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Suggestion: "pre-made packages"

edited August 2007 in Vanilla 1.0 Help
hi :)

I'm a user who is very much confortable with computers. As such, I did end up managing setting up my vanilla and adding extensions.

however, i encountered a long list of problems. more specifically, countless bugs and problems with add-ons. things that i had to manually change myself, editing the code.

now, why the downloadable file doesn't already have the corrections is something beyond me (and i say this without the least bit of cinicism).

also, this whole "extensions thing" is hard for new users.
in fact, the whole concept of vanilla is! let me explain:

i'm not sure who vanilla is aimed for.

it looks like it aims also at inexperienced users, being as intuitive as it's supposed to be.
however, if one of these inexperienced users should try and set one up, he'll go through a very rough bit of time.

here's a suggestion i can offer: that somehow, one could select what vanilla pack to download. an example:
i want to download vanilla. i take a look at the extensions available, and say: "i want this one, this one, and that one."

click

download

your vanilla has those 3 extensions. you see?

just my 0,2 cents for the open source community :)
we should all be more noob friendly!

forgive my possibly more harsh tone - i tried to improve the tone but the late hour and long day didn't let me do that!

kudos!
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Comments

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    sahba,
    Although I am not a noob as such, having fiddled lots with servers, or should I say fumbled, but I had no problems installing Vanilla the first time. It went smoothly.

    However I did have an issue with connecting to the database but that was not strictly a Vanilla issue, my provider did not make it clear that the actual database name as it was visible to me was not the one I should use in the configuration. Once this issue was dealt with everything worked.

    Problems that do arise from time to time are caused by extensions. Usually a poorly written read-me or one that takes too much for granted and simply expects you to know what to do. And there will always be the untested ones that will need to mature gradually before they are truly useful. This is part of the experience for me, it's expected.

    Having said all of that, Vanilla is free, the extensions are free, if you are not prepared for some head aches perhaps it's not for you. I personally enjoy the trouble-shooting aspect but then again, I don't have a mission-critical use for Vanilla, simply a hobby.

    Posted: Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 11:07AM

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    edited August 2007
    yeah, that's exactly as I imagine it! All the "noobs" would have to do is chmod their vanilla installation properly. but someone could write a 20 pages long help for that ;-) downloading and especially updating extensions should be a one-click-process // edit: an extension state would also be nice. like: alpha, beta, stable so that all these versions are there to download. but I guess that's a cimpletly different topic
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    Hmm... I never really had any problems installing it myself. Or the extensions. But I could see people with no real webpage/ftp/whatever background could have some difficulty.

    I'd like to see one click installations of all extensions on my site, no download or anything. A direct install would be cool.
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    I kinda like the idea of a download package of Vanilla with the extensions I choose, but it would be a lot of hard work for Mark. Perhaps someone, like you sahba, should start making and maintaining a few "Vanilla with Sprinkles" packages which include a set of good extensions that are known to work together, all bundled and preinstalled? If you search the frums here I think there are a few occasions when Mark has voiced his support for this kind of things happening.

    On a side note, it would absolutely ROCK if I could browse the addons repository through my Vanilla admin panel and just click "install", "enable", "update", "disable" and/or "uninstall". I'm not sure what the security implications for this would be however...
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    I think beyond just the security problems, would be the practical ones... if you start a reliance on this server being available, configured, and that specific service being available, then you are spelling all sorts of problems if something should go awry. Plus, it would just be damn difficult to do. It would be interesting to see what would happen, if you did something a bit more simple, perhaps if there was an RSS feed of updated extensions, with URLs of the extension's zips, then you could do some fancyness with wget (if you are *nix) and unzip... I dunno, this isn't really my forté to be honest, it would undoubtedly be more trouble than it's worth.

    Adam.
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    StashStash
    edited August 2007
    Somewhere there are some screenshot mockups for suggested improvements to the extension pages which would improve things without going OTT and overcomplicating things.

    Still, I like the idea of some maintained "Vanilla with Sprinkles" packages.
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    edited August 2007
    Yes, supplying some prepackaged versions of Vanilla would be a great idea.

    One of the ones that I thought would be quite good, would be a Categorised Vanilla, which ships with a number of extensions which make Vanilla for those who are not willing to move away from the categories paradigm. Lots of people want this, and if you have noticed, most of the stuff that I code for is working towards bringing this paradigm in to Vanilla (80% of the 4,000 strong userbase to be moved from IPB 2.0.0beta straight to Vanilla will not be happy unless things -seem- the same on the surface), so a Vanilla pre-installed with extensions to give categories more prominence (the mod-rewrite to point you to the categories page on root for example) would benefit many. I can see how this wouldn't be limited though, perhaps packaging a "Project Tracker" Vanilla, with a project tracker skin, and some project bug tracking extensions installed.

