Review : Cherry Picks of the Month: Foresight Linux

OgI just cannot believe that it has been a month to the day that I proudly signed off on the Cherry Pick of the Month for the second issue of GeekDeck! A whole lot has happened since then and I literally did not have a chance to get a lot of writing done. As if keeping up and committing translations for the GNOME, Xfce and LXDE projects wasn’t enough, I embarked on a 2-week-long roller coaster of a ride at work that just ended this afternoon! Have I mentioned that I am also running for the GNOME Board of Directors? My last adventures took me to a very familiar road, this time in my own backyard so to speak, as I was elected into the Foresight Linux Council and became their Community Manager.

It is with my Community Manager hat and as a Linux enthusiast that I dedicate this month’s segment to the Foresight Linux distribution, literally born and brewed where I work and filled to the brim with the technology developed at rPath. However, this is not yet another article about yet another Linux distribution with arguments about how great it is compared to other popular ones out there. No siree Bob! In fact, if you are happy with the platform or distribution that you are running, then kudos to you! I will not bore you to tears comparing lists of packages, what kernel or why you should drop everything you’re doing and grab a copy of Foresight. No (x86)! No (x86_64)! For a while Foresight was indeed a trail blazer and if you wanted to get the latest and coolest applications or features for Linux, that’s where you’d go! But nowadays I feel that a lot of the popular distributions are pretty much shipping the same set of things plus or minus a feature here or there.

The many faces of Foresight Linux

Instead, I’d like to tell you about a couple of nice features I came to grow very fond of after having run Foresight as my main distribution for the last 3 years. My intention is not to convert anyone but to share something things I find extremely cool and that may be of your interest as well!

Reason 1 – Rolling releases: Because Foresight is based on a “rolling release” schedule, you don’t have to wait 6 or 12 months to get your hands on new features or applications! Sure you could download the source code and compile it yourself or even trust that package that a friend of a friend told you to install, but I’m talking about having something that is completely managed by the underlying package management system! Most of the time new applications are available within days of being launched as it passes through some spot checking and QA.

Reason 2 – Roll backs: Because the entire system is kept under a complete version control down to the file level, It is possible to perform something that other distributions can only dream of: system roll backs! Don’t like the application you’ve just installed? Remove it using PackageKit and it will be as if your system never had it installed! Want to go back to the update you ran 3 weeks or even months ago? Not a problem! Your system is like a giant Git repository and you control what to clone and what branch to checkout.

Reason 3 – The Conary Package Management System: this is the pixie dust that makes Foresight and rPath’s rBuilder Online run! Created from the ground up to be the next generation of package management systems and to provide a platform to create a true distributed versioning environment, Conary is definitely worth your time! Prior to using it on a daily basis, I could never have imagined that I would be able to package anything (software) in my life, let alone try to create and maintain a distribution! With its Pythonic style and syntax-like, writing up a “recipe” for an application is extremely easy to do! But don’t take my word for it! Watch the presentation that Michael Johnson gave at FOSDEM 2008 (follow along with his slides) and judge for yourself! Better yet, if you’re going to this year’s BarCampRDU, ask me in person!

Reason 4: Small crew: Foresight is formed by a bunch of very, very enthusiastic group that really enjoy developing and maintaining a cool system! That means that we’re small enough to have an almost family-like relationship and all help out in whatever task needs to be done. That also means that we’re most of the time shorthanded and have a lot of things being worked by one single person! Some people may find this to be a hindrance but I like to see it as a great chance to get involved with an open source project! Do you want to maintain a package? Want to impress the world with your artistic skills? Is documentation your thing? There are very few hoops to jump through and you will learn a whole lot about Linux and running a distribution! What can I say, we are a small team that just love what we do!

I think I should also mention that most of our discussions or even support happens via the irc channel (#foresight and #foresight-devel on Freenode) and mailing lists, but you are guaranteed to find a courteous and helpful bunch. It is very captivating, trust me!


Og Maciel is a QA Engineer for rPath and a long time contributor to the translation efforts of several upstream projects. When not spearheading new projects or communities, he likes to fish, watch ice hockey and spend time with his 2 lovely daughters in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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  1. the “Watch” link above is broken Og.

  2. Nice post, loved reading it.

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