[ros-users] ROS usability (was: ROS & DDS)

Daniel Stonier d.stonier at gmail.com
Wed Feb 19 09:14:51 UTC 2014

On 19 February 2014 00:21, Ryan Gariepy <rgariepy at clearpathrobotics.com>wrote:

> So, I actually ask "What would you improve about ROS" in every single
> related job interview I conduct...I've got a long list.
> On ROS usability itself, the largest thing which has come up has been the
> renewed difficulty in getting started. Even though new users are no longer
> being thrown into the middle of the rosmake/catkin transition, the overhead
> in creating a new package has increased dramatically.
> It's been a long time since I've used the rosmake/rospy/Electric combo,
> but IIRC all you needed to do was:
> 1) Source setup.bash
> 2) Call the package creation script
> 3) Write a .py script
> 4) Add the package to ROS_PACKAGE_PATH
> Three of those four steps are one-liners, and the fourth has near-instant
> gratification for the developers.
> Another point: ROS used to be three steps for a full install: (key,
> update, install), and now you need to jump through hoops for rosdep and
> other "noncritical yet required" items.
> Something else which is important to note is that the purpose of all of
> those above steps are easily explainable to someone who knows nothing about
> ROS at all, which is certainly not the case now. (ex. "Why do I have to
> specify basic ROS dependencies in three different locations?", "Why do I
> need to set up build instructions for a script I intend to run in place?")
> So, we've made development and installation more difficult by leaps and
> bounds, and now we have the potential to make the same mistake with the
> transport layer?
> IMO, we should all keep in mind that ROS is where it is in large part due
> to it being easy to install and get started on. I'm not saying at all that
> we should stop improving performance, but I am saying that we should
> consider the "getting started" for new developers more than we have been.
> Even from a personal note, it sometimes takes me longer to set up a
> workspace and package setup for a quick test than it does for me to write
> the actual code. True, I can set up templates and scripts to speed this
> up...but why should I have to?

I actually think all of these issues can be very quickly remedied, except
perhaps for the little extra effort involved in adding a bit more
information to CMakeLists.txt and setup.py than there used to be.

We even go to some of this effort internally and have a few tools that make
life easier for interns/engineers who aren't so familiar with ros and are
often only temporarily in and out of the ros team.  For them getting
started with something like turtlebot is as easy as:

# Pull rosinstalls located by our rosdistro like github
> yujin_init_workspace turtlebot ./turtlebot
> cd turtlebot
# Create a whole bunch of useful scripts for starting konsole,
gnome-terminal, eclipse with sourced setup.bash
> yujin_init_build .
# Install all dependencies and compile
> yujin_make --install-rosdeps

>From there we also have a few of our own catkin_create_xxx wizards - e.g.
for java we utilise catkin_create_rosjava_package,
catkin_create_rosjava_library_project, catkin_create_rosjava_project. Ros
could definitely use some extra default catkin_create_xxx scripts and this
would simplify things alot for *new* users and with these, I don't see it
really being that much more difficult than electric.

Perhaps this small (and it is small compared to catkin or a middleware
overhaul) effort should be given higher priority given the anxiety this
issue creates.

> On Sun, Feb 16, 2014 at 5:56 AM, Thibault Kruse <kruset at in.tum.de> wrote:
>> > Ease of use is *critical*. We're already receiving regular feedback
>> > that the usability of ROS is getting worse with each distribution.
>> >
>> > -Ryan
>> Hi Ryan,
>> it would be interesting to hear more details about what parts of ROS
>> suffered usability most, and what impact this has on Clearpath Robotics
>> Business.
>> The question about DDS was not asked by some OSRF technical underling or
>> the ROS platform manager, but by the OSRF CEO. So we can presume that the
>> internal discussion about DDS at OSRF is not just philantrophic idle talk,
>> but more relevant to the future of OSRF itself (not just ROS).
>> It seems unclear whether the loss of usability of ROS will have an impact
>> on OSRF funding, or whether OSRF should invest into integrating accepted
>> industry standards (like DDS) into ROS rather than improving usability.
>> The loss of usability itself is a pity, but OSRF closing shop would be
>> much more dramatic for the future of ROS.
>> regards,
>>   Thibault
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