Can the tick boxes be brought back in Grub Customizer

Asked by Leo H on 2012-11-29

For multi-boot systems, we use the Grub Customizer GUI application to:

(1) Select and deselect which items will be shown in the Grub2 boot-up choice menu.
(2) Change the order in which these items are presented in this menu.
(3) Assign distinctive and clearly identifiable names to the boot menu items shown*.
(4) Set the number of seconds the Grub2 boot menu is shown.

* For example, on multiple installations of xubuntu, Grub2 will confusingly present a choice between ubuntu 12.10 (12.10) and ubuntu 12.10 (12.10).

In earlier versions of Grub Customizer, the user was offered simple check-boxes to tick and untick. Recently this has been changed to a Grub Customizer screen which lists many extra items, including what appear to be Grub2 scripts. This is by no means self-explanatory. And the effect of making any changes now becomes something of an uncertain leap in the dark underworld of Grub2.

To interpret and understand the new Grub Customizer screen requires an understanding of Grub2 and its inner workings. The new presentation will surely be useful for some.

But it defeats the purpose of having a graphical boot-loader settings manager which allows the non-power user transparently and confidently to customize the start-up screen without learning the finesse of the inner workings of Grub2.

Can the simple interface with the tick boxes please be brought back. It does not need to replace the new screen. It can be an addition in the form of an extra tab panel for less advanced users and use.

Question information

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Grub Customizer Edit question
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Last query:
2013-01-10
Last reply:
2013-01-28
Leo H (leo-h-hildebrandt) said : #1

As a temporary workaround, can the final stable release in the 2.5 series (that is, Grub Customizer 2.5.7) please be made available again through the Grub Customizer Launchpad PPA*? All it would need is a distinctive package name in the PPA.

Users can then choose whether to install the self-explanatory tick-box version (series 2.5) or the more advanced version (series 3).

* Note: The PPA enables installing and uninstalling using Synaptic. Individual deb downloads clash with the repo philosophy of the major distributions aimed at desktop end users. And a requirement to compile from source code does not exactly sit comfortably with GUI use by desktop end users (for many it is also simply a bridge too far). Non-repo debs and self-compiled applications are also difficult to uninstall cleanly.

I don't fully understand your problem... The extra items already existed in 2.5.x. The difference in 3.x is, that menuentries are highlighted while extra items are not. So it's easier to understand which are important.

Is it so hard to use the remove button instead of checkboxes?

However the version 3.1 has options to get the checkboxes back. But I want to add some more features before releasing it. A rollback to 2.5 is not without problems as there are some format changes in 3.0 which are not backwards compatible. So I think a 2.5 ppa produces to much problems.

Leo H (leo-h-hildebrandt) said : #3

Hi Daniel, thanks for your reply — and of course for Grub Customizer.

The motivation for this question is that we don't have any experts in Grub here. So, if we are asked about the scripts which are now also listed in the Grub Customizer main panel, it is not clear if those (and precisely which ones) too must be moved to the dustbin if a menu entry resulting from the scripts (usually earlier kernels) itself is removed. A similar issue arises when the menu entries are reordered: Must the scripts also be reordered, and if so, which ones. And someone without a thorough knowledge of Grub really shouldn't alter the contents of the default scripts themselves.

Another (but quite separate) dustbin issue is that restoring entries from the dustbin can make Grub Customizer crash unexpectedly. In order to help here, I have submitted two crash reports on this through the standard xubuntu 12.10 crash reporting interface (apport). But I'm actually not entirely sure that those will have reached you: Because Grub Customizer is not yet in the official Ubuntu repos, quite possibly the crash reports are simply dismissed. Such crashes are difficult to reproduce, however, as playing too much with Grub Customizer can produce many spurious menu entries and rather ruin the Grub start-up process.

In short, for most day-to-day users of xubuntu on multi-boot systems, ticking and unticking boxes of (un)desired Grub menu entries, changing menu entry names to distinct and more meaningful ones, maybe changing their order, and setting the default OS and the Grub menu display time, will be about all they will ever need. Click Save the changes to the Grub menu configuration file, and done they are (until the next kernel update in the (x)ubuntu repo) — with confidence.

Leo

Albert Wagner (albertwagner) said : #4

Daniel, you ask? "Is it so hard to use the remove button instead of checkboxes?" I would say "no", but how to I get what's removed back, and worse, how do I know what I want back? The difficulty isn't in the removal mechanism.

ok, so the problem is, that you don't see the removed entries? One reason to hide the removed entries was to make a clear view - wysiwyg principle.

However I know the "trash" is not a good think for that. The checkboxes also isn't the final solution - the new feature of 3.x allowing you moving entries to any target internally produces some more hidden entries. I think this would be too confusing. Also I don't want to remove the icons as they help determing the type of an entry. What about a splitted view: "active entries" to the left and "disabled entries" to the right having buttons between to move them to each side?

About the other problem, Leo said "if we are asked about the scripts which are now also listed in the Grub Customizer main panel". The script-code stuff existed in some older versions as well as the other entry placeholders. I know it's a problem for much users. However it's not easy to solve this. Grub 2 produces theese stuff and it must be handeled in some way - and it's hard to handle this stuff automatically. I'll change this when there's time for doing that.

Leo H (leo-h-hildebrandt) said : #6

Hi Daniel

In response to #5, there are broadly two types of system user. There is the large majority of users who cannot handle PCs and laptops except through a GUI. And we have the dedicated technical users adept at the command line interface. The latter can probably delve into the deeper inner workings of Grub2, and do their settings that way; they don't really need a GUI tool such as Grub Customizer. But GUI users only have Grub Customizer, because the Grub developers don't seem to be bothered with the majority of people who simply use a PC or laptop, rather than engineer it. So I would guess that the focus of Grub Customizer should be on where the need for such a helpful tool is most keenly felt.

