The state of LFE, or why I am losing hope

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Mário Guimarães

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Oct 14, 2016, 11:59:02 AM10/14/16
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Hi all,

I have been watching the evolution of LFE for quite some time now, and I have been trying to use it on some projects.

Sadly, I have to say that the current state of LFE is, more than ever, leading me to abandon LFE for serious development.

The evolution of LFE has been very slow, its site and documentation seems outdated, a total mess of links, inconsistent and poor layout, and really poor documentation.

I once thought that LFE would be a new opportunity for Lisp, this time built on top of a the very good platform, but today my disappointment is very profound, and I start feeling that LFE has been a false start for everybody.

Don't believe me? Who is working with it in serious projects? Which non-trivial open source projects are using it? In GitHub I see mostly LFE-based libraries only.

Clojure has proved that there is lots of mindshare in for a Lisp in a modern platform. Erlang is such a platform, and it has lots of mindshare too, just look at Elixir.

Unfortunately, LFE is promising much, but has given almost nothing in almost 9 years!

Damm, is Lisp losing an opportunity in Erlang VM? Don't tell me about Joxa, it is another terrible example (even the build is failing in their web site).

Ok, I hear, "Hey, stop complaining, and give some help!"

As much as I would like, I unfortunately have no time, nor resources for that. I have my own projects, I love Lisp and Erlang VM, and was looking to use LFE to work on my projects, but I most probably would not use it as it seems a road to no end.

Take my suggestion:
- throw away the existing site (it only harms LFE)
- throw away all that crapy documents (keep only the "Casting Spels in Lisp" for LFE tutorial, it is really nice, however slow paced)
- learn from Elixir (hint: copy its site and adapt)
- provide a fast paced LFE tutorial with solid examples (focused on the seasoned Erlang programmer)
- provide an LFE reference
- and , align LFE releases with those of Erlang as quickly as possible, which should be workable since Robert is "an insider".

This is the minimum, and it should be available fast, before everyone jumps to Elixir or somewhere else.

I hope this starts something new in this community …

I hope this community rages against this email, gets in move, and shows everyone that LFE is worth as a Lisp descendent, and is here to stay.

Don't make me return here and say it again out loud that I predicted the vanishing of LFE.

Wake up LFE, I want and would love to use it, many out there too, we need fresh air, we are see the true liberty and power Lisp can give us, but come on, where are you heading? Do you need more 8 years?

Have a nice day LFE, and wish you all the best!
Mário

Duncan McGreggor

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Oct 14, 2016, 12:39:55 PM10/14/16
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Hey Mário,

Thanks for your email to the list. I think your suggestions, while drastic, are probably very close to what is needed :-/

I too have been using Clojure professionally (on and off since 2012, more recently lately). It's amazing what 1000s of active contributors (language + libraries) and 100s of 1000s of active users can do for a project. That's not be being snarky about our own community. There are just as many benefits (and perhaps more, to some)  to having a small community ... it just doesn't provide the same sets of results as larger communities (both the good and the bad).

I've had very little time in the past year or so to contribute much to LFE, and I've missed it. I can definitely say that LFE has been used successfully used in production (by multiple companies). I myself had planned to use it on an up-coming project, since the JVM is so hungry memory-wise and I tend to build systems that leverage message-passing and concurrency. While the docs aren't a problem for me specifically, many of the libraries I depend upon have changed in the past year, and are now broken with other libraries I use. Somewhat disheartening, this put a hold on my own project development ... a catch-22 of low-memory and high-performance benefits against broken library builds/dependencies :-/

I too would like to see the things you mentioned changed; and I too have very little time to assist with the changes right now :-( I think only time will tell whether there are members of the community who do have the time, the interest, and the ability to help make this better for everyone. There's enough work that, had we a foundation and sufficient donations, someone could do this full-time. Alas, neither of those seem to likely.

Anyway, thanks again for your concern and your thoughtful, heart-felt email.

d


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Mário Guimarães

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Oct 14, 2016, 12:46:06 PM10/14/16
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You have done a lot!

