In this week’s KDE Commit-Digest:
This month the Plasma 5 team brings you 5.1.1, a bugfix release to polish up the offering. It includes all the latest translations and a bunch of bugfixes. The bugfixes include syncing settings better with kdelibs4 applications so if you select which…
This is the first part of KDE & Freedom, a series of interviews with people who use and contribute to FOSS in their everyday lives. Please consider donating to the KDE End of Year 2014 Fundraiser. We need your help!
Franklin is a 39 year old FOSS activist based in Taipei. He has coordinated KDE’s zh_TW translation team since 2006, and is the core developer of ezgo (Chinese), a compilation of educational software used by schools all over Taiwan. ezgo, which in its Linux installation uses KDE by default, blends more than 100 free software applications into one localized, easy to use package. [More information in a previous Dot article.]
Exchanging emails led to a voice conversation between The Dot and Franklin.
What is your motivation behind computer freedom?
Many people asked me the same question. My simple answer is because I like to be free.
Before the year 2000, when we wanted to install and run an open source application, we would download the code, then there would be a file called “INSTALL” telling us how to compile and install the application. If we followed all the steps there would be a 95% chance that the compilation will fail. But then we would still have clues to find out what the problem was. We didn’t need to call the vendor and ask why it’s not working and have him ignore us. I like the feeling of finding the answer, no matter if it is by myself or by discussing with others on the Internet.
In Taiwan there were many excellent people working on the i18n [internationalization] framework, which made localization a lot easier. I appreciated their contributions very much, and that’s also what drove me to contribute more into the open source world.
What do you think of the situation of free software in Taiwan?
In my opinion it is far behind where it should be.
There are people working, contributing and promoting FOSS in Taiwan. But we still are under the control of many big international software vendors like Microsoft or Adobe.
All these years we tried to let people see the value of free software as a public resource, but people have gotten used to commercial software. One of the reasons, I think, is that there was a lot of software piracy several years ago. Now it is much better, but I think it could be one of the main reasons why we have difficulties promoting open source software.
“Contribute without thinking too much and opportunities will come to knock on your door.”
You are the main developer of an educational platform. How can free software improve education?
Contributing. I told teachers and people that the strength behind the world of open source is the strength of contributing. So many people contribute without asking for any economic feedback. That’s the most amazing strength in the world, and that should be what teachers should tell our kids while they’re using FOSS.
It would help a lot if teachers could understand that FOSS is actually not only for computer classes, but for all kinds of subjects. There are so many educational FOSS and educational public domain resources!
The latest release of ezgo is based on Kubuntu 13.04 and has Linux 3.8.0 in its core.
And why did you start to collaborate on ezgo?
Before 2007 I just translated KDE and other applications and I sent them upstream. I started to be the coordinator of the KDE zh_TW l10n team in 2006 and then my partner Eric Sun sent me an email. He told me that he was running a project under the Ministry of Education in Taiwan promoting free and open software to elementary and high schools. ezgo it was one of their products, collecting many good FOSS applications in it. The target was to make it easier for people to understand and use FOSS.
So everything was started by your translation work?
When translating KDE I didn’t think too much. I didn’t expect to get any feedback or credit, I didn’t expect to get any chance to be a part of any other communities.
That’s also what I would tell young people. Contribute without thinking too much and opportunities will come to knock on your door.
My partner told me his thoughts and the value of ezgo. At that time I had two babies and I started to think about what I can do for education using FOSS. I joined his group, and at first I was just a consultant, helping them to solve problems. From ezgo X, I became the main developer.
“Open source and public domain are good for education.”
In the beginning, ezgo had GNOME 2 by default, but since ezgo X you have used KDE. Why?
The main component of ezgo is the menu. It’s categorized and sorted so people can easily understand and find out the applications. It’s very important for us but when GNOME 3 was released it was gone. Then Ubuntu started to use Unity, which didn’t have a menu either. So we had to decide if we should let people use GNOME 3, Unity, or any other desktop environment. Finally we decided to switch to KDE. The most important reason was that it kept the normal menu.
ezgo provides a huge selection of FOSS apps.
And what has been the response so far?
We have two different reactions. When we are promoting ezgo, we don’t highlight what desktop we are using because we focus on the applications. So most people aren’t aware that they’re using KDE. It doesn’t matter what OS, window manager or desktop we are using, we are always using the same applications. We collected more than 100 free software applications in ezgo, no matter if KDE apps or not. So for most people, it was okay to switch to KDE. However, there was another reaction—some people don’t like KDE. They think that interfaces like Gnome 3 or Unity would be the correct way since mobile devices are more and more popular. They think that PCs will vanish one day.
What are the next steps for ezgo?
ezgo hasn’t completed its mission. It’s just like an auxiliary wheel on a bicycle. We still hope to let more and more people understand and enjoy the world of open source. From the aspect of education, we hope that more schools and teachers understand that open source and public domain are good for education. They don’t need to rely only on commercial software. We’re not against such software, but we want people to know that they have choices.
ezgo will complete its mission when people don’t need ezgo anymore.
How do you imagine education in Taiwan in 20 years?
Though there are many problems in Taiwan’s education system, there are many teachers and even students working to improve our education from the bottom to the top. I believe that it will be more open and more creative.
And technical education?
Technical education in Taiwan has never been an issue. There are so many teachers and government officers who like to play with new toys!
We hope that in 20 years kids and students will learn how to find resources and solve their problems, no matter if it is a public resource or commercial software. In Taiwan we’re now hot on things like ‘flip classroom’ or ‘mobile learning’. Some teachers believe that computer classrooms will vanish in a few years, replaced by tablets.
But I don’t agree with them. Tablets are good for collecting information and for some learning. But there are many basic skills, concepts and fundamental knowledge that they can’t satisfy. I’m not against these devices but I believe that all kinds of computers have their own role.
