Forum OpenACS Q&A: the good, the bad & the ugly

Posted by Tom Kat on

ive been here for 2 weeks. i will stay.

---the good---

i am really in awe of this effort. i knew of greenspun's work a while
back through his book and other rantings but this port/extension
effect is excellent. you all deserve a major round of applause and more...

---the bad---

i am not exactly an opensource newbie and i can compile and install
mostly anything in a week. openacs4.x though has defeated me. perhaps
this is because i installed 3.2.4 first and then had to fight to the
death. although i was sure that i spotted a migration path somewhere
in the docs/forums i never found it again. i gave up and went back to
my original config...

here are a few tips that i believe will may make this openacs effort
succeed. I will help where i can, including funding. just let me know


1. the forum search on sucks. there is no returned "date"
field. i really don't care what a problem 'was' in Feb 2000....even i
got this working on my installation. i really have wasted a lot of
time on old posts....

2. the forums need to be re-categorized into 3.x and 4.x. and
presumably 5.x

3. you need to migrate to ASAP. Your
website is worse than boring.

4. 4.x needs RPMS and DEB's or apt-get or redcarpet or all of the
above right now!! i suggest that you all *stop* development and make a
small effort at 'distribution'. check the postings and do the math.
its all 'installing and configuring'. i suggest that all developers
spend the next 7 days and get a distro team together. i will get the
redcarpet install done for ximian.

5. this effort will ultimately fail unless a user can:

a) ./configure
b) ./make
c) ./make install (or better still use RPM DEB or redcarpet)
d) logon to http://whatever/ (port 80 by default)
e) have his/her logo and style sheet or a selection of 20 styles up
and running in less than 5 minutes flat.

---the ugly---

point e) is the 'killer' for any user. this should never be
underestimated for any web service or application. forget what
greenspun says - they will always say " but it looks like shite!"

to finish i will say that i will be using openacs because most of what
i am doing is non-profit stuff. i am leaning tcl faster than anything
ive ever picked up. aolserver/adp/ + openacs/tcl is astonishingly
good. with oracle dumped in favour of postgresql, this is very

now perhaps all my points are solved in 4.x ??

shame i cant install the @%^$#~

kind regards

Posted by Don Baccus on
You have noticed that 4.x is in an *alpha* state?  Have you considered that one of the reasons might be because installation documentation isn't complete, a clean OpenACS tarball of AOLserver+nsxml+the right db drivers hasn't been made, etc?

Would you mind not holding us up to product standards until maybe *beta*?  Or if you're feeling particularly charitable maybe you won't hold us to product standards until we say it's a product?

We haven't migrated to the new website yet because there were performance problems with the PG version of OpenACS 4.x (remember, still *alpha*, right?  Are you with me?)  These are mostly solved now.

If you're in a big hurry, you can always buy us an Oracle license, since OpenACS 4/Oracle is somewhat more stable and ready to go than the PG version.

Anyway, thanks for volunteering me and the rest of the crew for a whole ton of work that needs to be done immediately.  It's a pity that at the moment I'm doing some client contract work to pay bills and buy food, and won't be able to drop everything in order to do all these things you've just told me need to be done.  I just spent a solid three months doing absolutely nothing but work on OpenACS (for free) and need a little revenue, so you're just going to have to wait.

Now, if you're willing to *help* rather than just tell us what we need to do, as you've noticed there's plenty of stuff that needs doing, therefore plenty of opportunity to pitch in.

Posted by Dave Bauer on
Do we have a definite list of what tasks we would like done/need volunteers for? I know we have a status page for the packages, and now one for documentation. Is there a list of the other miscellaneous tasks we want done such as packaging. Maybe a list of milestones we can agree on that need to be met for a beta and final release.
Posted by Don Baccus on
Yeah, I've been thinking about putting one together.  I was waiting for documentation to start rolling along and now that Roberto's found time to put together a task list and status for it, I can build a list of other stuff that needs doing.

I *am* swamped, though, so it's not going to happen immediately.  I might be able to do it today.

Posted by Don Baccus on
Oh, just a technical point for Tom ... this software doesn't fall into the "./configure;make;make install" paradigm.  It just doesn't ...

But OpenACS 4 does include a package manager and installer that does make things very easy once you've got the webserver components installed .

Posted by Tom Kat on
My post does read a bit strong but there seems to be agreement that more help is needed for documentation etc. i also did volunteer to help. if there is package management built in then thats great. i can help with the docs. moving from alpha to beta to final will need alot of documentation. i can also help with syles and other templates because i have access to good free designers..
Posted by Jonathan Marsden on

Pick a piece or pieces and start contributing to the effort... your suggestions will then carry a lot more weight :-)

You do not seem to have found or tried my OpenACS4 RPMs yet? Searching for the two words "openacs4 and "rpm" will find the relevant posts in these forums. It is early days for the packaging process, because the codebase is still alpha. But by all means try my RPMs and provide feedback on how well they do or don't work for you. Read this to get started.

Once you have OpenACS4 up and running, if you have the skills and experience to design a good default "look" for OpenACS4, and/or make that look "themable" ... go for it -- put the work on display on your own demo OpenACS4 web site, and post a message here with a URL so we can all look at your work and provide you with feedback... that could be a good contribution for you to make.