I declare Foresight Linux as dead

I am not any Foresight Linux Official, but I asked if Foresight Linux is dead in December 2009. Og Maciel answered publicly to my blog post and said:

So to answer the original question posted by Thilo, “is Foresight Linux dead?” I can gladly say “Far from it!” I predict that the Foresight community will rally together in 2010 to get back to being the most GNOMEic and bleeding edge distribution out there!

More then six months after his post, there is still no new release. And as I tried to look where Foresight is ranking now, I found out that it is not listed by DistroWatch any more.

And I think it is fair, with all respect to those who invested a lot of time and energy to foresight Linux, that Foresight Linux can be declared dead.  The main reason for this is the wrong marketing in a broader sense. Because the product never fitted the message. Foresight Linux had many options to which path it could go, but it chose to try to do it all – being the “just works” distro and also being the “bleeding edge” distro. So in fact it became the “bleeds while its running” distro. In my opinion in a distro you habe to make tuff choices. You can not have it all. You can not do it all. If you try you will lose all possible users and end up destroying the software project.

Besides the Foresight problems I have also experiences a lot of problems with rPath – the core of Foresight, because it continuously had only old versions of Python per default and no mod-wsgi for Apache and many other problems. There where mich more efforts to gain more customers, than to fix those problems.

But if you, like me, have based your whole server on bleeding edge Python software like MoinMoin wiki and server technology, rPath is just not good enough. MoinMoin needs very modern Python and loves to work with mod-wsgi.  it is not the question of you can fix those stuff by yourself. Thats what you can do on EVERY distro. Its more the question of those base stuff is something you wont have to worry about. But on rPath, you have. And that is just not acceptable for me any more.

It is said to see all this, but I have foreseen this years ago. Everybody who had eyes could see it. It was not impossible to make very good distros out of rPath and Foresight, but  if the managers do make bad choices continuously, then there will soon be no choices. I guess rPath is not yet at the end. Maybe Red Hat will buy the company and technology or some other software company?


Filed under Free Software, GNOME, Linux, Technology

New GnuCash now with database backend

In the latest announcement of GnuCash 2.3.13 (Unstable) some major changes in the 2.3.x release are mentioned:

  • * In addition to the XML backend, Gnucash can now use a SQLite3, MySQL or PostgreSQL database to store the data. This is a new implementation using libdbi. It supports all features including the business features. In order to build with this, add --enable-dbi to the configure command. In addition to the libdbi-dev package for your distribution, you will also need the appropriate DBD (libdbi driver) package for sqlite3, mysql or postgresql.

I just wanted to highlight this new feature as this could be interesting.

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OpenBSD smtpd & Mailman configuration?

Anybody has a hint where to look for configuration help for the new smtpd standard SMTP daemon together with the Mailman. There is lots of stuff out there for Postfix etc. but I would love to use OpenBSDs own SMTPD rather.

Feel free to comment and link. I like to summarize the results. I suppose there are some more people looking for the exact same help.

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Fedora has been making a Licensing switch

After I got a note on my blog in a comment, that Fedora actually has left the OPL and changed the CLA. I have looked into the topic again, after I left Fedora 2006 because they chose OPL (as one reason) and after I repeated my critique in April 2009 in “Fedora: Open up your documentation!

Four years into the future and things seem to have changed. This sentence says it all:

To be honest, this change is probably a bit overdue. Most of the time, though, you can’t push the river, it has to flow as fast as it can in the direction it wants.

Also the change of the ICLA t a newly FPCA (Fedora Project Contributor Agreement). Another quote from the change FAQ:

Q. Why change the Fedora ICLA?
A. The current Fedora ICLA wasn’t really well structured for the needs of Fedora. It was composed of a lot of legal boilerplate, and was written before Fedora had really taken shape. In fact, the only reason that we’ve been able to leverage it for as long as we have is because of some creative interpretation on the part of Fedora Legal. Also, there were many people who could not agree to the Fedora ICLA for a variety of reasons, and we hope that the FPCA will resolve most (if not all) of those concerns.

That is true.