In this week’s KDE Commit-Digest:
There will be a KDE exhibit at the upcoming LISA (Large Installation System Administration) Conference. The full conference takes place November 9 ‒ 14 in Seattle; the expo is open on the 12th and 13th. There is no charge to attend the expo.
Several members of the KDE Community will be in the booth—presenting various aspects of KDE; answering questions; demonstrating applications (thanks especially to Krita and ogbog); recruiting contributors, users, companies and sponsors. All members of the KDE Community are welcome to visit, to jump in & represent KDE, or to just make contact with other KDE people. These small regional gatherings are necessary until we are financially self-sustaining enough to justify a national gathering such as Akademy. The Seattle KDE group is off to a great start.
This is also an opportunity for people who are curious, or interested in what the KDE Community is doing. Our governance, separation between development and administration, and strong mentoring programs are the foundation for an effective international community that is resilient and innovative. Just in the past few years, KDE developers have built a new development platform (KDE Frameworks 5), a fully redesigned desktop environment (Plasma 5) and a modern look-and-feel (Breeze)—demonstrating KDE’s value to the broad technology industry.
The LISA conference has long served as the annual vendor-neutral meeting place for the wider system administration community. Recognizing the overlap and differences between traditional and modern IT operations and engineering, the highly-curated 6-day program offers training, workshops, invited talks, panels, paper presentations, and networking opportunities around 5 key topics: Systems Engineering, Security, Culture, DevOps, and Monitoring/Metrics. Don’t miss the chance to be a part of this unique career-building journey.
Many thanks to USENIX for the generous support of KDE.
Season of KDE is a community outreach program, much like Google Summer of Code that has been hosted by the KDE community for six years straight.
Here is a unique way to give back to KDE allowing us to keep giving free software to humankind.
By participating in this fundraiser, you’ll be part of the improvements we’ll put into our educational software, so kids can have better tools for school; our office suite, so we have the best tools for the workplace; and our desktop so we can all experience a fun and productive experience when interacting with our computers.
Donating to KDE is not for you, it is for the entire world.
As a way to say thank you, starting with €30 we will send a KDE themed postcard to any given address. You will get an extra card for every additional €10 donation. Get cards for yourself and for your family and friends to show them you care for freedom. It’s the perfect way to spread the festive cheer and donate to your favorite project at the same time.
Releases of KDE Frameworks are now a monthly feature. The release of KDE Frameworks 5.3 brings many small, but important fixes including:
Qt Developer Days Europe is next Monday to Wednesday in Berlin. It features tutorials and talks on making the most of the Qt toolkit most KDE Software is based upon. Since Qt opened up its development process a large part of KDE Frameworks develop…
Put your testing hats on, Plasma 5 has a beta release. The second version of Plasma 5 is due out in under two weeks and now is your chance to test it for bugs which have crept in. It features a bunch of missing features which have been added back suc…
Videos of all of the Akademy Talks are now available online to watch in your own time.
From August 27th to 30th, 2014, nearly sixteen KDE lovers met in the 2nd LaKademy – The KDE Latin America Summit. The sprint took place in the Free Software Competence Center (CCSL) at University of São Paulo (USP) in southeast Brazil.
A little bit of history
Since 2008, a bunch of initiatives have been taken towards the fostering and spreading of KDE community and technologies in Brazil and Latin America. Even though at a slow pace sometimes, such effort have yielded good results in disseminating the motivations and benefits of get involved in such a vibrant free software community, mainly in a region where the tradition of sprints is not yet fully consolidated.
In 2010 the 1st Akademy-BR (Brazilian KDE summit) took place at Praia do Forte, Bahia, northeast Brazil. Nearly 20 participants met in a three days meeting where some of current active Brazilian KDE contributors made their first steps in contributing with coding, translation, and promotion. Some people have come and gone, but some of them got vastly seduced by the idea of coming together in the pursuit of sharing knowledge and making world better with high quality free software. Those remain pushing KDE in their universities, companies, and in high visibility meetings such as FISL and Latinoware.
After Akademy-BR, we focused on trying to better integrate KDE people from other countries in Latin America. Some contributors from Peru and Argentina were invited to present their work at previous editions of Latinoware, meet the Brazilian fellows, and help deciding on actions to narrow KDE relationships in Latin America. Such an effort culminated in the 1st LaKademy, held in Porto Alegre, south Brazil, from April 27th to May 1st, 2012. Sixteen participants from Brazil, Argentina, and Peru were involved in artwork, translation, promotion, and development activities.
Two years have passed again until the time for the 2nd LaKademy, held at the Free Software Competence Center (CCSL) at University of São Paulo (USP) from August 27th to 30th, 2014. USP is one of the most important and prestigious universities in the world and CCSL is a two-storey building entirely devoted to free software projects, quite close to IME (Mathematics and Statistics Institute) – where Computer Science, Mathematics, and Statistics courses are offered. Motivated by an expected audience of potential KDE newcomers, we’ve decided on a schedule with KDE talks on the very first day, an introductory Qt short-course on the second day, and the usual contribution sprints happening in the last two days of LaKademy 2014. Sadly, the number of guests was lower than expected. In spite of that, the talks allowed us to better know each other’s work in KDE and the Qt short-course was a place to clarify common doubts and providing an initial support for the KDE newcomers specially attending LaKademy 2014.
LaKademy 2014 Group Photo
What we have done ?
The first day of LaKademy 2014 began with the Lamarque’s talk about Eduroam and Plasma Network Management. Afterwards, Rafael Gomes presented his KDE SysAdmin talk – which provided some interesting information about KDE infrastructure and all the work undertaken behind the scenes in order to support KDE technologies development and community communication. The next talk was about KDE Connect, presented by Ronny Yabar, where the most exciting features of KDE mobile-desktop integration were presented, followed by a brief discussion about its architecture. At the end of the day, Filipe Saraiva presented a talk about Qt and KDE applications on Android, with a special note to the GCompris case.
