Calamares 3.1.3 released

Calamares is an (Linux) installer framework. It’s an application with lots of pluggable modules to do system installation tasks (like partitioning, setting up users, and enabling encryption on filesystems) needed when installing Linux onto a computer system. There are modules written in C++ (with Qt), modules in Python, and modules in Python (with Qt). The middle bunch was, up until this release, untranslatable.

Calamares 3.1.2 was released yesterday, followed by a hotfix 3.1.3 (my bad), with new potentially translatable strings. I’ll admit that the last few strings were snuck in quite late, so translations are incomplete. This is no worse than they were, where the strings were entirely untranslatable. Expect more complete translations with 3.1.4, to be relased in two weeks time or so.

This is a medium-sized step for the accessibility of Calamares, now that more of the application is available in the user’s native language.

I’m also planning a much bigger accessibility step, which is adding screen reader support to the application. Actually, “adding” is probably the wrong word: I’ll stop agressively not supporting screen readers. That hostility towards screen readers comes from the setuid nature of Calamares (it’s messing around in filesystems and partitions and whatnot) and that hostility needs to end. Adaptive technologies should be usable also when installing a computer.

With that in mind, I will be going to Randa next month for this year’s Randa meeting, which has a focus on accessibility. The dot story explains the purpose of the meeting better than I can, and one of the comments presents exactly the challenge: turn off the monitor. Now boot the computer with CD in the drive, and install Linux. If Calamares can make that possible, then we’re helping everyone get Free Software.

To help the Randa meeting help everyone, consider making a donation, which helps to keep lights on in Randa (not the heating — we bring sleeping bags because it’s cold in the mountains, even in summer).

(I should note: Calamares isn’t a KDE project, although it is used by some Linux distro’s that have a KDE focus. It is also used by some Linux distro’s that focus on a Qt-free experience after installation. Calamares is an independent project, supported by Blue Systems. And yes, I do hope to install FreeBSD with Calamares at some point.)

Calamares Testing

Photo of DesktopMy project for Blue Systems is maintaining Calamares, the distro-independent installer framework. Not surprisingly, working on it means installing lots of Linux distro’s. Here’s my physical-hardware testing setup, which is two identical older HP desktop machines and a stack of physical DVDs. Very old-school. Often I use Virtual Box, but sometimes the hum of a DVD is just what I need to calm down. There’s a KDE Neon, a Manjaro and a Netrunner DVD there, but the machine labeled Ubuntu is running Kannolo and sporting an openSUSE Geeko.

I’m all for eclecticism.

So far, I’ve found one new bug in Calamares, and fixed a handfull of them. I’m thankful to Teo, the previous Calamares maintainer, for providing helpful historical information, and to the downstream users (e.g. the distros) for being cheerful in explaining their needs.

Installing a bunch of different modern Linuxen is kind of neat; the variations in KDE Plasma Desktop configuration and branding are wild. Nearly all of them have trouble being usable on small screen sizes (e.g. the 800×600 that Virtual Box starts with — this has since been fixed). They all seem to install Virtual Box guest additions and can handle resizes immediately, so it’s not a huge issue, but just annoying. I’ve only broken one of my Linux installs so far (running an update, which then crashed kscreenlocker, and now it just comes up a black screen). I’ve got a KDE Neon dev/unstable as my main development VM set up, with KDevelop and the whole shizzle .. it’s very nice inside my KDE 4 desktop on FreeBSD.

I’ve got two favorite features, so far, in Linux live CDs and in KDE Plasma installations: ejecting the live CD on shutdown (Neon does this) and skipping the confirmation screen + 30 second timeout when clicking logout or shutdown (Netrunner does this).

So, time to hunker down with the list of issues, and in the meantime: keep on installin’.