The best
M

2016-10-14 17:39 GMT+01:00 Duncan McGreggor <dun...@mcgreggor.org>:
Hey Mário,

Thanks for your email to the list. I think your suggestions, while drastic, are probably very close to what is needed :-/

I too have been using Clojure professionally (on and off since 2012, more recently lately). It's amazing what 1000s of active contributors (language + libraries) and 100s of 1000s of active users can do for a project. That's not be being snarky about our own community. There are just as many benefits (and perhaps more, to some)  to having a small community ... it just doesn't provide the same sets of results as larger communities (both the good and the bad).

I've had very little time in the past year or so to contribute much to LFE, and I've missed it. I can definitely say that LFE has been used successfully used in production (by multiple companies). I myself had planned to use it on an up-coming project, since the JVM is so hungry memory-wise and I tend to build systems that leverage message-passing and concurrency. While the docs aren't a problem for me specifically, many of the libraries I depend upon have changed in the past year, and are now broken with other libraries I use. Somewhat disheartening, this put a hold on my own project development ... a catch-22 of low-memory and high-performance benefits against broken library builds/dependencies :-/

I too would like to see the things you mentioned changed; and I too have very little time to assist with the changes right now :-( I think only time will tell whether there are members of the community who do have the time, the interest, and the ability to help make this better for everyone. There's enough work that, had we a foundation and sufficient donations, someone could do this full-time. Alas, neither of those seem to likely.

Anyway, thanks again for your concern and your thoughtful, heart-felt email.

d

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Robert Virding

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Oct 14, 2016, 2:25:16 PM10/14/16
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I quite agree. And I am putting as much time as I can at the moment into developing LFE. But like most of us I only have limited time.

Yes, the site does need a reworking and if someone was to take on this project it would be a big boost and I would be very grateful. I have more or less translated the Erlang tutorial to LFE but at the moment it is the gitbook section but it should be moveable to a future site. Work is also being done to write clojure inspired modules for LFE and one has been included and as soon as I get the time[*] I will pull the update.

I have some good news anyway. My boss and I have been working hard to try and spread LFE inside Erlang Solutions and we have it included in the Erlang Ecosystem. See the logo at the end (which needs to be rotated 45 degrees). I always mention it when talking about the ecosystem. As part of a consulting job we are doing for a client in Elixir I should be able to a section in LFE. I will know in 2 weeks time. We have some really cool pictures with 3d versions of the cube as well.

Robert

[*] Away at a conference now with intermittent wifi in the hotel. It is best down in the conference area where I have the least time to use it. :-(




Eric Bailey

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Oct 14, 2016, 2:56:57 PM10/14/16
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I share the sentiments of everyone before me. I've used LFE in production but have been laid off. I still plan to work on it and use it in my spare time and at work (whatever that might be) when possible, but I'm only one person and my spare time, too, is limited.

It seems lately there are a few more people with free time interested in helping out. Perhaps a practical move now would be to come up with a roadmap/task list and publish it. The OTP 19 vs LFE 1.2.0 release delay was harsh on me too, so I agree it'd be great if we could better align them going forward. I'm willing to do what I can to that end.

For the record, if such a foundation existed, I'd be quite happy to work on LFE full time.

Eric




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Mário Guimarães

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Oct 14, 2016, 6:46:52 PM10/14/16
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Robert,

I would expect that Erlang Solutions would give full support so that you would work only on LFE, 100% focused!

Don't they see the success of Clojure? If it worked for Clojure, and it works for Elixir, it can work for a goood Lisp in Erlang VM, specially at the hands of one of Erlang's father!

And I really don't understand why Joxa is there in the picture ... it can only be a really bad joke, according to the site its build is even failing, it also seems death in github, and doing so, you only raise doubts whether to choose between LFE and Joxa.

Gosh! I can only hope things will change for the better.

