How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

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MichaelTremer
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How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

Post by MichaelTremer » June 18th, 2018, 11:42 am

Hello Community,

today, I would like to start a discussion about the IPFire Forums. This forum, that you are reading at the moment.

Personally, I have been quite unhappy with it for a little time and I know that I am not alone. I would like to collect some ideas on how we can improve the forums. Those ideas can be across the entire field. Please be creative.

Here is why I wanted to start this discussion:
  • The IPFire Forums are the place for our community to engage in conversation. About problems, ideas, support and many many other things... It seems that it has gotten a little bit quieter lately. Not sure why that is, but I would like it to be a bit more vivid here again. One of my theories is that since the previous design is broken, this forum isn't that much fun to use any more and certainly is not great on mobile.
  • The forum software (phpBB) is also creating loads of problems for us: We got too much spam, it is hard to update, full of bugs, doesn't really support our database that well. It can also be kind of slow and I think the design isn't clean enough to make the forum easy to use. I would like to move away from it, but none of the alternatives have been very convincing or easy to migrate to.
  • Then, the forum can be a little bit chaotic because there are posts in multiple languages here. Please let me know how you feel about that. So far, I don't know any other software that supports this really well and is able to hide the German posts for people who don't speak German, etc. I really like that we have a platform in different languages here although English is the primary language.
These are just my (random) thoughts. I could go into depth, but I want to keep it rather short and hear if you guys agree or disagree with my observations. There is definitely the wish to change things and revive this forum to what it has been before: the hub of the IPFire Community!

Looking forward to hear your comments!

Best,
-Michael
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ipcopmann
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Re: How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

Post by ipcopmann » June 18th, 2018, 1:15 pm

Maybe look at the forum software OpenMediaVault use.
Both German too.

https://forum.openmediavault.org/index.php/BoardList/

https://www.woltlab.com/

Hellfire
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Re: How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

Post by Hellfire » June 18th, 2018, 2:07 pm

At least, please do not use/install a forum or a place for discussion that looks like this one https://forum.emclient.com/emclient.
This design is absolutely unusable and cannot be searched well. Fairly enough I should mention that there are no subforums hence everything is posted on a single page. It's too confusing at the end.

Another no-go IMO is the design that Microsoft uses here https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/mso ... ab=Threads
The threads are not clearly separated, an overview of all forums is missing as well, the answers are not clearly readable if going into details.

That's another one I really dislike, https://success.scribesoft.com/s/, especially because of its dynamic loading threads if you reach the bottom.

OK, those were the forums I don't like at all and of course your mileage may vary but I've always bothered about those fancy designs, without subforums using just categories for separation.

Michael
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MichaelTremer
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Re: How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

Post by MichaelTremer » June 18th, 2018, 2:12 pm

If we are talking about software only, one candidate is Discourse: http://discourse.org/

Unfortunately there is no way to import the current phpBB database into it and the company behind it has asked us for a couple of thousands of dollars to do the work as well as a longish contract that would give them access to our data which is basically not acceptable.

I like the clean design. It is a bit gimmicky but not too bad. However, it is a single monolithic block that comes in a docker container...

Has anyone ever used this and is happy with it?
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Frank.M
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Re: How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

Post by Frank.M » June 18th, 2018, 4:52 pm

I am using NodeBB for my little forum. NodeBB has an importer, but i don't know if it works. It's worth a try.

https://community.nodebb.org/topic/4128 ... x-phpbb/17
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firewell
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Re: How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

Post by firewell » June 18th, 2018, 11:32 pm

For me I don't find the current forums to be a hindrance. However, I've spent my entire internet lifetime browsing/lurking forums, so I'm used to various formats and layouts. To me, this is not the bottleneck for IPFire.

Instead for me, the main areas that I think are holding the product back are as follows.
  1. Dated IPfire mgmt GUI, can be difficult to navigate.
  2. Current 3.14 Kernel does not support modern hardware, as people upgrade or build new firewall solutions, IPFire becomes more difficult to use "out of the box" with that old Kernel. (from what I read, I think this may be resolved soon in future Core updates)
  3. Lack of IPv6 support means that some people are turned off to the product from day 1 and won't try it.
I personally like IPFire very much but, I'm a more experienced user than some and I'm not afraid to try new Kernels to get it working on newer SOC hardware from Intel. IPFire also has some of the best out of the box QoS settings of any firewall, in my experience they work really well! So many great things to like about this firewall but, it is getting eclipsed by more rapid development pace of competing solutions.