Ok, after all this years Fedora did what I requested. I publicly acknowledge that. So currently i do not have any legal doubts when it comes to Fedora contribution.

Would Fedora now be a viable choice for me? Well most major distributions suffer from a strange illness which is tat they constantly move forward into new technological grounds, same is true for desktops like KDE and GNOME. But Fedora especially did meet those demands.  I think that partly this is because Fedora was invented as a testbed for future Red Hat versions. Another motivation sure is that new stuff excites contributors more than old stuff.

But right now I am frustrated and sticking with Ubuntu. I hate what they do with the GUI (FUSA, button switches) every now and then. Especially as somebody who people ask what distributions the should use. Ubuntu is a compromise. Part of why I recommend it is because its popular – and that makes argumentation easier. It’s not all Ubuntus fault. GNOME does a lot of changes but some change just are not going to happen. But KDE is still worse in many aspects.

Fedora is not that much different and better than Ubuntu. And it actually does not have any larger user base in Germany. I would estimate the relation of Ubuntu:Fedora here to 1:12 or so.  Fedora here totally has lost the popularity contest. It also stated it never wanted to win this as far as I remember. I have not used it for a while. So I can not judge on how stable or well crafted it is right now. At the pint where I left Fedora it had been technically ahead of all other Distros.

What I see is that it seems the users have got more grip on the directions of Fedora and that’s a healthy development.

What is the future of Linux and Linux distributions? I do not see much innovation that excites me. Most of the interesting stuff is happening inside he applications. And it seems the more they are independent from a major desktop the larger the user base is. Thats not the whole point of development for sure. I can also understand the OpenBSD approach and like it very much. But OpenBSD in effect does what its users want – or many of its users are also core developers or at least have the same interests.

In Linux distributions it seems there are two kinds of distributions:

  1. Those who are supported by larger companies and that exist as a door opener for services and other products (Ubuntu, Fedora,…)
  2. Distributions who are driven by the community and the excitement about software  (Debian, Arch Linux)

Although Ubuntu has claimed as being a Linux for “human beings” it has not proven to be easy to install and use. Especially those major changes in GUI design that Mark seems to have forced personally (?) have been fatal. And I would switch tomorrow. The obvious commercialisation an weaknesses on free software usage has also been mentioned by many users as being a reason to consider switching or for having switched already. Many have already switched. Many have switched to Grandma Debian. And for good reasons. But Debian has been very slow and unpredictable in its development phases in the past.

On April 29th a new Long Term Support Ubuntu has been released. I have not been too excited about it for the above reasons. Ubuntu is destroying most of its reputation and popularity right now. It still has a lot of momentum, but that is only because all other distros still do worse.

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Sick of GNOME community attitudes

Just one day after I have written a blog entry about the failures of the GNOME website. One issue was the lack of a customized 404 page. My guess is, that http://www.gnome.org never had this kind of page configured. So this means this issue existed long before I filed the bug. So this is a bug from 1998 maybe. This means 11 years and nobody cared. People often commented that all problems will be solved with the new CMS. But that did not come the one year and the other year. The last comments I got after somebody added yet another comment of that sort to this bug, which i did not find any constructive have been outrageous:

Andre Klapper questioned the constructiveness of my comment in which I critcized, that Lucas Rocha tried to (again) deny the importance of the bug because it would be solved anyways by the new CMS. Well yes, the new CMS will change everything  -but there has been a patch for two years  not fixing the issue 1998 has not been tolerable, not after I filed the bug, not after I submitted a patch and not 2 years after. Andre Klapper wrote:

Okay, to rephrase it: Please don’t add comments that do not add any additional value to bug reposts and are offtopic. At least Lucas and others ARE working on it instead of just talking about it.Thanks: your friendly bugmaster.

Anybody who has tried to help with GNOME knows that helping is not easy. I think I had given up trying to get more administrative access after my request was not answered 9 months later. Also i did not provide any more patches after most of the bugs that I filed, like the simple 404 issue were neither commented nor taken seriously. Why should one work on patching a system if nobody cares. So I consider it very unfair and coldhearted if a user like me, who reported a bug and even provided a fix is not even ignored but also if he reminds the developers and admins that the bug on the history of this bug and that it would likely not be fixed without being considered seriously he is aggressively attacked.