Rafael’s talk about KDE SysAdmin
A Qt introductory short-course was presented by Sandro Andrade in the second day of LaKademy 2014. Given the limited time available, the focus was on the essential aspects underlying the Qt-ish way of developing cross-platform applications: signal/slots mechanism, (dynamic) properties, meta-objects, moc and uic compilers, event loops, and basic design of interfaces using QtWidgets and QML. In the audience: some newcomers invited to attend LaKademy, translators trying to get a grasp on programming, veterans helping to make some points clearer, and three guests from USP.
The third and fourth days were dedicated to hacking sessions and a BoF about KDE promo. Among the development outcomes, we managed to port Bovo to KF5 (pushed in ‘frameworks‘ branch of bovo repository) and Filipe started porting Cantor to KF5. Ronny has also submitted some changes to review, regarding KDE Connect. Filipe also started the creation of a meta-package for KF5 in Mageia. Boaglio and Sandro (two old-school geeks with an inexplicable passion for MSX) started the development of QMSX – a GUI front-end for the openmsx emulator:
The QMSX frontend to openmsx
The BoF about KDE promo lasted about two hours and raised a number of questions, evaluation of strategies, and seventeen tasks were recorded in todo.kde.org (‘KDE Brazil’ project), including the development of promotional material, webinars, KDE presence on social networks, and financial aspects. Filipe helped in fixing the web bots for spreading news in Facebook e Twitter. The next LaKademy was also one of the exciting discussions during the KDE Promo BoF. In general, we agreed on having the 3rd LaKademy happening already in the first half of 2015. The venue is also almost confirmed.
As for the artwork outcomes, Adriana (who joined the group at the very last minute), Viviane, and Wagner produced some amazing stuff in those days. What about these new Konqi and LaKademy wallpapers ? A LaKademy commemorative KSplash theme was also developed.
Wallpapers developed during LaKademy 2014
Finally, Aracele, Camila, and Bianca were involved in translation activities. They focused on techbase translation, which got from 18% to 24% during those days. At the end of the third day, we had a beer-and-pizza lovely night at the Garoa Hacker Club, with a lot of lightening talks, KDE keyrings getting out of a 3D printer, and other nerdiness.
We would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to the KDE e.V. for the financial support, to the Free Software Competence Center for hosting LaKademy 2014, to Viviane Notato for the artwork support, and to Aracele and Filipe for the local arrangements. We hope to meet each other again soon, at LaKademy 2015, with a 4-5 days of sprints only. No talks, no short-courses :). After all, where can we get the most of fun from when contributing to KDE ?
This article first appeared on KDE-Brasil
Akademy continues with hacking and BoF meetings. This wrapup meeting video covers sessions from Wednesday and Thursday including accessibility, release team, user information reporting, KDE applications websites, KDevelop and share-like-connect.
Akademy is in full swing here in Brno in the Czech Republic. The days are now filled with BoF sessions to discuss given topics and make decisions in person much faster than would be possible online. Here is the wrapup session from Tuesday which cover…
It was a cloudy morning in Brno…. luckily not as hot as the first day. The traces of fun from last night kept many participants similarly subdued but they were soon woken up by a truly inspiring keynote by Cornelius Schumacher, our fresh former president of KDE e.V.!
Akademy 2014 Group Photo, how many can you name?
Keynote by Cornelius
Cornelius opened by telling us he became a better person by participating in the KDE Community and wants to share with us why. He kicked off with a tale about his early days in KDE—one day he removed a folder from his code repository: the admin folder. Little did he know about the consequences of this action. The admin folder was shared among all KDE projects and contained the scripts and tools needed to build all KDE applications. Rest assured, it did not take others long to notice that every build had broken. Ultimately, Cornelius learned a lot about CVS and fixing things with it – it is mistakes which teach best. Later on, he ran for the Board of KDE e.V. and learned some of the world’s longest words, courtesy of the necessary bureaucratic skills for running a legal organization in Germany. Many of the skills he learned he applied in his work; his KDE experience helped him grow in his role as a manager.
And he is not the only one who benefited from the learning environment the KDE community offers. An old picture of Till Adam shows the Managing Director for KDAB Germany wasn’t always the best dressed person in KDE. Cornelius also found a picture of Eva Brucherseifer at a KDE meeting long before she started her own company, BasysKom, which has been sponsoring Akademy for many years. KHTML, our web browsing engine, has grown to be at the core of most modern browsers like Safari and Chrome. One of its initial developers, George Staikos, is now VP of Web Technologies at Blackberry. The pictures Cornelius treated us with once again didn’t make it look like either would make it that far. A few more quips were made about t-shirts. Rohan and Vishesh got applause for getting as far as they did in the time they have been part of the KDE community—from students to being full-time employed to do the awesome work they do.
Not all in KDE have been so successful. Upon seeing the screenshot of the most famous Plasma theme, the IRC channel erupted in protest and many contended all was fluffy but before this protest reached him, Cornelius had already moved on to the next slide. And yes, the KDE 2 wallpaper with the slogan ‘I con do it’ (to promote the work on new icons) might not have been our best and brightest marketing moment. Finally, Cornelius touched on the downside of working with know-it-allstalented and stubbornambitious people: sometimes people bump heads. The KDE community has been dealing with such issues in a comparatively constructive matter, in part through the Community Working Group and other structures.
The question then is: how did all this come to be? Why is KDE such a great environment for growth? Cornelius gives three main reasons for this, starting with Freedom.
The license and the freedoms that were defined by Richard Stallman are at the core of our culture and this results a low barrier of entry, motivation to do interesting and fun things, and it facilitates learning because making mistakes is not punished like they are in other environments.
