An Open Letter to Foresight Linux

Theoden is a guest blogger writing his first post for Yet Another Linux Blog. The views expressed inside this post are part of his personal experience and opinions regarding Foresight Linux. I’d like to thank him for taking the time to make Linux better with constructive criticism as well as the many bug reports and fixes he contributed to the Foresight Linux community. Click Theoden’s name above for more information on him.

I have decided – after running Foresight for two months – to no longer use Foresight Linux on my systems. Let me say however that I found the experience interesting and dare I say – challenging. Everyone in the IRC channel was great – very friendly – and most tried to be helpful.

I thought it might be helpful and instructive to provide an explanation as to why I am not going to use Foresight any longer, rather than just disappear. Hopefully, in doing so I may contribute to Foresight becoming a better distro that I might want to run in the future. So, here goes ….

Concerns With Foresight Linux

Conary: When you read about conary it all sounds very exciting and innovative with many really good features. However – when you install Foresight and actually use conary – it doesn’t take too long to realize that unless you are a developer or very involved packager – very little of conary’s goodies really touch you or help you (with the exception of rollback).

However – it’s negatives do impact you as a user:

  1. It is very complex and difficult for the average user to understand and use with any effect
  2. It is hard to locate individual packages and make sure you have what you need when things are failing to work right
  3. The idea of ‘group’s puts numerous things together making it somewhat confusing to sort out when a dependency is not met for an app you really need.

Development and QA: To be very honest – the development of this distro ‘seems’ from my perspective to be done as a fun project – almost a ‘toy’ if you will – for the creator and a couple of his ‘close’ friends. Everything seems to be about advancing to the next version of things – the constant cutting edge challenge of adding in the latest or something really new – without ever really QA’ing and stablizing the existing released code. So problems users are having never really get fixed properly. And this leads to the next concern ….

JIRA: This is the issue tracker for Foresight.  By and large – it appears that issues that don’t personally effect the developers are ignored. I personally have an issue in the tracker concerning sound – which has been there for over 30 days and no one has done anything with it. I finally figured out what was causing the break – but it requires the devs to fix the code. But they have not – and ignore the issue because it works fine for them. Many people have complained about sound issues – but the developers are concerned always with developing the latest code for the next cutting edge release instead of stopping to fix the broken code and solve problems. Poor QA – poor response to user problems.

Conclusion: So – Why Use Foresight? Given the above issues that concern me, I must ask the inevitable question – “Why use Foresight then?” And frankly – I can come up with no compelling reason to do so. Outside of cutting edge gnome – it offers me nothing I cannot get elsewhere – in debian or slackware or archlinux, etc. And those distros are more stable – address issues that are legitimate user concerns – work hard to QA their distros – and in general put out a more user friendly product. The truth is – it’s all linux. So what really counts then is product presentation – QA testing – responsiveness to user problems – and stability providing the ability for the users to do actual work with their linux systems without always trying figure out why something doesn’t work. These things all need real work in Foresight Linux.

The result for me then is that I have returned to Debian. I wish only the best for Foresight Linux and it’s developers and users. I hope some of the issues that have led to my decision will be addressed and that one day I might come back and give it another go. I believe there’s a lot here to like and a great deal of talent. Thank you for your patience with me.

Sincerely,

Theoden

This content is published under the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

  • Hazel
    • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/devnet devnet

      Not very helpful Hazel…in fact, it's almost hateful. All of these concerns listed here Theoden brought up with the 2 main developers of Foresight Linux. He realized that his voice alone was lost. He brought his voice here to give it a platform where it might be heard.

      One URL proves that you call people assholes without even knowing them or their situation. Which in turn, makes you a prejudicial hypocrite. So, as I said, not very helpful.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/zodman zodman

    Wow when im start to read that …. i think and reply on irc.

    [00:23] <zodman> eMBee: the openletter hurt :S

    [00:23] <zodman> who write ? im kill you!

    [00:24] * zodman is achmed the terrorist

    But end of reading im feell sad, because i think theoden start to involving to foresight. At the end missed.

    Ok No problem he as free to do all want.

    But im want reply some thinks:

    [quote]

    1. It is very complex and difficult for the average user to understand and use with any effect

    [/quote]

    Yes the new stuff always its dificult because have a curve of learning.. We trying to solve it Using the PackageKit what its Easy AND GUI interface with conary. But its on development.

    [quote]

    2. It is hard to locate individual packages and make sure you have what you need when things are failing to work right

    [/quote]

    Yesssss you have the point. That because im involve to devel Packagekit with conary. The way for search packages as the bad points of foresight and not Theoden note that a lot of reviews of Foresight on blogs/distrowatch/google said that. But this change packageKit now can search on details name categorie and package browsing …. its on qa branch xD and still development.

    [quote]

    3. The idea of ‘group’s puts numerous things together making it somewhat confusing to sort out when a dependency is not met for an app you really need.

    [/quote]

    What group refers ???

    The only group what i need its the group-gnome-dist-devel for install all devel environment.

    [quote]

    QA-DEVEL

    [/quote]

    Yes we love toys … and the fun its extra!!!

    And i think on the next version string because its the philosophy of Foresight used the "last Version"

    We not have LST because the next moth have something can be better…. can be the replacement.

    [quote]

    Poor QA – poor response to user problems.

    [quote]

    Im your shoes, im trying fix my personal sound problem, because its very unusually…. and report how fix it. on Wiki, Forum. JIRA

    Well the conclusion its part fo you think …

    I think you not comes in love with Foresight as me. Im debianita ( debian user ) a lot of time. But when know about how conary packaging im feel loved.