Maybe this also helps in giving direction to your efforts:

When we install xubuntu on new laptops -- which almost universally come with MS Windows pre-installed -- we leave MS Windows intact, and install xubuntu on separate partitions. Because we have no Grub2 experts, we chainload to xubuntu from the Windows bootloader. In our experience (we of course don't have any MS Windows bootloader experts either), the quickest and most fail-safe way of setting this up is using EasyBCD in Windows. Once set up, it requires no further attention, and users can use and update their xubuntu without ever needing their MS Windows installation, blissfully unaware even that it is still there. But for older systems without a functioning MS Windows installation, EasyBCD is of course not an option. And it is there that Grub Customizer is in particular indispensable.

EasyBCD does exactly what is needed (see my first post, above), and not a lot more. (It does not, for instance, allow for fancy extra things such as multicoloured all singing and dancing boot menus, and the like.) Maybe EasyBCD gives you an idea / useful clues about the way in which you might develop Grub Customizer. EasyBCD is developed by NeoSmart Technologies (Mahmoud H Al-Qudsi), and their web site is http://neosmart.net . If you can lay your hands on an MS Windows machine, you can run it yourself. Alternatively, the NeoSmart web site provides a lot of details and useful screenshots.

Hope this helps, Leo

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #7

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

Leo H (leo-h-hildebrandt) said : #8

Hi Daniel, any progress on this? Happy to help thinking about what might be the best user interface for Grub Customizer. Leo

I don't know how I can help you…

The extra items "(new entries)" and "(script code)" cannot simply be removed. Both are (implicitly) part grub 2. I could hide them but this can only be an option because users are losing control when doing this (so - yes I could do it, but it will take some time). Especially the "(new entries)" - where should it put operating systems which have been installed afterwards? It's the design of grub2 to find operating systems automatically instead of adding them while installing a new operating system (and this is a good idea because the windows installer cannot add its operating system to grub2).

Easybcd just handles the static boot entries of the windows boot loader. Grub Customizer has to handle a dynamic boot menu.

Leo H (leo-h-hildebrandt) said : #10

Hi Daniel, let me explain:

If a user of a multi-boot computer with Grub 2, Linux and MS Windows understands the meaning of such tech terms as, for example, boot-loader, MBR, script, kernel, command line, sda, or root, then they do not need a GUI such as Grub Customizer to organize their boot process. All they need is a cli and a text editor. Many Linux aficionados fall in this category, and they are well catered for with plenty of detailed technical documentation covering Grub.

However the majority of computer users are not Linux techies. Think of professional environments such as countless many SME's, schools, colleges, local governments, smaller NGO's, and other organizations where dedicated technical computer expertise is limited. And this category of course also comprises the vast majority of routine home users. To all those computer users those technical terms mean absolutely nothing. For them, the pertinent documentation is incomprehensible or even plain hostile. And they just want to get on with their work, using a computer in the routine way they use their phone or car. For them – if they keep their pre-installed and paid-for MS Windows next to a Linux installation, and with the regular kernel updates – Grub soon turns the start-up menu screen into an incomprehensible array of "choices". Only with a clear, simple and self-explanatory GUI application can they regain control. This is where Grub Customizer most usefully comes in, to fill the horrible usability void left by the Grub developers.

All this GUI Grub menu management application needs to do is:

  (1) enable the selection of the items to appear in the start-up menu (normally only the most recent stable kernel will do for Linux);
  (2) assign distinct and truly meaningful names to these menu items (preferably, the GUI application should do this automatically; the default identifiers presented by Grub are overly technical and often simply identical);
  (3) optionally enable the reordering of the menu items;
  (4) enable the setting the default OS;
  (5) enable setting the menu time-out (seconds) counter.

Selecting menu typefaces, choosing dynamic splash screens, playing welcome tunes, and so on, are perhaps nice, but they are all non-essential fancy extras compared with the above five. And for the rest, all Grub engineering can (and should) happily be kept under the hood, as a black box.

Currently, Grub Customizer seems to try to cater for all parties, rather than for those for whom a GUI application such as Grub Customizer is truly essential for managing a smooth system start-up. However, for the latter, that is for the non-technical routine computer user, the presentation in the Grub Customizer interface itself, too, has become technical again, mirroring Grub internals instead of abstracting from them.

As things stand, Grub Customizer runs the risk to serve few: techies don't need it, and non-techies don't understand it.

The first choice screen a user sees on computer start-up is the Grub menu, and if even this is already confusing and not clear, then, like it or not, experience shows the second category of computer users quickly abandon Linux in droves and return to the familiar comfort of MS Windows. Think, by way of example, of the experience with the netbook class of systems, where Linux made a very promising start, but in the end failed completely: Even the so-called user-friendly distributions simply lacked sufficient user focus (as opposed to computer engineering focus) and they were rapidly ousted from the netbook segment helped by the rebirth of the "trusted" MS Windows XP.

Hope this explanation helps. Sorry for the length of the post, but apparently my motivation for raising the matter was not sufficiently clear.

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #11

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

I'll hide the placeholders in version 4.0 by default. Users which need more control (where and whether new entries show be added) can simply activate this by toggling a checkbox on the menu (maybe toolbar too).

Also the checkboxes can be brought back. I'll add some further options to archive this. However the current style will stay default as I think it's more user friendly (at least when moving menuentries) and more clear. I'll also change the trash view so that it's clear that removed entries aren't really deleted.

Some changes are already committed to the 4.0 branch.

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