A second important thing is purpose. We have a common goal: build software for client users, specifically the desktop. Cornelius felt this most strongly at an event in Frankfurt where Linus Torvalds handed out an award for providing the best desktop. There was clearly a higher purpose to the KDE community and its work noticeable there. Another great picture giving this feeling is from an event in India where Pradeepto is talking to a group of students. They were about to leave the event (traveling back for almost a day!) as they did not feel their skills were enough to benefit from the sessions available at the event. Pradeepto convinced them to stay and organized, at that moment, a series of beginner-level sessions which were suitable for them, so the second day they could participate already in the normal schedule.
Fluffy Developers Try to Subvert our Reputation as an Enterprise Desktop
The third ingredient Cornelius sees in KDE is fun. And he can only say this in this room: doing C++ is fun! It is even more enjoyable if you use Qt! It isn’t the only fun stuff we do, we are a diverse bunch, but it is a common ground, something we all feel at home with. He now works as a manager, but sometimes going back to writing some C++ is relaxing. And it gets us to accomplish great things, be creative, bring our software to millions of users. This is all fun! This is expressed beautifully in the Randa picture he showed: you can see and feel how it is fun, getting into the zone, being productive, helping each other grow. Not many places allow focus as deep as the Randa meetings.
So, freedom, purpose and fun. We should ask ourselves next: how do we preserve what has made KDE great? On the freedom side, we have a solid, strong base. We’re pretty safe with that. There are challenges for freedom, but many people are addressing them. Fun is a safe thing, too, this Akademy is a testament of that: we are having fun.
Purpose is the challenge for the KDE community. Our native platform, C++ is still big, but in a slow decline. And the numbers of our contributors and contributions are in decline as well. Yes, lies, damn lies and statistics, and this Akademy we welcomed a lot of new people, but we had bigger events in the past. We have to change to stay relevant and grow. We should be serious about that and shouldn’t just say our move to Git screwed our statistics – maybe it did, but that is no reason not to try and do better. At CeBIT we got an award, a readers-choice for the best desktop – won by a large margin. We have a great base and great software and we know what we are doing. But is the desktop still our purpose? If not, then what is? Cornelius wants to see our purpose a little wider. He sees our goal being “give people access to great technology”. We want to do great technology, we’re ambitious, but in the end it is about bringing it to people. This is where we should put our emphasis to keep KDE relevant.
The secret is, in the end that it isn’t KDE which makes anybody a better person. It is us – all of us, together. Cornelius’ final message is: be free, maintain your purpose and have fun! Then we can all grow. He receives a great applause and throughout the rest of the event, his keynote comes up many times: it was inspiring and motivating, but also made us think about where we need to go.
Pradeepto Inspires students at kde.conf.in
Fast Track Time
After Cornelius’ opening keynote, it is time for the fast track again, starting with Kevin Ottens on “Software Craftsmanship”. He discussed hacker culture and taking pride in creating a beautiful (finished) product as a teaser for his other talks and workshop. Alex Fiestas showed off KDE Connect and its nifty features to make your phone work with your Plasma desktop. He was interrupted by his phone (named Rusty Trombone) receiving a call during the talk which successfully stopped his showing of Dr Who. Kai Uwe Broulik showed how to integrate your KDE application with native features on Android and iOS devices. Jos Poortvliet gave some tips on how to deal with people AFK (away from keyboard, with his real-life examples drawing quite some laughs from the audience.
Björn Balazs shared a guide on the impossibility of doing usability. The hardest issue is that we can’t do usability in KDE very well as we can’t reach our users… In order to save the world, we need to find a way to connect to our users! Starting with our user interface itself. There are plenty of ways to do that and there will be a BoF session to make this happen. Albert Astals Cid ended the morning track with a overview of the release management process. He showed the amount of work put in each release. His point was clear—with 8 releases in July alone, the current process has to be improved. Of course, a BoF session will take place on this subject.
Lunch Time and Technical Sessions
After the release management talk the audience was herded outside to have their picture taken, and then again unleashed on Brno to hunt and gather. Food had to come from rather far as nearby places were closed but the clouds had disappeared and the sunny walk provided some time for discussion and the production of vitamin D. After lunch, there was a technical and a less technical track. We don’t have coverage of all sessions there, but you can watch the videos later and we have a small selection below again.
Andrew Lake from the Visual Design Group gave an inspiring talk about building up and fostering a community of very different people with a wide variety of skill levels. He explains there were originally fears of design-by-committee (the implicit thought: that produces not-great-design). Andrew claims that while things can go wrong, they don’t have to. Oh, and – the same arguments against community design have been leveraged against Free Software itself in the past.
The approach to get a group of people to produce good design is roughly as follows:
The community design cycle was described by him as follows: develop candidate design; announce the cycle and the candidate design and length of cycle; execute.
Last, Andrew shared a multi-year roadmap for building up the design community – there is still plenty to do!
After Andrew, Jens Reuterberg and Thomas Pfeiffer continued on this subject with a zombie-themed talk. Thomas Pfeiffer (who later got injured in the line of duty) explained how to infiltrate software development teams with tasty brains to eat as ultimate goal and how development teams can get designers and usability experts involved, again, with brains as goal. The talk was conversation-style with Jens talking about communication and the realities of design work and collaboration. It was noted that as a first step:
Step 2 of the plan (for the zombies!) is to listen, understand, speak the language of the developers, learn to blend in, learn their ambitions and challenges. Jens explained the position of designers and why it is often hard to get them to work in the open on the same channels as developers: “Designers have to care about their careers – and hearing your code is bad once or twice won’t impact your career; but having an employer see that others considered your design that bad will”. That is an important reason for the use of forums, Google Hangouts and so on by the KDE Visual Design Group.
The third step is to conquer by crafting a productive relationship. This is based on trust: the developer should trust the designer to know what he/she is talking about and the designer should trust that the developer takes him/her serious. And the other way around!