    You not foresighted :( bad but no problem … im try to fix your Negatives Points _ im on IT_

    Zodman

    andres@vampirito.com.mx

    http://vampirito.com.mx

  • pscott

    Thanks for re-posting this where more people are likely to see it. I don't agree with everything but you're entitled to your opinion.

  • Guy

    @ Hazel, your abuse stands in stark contrast to the polite, respectful tone of this article. the minute you resorted to it YOU lost all credibility. This is the kind of behaviour the Linux community does not need.

  • Anonymous

    I am an FL user since the pre-FL1 days, and a packager for a while now. The simplest thing is probably for me to go over your points in order and then talk.

    Conary: Very true. Since conary operates (AFAIK) like no other package manager, it's difficult to get used to even from a linux background, so say nothing of switching from other operating systems. While I think the advantages to users (or at least 'powerusers' – I don't think I can pass for being a regular user) go beyond rollbacks, you're correct in saying that nearly all of its magic is either "under the hood" – i.e. it benefits the user, even if not directly, or is on the packaging/dev end. That said, this may be my longest standing gripes about FL – while I really love conary (in fact, I find myself accidentally trying to use conary commands on my ubuntu box and being rather disappointed when I can't), there remains no good way for average users to manage a system, and even I still do searches via rbuilder (rpath's online package browser for conary repos). As of writing, this problem is on its way to remedy with PackageKit – a graphical front end. It's not on par with synaptic yet, but it's improving very quickly and I see a good future for it. Fortunately since pk is also a cli application, the difficulty with using the conary command line may also be mitigated.

    Dev to QA: I can't really argue with the fact that occasionally things break (at the most inopportune times of course). Although its been toned down or phased out now, FL used to be mildly vocal about the fact that it was intended to be a cutting edge distro. I think that the spirit is still very much present. Since I am on the QA branch anyway, I have accepted stability as the unintended casualty, although to be sure, the main branch ought not to break with any relative regularity. That's what QA is for.

    JIRA: This is more or less true – I have had problems remain unfixed for quite a while in the past. Sound has been a little weird ever since pulseaudio was introduced (although I don't think any distro escaped that). However, I wouldn't ascribe it to malice. FL is still a small distro, with comparatively few active developers (don't quote me, but I seem to remember the number ~30 from somewhere). Distros like Ubuntu, which have hundreds of active developers (OK, I didn't look, but I'm pretty sure of it) have considerably more resources to draw on for issue resolution. Ironically Ubuntu still fails to get some things fixed.

    So really, I think that pretty much all of what you've said is true, though there are mitigating circumstances as I've stated above. While I'm not a developer, and I can't speak for them, I think you've phrased it quite politely and helpfully; I hope that this has some effect as constructive criticism.
    I have been for a while of the opinion that FL is a distro for unix power users – they can really appreciate the features of conary, and either can live with instability or fix it themselves. That said, FL has a lot of promise for regular users – it's just not there yet.

  • http://vinci.wordpress.com/ Thilo Pfennig

    I have been a Foresight developer (I think till end of 2007) too and have stopped contributing for similar reasons. my main issues were bugs about cameras and scanners that were not solved. What i was missing was that some developers stuck there heards together and fix hardware issues. The real major problems started when all work was going into the new Foresight 2.x and some developers only worked on that. Foresight has disapointed me and others in many ways. After I had posted some rants I heard that they thought that my comments were harmful for their marketing. But what I really think is that the most harmful thing you can do is not to care about the users and dont fix some ugly bugs. I have often fixed such bugs alone, although I am no software engineer and had no prior experience with packaging. The thing is that really this is not that awful lot of work to fix if this would be the development focus. But as you also experienced updates are constantly coming in. Some developers update essential parts of the core Linux and then some software needs to be rebuild so that people will be able to install and use it again, but that often was not happening.

    From a packagers perspective Conary is a great tool – I have not been able to build my own packages on RPM and DEB based distributions – only other distro were I found it also similary easy is OpenBSD. But Conary does offer some more help for packagers. I still think that it is possible to build a real nice distro with Conary and I still would be willing to do so – but this would need to start from scratch and with a clear focus on the users. I also would go more in OpenBSDs directions in the sense that fewer software should be installed by default. This is what you need to do if you have few developers. On Foresight we tried to keep up with other big distros with hundreds and thousands of packagers. But although Conary makes live easier this is an impossible task.

    I would consider a stable GNOME distro every 2 years a manageable task. The focus should be to get as much to be working as possible. I also think providing a longer term support is necessary. General users do not want to update that often – and if they do they expect their hardware still to work. For that it would be good to have a nice BETA live CD out for some months to allow people to give feedback – or to make shotgun tests for hardware functionality based on chipsets etc. . Then some software portions need to work. A constantly crashing browser is not acceptable, people need to be able to play videos etc… This all is doable if a development teams wants to do it. But this is not compatible with "always the latest and greatest" attitude. I am sure people will honor a Linux distro that is stable and accomplishes what it strives to be. So if people install it, it meets their expectations. Thats the whole point. if you JUMP better make sure you jump high enough – else you fail. this can always happen – but then its important to reorganize and learn from the mistakes. Foresight for me is like people always trying to jump higher as they can – it sure sounds good but there is no final success. We are not the only ones who have left the project for the same very reasons – and the more people go the hard it is to accomplish the goals. I fear one day we will get the message that Foresight ceased to exist. And that would be no good outcome – but if it happens the causes are clear.

  • Marilynkart

    I am very impressed with your candor.  I am new to linux but nevertheless am often intrigue by
    distros that sail along apparently oblivious to their failings.  Ir regardless , it is almost fun to
    see if what happened to someone else can be avoided in your case.