Good luck,
Mário :-(


Robert Virding

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Oct 15, 2016, 6:45:54 AM10/15/16
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I agree of course. :-)

LFE *is* on the move inside Erlang Solutions and I see this project as an important step along the way. My boss in Stockholm is very supportive here and we are going start doing some internal training in LFE to spread it. I will be developing 2 LFE courses when I get the time: "LFE for Erlangers" and "LFE for Lispers". Originally they will probably be internal but I have to work out way to make them public.

I have to be slightly careful with working on LFE. So far LFE is "mine" if you check the copyrights (clj.lfe should NOT be mine as I have not worked on it) and ESL could very rightly complain that it should belong to them as it is related programming (Swedish law). ESL has been *very* generous with this and not made any such claims to LFE and I in turn have avoided working with LFE at work. This will now change if the LFE project is run. I have hope.

No, Joxa should probably not be there as it doesn't seem to be supported and developed any more. We should perhaps replace it with Efene which still is begin supported.

So, on the whole I would not lose hope on LFE, we are moving forwards. I think a problem we have to solve is how we we are to get more people into the community. Lisp has  vey bad reputation in large parts of the programming community. "Lots of Irritating Senseless Parentheses" :-)

Robert

mi...@forsterfamily.ca

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Oct 15, 2016, 6:49:23 AM10/15/16
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On Friday, October 14, 2016 at 1:25:16 PM UTC-5, Robert Virding wrote:
>
> I quite agree. And I am putting as much time as I can at the moment into developing LFE. But like most of us I only have limited time.
>

[...]

Robert and LFE'rs,

Let me just add to my previous that I would be happy to contribute, though I haven't to date.

When would be the best time (I thinking of specific timelines for myself) and where (this list, Slack, etc.) the  best place to discuss and document a plan and commitment?

Mike

Michael J. Forster

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Oct 15, 2016, 6:49:24 AM10/15/16
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Hi,

Pinched for time here, but I wanted to at least say that our company uses LFE heavily. We started two years ago with migration of our seven year old 100 KLOC Erlang-based event admissions system. Since then, I've written two new KFE-based systems--another 70KLOC--to expand our online ticketing services.

We've been committed to Erlang and, now, even more so to LFE. We could be for the next decade, if the last 25 years has been any indicator.

Perhaps not applicable to attracting newcomers and, especially, teams (as Elixir has excited floundering Rubyists), but I've succeeded and been productive with LFE by leveraging my experience with both Lisp and Erlang and their resources.

One question I have is: Who do you want to attract? I'm here because the Clojure BDFL and community have made--and are sticking with--technical choices that do not fit my cost/benefit needs. Likewise for Elixir. Of course, I'm not suggesting you should attract only me!! But I think it's a crucial initial question: Who is your target user? How broad of a "Who" can you afford to satisfy over the long haul?

Best,

Mike


mi...@forsterfamily.ca

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Oct 15, 2016, 6:49:24 AM10/15/16
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Claudia Doppioslash

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Oct 15, 2016, 6:49:24 AM10/15/16
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Yes, the site does need a reworking and if someone was to take on this project it would be a big boost and I would be very grateful. I have more or less translated the Erlang tutorial to LFE but at the moment it is the gitbook section but it should be moveable to a future site. Work is also being done to write clojure inspired modules for LFE and one has been included and as soon as I get the time[*] I will pull the update.

I could help with the website.
What is needed? 

I have some good news anyway. My boss and I have been working hard to try and spread LFE inside Erlang Solutions and we have it included in the Erlang Ecosystem. See the logo at the end (which needs to be rotated 45 degrees). I always mention it when talking about the ecosystem. As part of a consulting job we are doing for a client in Elixir I should be able to a section in LFE. I will know in 2 weeks time. We have some really cool pictures with 3d versions of the cube as well.

Cool :) 

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Claudia Doppioslash

http://www.lambdacat.com   | Functional Programming
http://www.shadercat.com    | Shader & Graphics Programming

Michael J. Forster

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Oct 15, 2016, 6:49:24 AM10/15/16
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> On Oct 14, 2016, at 13:25, Robert Virding <rvir...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> I quite agree. And I am putting as much time as I can at the moment into developing LFE. But like most of us I only have limited time.
>

Piotr

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Dec 5, 2016, 5:36:00 PM12/5/16
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Hi,

this is just a small comment from a potential new user (profile: scientist/entrepreneur, programming this and that in Python/IPython Notebook & Scheme, interested and looking at languages like Haskell, Erlang).

