An Introduction To Foresight Desktop Linux

Take a glance at a very new and up-and-coming Linux distribution that aims to showcase the latest GNOME desktop and applications within a very tightly integrated experience. Ken VanDine, the original creator of Foresight Desktop Linux, takes you on this journey through what it has to offer.

A look at the new GNOME Desktop distribution showcasing new and emerging GNOME technologies

Introduction

Why a new distribution? There is a real need for a desktop Linux distro that is easy to manage for new users, well integrated, modern, and still appealing to power users. Foresight strives to fill that need. Foresight is not just another Debian or Fedora distro, instead it is something truly innovative. Foresight is still in a beta stage, but is rapidly growing and stabilizing. Built on the Conary package management system, Foresight has a bright future. Foresight focuses heavily on usability and integration, therefore the latest GNOME release is always the standard desktop.

What is Different

One major difference is Mono; Foresight ships Mono as well as quite a few Mono applications by default. The Beagle desktop indexing tool, which is rather tough to get to work well on other distros, works right out of the box on Foresight. This is just an example of the innovative applications that have been included.

Conary takes the headaches out of software maintenance. Conary is the brain child of the guys at rpath, which is mostly made up of former Red Hat veterans. One major problem solved by Conary is package upgrades. Conary always upgrades from the repository it was installed from, not the one with the version that appears to be the newest. This adds a tremendous level of stability. Conary also enforces some package naming and version rules. For more information, take a look at http://wiki.rpath.com. Conary is an exciting new opportunity for Linux and package installation both for users at home and for large deployments of computers in an office setting.

Ease the Pain for Switchers

The Foresight default interface is quite simple and easy for the new user to get acquainted with. Featured is a mostly standard GNOME desktop, with some beautification. The Foresight team includes extremely talented graphic designers/artists with plans to make the desktop look its best while still maintaining the utmost in usability.

Foresight also includes a new tool for systems management, Oversite. Oversite keeps your system up to date all of the time. In the future, Oversite will provide a web interface to manage your desktop and make it trivial to install any new application.

About the Community

The Foresight community is very active and currently includes a wide variety of contributors. There is a strong design/artistic presence. There are new Linux users as well as veteran users and packagers. There are also developers, working on applications such as Oversite and UserManager (a simple interface for user account/profile management).

Package Management

Conary is a distributed software management system for Linux distributions. It replaces traditional package management solutions (such as RPM and dpkg) with one designed to enable loose collaboration across the Internet. It enables sets of distributed and loosely connected repositories to define the components which are installed on a Linux system. That means that there no longer needs to be a single central package server per each Linux distribution.

Conary treats packages as change-sets and not as a bundle of files. This means that when updating a package, Conary communicates with the repositories to determine what needs to change on the system to install the new package and only downloads the bits needed for that change. There are many advantages to this approach, but most visible to the user is the efficiency in bandwidth and speed. When updating a large package for the first time, you will essentially download the full package, however, when updating in the future the downloads could be significantly smaller. Here is an example: installing Abiword 2.2.6 on a system for the first time would be approximately a 15MB download, however updating to Abiword 2.2.7 is only 2.4MB.

Conary also provides roll backs which essentially allows you to revert to a previous state of a package with a single command. So if that Abiword 2.2.7 just doesn’t work for you, roll back.

What’s Included

Foresight includes many modern applications with modern meaning applications that are both relatively new as well as having very current versions.

Package Highlights
Beagle Search tool that ransacks your personal information space to find whatever you’re looking for
F-spot Designed to provide personal photo management to the GNOME desktop. Features include import, export, printing and advanced sorting of digital images
Tomboy Desktop note-taking application
Muine A music player with a simple, elegant interface
Blam Tool that helps you keep track of the growing number of news feeds distributed as RSS
Appliworks Manage your personal multimedia data in a really original way
Abiword GNOME Office Word processor Application
Gnumeric GNOME Office Spreadsheet Application

And so much more available via Conary, all easy to install and well integrated.

Games

The Foresight repository is unlike any other distro’s—Foresight aims to have all of the games playable “out of the box”, with no strange bugs along with menu entries for all—that means no more guessing command lines! Consistency is taken seriously. The Foresight team has contributed back to various projects by providing icons, desktop files, etc.

The Foresight team is creating a “best of breed” set of games—8 versions of Tetris and 4 versions of Asteroids are no use to anyone! Foresight is concentrating on providing a good mix of not only games genres, but also of 3d accelerated and non-3d accelerated games.

Foresight has also worked hard to make sure game development libraries are packaged abundantly, sanely, and responsibly with hopes to become the game developers distro of choice.

Game Highlights
Neverball Similar to Super Monkey Ball and Marble Madness. Using the mouse, guide the ball through beautifully rendered 3D environments collecting coins to reach the goal. Comes with two variations – Neverball and Neverputt, a crazy golf game
Ppracer An update of the classic game, Tuxracer. Guide tux the penguin down hills collecting herring at tremendous speeds—everything Tuxracer was and more! Beautiful polished graphics
Ultimate Stunts An in progress racing game reminiscent of the classic PC games Stunts, and Stunt Car Racer
Open City An in progress city management game that currently looks and feels very similar to Sim City
Open Mortal Fantastic Mortal Kombat style beat-em-up with a comedy twist
Critical Mass A fast and furious vertical shoot-em-up with stunning openGL special effects

Conclusion

Foresight has a bright future. Many of the technologies that are on the brink of being standard are already included and working in Foresight… no twiddling or pounding on config files to make it work… they just work. This is what it will take to make Linux on the desktop successful, and Foresight has it. Try it, you’ll like it!

References:

http://www.foresightlinux.com/
http://www.gnome.org
http://wiki.conary.com
http://www.gnome.org/projects/beagle/
http://www.gnome.org/projects/f-spot/
http://www.beatniksoftware.com/tomboy/
http://muine.gooeylinux.org/
http://www.imendio.com/projects/blam/
http://appliworks.jondesign.net/
http://www.abisource.com
http://www.gnome.org/projects/gnumeric/

Discuss this story with other readers on the GNOME forums.

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Posted on July 15, 2005, in July 2005. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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