In the end, this leads to better software and most importantly: more brains for everybody.
Jonathan Riddell inspired the masses with drama and emotion. He had a really, really bad accident a few years ago, from which he recovered impressively well although it still hampers him at times. Of course, you don’t need to be brain-damaged to care about Free Software and Kubuntu, he cared about them long before the accident happened. He is grateful to Blue Systems as it allowed him to continue working on Kubuntu.
KDE Community Food BoF
In a talk about the Next Generation desktop applications, Vishesh Handa and Alex Fiestas showed off their app Jungle, a new video player, which aims to bring intelligence to video handling, as an example of bringing web-style ideas to the desktop. Alex asked why we use native applications on tablets and why on desktops we use web applications. He looked at web applications and saw features like suggested content, sharing content and giving feedback, of the desktop apps he still uses, none of them offer these features. So he and Vishesh set out to write a video player which would be smart. Jungle learns from the user and organizes your video library for you. In the discussion, it even was suggested to suggest romantic movies to the user when the phone of the boy/girlfriend of the user is detected. It will have a Home/Dashboard and it will download subtitles in the right language. Alex and Vishesh want an Android app (written in Qt) as a remote control, and they want to be able to stream to and from other devices for the future.
The parallel technical session was kicked off by Jan Kundrát who spoke about bringing the Gerrit code review tool to KDE with help of the XIFI project. Gerrit is already available in a testing mode and KDE developers are free to email Jan to request their projects to be available through Gerrit. The future plans are ambitious – each patch, no matter who sends it for evaluation, will be checked by the Continuous Integration system which will run on resources provided by the XIFI project.
Aleix Pol gave a history of his attempts to put KDE Software on mobile platforms, the N900 then the N9, Jolla and now he is working with Android and feels this is the way forward. He has made KAlgebra and it’s in Google Play. He has worked on CMake to allow it to compile apps on Android. He says we need to work with F-Droid as well as Google Play and other stores but warns “We need to be mindful of our inner RMS and remember user freedom.”
Frederik Gladhorn started with a demo of accessibility for blind people on his laptop opening his presentation with his monitor blanked out, the voice spoke out the elements of the Plasma 5 UI so that he could open his talk. This works well now in Qt 5.4. We badly need a virtual keyboard with working word suggestion, touch friendly and spell checking. Some parts need fixes for the screen reader: KickOff and system tray and KWin need some improvements. Once it’s good enough, we will get feedback from the blind community and listen to them.
Kevin Ottens and craftsmanship “agile to the rescue”
After Kevin, we should have had Tomaz Canabrava explain how he coerced Linus Torvalds into coding C++ but unfortunately, he broke a leg and had to stay in Brazil. Instead of him, Aleix Pol talked about KDevelop5 and the work that is being done on that.
After the last session, everybody got together in the big room for sponsor presentations.
After the sponsors talks it was time for the Akademy Award Winners, which you can read about in our previous article.
Akademy now continues with five days of BoF sessions and hacking to discuss, design and create the next year’s worth of output from KDE.
Thanks to everybody who contributed notes to this article: Jonathan Riddell, Jan Kundrát, Camila Ayres and Adriaan de Groot. Remember we offer free hugs for anyone at Akademy who read this far.
The talks weekend at Akademy finished with the traditional announcing of the Akademy Awards, our recognition of the stars of KDE. The winners are selected by those who received the award the previous year.
Application Award: J…
With Akademy in full swing, we thought we’d treat you all on a conversation with a handful of newcomers to the KDE PIM team. The conversation took place both online over the last months and offline at Akademy yesterday. Let’s start with introductions, in order of their replies.
Guy Maurel is French, almost 67 and retired. Having studied electrical engineering, he has seen the first coax cables forming an intranet and later managed DNS, mail and router systems following the growth of the IT industry. He’s been using Linux for a while and when a student told him he should be contributing to Open Source, he decided to join KDE PIM.
Daniel Vrátil lives in Brno, Czech Republic and works at Red Hat, maintaining KDE on Fedora and working ‘upstream’. He hacks on Telepathy, KScreen and recently became maintainer of the Akonadi framework. He’s also the team lead of the local Akademy team this year!
Sandro Knauß is a 29 year old German who, since finishing studying physics, has been working as an IT freelancer. He’s been in touch with KDE since he was 17, having used several distributions since starting with SUSE. When his current distribution (Debian) moved to KMail 2 he decided to join its development, fixing the crypto message part and getting hooked after that. He also hacks on ownCloud and maintains packages for Debian.
Michael Bohlender, Mike for the English speaking crowd, studied social anthropology with a minor in computer science. He initially started to contribute to Plasma Active and got into KDE PIM hacking through his GSOC project for developing a touch mail client. He’s still mostly hacking on this client as well as QML components around mail data.
Scarlett Clark, hailing from Portland, USA, has been an avid Linux user since about 1998. She has a BA in Computer Information Systems and a background in System administration and web design. She’s interested in learning more about technical writing and decided to put some effort into the documentation of her beloved OS. KDE PIM, and KMail in particular, is the lucky project she started with.
What are you up to now?
Sandro was first to explain more about what he’s up to: “I was very interested in KMail 2 because I thought that the architecture with Akonadi is a very good approach. A friend of mine switched to KMail 2 two years ago and I was very disappointed about the crypto support. Then a year ago I had time and started to look at the code and searched for the bugs in the code. When I heard about the PIM sprint in berlin, I was very enthusiastic and hoped to find a person to help me fix the crypto stack. At the sprint Volker and I prepared one bug fix. The sprint motivated me to make the bug fix nice and shiny and I started to close a bunch of bugs in the crypto stack. In the long run I would like to make the crypto support as good and shiny as possible.”
He added a call for help: “I’m looking for a UI Person, who likes to make the interface for sending encrypted messages better. Now, sending a crypto message requires clicking through up to five dialogs and I can’t imagine that this can not be done better”.