For instance, a feature request that I had suggested on the development section of this forum would be to add a GUI option for DNS over TLS. Other competing solutions either already have this or allow it through an "advanced" sub menu already in the GUI.

Small stuff like this I think is holding it back from becoming the 100% solution for some people, and this is causing slower traffic in the forums as people try other releases. I'm not saying these things to be negative, I really like IPFire! I just wanted to provide feedback for things I have noticed while trying to integrate this release in to my own network.

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MichaelTremer
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Re: How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

Post by MichaelTremer » June 19th, 2018, 10:06 am

firewell wrote:
June 18th, 2018, 11:32 pm
For me I don't find the current forums to be a hindrance. However, I've spent my entire internet lifetime browsing/lurking forums, so I'm used to various formats and layouts. To me, this is not the bottleneck for IPFire.

Instead for me, the main areas that I think are holding the product back are as follows.
Thank you for your comments. Happy that someone disagrees.
firewell wrote:
June 18th, 2018, 11:32 pm
  1. Dated IPfire mgmt GUI, can be difficult to navigate.
  2. Current 3.14 Kernel does not support modern hardware, as people upgrade or build new firewall solutions, IPFire becomes more difficult to use "out of the box" with that old Kernel. (from what I read, I think this may be resolved soon in future Core updates)
  3. Lack of IPv6 support means that some people are turned off to the product from day 1 and won't try it.
The WebUI looks a little bit dated. I have no problem with that. It served the purpose and that is the most important thing. We have a team of designers who are working on a redesign, but that will only be implemented for IPFire 3.

Although our kernel says 3.14, this is not a stock 3.14 kernel. Drivers are from way more recent versions and I am not aware of any hardware incompatibilities. We have loads of extra drivers and patches to improve stability and performance for some network drivers. If you have any unsupported hardware, please open a ticket.

In a few weeks, we will release IPFire 2.21 which comes with kernel 4.14.

And the last one: IPv6. IPFire 3 has great support for IPv6. This will never be implemented into IPFire 2 because of the architecture of that system. Sadly donations are down, my personal time is short as is the time of the other developers. We are making little progress here and we will need to sort this out soon. There will be an announcement in a little while on how we want to improve speed of the development process, but we need support from our community!
firewell wrote:
June 18th, 2018, 11:32 pm
For instance, a feature request that I had suggested on the development section of this forum would be to add a GUI option for DNS over TLS. Other competing solutions either already have this or allow it through an "advanced" sub menu already in the GUI.
DNS over TLS was talked about on the development mailing list and there was only little interest to implement this. I haven't heard from anywhere else that there is demand for this. If you are interested in features such as this, please start a discussion somewhere and also feel free to submit patches!

But now, let's get back to topic: I appreciate the software recommendations, but what I still do not know is what you expect from the forum software?!

-Michael
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datamorgana
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Re: How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

Post by datamorgana » June 20th, 2018, 8:41 am

Hi all!

First of all I'd like to express my gratitude for all the good work you do and for maintaining this forum, which has been of great help for me. By participating with (little) know-how and some experiences, I try to give something in return. For me, the forum is usable, but I can easily switch between German and English, which might not be the case for every participant. I don't see an easy way out of this potential dilemma. The forum's lay-out could be a little bit more crisp, I specially like the lay-out of the LEDE-Forum (https://forum.lede-project.org/c/general) and that of the Freifunk Forum (https://forum.freifunk.net/), which is probably the same software you (Michael) were suggesting as a future improvement for this forum. Maybe, in the future, you could do a little bit more fine-tuning in the categorization of the topics (even if they are slightly off-topic from an IPFire-point of view), like "DNS Topics", "Firewall Rules", "Ad Blocking", whatever... but this is maybe just crazy nit-picking. ;)

If the forum stays as it is -- all fine with me! Thanks for everything!

datamorgana

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Re: How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

Post by silverknight » June 20th, 2018, 10:48 pm

Thought I would throw my option in as well...

Been using IPFire a long time, about 2007 if memory serves, I'm one of the old refugees from the IPCop days. I really can't say enough good things about IPFire to friends, colleagues and clients. Every deployment I've ever used as been rock solid and delivers on its feature set flawlessly. The developers should be proud of this project and the quality it maintains.

