Forum OpenACS Q&A: Re: Will Dr. OpenACS survive? Or why I stopped worrying and learned to love the .LRN consortium?

I am a web developer who has experience with PHP, PostgreSQL, and Apache. I have been reading the OpenACS forums for the last year and a half.  Below is my assessment of the good and bad of OpenACS.


1. OpenACS is hard to install.  I tried to install openacs about 10 times and have been successful only 2 or 3 times.  Not only does openacs use non-mainstream technology, but it's hard to install. This is analogous to even when you are able to get a customer in the store (rare), you can't make the sale.

I tried installing everything from source and even tried installing the debian dotLRN package.  Installing from source has so many steps- it's too complicated.  One thing wrong and openacs doesn't work.  With the debian dotlrn package, eventually I got to a point where I needed SSL to work with AOLserver.  I tried to generate a certificate.  I couldn't get it to work.

2.  OpenACS is dependent on AOLserver.  Why can't openacs use another web server like apache?  I don't understand the openacs\aolserver dependency, but I guess it's the ability of aolserver to cache tcl scripts.  Why can't openacs use a memory cache that's not tied to a web server (e.g. memcached.)

3.  TCL is not a popular language anymore.  It's not worth it for me to learn tcl, just to develop for aolserver.  So even if openacs was easy to install and worked with apache, I still wouldn't develop for openacs.  I would install openacs and use it, but I  wouldn't develop for it.


1.  The database schema is very clean and solves important web application problems in a generic way - base objects, users, permissions, and tree queries.  I have looked at the PostgreSQL sql files extensively.  I like the consistency of how the tables, columns, indexes, and stored procedures are named.  I recommend to anyone who wants to learn plpgsql to look at the openacs source code.

2.  I like that there are many packages available and they are all structured in the same way- work with the acs-kernel package and have a consistent directory structure.  This is the man reason to use a CMS.  The PHP world has some nice applications, but each solves generic problems over and over in a different way.  Most PHP CMS software that does exist has undecipherable code.

3.  I like that openacs accepts and maintains packages from individuals.  In contrast, the zope world has tons of packages, but each is maintain by an individual, various greatly in quality, and eventually breaks with new installations.

4. I like the openacs community- friendly, knowledgeable, and transparent.  I like the public available TIPS, forums, and IRC logs.  I read all of them to learn about generic web application and database issues.

George Essig