Things are now even more exciting for Sandro: during the course of this interview, he was employed by Kolab to work on the KDE PIM stack, including the libraries, UI, kolab-utils and so on. “For me it makes things easier to get paid regulary to work complety for an Open Source project. I’ll hope both side will profit from my work: KDE PIM and Kolab”.
Dan continued: “Most of the time I spend on KDE development is hacking on Akonadi – adding new features, improving speed and of course fixing existing bugs. Occasionally I’m improving the IMAP resource, usually when a bug gets into the way of my workflow I’m also maintaining Akonadi resources for integration with Google Contacts, Calendars and Tasks services and the library with Google API implementation, LibKGAPI. This is a special project for me, as it was my first code I contributed to KDE few years ago and through it I got involved with the awesome KDE PIM community”.
Scarlett explains that she has moved on to doing packaging for Kubuntu: “I have been an avid Open Source user for 15 years, so I decided to find a place for me to become a contributor and hopefully with time, a career. Documentation seemed like a great entry point, so I jumped in and was received with a lot of kindness and help from the KDE team. While I still do some documentation, I have started packaging for Kubuntu and absolutely love it, so packaging > documentation right now and in the future”.
KDE folk and Akademy
With the KDE Akademy Conference going on, it made sense to ask the interviewees about their thoughts around meeting KDE people.
Dan is part of the local team organizing Akademy this year. He “first attended Akademy in Tallin in 2012, to finally put faces to IRC nicknames. Meeting all the nice KDE people there was probably the main reason I decided to get more involved in KDE (PIM). I always enjoy meeting fellow KDE hackers on Akademy and various sprints and conferences, as it means lots of fun, hugs, beer and hacking (not strictly in this order ;-)) and builds these special relationships that make working on KDE pure pleasure for me.”
Scarlett went from “I always would have loved to go to something like Akadamy, but being in the US makes it difficult to swing a trip like that” to “Courtesy of Ubuntu donors I am attending Akademy this year!”. Her first day is over and she told us that it “is really awesome! I’ve talked to so many people that I worked with online…”
Sandro has already visited the Desktop Summit in Berlin in the past, describing it as “very amazing, to get in touch with all the people I read about. On the other side, it was hard to remember so many people, because I didn’t know anyone before. When I wasn’t shy to ask, the people were all very nice and chatty. It is much easier to get into touch with people at sprints, because there are less people”.
Michael, also at Akademy, shared “the AGM meeting wasn’t very exciting but the first conference day was awesome”. Meanwhile, he is working on a new mail client, build on the KDE libraries and work that was done earlier to make Akonadi and KDE PIM ready for Frameworks. He has brought this idea up on the forums and has gotten help and mockups from the design and usability teams.
At Akademy, the PIMsters both new and old will be coming together at a KDE PIM BoF on Tuesday the 9th in room 4 and there’ll be plenty of work and conversation going on for sure!
Today, Akademy 2014 kicked off hard. As always, there is a lot of excitement. The first Akademy day is always overwhelming. Meeting old friends, making new ones, learning new things and sharing what you know. To keep things simpler, we started this year with a single track in the morning, with two tracks in the afternoon. With all attendees in one room listening to 10 minute fast track presentations, there are plenty of topics to talk about during the breaks.
Sascha Meinrath keynote
The opening keynote from Sascha Meinrath gave some perspectives on how democracy is broken. He showed a graph of the number of acts of Congress declining since the 1950s. This is a fundamental problem because there is massive change in society while legislation is slowing down, not keeping up with societal progress. Companies create products that harm privacy. Yet there are few legal limits to these activities; and they freely integrate their technologies in every product possible. Distribution and federation are the answers. Sascha set up a distributed network in Washington, D.C. which avoids the central mobile grid. Distributed production is also becoming viable: the maker space movement shows it’s only 3 to 5 years away that we can produce goods without central manufacturing.
One of Sascha’s projects is X-Lab, a future-focused technology policy and innovation effort that is building an alternative infrastructure. The issue they are addressing is not just about wireless access. Sascha asks, “What if we could repurpose unused TV frequencies for broadband? Less than 10% of available bandwidth is used.” GNURadio and other projects make it possible for more of this unused capacity to be used. Distributed infrastructure for a variety of technologies is awesome; open hardware allows for participatory technology.
Sascha had a bit of advice for this small, but influential audience: if you are starting up a new government, community or society, look to what was successful before. The key: allow distributed methods. The United States once had free distribution of newspapers which revolutionized news. Today, there is nothing like that. No country has said “Copyright isn’t useful for us”. Sascha suggests that we need a country that values truth, freedom and creative expression over the oppressive domination of copyrights.
After the keynote, the fast track started. First up was Àlex Fiestas with the question: “Why do we do what we do?” For him, software development started with ‘eyeos’, a small startup he did with some friends. The project included a 3 hour commute to a cheap office outside of Barcelona, going to the cheapest supermarket and calculating the price per calorie to get enough energy to get through the week. He learned what it was to be dedicated and motivated by doing awesome things!
In KDE, he got hooked when he fixed bluetooth. In no time he was the maintainer of Solid, organized sprints and now works on it full-time! So for him the answer to “why we do what we do” started with “it worked and provided me with what I was looking for”. Then it then turned into a place to meet awesome people from all over the world!
Akademy Is On
photo by Jonathan Riddell CC-BY-SA
Bruno Coudoin talked about his baby, GCompris. GCompris has been around for a long time. The project greatly increased its audience when they did a Windows version in 2003. This version, while Free Software, required an activation code: Windows users pay for Windows, so why not for GCompris? The project got distributed in commercial channels and was quite popular – something which provided the motivation to keep going for, now, 14 years!