As for the forums, I don't believe any changes are required. I've hosted phpBB and I can understand the frustration with spam, but there are tons of plugins that can make manually removing spam a rare and single click process. Adding a mobile only theme is also simple and I think would be a worthwhile time investment to the forums. There is also the benefit of its popularity, everyone from almost any walk of live has viewed or used phpBB in some corner of the web or another. Just like wordpress websites people have naturally learned to navigate, edit, register, etc on a phpBB forum and I think there is a lot of value in that 'universal' understanding of it.

My biggest point against changing the forums is that I believe it is not a beneficial use of development time and effort, IPFire 3 has been talked about for so long I think many that require newer feature sets have given up and moved on (just as many saw that IPCop 2.2 was never coming). I'm guilty of this as well, I stopped suggesting IPFire for offices and business use awhile back and use pfSense for this use case simply because of things like IPv6, dual band AP management or the need for additional interfaces.

That being said some of the things I think make IPfire great are the simple and intuitive webGUI, excellent hardware support even for newer generation stuff, and the fact it has grsecurity built-in is a huge bonus as well. I look forward to the continuation of this project and lurking on the forums; no matter what shape they take, for many more years to come.

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Re: How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

Post by MichaelTremer » June 21st, 2018, 3:03 pm

Thanks for your contributions. It is great to hear that people don't share many of my concerns. Creates less work for me then :)
silverknight wrote:
June 20th, 2018, 10:48 pm
As for the forums, I don't believe any changes are required. I've hosted phpBB and I can understand the frustration with spam, but there are tons of plugins that can make manually removing spam a rare and single click process. Adding a mobile only theme is also simple and I think would be a worthwhile time investment to the forums. There is also the benefit of its popularity, everyone from almost any walk of live has viewed or used phpBB in some corner of the web or another. Just like wordpress websites people have naturally learned to navigate, edit, register, etc on a phpBB forum and I think there is a lot of value in that 'universal' understanding of it.
True, but I suppose people are used to the alternatives, too.

I will check and see if we can get a better theme and that will at least solve the problems frontend-wise.
silverknight wrote:
June 20th, 2018, 10:48 pm
My biggest point against changing the forums is that I believe it is not a beneficial use of development time and effort, IPFire 3 has been talked about for so long I think many that require newer feature sets have given up and moved on (just as many saw that IPCop 2.2 was never coming). I'm guilty of this as well, I stopped suggesting IPFire for offices and business use awhile back and use pfSense for this use case simply because of things like IPv6, dual band AP management or the need for additional interfaces.
Well, we are working on it, and yes, we are very far behind schedule. But we are making progress. There are a few announcements coming soon. But in the meantime, please promote that you can donate :) We can really use every penny.

On pfSense, they can do IPv6, yes. I have heard many reports about poor driver support for WiFi and many NICs, but I suppose it works well enough with the right hardware. But I would certainly not recommend to use pfSense any more since the project is not Open Source any more and for security-relevant software, this is an absolute NO-GO for me!

-Michael
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billybob
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Re: How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

Post by billybob » June 21st, 2018, 5:47 pm

MichaelTremer wrote:
June 21st, 2018, 3:03 pm
But I would certainly not recommend to use pfSense any more since the project is not Open Source any more and for security-relevant software, this is an absolute NO-GO for me!
When netgate was trying to take over pfsense initially and pulled the build tools and started being really rude to the posters, I swore I would never use pfsense again. This is when I moved to ipfire and ran it as my edge firewall for a few years. I really liked the lightweight distro and liked the codel implementation in QoS. Honestly, it was really set and forget it type of solution for me as I hardly ever looked at what ipfire was doing, other than installing some security patches.
Having said that, I agree with most of the posters here. Most of us are used to reading forums and howtos in different formats so the phpBB is not a problem for me. What finally drove me away from ipfire was that the project seemed stale. The updates were coming almost monthly but the GUI started to look dated. I had never used ipcop so the color coded networks seem more of a hindrance to me instead of having multiple networks named whatever I wanted them to be. And finally, to be honest, I was also not a big fan of the dns changes with dns resolver in favor of the old dnsmasq forwarder which worked flawless for me.
I was a long time supporter of astaro (now pretty much abandoned by sophos) and was running most of my infrastructure in a vm. Therefore a trusted linux firewall like ipfire at the edge was an excellent choice for me.

Looking forward to your announcements about ipfire 3 since I am looking for a reliable linux firewall that is fast and lightweight with the flexibility the ipfire provided with excellent security.