This I found an attitude absolutely common in GNOME. The most common reaction to critique is often the denial of the problem. Mostly they say the problem is YOU and not the software or the website. Its really funny to be told that others are working on a problem if those are the same guys who consistently denied any help and also often enough denied the necessary attention to important issues.

I now came to the conclusion that GNOME is not worth my attention at all. I have had a long history using and helping GNOME with bug reports, marketing, wiki, … but it has always been a lot of work to only be heard or be able to change only very little things.

What I would have expected is to get at least some respect of all the years and time and work that I have spent on helping GNOME – and not to be told that I have done nothing. This is exactly the kind of arrogance that can be the death of GNOME.

I have requested that my account will be removed from GNOME Bugzilla because I don’t plan to help in any way any more – not with this kind of attacks. I don’t need that and I don’t want that any more. I am talking about the same issues of GNOME years and years – and then you are told GNOME does not need distributed version control and they go with subversion. Only some years laters they do switch to a distrubuted version control – but sure enough nobody will say that you were right.

The fact is that in the real world nobody really knows GNOME (from a marketing point of view) and that the software and the website have many issues that can be fixed very easily IF some issued would be taken more seriously. But you find the attitude of Andre on many developers – and I would say that this is one reason why no GNOME application has become very big, but that others like Thunderbird, Firefox or Openoffice.org who are not part of the GNOME culture have had much more progress and public acceptance.

Like Rythmbox which has Podcast support but a simple patch to remove old podcasts is not adapted because the main developers seem to have a large enough hard disk and so do not se the issue. this has resulted in many users switching to the non-GNOME Miro where this exactly ist the nices feature: that podcast episodes are removed in 3 days if you do not say otherwise. So Podcast with GNOME is a no go for most users.

Or look at Evolution which still forces you to open junk mail befpre you can mark it as junk (other than Thunderbird). yeah we should all close the preview window than we dont have the problem. But what if we dont want to renonounce on that preview? I have filed a bug about that years ago, this solution was also denied, so the only real usable mail application still is Thunderbird where this is possible.

I do not say that there are not great developers, programmers, guys & girls within the GNOME community. But the main spirit is way off what really matters. Most developers are so taken up by the thinking and developing of the latest&greatest that they do ot realize how many things absolutely dont matter for most people and how many little things are not changed who would matter greatly.

So to summarize I do not know who GNOME is targetting as a user base but it sure is not the average computer user. I think its people or better programmers who like to live on the edge and who do not use the GNOME desktop for productive use. People who like the looks of GNOME or some new fancy stuff either hidden or obviously.

The problem is that this is not what they communicate. GNOME says they want more users, but they actually don’t. GNOME could easily have millions of new users with fixing some of the major issues. GNOME is still one of the best desktops because besides KDE it is still true that most other desktops are worse than GNOME or do target evern more remote user groups.

But GNOME 3 could be a game changer – not in the positive for GNOME but as a kind og KDE4 effect. Ad it will look and act differently it will turn away a lot of old users. Many will use XFCE instead as the new GNOME and some might go back to KDE4. Its so sad to see a hopeful desktop drowning.


Filed under Free Software, GNOME, Technology

GNOME and how NOT to do marketing

How NOT to do it?

A simple example. Lets say you have heard of GNOME or you use it and want to downlaod the latest GNOME live CD. What would you do?

Right, you type in “gnome live cd” in a search engine like Google. Lets see what we get on February 2010:

google search result

search for "gnome live cd"

So we get essentially two top results. The first are in the GNOME Live! Wiki and the first result is the page GnomeLiveCd. If you open the page you do get a page that was last updated by me in 2007 so  about three years ago.

The other link leads to a not any more exiting webpage http://live.gnome.org/GnomeLiveCd

Marketing is no magic. Its more or less often about giving people what they expect.

If you lead people who expect to be able to download a running live cd to three year old information and none existing websites this is a #FAIL.

You can mostly forget thinking about any more marketing if you fail here.