I was looking at LFE for a while now, but so far I have not decided to put any time into it.

In Python, I go for a main installation, get pip and some libraries, or opt for a specialized distribution, and hack away. Go(lang) seems to be trival to set up and work with. With LFE? Like Clojure, there seems to be a strong barrier of entry in a technical sense.

Information I would like to see right away:

-- Why should I learn LFE, when I could learn Erlang and stick with it? What is the advantage here (please note I do not know the limitations of Erlang). I understand that LFE is some sort of macro on top of Erlang that allows me to go (-mode with macros and so on.
-- What kind of IDEs are out there that support exploritative programming? Is there a REPL, and how does it work?
-- How do I install those IDEs in an uncomplicated way, and how do I use them? (e.g. "EMACS for LFE for dummies")

I think LISPs have a great standing when it comes to explorative programming, but in many cases there is a huge barrier of entry with many a technical problem e.g. in Chicken Scheme you have to be learn a bit of EMACS, install a library, learn that library. In Clojure you have EMACS again, but fortunately there are solutions such as LightTable to play with. Then again, the JVM is a monster for those who do not know it. I am happy to learn Erlang, since it seems to be a nice language to solve all kinds of network communication problems with. But why to go through all the hassle with LFE?

Cheers,

   Piotr



Raoul Duke

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Dec 5, 2016, 6:04:27 PM12/5/16
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i think that any fledgling language that wants to get anywhere is
leaving money on the table / shooting itself in the foot / lame if it
doesn't have a fully set up turn key docker image (or aws image)
available.

Eric Bailey

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Dec 7, 2016, 10:40:17 AM12/7/16
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Raoul, there are Docker images for LFE, including one or two in the main LFE repo itself. How do you mean fully set up? Maybe you could open an issue and drop some thoughts here: https://github.com/lfex/dockerfiles

Eric




i think that any fledgling language that wants to get anywhere is
leaving money on the table / shooting itself in the foot / lame if it
doesn't have a fully set up turn key docker image (or aws image)
available.

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Duncan McGreggor

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Dec 7, 2016, 10:41:50 AM12/7/16
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More links to Docker images for LFE:
 * https://hub.docker.com/u/lfex/

On Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 9:40 AM, Eric Bailey <ifsixw...@gmail.com> wrote:
Raoul, there are Docker images for LFE, including one or two in the main LFE repo itself. How do you mean fully set up? Maybe you could open an issue and drop some thoughts here: https://github.com/lfex/dockerfiles

Eric

On Mon, Dec 5, 2016 at 5:04 PM -0600, "Raoul Duke" <rao...@gmail.com> wrote:

i think that any fledgling language that wants to get anywhere is
leaving money on the table / shooting itself in the foot / lame if it
doesn't have a fully set up turn key docker image (or aws image)
available.

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Raoul Duke

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Dec 9, 2016, 2:27:26 AM12/9/16
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Ok I am a dummy/jerk for not looking first. Back when I was a young
lad trying out LFE there were no docker images iirc. Well done to
whomever made them. And apologies from me.

Duncan McGreggor

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Dec 9, 2016, 8:51:01 AM12/9/16
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No dummies or jerks here :-D Just an opportunity for more folks to hear about the things that have been going on in LFE!

No apologies necessary -- but a thank-you instead: for prompting us to share that these exist with more users :-)

d

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H Durer

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Dec 9, 2016, 9:17:23 AM12/9/16
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Speaking of the docker files.

a) It doesn't seem to have been refreshed in about a month -- what is best practice these days for Docker to pick up security fixes in a timely manner?  (Automatic daily builds?  Don't use the prebuilt image but build yourself from the Dockerfile daily?)
b) The link to the Dockerfile 404s
c) To reduce the size of the image, I'd append a "&& rm -rf /var/lib/apt/lists/*" at the end of the RUN command - users of the image will do an "apt-get update" anyway to get the latest packages and that way you don't have the whole package lib in your image.