Regards
Bill

P.S. My signature below is when I abandoned ipfire for other solutions :-[
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Roberto Peña
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Re: How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

Post by Roberto Peña » June 22nd, 2018, 6:09 am

Good morning to everyone from Spain.

Here is my point of view.

The format of the forum does not seem to me an obstacle. More obstacle is the language.

I understand that IPFire is a solution created in Germany and there are many German-speaking people in that forum, but who is this product for? For the German market ?, For the European market ?. Etc...

It is not a criticism and I hope that you do not feel bad, but if the Product is oriented for a global market, a means of non-exclusive communication should be adopted that we all understand, this is because in the German forum there are a series of very good threads, which, to which we are not German-speaking, escape us.

I would promote this (language) and also greatly promote the development of version 3.0 of IPFire and the adoption in this version 3.0 of new features that give a point of freshness to the Product. For example:
  • New, more modern GUI.
  • Generation and automatic sending of customizable reports.
  • Correct operation of the Captive Portal.
  • VLans manageable from the GUI.
  • High availability and load balancing.
  • Management of more network interfaces.
  • Automatic creation of firewall rules from the LOG itself.
  • Use of the existing WIO addon information to create objects and groups of objects in "Firewall groups".
  • etc...
This is a constructive criticism that at no time wants to overshadow the good Product and work you do.

Greetings and many thanks to Michael Tremer and the Developers for the fantastic work you do.
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MichaelTremer
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Re: How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

Post by MichaelTremer » June 22nd, 2018, 3:00 pm

Hello,

I appreciate your comments about the distribution and what should be fixed there, but I do not want to hijack this conversation about the forums here. We should have a discussion about featrues of the distrubution somewhere else. Especially regarding any bugs: Please open tickets. We fix all bugs that we know of, the forum is not a bug tracker, so please don't assume that someone will see a comment and consider it being a bug report. The forums are for support only.

Regarding which market IPFire is for: Clearly the global market. However, we almost never have anything in the press outside of Germany, so the biggest chunk of IPFire users are German. In development and everywhere else there is only English left, but the forum is mixed. I do not have a problem with that since I speak both languages, but I understand that this doesn't make any sense for people who only speak English.

Would the Germans here be okay with moving to English only for the forums?

-Michael
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Hellfire
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Re: How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

Post by Hellfire » June 22nd, 2018, 3:27 pm

MichaelTremer wrote:
June 22nd, 2018, 3:00 pm
Would the Germans here be okay with moving to English only for the forums?
Speaking both, English and German (native), I still appreciate posting my issues, if any, in German language, because its still easier for me to express problems in that language. Mostly because of complex themes.

Michael
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zargano
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Re: How can we improve the IPFire Forums?

Post by zargano » June 23rd, 2018, 10:43 am

Comparably to other users here in the forum, I am still a newbie with IPFire, and I am still in the process of migrating some of my installations away from IPCop, which I have used for more than a decade. Nonetheless I would like to post my opinion here as well.

The forum software is OK for me. I am reading the forum on a smartphone with quite small screen, and don't see too much a problem with it. Yes, the forum user interface is a bit retarded, but it serves the purpose.

From my perspective, some thoughts should be spent on the forum categories and the structure. Here I see some backlog and need for improvements. As an example the (German) HOWTO category is full of stuff, that has nothing to do with a general "HowTo", i.e. stuff that is interesting for a broad audience. The comparable IPCop area http://www.ipcop-forum.de/forum/viewforum.php?f=63 is much more advanced in that sense: you will find lots of condensed interesting posts in one place without too much searching.

Being a native German speaker, I agree that German posts are often cumbersone for the worldwide intended audience. Nonetheless there are reasons at least for some users to stay with their mother-tongue. Despite that, why not "gently" push the forum users towards using more English language? I would favor to cancel separate German and English categories: why not joining them?

A few words with regard to the IPFire distro... I fully support that a trustworthy firewall distro needs to be open source. And it needs to be up to date, with regard to security in the first place, in the second place with with regard to features, and last with regard to the user interface. As long as the user interface serves its purpose, it is good enough. For IPFire, this is the case for most things. I would suggest to concentrate on things like IPv6 or DNS over TLS.

Having said that, I clearly understand, that time and money are the limiting resources for most of the users, probably so for the developers. If not time, but money was the limiting resource, couldn't some funds be raised for say IPv6 or IPFire 3.x?

Regards, zargano

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