Another failure is that GNOMEs website do not provide custom 404 pages and that just too many websites become 404 (not found). In 2008, so two years ago I reported this as a bug and provided a simple page as a solution. Nobody cared – so it was ok to LOOSE all visitors who do not find a page. Ali Abdullah talked about why this is important.

A website without 404 page cant be taken seriously in 2010 from a marketing perspective. If you take into account that fixing it would have been an one minute job you start wondering about priorities.

GNOME has taken a lot of work and efforts to start the new website with the Plone CMS: I have no idea when it will land. Right now http://www.gnome.org is not accessible. Maybe this means its already there? On the central development page in the GNOME wiki GnomeWeb you are told the new website is coming in September 2009. So so much about updated information if you really try to track down the progress and you care about the website.

Third example was the GNOME Office website, which was outdated for many years and to just resolbe this issue it tool about a year.

I could go on and on, but these are just two examples that show how NOT to do marketing on the internet – even if its “just” free software. No smart person will ever try to test GNOME again if what he finds looks so crappy.

How to do it?

Really, really simple: Provide the information the user needs – and if it is hard to find or  moved either forward to a new place. Keep information update. You do not want to discourage a user from trying out your application, desktop or whatever.

This is just my small view of the whole “marketing in internet” problem which results from my experience and after witnessing what has happened and especially not happened with the GNOME website.

I write this down, so that things change. Things do not change because you get a great new CMS. You might get it someday – but what do you do in the five years between now and then. Sure, nobody wants to see five years of stagnation, but what you can learn is that fixing the small things often still makes sense. Nobody likes to fix small things, especially men dont like it. Men like to think big. And maybe thats part of the problem: They do a lot of heavylifting and much too often find out too late that it is too often. That said I have also seen women falling in love with Plone; no idea why … 😉


Help people find what they are looking for. Most web users have simple desires on their mind like find some essential information or download a live cd. Even if you can not provide this, you can say that you do not and why. And deal with users that come to your site like something worthful that should not be wasted easily!

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Metaphor based Desktop

This is a continuation of this blog post.  I really miss the tag based working. Why on earth do I have to save or load documents by a full path? This is stupid 80s computing. The location of a file is absolutely unneccessary for the work with it – I mean unless you work with Plan9.

So what we would want is if you safe a file you can type or select different tags. The same is true for loading a file. Just like in Epiphany and Firefox if you save a bookmark.

And the desktop background itself could also be organized differently – like a tag cloud. I would suggest that desktops can import and export tags and also that tags get defalt images accociated that can be selected by tag-themes. I mean most tags are words – so they have a meaning and you can associate an image.

Also with something like new hashtags on twitter – like something SFD09 (Software Freedom Day 2009) – your desktop can learn what images might make sense. I do this often manually with Google Image Search. But why should I do this work myself?

Those desktop should communicate with each other. It is not needed to send links via Email, Jabber or Twitter. Rather one can define groups of interest. In a way like identi.ca groups but more generalized. It should be easyto view what is new in a topic or a region – something like a view of new restaurants in your hometown. And then your desktop could already download some images into a pool. Or news from your topic of interest. Instead of using Google News you enter a space that displays interesting news from your defined topic. You could also subtract tags from a topic, so you can refine your view. The result should be displayed immediately. Also images, news, podcasts, videos, etc. should be linked together so you can have  a mixed view.

What you do, how you tag can be shared with others. This should be organized by different servers. People can organize in groups and clean up tag groups. This should not be centralized but really a distributed system.

Contacts should be yet another part – so you can just through images and stuff on a contact. If this means the user gets an instant message with a link or if he gets a copy of a document is up for discussion.

Who is going to start working on such a desktop? I dont see anything on the horizon. Mostly I see part of the methods but not a holistic approach, which would be essential.

This would also mean to turn the back on the application based approach. In every application all those elements (bookmarks, adresses, …) are dupplicated.

I think it would also make sense to work on the interfaces in the sense that saving or loading and such tasks are displayed only once and always at the same place.

Another idea would be to have buttons – like a “File” button – if you press on that with the mouse or the finger (interactive displays) you get a pie menu. And then either with another finger or another mouse key you can select more.

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