Grub2 Usability

Posted in Critique, Free and Open Source Software, Ubuntu on January 9th, 2010 by doctormo

Directhex has been playing with Grub Themes, the screen that first shows up when your computer is switched on. I want to thank Jo for having a go at this, his designs don’t look nearly as bad as the comments to his blog indicate, although the big difference between the screenshot in Jo’s blog and the previous entry that showed a grub menu is that the fancy one wasn’t real and working, where as this one is.

It would also be really great if directhex adds his design to deviantArt, so I could add it to the new Ubuntu Artists group as a good example of design UI.

It’s certainly an area that needs help, although what I notice isn’t so much that the visuals are ugly (they are, generally) but to me more importantly it’s that the text is confusing and unhelpful. An example:

  • Ubuntu, with Linux 2.6.31-17-generic
  • Ubuntu, with Linux 2.6.31-17-generic (Recovery Mode)
  • Ubuntu, with Linux 2.6.31-16-generic
  • Ubuntu, with Linux 2.6.31-16-generic (Recovery Mode)
  • Ubuntu, with Linux 2.6.31-13-generic
  • Ubuntu, with Linux 2.6.31-13-generic (Recovery Mode)
  • Windows NT
  • Windows XP

This text is some of the easiest to change, we don’t need to recode grub or change anything, it can be back ported to grub1. What we need to do is clear up this text. What are all these numbers? what is Linux? why is there a Windows NT and Windows XP? I think what it should say is this:

  • Ubuntu 9.10 (v17)
  • Ubuntu 9.10 Recovery Mode
  • Ubuntu 9.10 Before Last Update (v16)
  • Windows XP
  • Windows Recovery Disk (DANGEROUS!)

Or something similar. It would take a bit of detection for the windows stuff (I’ve had people trip up on the whole windows nt thing and wipe out their computer) But the Ubuntu labels should be clear about what they mean. For instance, why are we giving the entire kernel version by default? Linux 2.6, it’s ALWAYS going to be 2.6, why bother printing it. .31, well that’s the kernel shipped with Ubuntu 9.10, no point in printing that. Perhaps the details can be printed at the bottom for the geeks, but the labels should be clear.

Perhaps we can have an option or some sort of added text that automatically gets compiled into your grub options when you have more than one linux distro installed or some set thing you can set called “I like to think I’m 1337er haxor grub user”

Tags: , , , , , , ,