    Perhaps even Vanilla ready for integration... shipping with the tools you need (authenticators, mysql installers tweaked) to offer you integration with other software like Wordpress, or Drupal.

    Adam.
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    StashStash
    edited August 2007
    AV, that's two excellent examples you've just given :) Come on sahba, create them :)

    Question for Mark/admins: if someone actually starts created packaged Vanilla installs, could an official place to download them be created, kinda like addons (only it's not strictly speaking an addon is it?)?
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    edited August 2007
    I agree with Stash, if this is going to be done, and done well.. then it will only be worthwhile if they are offered a prominent spot on the site. This idea is about helping people who do not download Vanilla because they do not have the expertise, or the will to make the alterations such as changing themes, or extensions, and offering an easy entry point, so it needs to be obvious that this is available (preemptive, but a note should this actually be done).

    Perhaps someone who is willing could be offered a Package Maintainer position, like with many open source projects who maintain packages for various operating systems... this would be the same, but would be for "flavours" of Vanilla, they could be given write access to a specific part of the site perhaps, where they could upload their custom Vanilla packages.

    [/ideas]

    Adam.
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    >> On a side note, it would absolutely ROCK if I could browse the addons repository through my Vanilla admin panel and just click "install", "enable", "update", "disable" and/or "uninstall". That's exactly what I have in mind. Maybe addons could get something like "tested and ok" and then be available in that sort of download. This way well written addons (no compatibility issues) would make a 1-click-install btw: fopen works on *nix and windows ;-)
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    No security issues with that then AlexL?

    I do like the idea of having only tested extensions working with this system. Makes a lot of sense.
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    edited August 2007
    So, perhaps an RSS feed (doesn't have to be publically known what it is) that contains the information of tried and tested extensions, their version number, name, author etc, and a link to the latest zip for them. Then you could probably write an extension for Vanilla (if it's not in the core) which does all the checks, pulls using fopen if an update is needed, unzips overwrites the existing files, etc. If permissions weren't iffy, it probably wouldn't be -too- tricky. It would work in a similar way to the updates notifier currently, except it would actually pull and unzip the archives, and could even pull ones that haven't been installed before.

    AFAIK fopen is pretty secure, unless your site is vulnerable to injected code (which would be problematic regardless of being able to pull stuff over from other webservers with fopen)

    Adam.
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    I'm pretty sure ithcy is/was working on something similar to what you guys are talking about. I dunno how far he got with it or if it's still progressing...
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    the abundance of responses is so exciting, thank you very much.

    stash, thanks also for suggesting that i'd work on this. however, i don't think i'm the man for the job. even if only because this needs a minimum amount of dedication, and i unfortunately am in a stage where i'm turning down just about everything - over how filled up my "2 do" list is!

    you know, i think creating "Vanilla with sprinkles" (love the name! :)), would in reality be only a partial solution to a bigger problem: the addons lack adequate documentation; as ChadFenwick said, "people with no real webpage/ftp/whatever background could have some difficulty"; chmod issues, etc.

    for an example, just a couple of nights ago i spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out where to insert the google API key, for the Member Google Map addon. the readme file said that it was to be inserted in the "settings" field, under extensions, in my vanilla.
    now, i've just recently installed vanilla. the logical thing would be for this field to be under the specific extension. but no, the addon simply added a new menu on the left hand menu bar - a menu which only appears if i refresh the page! would it have hurt for this to have been included in the readme? :)
    also, i still don't understand why so many of the addons have to be fixed after the download.

    as for Wanderer's comment:
    "Having said all of that, Vanilla is free, the extensions are free, if you are not prepared for some head aches perhaps it's not for you. I personally enjoy the trouble-shooting aspect but then again, I don't have a mission-critical use for Vanilla, simply a hobby."

    Wanderer, I hope you don't get upset my my following comment (because there's nothing to be upset about), but that approach, in my opinion, is the main thing holding back the expansion and greater access to open-source.
    Forgive me for entering this oh so delicate field but, for an example, I know I won't be touching another version of Linux in the coming years. I feel I'm "stuck" to windows.

    why?
    because as much as i'd love to be a linux user (hell, it's sexy), i lack the time to figure things out at such a slow pace. responses to issues should be pre-existent, and not needed to be located in post numbers 38 and 54, respectively, of two different threads in some random and obsure forums.

