse for left-handed use. See Section 5.2, “Boot Parameters” for valid parameters.

D.6.1. Using the graphical installer

As already mentioned, the graphical installer basically works the same as the regular installer and thus the rest of this manual can be used to guide you through the installation process.

If you prefer using the keyboard over the mouse, there are two things you need to know. To expand a collapsed list (used for example for the selection of countries within continents), you can use the + and - keys. For questions where more than one item can be selected (e.g. task selection), you first need to tab to the Continue button after making your selections; hitting enter will toggle a selection, not activate Continue.

To switch to another console, you will also need to use the Ctrl key, just as with the X Window System. For example, to switch to VT1 you would use: Ctrl-Left Alt-F1.

D.6.2. Known issues

Etch is the first release that includes the graphical installer and uses some relatively new technology. There are a few known issues that you may run into during the installation. We expect to be able to fix these issues for the next release of Debian GNU/Linux.

  • Information on some screens is not nicely formatted into columns as it should be. The most obvious example is the first screen where you select your language. Another example is the main screen of partman.

  • Typing some characters may not work and in some cases the wrong character may be printed. For example, "composing" a character by typing an accent and then the letter over/under which the accent should appear does not work.

  • Support for touchpads is not yet optimal.

  • You should not switch to a different console while the installer is busy; this may cause the frontend to crash. The frontend will be restarted automatically, but this may still cause problems with the installation. Switching to another console while the installer is waiting for input should work without causing any problems.

  • Support for creating encrypted partitions is limited as it is not possible to generate a random encryption key. It is possible to set up an encrypted partition using a passphrase as encryption key.

  • Starting a shell from the graphical frontend is currently not supported. This means that relevant options to do that (which are available when you use the textual frontend), will not be shown in the main menu of the installation system and in the menu for the rescue mode. You will instead have to switch (as described above) to the shells that are available on virtual consoles VT2 and VT3.

    After booting the installer in rescue mode, it may be useful to start a shell in the root partition of an already installed system. This is possible (after you have selected the partition to be mounted as the root partition) by switching to VT2 or VT3 and entering the following command:

    # chroot /target

[23] The mini ISO image can be downloaded from a Debian mirror as described in Section 4.2, “Downloading Files from Debian Mirrors”. Look for “gtk-miniiso”.