In January 2014 the project started to port GCompris to Qt. The new version is intended to work on both desktop and mobile devices from a single code base, and the technology they were building on just didn’t allow that. They tested other solutions, including HTML5, but they found QtQuick to be a much better solution. It offers a better development platform, better graphics, smoother animations and is simply a easier, more efficient solution than anything else. The port happened very fast and went smoothly; it is a total rewrite that retains the old art and ideas. Since January, 80% of the GCompris modules have been ported, making full use of capabilities of QML such as smooth animations, flexible resolution and support for various form factors. They are happy to be part of the KDE Community. GCompris has always been a community project and they’ve found a great fit at KDE EDU.
Albert Astals Cid spoke on Quality. Quality is hard to define and hard to measure. Users really only care about (and complain about) their own bugs. We don’t have good objective measurements. Where are the main crashes in KDE software just now? Kubuntu has a tool to measure where the most crashes happen, but it is only for Kubuntu. Of course Quality isn’t just about crashes and other bugs. People can add to the wish list in bugzilla, but that doesn’t get much attention when the emphasis is on fixing bugs. And that is sad: considering the amount of effort it takes to use bugzilla, we ought to take these wishes more seriously. It’s also a nagging problem that we have stale review board requests, which is disheartening to people who have submitted patches to help make KDE software better! The lack of response there is really bad. There is a BoF (Birds of a Feather session) on Thursday…we need more tools, we need to chase maintainers, someone has to be able to know there are 7 open review board requests by looking at a global view. Come to the BoF and help change this! [Please add comments below if there are particular questions or suggestions.]
After an intense morning, we had a break: time to discuss the keynote and the why, what and quality of KDE coding. Sponsor tables included openSUSE, Red Hat, Kubuntu and ownCloud with goodies to accompany coffee.
Cornelius Schumacher continued after the break, talking about KDE Frameworks. A third of the third-party Qt libraries are KDE Frameworks 5, so we’re a big contributor to the Qt ecosystem! Cornelius has set up a website, inqlude.org that offers a Qt library archive for Qt developers. It has a browse-able, searchable list showing the license and other information. Developers looking for certain functionality can decide if a library is a good fit for the application they are working on. There will be a BoF session on Tuesday to discuss inqlude; anybody interested in contributing is encouraged to email questions or suggestions to inqludekde.org.
Cornelius got questions:
Albert got back up on stage to make The Case for Spyware. He admitted the title was mostly to draw people in, but essentially spying IS an important subject here. He started with several questions:
How useful is it to know this? As an example, Firefox no longer has a menu because they learned that nobody uses the menu anymore. We don’t know such things. So we should spy on users, too…in a nice way: opt-in or easy opt-out, anonymous, and not per application but with a proper, central framework. Wednesday 10:30 BoF!
Daniel Vrátil talked about a year with Akonadi. There have been many changes, such as the move from Nepomuk to Baloo. It has been quite a lot of work but it has brought new features and abilities. One of the most important new features is that tags are now stored in Akonadi. So if the backend supports some sort of tags, they can be uploaded and synchronized between systems.
Remote search is another new feature. With online IMAP, only headers are downloaded; email bodies can’t be searched because they are not indexed by Baloo. Now, Akonadi can use the search capabilities of the backend. IMAP and Google support search. At the same time that Baloo is asked for search results, the resource is asked to get a list of results of the query from the mail server. Not all services support this, of course. At this time, local mail storage is still a bit of an issue.
Daniel also mentioned that there have been a lot of performance optimizations in Akonadi over the past year, especially for large folders and lots of emails. In the future, Akonadi will be moving to Frameworks. One change will be that the only public API will be through the client libraries; the server API won’t be open. And of course…KDE PIM BoF on Tuesday! As a bonus: if you come there, they will fix your problems!
KWin maintainer Martin Gräßlin wanted to demo live but hasn’t gotten his code to that stage yet. So instead, we got a presentation, starting with architecture as presented at the Desktop Summit in Berlin in 2011. The architecture has been adjusted since then: rendering and input are now handled by Weston. Weston does this stuff real well; there is no reason to duplicate the work. About the state of Weston, Martin says that Wayland clients are not yet implemented, most of the rest works. He showed the KWin Core architecture (pretty pictures…). Next up is the move to Qt5. KWin has had to deal with a lot of corner cases and issues like that, so progress has been slower than Martin would like. But this is understandable because KWin does complicated, low-level things.
There was a question about resource consumption, which is something that Martin can’t answer yet. He knows that Weston is MUCH, MUCH more efficient than Xorg. Sebastian Kügler adds that the difference is really big: he has seen around 80% savings generally, including memory and CPU.
KDE in Action! Sune Vuorela talked about what he does in his day job: using KDE Frameworks in a commercial application! Frameworks works well for this; it’s modular, featureful and nicely licensed. Commercial apps are often closed source, run on various platforms and ship all components in one product. The application he’s working on is called Angelstow, an application to put containers on ships. Considerable math and physics are involved, and the end user needs to be guided extensively to understand what to do. And users have LARGE monitors. Qt was an obvious choice for all this application. Sune showed a screenshot of the application – indeed optimized for a very large screen!
Initially, QtIOCompressor (from qtsolutions) was used for the file format. But QtIOCompressor had issues and the team moved to KArchive (one of the original stand-alone KDE Frameworks released earlier this year), which turned out to be a great solution for this. Other tasty goodies from Frameworks include ThreadWeaver for threaded jobs, KItemModels, KItemViews and Extra-cmake-modules. Sune has already used ThreadWeaver in another project, and extra-cmake-modules is used already as well. He plans to sneak others in at some point too.
As a contribution to the community, Angelstow released a QDataCube library, which offers different views on item models data and can work with an abstract item model, synced with an itemselection model. Sune suggests that people to look at the tier 1 and tier 2 Frameworks if they are building Qt apps.
