Next stop Foresight

by davidnielsen

In the eternal quest for the perfect distro, impossible as that might be I have been dabbling with Foresight. It is attractive to me as it is a very close to vanilla GNOME and their Conary doing things right approach makes sense to me.

The developers are really nice people, they are ready to help out on IRC, they are polite and generally have an answer ready for most things. However sometimes their answers conflict, e.g. I was having a problem with Conary being very advanced and preventing me from uninstalling software which other things depended on (without suggesting that it remove those as well mind you). I was told to go use the commandline tools as the PackageKit implementation wasn’t fully formed yet. However the cli tools are some what hard to use, after which another developer told me to use PackageKit.. circular reasoning begins here. It seems to me that Conary is so advanced behind the curtains that correctly and sanely presenting all this functionality to the user still needs a lot of work. I have no doubt they can do it but it will take a while. Now I doubt it is the case that Conary is hard to use because it does the right thing, but possibly rather because they bite off more than they could chew and did not deeply consider the user experience when designing their solution. The backend is wonderful though and I cannot praise it enough, lots of cool functionality and promise to for the future, we should all learn from their work. Another little grip with Foresight is that it lacks polish, and bug tracking is slow due to being understaffed, this is a shame as Foresight is a nice place to be and I hope they will be able to grow more contributors. Additionally they get points for making the sane decision to have Banshee as their default mediaplayer and installing Moonlight by default. Again Conary has overdesign issues, installing codec support for some unknown reason feels the need to pull in mplayer, and that is quite typical of the granularity of control one seems to have in Foresight and I am not generally a fan of all or nothing solutions. Conary does represent much needed advancements like rollbacks for users and many good tools for a package maintainer, there is lots of love about it.

All in all Foresight is nice but plagued by bugs and lacking user experience for Conary which makes it hard to get my setup just right. I am sure Foresight has a bright future but currently I am not in it. I like being part of a fairly decent sized community as I always feel the most inspired by seeing other peoples passion and results around me. Additionally there are some bugs they just should have fixed, such as pulseaudion not starting due to libflac missing, this was known since december and yet existed till when I tried it a little while ago.

Foresight is a diamond in the rough no doubt, but I feel like there aren’t really any corners for me to polish there. I like feelling like I help make Linux happen, and in Foresight what I got the biggest impression was that of making Conary happen – a lofty goal as that is, it is not one I can really fulfill since I lack the qualifications. Something about Foresight seemed just not right for me, it is hard to pin down.

I would whole heartedly recommend Foresight to others who don’t mind a bumpy ride, but one that is fun and one where a little help goes a long way. It is a great project to get started in, there isn’t tons of dreaded beaucracy like in Fedora just the will and ability to help out.

Good things:

Ext4 support (for my external drive which is partitioned using ext4 and contains all my data this cannot due to circumstances be reformated thus any distro without such support is discarded), Mono is in a good shape, Banshee is present in the default install and up to date, Conary is awesome (as a maintainer). The community while small is very nice and welcoming. It is always fresh and the rolling release style is very welcome in my general usage pattern.

Bad things:

No encryption support in the installer, it is hard to get rid of certain applications like OpenOffice, bugs go untreated. Conary needs work (as a user). No ext4 support in the installer. Lacks polish and is a little to focused on how awesome Conary so that it seems to lose it’s own identity to it.