Issues with Calamares installer in 20.0.1 KDE ISO, or: "Rant: This drives me insane"

Initially I wanted to post this in the Support section, but I'm so frustrated that I couldn't stop this becoming a rant - also in the end I did succeed installing Manjaro using Calamares even though it was a major headache.

Introduction to this whole story

After having had Manjaro KDE as my daily driver for about 3 years now and absolutely loving it I decided to have another look at a fresh install of the same edition to see what has changed with the default setup after all these years.

I've read that Architect is somewhat broken now so I went straight to the Calamares installer but honestly, it's driving me insane. There are so many little things wrong with it... or is it that I'm just too stupid for these easy-to-use graphical tools nowadays?

I'll give you some info about my setup so you know what I'm working with:

  • I have 1 LVM VG spanning 3 PVs with several different distros installed, each on their own LV.
  • I have a separate boot partition that I mount into my main-system for update-grub, here I create hand-crafted boot entries to chainload into any of the other systems.
  • The other systems all have their own /boot directory on their filesystem root right inside the LV to keep them self-contained.
  • GRUB is installed on the device of one of these PVs.
  • In addition to that, there are two NTFS formatted HDDs because Windows dualboot. One of these disks contains the Windows bootloader and system, the other just a bunch of files.

The goal

What I want to do now is simple: install Manjaro onto an LV which I created for it in advance.

That's the start of the issues...

Waiting for the installer to start

To begin with, right when starting the installer the "waiting for modules" step takes over 5 minutes to run ntfsresize --info on my two Windows HDDs (one of which is extremely slow) before I can do anything. Like, could you not? No I don't want to resize any of my NTFS filesystems! Just leave 'em alone and stop! I already have an LVM partition right there ready for you if you'd let me get to the manual partitioning option...

But ok, waited it out, fine. Chose my language, timezone etc, all good. Finally, there's the partitioning section and I select 'manual partitioning'. Here's where the fun begins...

I can't install Manjaro onto an existing LV...?

So as I said, I created a reasonably sized 20 GiB LV with my desired LV parameters in advance, before starting the installer. This is where I want the new system to go.

Here is what I'm looking at

image

Click 'Edit', select filesystem type and mount point; standard procedure.

image

After clicking 'next' and configuring my user info I got a bit confused by the list of pending disk changes I was shown:
image

"Delete partition"? "Create new partition"? Why delete and recreate it? Can't you just format it and install the system into the existing LV?
Right whatever, if you so desire then go ahead, I can fix the LV parameters later.

Clicked install, confirmed the changes and finally the installation is commencing! yay!

– oh, wait... an error message, what's that all about now?
image
Well I call it an error message but this popup does not deserve to be called an 'error message' because actually it doesn't even tell you anything about the error.

At least it tells you the command that errored out, and I can already see what went wrong here. The argument to --name is missing for the lvcreate call. (My LV had a name but it wasn't good enough for you, eh? Had to delete it and now you're lost for the name of it. Smh.)

I click close and the entire installer disappears. Oof, back to square one. Restart calamares and wait for the damn disk scanning to finish. Again.

Why do I HAVE TO install a boot loader?!

Another thing that pissed me off with this partitioning setup is that there is no option to not install a bootloader. I don't need to because I already have one that I'd really rather not overwrite!
Hm, idea: If there's no grub-install it won't be able to install the bootloader. Smart eh? sudo rm $(which grub-install) and hoping this will do the trick. But just in case it doesn't, to be sure I selected a hard drive with which I won't care if the bootsector gets overwritten. Good thing I have five :smirk:

Creating a "partition" doesn't work well with LVM

After waiting for Calamares to start back up and configuring all the other thing I find myself back in the manual partitioning view.

The LV which I had created for this new install is now gone, because the installer actually deleted it in the previous run (and that's all it ever did in said run).
So I decide to try a different way and let the installer create a new LV to begin with.
I select the 'empty space' at the bottom of the list of LVs and click 'Create'.

The 'Create a Partition' popup opens as expected - but that's about the only thing it does to meet expectations.

I think it's best to just show you what I mean before explaining it

calamares-create-lv

I want the new LV to be 20 GiB in size, so I enter the corresponding number of MiBs into the input box and click away to confirm my input - but I go entirely ignored by the program. It wants this partition to be precisely 17 GiB in size and I can't do anything to change its mind.
And before you ask: yes there was enough free space left in this VG:
Screenshot_20200515_140302
Also I'm not really sure what the "Partition Type: GPT" is all about here? I'm trying to create an LV inside a VG, there's no such thing as a partition type for that afaik? And the devices of the underlying PVs are msdos, not GPT. But whatever, it's just a label. I ignore it.

At last: success!

I submitted to the installer's wish to have my partition be 17 GiB and after entering a name for the new LV and settings up mount points, the rest of the installation actually went through without another hitch!

I know that my system and needs are perhaps a bit uncommon or specialised so I do understand that I might run into some corner-cases, but many of these things have (at least partially) been a problem in older versions of calamares or are straight up blatantly obvious bugs. I've never been a huge fan of graphical installers and that remains to be the case with Manjaro 20.
At this point I want to thank any of you madlads who read this whole thing for your time and interest and hope it was at least a bit entertaining :slight_smile:

I'm aware Calamares is not Manjaro-specific and thus not your sole responsibility, but because it's been its graphical installer for years (for ever?) I'd guess you're somewhat in contact with (or overlap with) its developers. I'm not sure how many of the issues I mentioned here are already known or worth addressing, but I'd be willing to file individual bug reports for each, if needed.

Screenshot_20200515_142950

1 Like

If you want a highly customized install like that, you are probably better off using Architect, that is what it is for.

There was a temporary break in Architect but the instructions for dealing with that are posted in the topics reporting the issue.

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Yup, architect would normally also be my preferred way of installing. And after trying the graphical installer again now I know why that is :sweat_smile:

This scenario does not fit the needs of most Manjaro users. It's an edge-case, and I doubt you'd find any graphical installer to fit your particular needs.

It is not deserving of a rant.

2 Likes

Yup I admit it really is an edge-case, but that implies that it is a case. :stuck_out_tongue: But yeah, mainly I just wanted to vent my frustration about it.

And I have to respectfully disagree with your last statement - everything can be deserving of a rant if I feel like investing the time to write one.
My scenario might however not be deserving of bug reports to demand fixing these issues, which is why this is a rant and not a bug report :slight_smile:

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I don't typically agree with @c00ter but in this case he is 100% right in that you were ranting about a nonissue. The main reason for Manjaro's GUI installer is to make installing Manjaro as easy as possible for the average user, as stated above Architect is designed for the more complicated setups like yours.

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True, you can probably expect the GUI installer to be 'unsuited' for advanced users, but I didn't expect it to drive me nuts the way it did.

Also to be fair, installing a linux distro on LVM and alongside Windows isn't that special now is it? At least not uncommon.
The only actually special thing I see here is wanting an option to install no bootloader (which, granted, probably shouldn't be in a GUI installer in the first place). But other than that?

Whatever, I'm ranting again. Just needed to vent and I shall keep my hands off easy-to-use interfaces in the future :wink:

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