After the last fasttrack session, we were sent out to forage for food. Unfortunately, many local places are closed on Saturday, so hungry KDE contributors could be found coalescing into a large herd, moving to the city – presumably following their noses to the smell of Czech cuisine. Luckily good food was not that hard to find. Ninety minutes later almost everyone was back at the venue for the GSoC/SOK/OPW student presentations (Google Summer of Code, Season of KDE, Outreach Program for Women).
GSoC student Akshay Ratan gave an enthusiastic talk about his Summer of Code project to improve Plasma Media Center. He was very happy to have patches accepted and to learn about version control systems and real world programming tools. He added subtitle support and a better file manager. Kevin Funk talked about clang integration in kdevelop. KDevelop used to have a custom parser, over 50,000 lines of code, it was hard to maintain and extend to c++11 or 14. CLANG to the rescue: a language frontend for LLVM with an active community. By using it, there is no need to maintain a custom c++ parser, refactoring tools and objectiveC support are included for free. Kevin showed some screenshots of KDevelop with some code that is missing a semicolon with clang giving a suggestion to fix it. Code completion now uses clang.
Bhushan Shah told the story of how he met Konqi. He started with some small patches, then ported the activity bar in Plasma to QML. 34 reviews later it was accepted. In GSOC 2013 he was mentored by Sebas (Sebastian Kügler). In 2014 he took part in Google Summer of Code and ported Plasma Media Center to Qt5.
After the students’ talks, it was time for the multiple tracks of workshops and in-depth technical talks. We have not covered these due to a non-functioning reporter cloning capability at the university. We hope to have this problem fixed next year as cloning capabilities will be a mandatory component for any new venue proposal. Slides and speaker contact information are available at the Akademy conference website.
Ivan Čukić gave a workshop about porting to Frameworks 5 in an almost quiz-style, asking questions and showing the good, the bad and the ugly of C++ and porting. There was a bit of CamelCase vs under_score usage discussion in the end but everybody agreed this topic was more suitable for an evening conversation with (lots of) beer.
Sebastian Kügler (sebas) talked about How Plasma 5 Came To Be. The why was that with Qt 4 infrastructure, Plasma had its issues. QGraphicsView was a pain, and there was a lot of code duplication in device shells. Qt5 and Wayland were very appealing. In addition, visual quality in Plasma wasn’t great, and the team had a hard time with the number of bugs. So, work started on Plasma 5. Sebas detailed the technical changes, such as the move to openGL(ES), Framework 5, QtQuick UIs, and improvements to the look and feel of the shell. Most of the changes he showed using videos and images, which demonstrate the current state of Plasma 5. Sebas ended by saying that he and the team are proud of having made it this far in such a short time. Feedback from users has been exceptionally good.
photo by Jonathan Riddell CC-BY-SA
There is much more going on at Akademy than just the sessions. Much of the action takes place in the hallway track, where people meet, work on code or just hang out. Yash Shah (known by some as “The Happiest Person in the World”) asked people about how their day was and what they liked most. Some responses:
Following what is going on
Please communicate with people at Akademy by asking questions and commenting below.
If you ARE at Akademy, check out the BOF and workshop schedule for the rest of the week! Many rooms are dedicated to a subject, like Room 5 (Monday)/Room 3 (rest of week) for usability and user interface design. See this page for a full overview. Contact the organizer to discover other ways to participate.
Yesterday KDE contributors from around the world arrived in Brno for Akademy, our annual meeting. Over the next week, we will share ideas, discover common problems and their solutions, and rekindle offline friendships for another year. We have traveled from around the world to work on free software in the spirit of community and cooperation. This year we can celebrate the success of the last 12 months when we released major new versions of our platform—KDE Frameworks—and our desktop—Plasma 5. This work has been well received by the press and our community of users, but we know there is much more to do to keep KDE Software relevant for the years to come in a world where desktops are only one way of using computer software. We’ll be discussing and planning how to make the best desktop software for Linux and how to expand to new platforms.
Annual General Meeting
Many attendees arrived a day early to attend the Annual General Meeting of KDE e.V., the association that represents the Community in legal and financial matters. Of the five board members, three positions were open for election. Marta Rybczyńska was elected on a ticket of wanting to be treasurer, Aleix Pol was elected as a new member, and we re-elected Lydia Pintscher who has been chosen by the Board to be President. Many thanks to our new Board, and to Cornelius, the outgoing president, for 6 years of work on one of the more important but bureaucratic jobs needed to keep our project functional.
Evening get together
In the evening, the opening party was held at the shiny new Red Hat office on the outskirts of Brno. We enjoyed fine Czech food and sampled the local beer.
In the words of Adriaan de Groot “RedHat was very welcoming, and a good mix of people showed up. Awkward-introductions-circle pulled in lots of new people and Marta shared at least one of her dark secrets (she’s a pilot!). Peter Grasch held forth on linguistic models and we tried to collect some Czech pronunciations“. KDE Korea lead Park Shinjo enjoyed the novel local brew “Kofola, although it sounds like cola, it’s not. It has some herbal tastes, so it’s unique“.
Communicate with people at Akademy by asking questions and commenting below.
Akademy 2014 Brno
For most of the year, KDE—one of the largest FOSS communities in the world—works online by email, IRC, forums and mailing lists. Akademy provides all KDE contributors the opportunity to meet in person to foster social bonds, work on concrete technology issues, propose and consider new ideas, and reinforce the innovative, dynamic culture of KDE. Akademy brings together artists, designers, developers, translators, users, writers, sponsors and other types of KDE contributors to celebrate the achievements of the past year and help determine the direction for the following year. Hands-on sessions offer the opportunity for intense work to bring those plans to reality. The KDE Community welcomes companies building on KDE technology, or looking to begin using it.
If you are someone who wants to make a difference with technology, Akademy 2014 in Brno, Czech Republic is the place to be. It’s not too late to join us at Akademy.