2016-12-09 13:51 GMT+00:00 Duncan McGreggor <dun...@mcgreggor.org>:
No dummies or jerks here :-D Just an opportunity for more folks to hear about the things that have been going on in LFE!

No apologies necessary -- but a thank-you instead: for prompting us to share that these exist with more users :-)

d
On Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 1:27 AM, Raoul Duke <rao...@gmail.com> wrote:
Ok I am a dummy/jerk for not looking first. Back when I was a young
lad trying out LFE there were no docker images iirc. Well done to
whomever made them. And apologies from me.

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Duncan McGreggor

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Dec 9, 2016, 10:10:35 AM12/9/16
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On Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 8:17 AM, H Durer <h.du...@gmail.com> wrote:
Speaking of the docker files.

a) It doesn't seem to have been refreshed in about a month -- what is best practice these days for Docker to pick up security fixes in a timely manner?  (Automatic daily builds?  Don't use the prebuilt image but build yourself from the Dockerfile daily?)

I try to regen the docker images when we have a new LFE release ... it usually takes a few weeks for me up step through them all, test, etc. A month-old dockerfile is actually pretty fresh, for us ;-)

When I regen the docker images, I not only update the LFE portion (and Erlang, if applicable) but also force a distro update, to get the latest fixes/patches.
 
b) The link to the Dockerfile 404s

Which link?
 
c) To reduce the size of the image, I'd append a "&& rm -rf /var/lib/apt/lists/*" at the end of the RUN command - users of the image will do an "apt-get update" anyway to get the latest packages and that way you don't have the whole package lib in your image.

Excellent -- thanks! I'll do that for the Debian and Ubuntu images. Creating ticket now ...

d

Duncan McGreggor

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Dec 9, 2016, 10:18:01 AM12/9/16
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I guess it's worth stating that we don't have a build server, so we don't do automated builds as part of a CI/CD process for releases. If we did, that's something we'd definitely do (and would thus better address your first question / concern).

d

Raoul Duke

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Dec 9, 2016, 10:19:03 AM12/9/16
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(i meant my tone to be chagrined sheepish, but rereading it, it could sound pissy oops. i'm on a roll. :-)

Duncan McGreggor

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Dec 9, 2016, 10:25:15 AM12/9/16
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A toast for being on a roll! 🍻

(For what it's worth, your tone sounded full with good-natured remorse, the sort of thing that earns another round down at the LFE local ... :-))

On Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 9:19 AM, Raoul Duke <rao...@gmail.com> wrote:

(i meant my tone to be chagrined sheepish, but rereading it, it could sound pissy oops. i'm on a roll. :-)

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Duncan McGreggor

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Dec 9, 2016, 10:31:54 AM12/9/16
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Speaking of which ... cheers!


​(will be making an appearance in an up-coming LFE graphic ...)

d

On Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 9:25 AM, Duncan McGreggor <dun...@mcgreggor.org> wrote:
A toast for being on a roll! 🍻

(For what it's worth, your tone sounded full with good-natured remorse, the sort of thing that earns another round down at the LFE local ... :-))
On Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 9:19 AM, Raoul Duke <rao...@gmail.com> wrote:

(i meant my tone to be chagrined sheepish, but rereading it, it could sound pissy oops. i'm on a roll. :-)

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H Durer

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Dec 9, 2016, 10:41:48 AM12/9/16
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2016-12-09 15:10 GMT+00:00 Duncan McGreggor <dun...@mcgreggor.org>:
On Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 8:17 AM, H Durer <h.du...@gmail.com> wrote:
Speaking of the docker files.
[...]
b) The link to the Dockerfile 404s

Which link?

On  https://hub.docker.com/r/lfex/lfe/ the "(Dockerfile)" and also the "relevant manifest file" links give a 404 for me.

 
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