SDB:Using YaST2 in Text Mode
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After having to stop the development of YaST1 due to several reasons, YaST1 has been replaced by the text-based version of YaST2. Up to SuSE Linux 7.3, i.e. as YaST1 still existed, hardly anybody used YaST2-ncurses even though it was included in the distribution. Now, many users who were already used to YaST1 are slightly upset because YaST2-ncurses has a different look&feel and because YaST1's short keys no longer work. This article is particularly aimed at system administrators and professionals who administer computers without an X server, thus depending on a text-based installation tool.
Many wonder why like this and why at all...
First question: Why was YaST1 suppressed?
The reasons for YaST1's elimination are mainly commercial. The program code of YaST1 differs completely from that of YaST2 and, in addition, the concurrent maintenance and further development of two rather complex programs demanded too many company resources.
Second question: Why is the operation of YaST2 so different from that of YaST1?
This is due to several reasons. A summary of the complex cause and effect chain follows:
- YaST2 had to be usable in both graphical and text mode, and also be scalable on other interfaces.
- The dialogs had to be identical in the graphical and in the text mode (for a better recognition).
- The programming effort had to be kept within reasonable limits for economic reasons. Therefore, there should no longer be two independent tools with different codes but two modes based on the same code and containing the same text. This would substantially reduce not only the programming expenses but also the test efforts.
These conditions dictated the following necessities:
- The interface was programmed in a sort of intermediate language or "meta language".
- This language was subsequently converted to Qt (KDE) and ncurses (Text). (Further conversions e.g. to Gnome or web-based are feasible but have not been made so far.)
The following problems arose from the above mentioned necessities and prerequisites:
- The optimum use of a graphical and a text interface from an ergonomical point of view is very different.
- Key strikes are displayed differently depending on the terminals. For example, SHIFT+TAB often reacts like TAB only.
- On ncurses, shortcuts with ALT+KEY XY react like ESC+ KEY XY. Therefore, ESC cannot be used by itself but must be followed by another character.
- If an X server is running on your system and YaST2 is started in the text mode under an X window manager, it is likely that the ALT shortcuts have already been assigned in the window manager configuration. If this is case, the shortcuts will not work.
We are doing our best to provide a solution for these ergonomic issues in the next distribution.
The use of YaST2 in text mode may seem unusual, but is in fact very easy. The whole program can be run by means of the keys TAB, ALT+TAB, space bar, arrow key, RETURN, and with shortcuts. When you start YaST2 in text mode, the main window is displayed.
The main window is divided into three areas: the left column contains a list of the categories to which the different modules have been assigned. On the right, in a white frame, the modules corresponding to a particular category (selected with an x) are displayed. In the lower part of the screen, you can find the buttons to quit or launch the module marked in the right frame.
Immediately after the start, the cursor is on the highest field ("All") or this field is highlighted (usually in green). In this example, "Software" has been selected (see the "x" in brackets.) Use TAB to scroll through the items on the left column. The highlighted category is activated by hitting the space bar. Then, the modules corresponding to that category are displayed in the frame on the right.
Press TAB until the thin white frame on the right is highlighted. Alternatively, you may go back with the key combination ALT+TAB. Now you have left the category area and you are in the right window, where you can select the module you want to launch. Use the arrow keys to scroll through the modules. Once the selected module is highlighted in green, exit the module frame with TAB and you will reach "Quit", where you can exit YaST. Another stroke on the TAB key leads you to the button "Launch". By pressing "Return", the selected module is launched. Several buttons or select fields contain letters in a different color (yellow as default). With ALT+"yellowletter", the button can be directly selected, thus avoiding long-winded TAB navigation.
Problems in connection with key combinations
If an X server is running on your system and there are already system-wide ALT key combinations, the ALT combinations in YaST2 may not work. To get back, you can use the combination Ctrl+B instead of ALT+TAB (if this combination is not already reserved). The use of shortcuts for the buttons with yellow letters may not work either. You can browse with TAB and Ctrl+B only. However, the ALT key combinations should always work in text-only consoles.
The use of single modules is similar to that of the main window. You can scroll through buttons and/or frames with TAB and ALT+TAB (or Ctrl+B). Use the arrow keys to move through an activated frame. The buttons with an empty square bracket or the packages to be installed can be selected with the space bar. The buttons in the lower part of the screen are always selected with Return if already highlighted in green or directly with the key combination ALT+"yellowkey".
Activating single modules
In order to save time, all YaST modules can also be started individually with the command
For example, the network module can be started with
To display a list of all the available module names on your system, execute the command
YaST Online Update
YaST Online Update (YOU) can be started and controlled from a console, too. For instructions, please refer to the manual Basics of SuSE Linux 8.0, pages 98-100. The administrator may use it to easily set a weekly cronjob so that the system is always up-to-date via YOU.
The cronjob for YOU
Since not everybody who wants/must use YOU knows how to set cronjobs, we include a brief description. Although there are basically two possibilities to set a cronjob, we only describe the easiest option. Please proceed as follows:
- Login as root
- Start the crontab editor with crontab -e
- Enter i for the insert mode in the started vi
- Insert the lines:
MAILTO="" 13 3 * * 0 /sbin/yast2 online_update .auto.get 53 3 * * 0 /sbin/yast2 online_update .auto.install
The first 5 figures of the two lower lines are read from left to right and stand for:
13=Minutes, 3=hours, *=Day of the month, unimportant, *=Month of the year, unimportant, 0=Sunday
In this example, the cronjob is started by the first entry Sundays at 3.13 a.m. The second entry starts it 40 minutes later, at 3.53.
The line MAILTO="" prevents root from receiving the output of YaST2-ncurses per e-mail. This can also be be omitted. ATTENTION: Before setting up a cronjob, download via YOU and install the latest update patch of the YOU package, where a significant bug affecting the operation of the command line has already been fixed. Enter the time you favor for the cronjobs, not necessarily the time of the example above. Otherwise, the ftp server will be overloaded at that time or the max. number of allowed simultaneous accesses will be exceeded.
- Save the cronjob by consecutively pressing
Esc :wq or with Esc ZZ
Ready: the cron daemon is automatically restarted and the cronjob has been added to the file /var/spool/cron/tabs/root. <keyword>yast,ncurses,console,text,cron,cronjob</keyword>