    i know that saying "this has to be done" and not doing may be seen as being against the open-source spirit. however, doing it is out of the question for me, for several different reasons. but i really can't understand why developers can't spend 10% more of their time documenting, and finally making open-source universal :)
    again, i'm not being cynical - i just haven't understood it yet. if someone could explain, would love to hear the answer :)
    the reason open-source isn't finally ruling over the world is not that it's not good enough - it's that it's "too good" for the rest of the world

    all this, of course, is my little fraction of 2 cents :)

    all the best,
    sahba
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    edited August 2007
    To answer one of your questions: it is because open source developers have no supervisors who tell them to comment and test their code. So all they do is write something that appears to be working in one browser under one OS (maybe they even forget that they configured php.ini or something so it would work at all) and release it ASAP
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    I'm pretty sure that statement is ridiculously over generalised and pretty loosely termed. To even begin to think that Vanilla is the product of someone who writes code that 'appears to be working in one browser under one OS and release it ASAP' is ridiculous. I suppose your statement could be applied to some extension authors but it remains pretty generalised...
    There are a whole multitude of reasons why no comments appear - for me it's because I've always coded on my own (and only ever as a self-taught hobby) - so comments are reasonably little use assuming i remember what i did something for to begin with (which sometimes I dont, and then I regret that I dont comment - but that's life) I'm also pretty lazy and lose interest in stuff pretty quickly...
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    yeah sry, of course I meant some extension authors. It's neither true for Mark nor for several other extension authors And yes, it is a little generalised, but I still see it as the main reason. When I write code for myself I comment every 7th or 10th line because it's really no fun at all to read your own code and have no idea what it does. For open source I comment every 3rd line or so, because I know that I'm not investing too much time testing and others might have to understand the code in order to fix it
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    StashStash
    edited August 2007
    but i really can't understand why developers can't spend 10% more of their time documenting, and finally making open-source universal :)

    Personally, I find documentation incredibly boring. I love it when someone has documented well, as that allows me to learn stuff, but if I'm trying to figure something out I don't want to break the flow of thought. And for me at least, I just don't enjoy writing about how I did something. I could tell someone, once maybe, but that's it, no interest in it. I'm sure life would be better if people did document and comment stuff well, and I'm not excusing the lack of it, I'm hopefully just explaining one reason why.

    What we really need, is documenters ;) Every office needs a good administrator and every coder needs a good documenter :D
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    That is quite a strong generalization. Vanilla has been tested to death, and I have tested some of my add-ons to death and yet still manage to overlook cases where I had an extra comma, forgot a semicolon, or it works for everybody but Mac users with IE 5.5. Little issues like this are a fact of life, everywhere. Perhaps the only "perfect" systems are those naturally occurring--maybe the only reason they are "perfect" is that people sure didn't build them and can't possibly fiddle with them. Speaking of builders and fiddlers, there is a chasm between programmers and end users. A programmer will see the extensions page and checkboxes and say "Cool, this updates with AJAX, so I will have to refresh to see the settings option", while a regular user doesn't have a clue about ajax, thinks the blinking dots were just for show, and wonders where the heck that option is that the readme said would be there. There aren't any easy solutions to this. Car owners don't have to be mechanics, but its a understood that the mechanic's car is much better maintained than the guy who pulls into a lube shop every time he gets the reminder postcard in the mail or hears a weird clunking sound. Perhaps add-ons that are activated but not configured should post a notice on the top of the page that points to the configuration--just like the update check does. But this isn't really helpful in the long run, when the user tries to remember how he got to the settings page when that notice is long gone. This essentially turns the user into that guy with the postcard at the lube shop--instead of being a pro-active driver who learns about his car and performs preventive maintenance to keep it running smoothly. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that drive to obtain experience and experience itself are key to understanding a system. And as people use the system, us programmers need to understand that the users are a part of a greater system that we must also drive to understand and build for.
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    edited August 2007
    first off: WallPhone, your post is beautiful, thank you.

    Meanwhile, stash said: "What we really need, is documenters ;) Every office needs a good administrator and every coder needs a good documenter :D"

    That's true!
    But not gonna happen ;) I mean, sure, it would be perfect if it *did* happen. but i personally can't think of a way for it to happen.

    i can also understand the argument: "programmers really enjoy programming, and don't really enjoy documenting - maybe that accounts for it"
    but i can also understand that if there were documentation, there would naturally exist mechanisms to free the author from something he creates, enabling him to move on to something else - to the next level, if you will.

    an example:
    we have extensions here which have bugs.
    the author has to come and fix them.
    if there were documentation, and the right mechanisms (see the last couple of lines at http://lussumo.com/community/?CommentID=74403), it would be very simple for another programmer (who would be ever closer to the end user) to just fix it himself

    in this way, the author wouldn't have to constantly keep track of what he has produced. he could, if he wanted to. but the speed of development would in this way be enhanced - and the author would in turn have further opportunities to embrace other projects.

    to conclude, i think each programmer would do well in reflecting upon what would most benefit the community. and I strongly believe that he may very well conclude that the procedures which would most benefit the community are, in reality, the procedures that would most benefit himself.
    kind of corny, but i think it's just how it is :)

    this is a reflection which is urgent - for it should've been made long ago.

    i think :)
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