Plasma Team Gathers in Barcelona

In the second week of January, KDE’s Plasma team gathered in the Blue Systems office in Barcelona, Spain, to discuss and work on the next generation of KDE’s popular workspace products. The meeting comes just at the right time, as the Plasma team has just finished a first technology preview, which puts the base technology in place and allows for an evaluation of the current progress. It also gives an opportunity for more refined plans for a first stable release.

In this article, we will give you an impression of some of the topics which have been discussed. Please note that discussions have by now moved to the various online communication channels, such as mailinglists and IRC. Not all results are set in stone, they rather serve as blueprints for ongoing discussions.

Naming and repository structure

One of the things that had been discussed online, but has not been concluded, is the naming of Plasma’s next release. A proposal has been made to continue calling KDE’s workspace products “Plasma”, possibly extended as “Plasma by KDE”. The term “workspace” will be on the way out, as it bears rather little meaning to most users. Plasma simply refers to all the workspace products, with the technology itself taking care of the distinguishing UI per device.

In line with this thinking, the repository structure will be changed. There is a number of interesting repositories, which are oriented towards likely deployment scenarios. The plasma-frameworks repository contains the library pieces needed to run a Plasma environment and build applications using Plasma technology. The kde-workspace repository will be split into a generic repository, which contains device-independent components. Then there will be repositories for different form-factor UIs. This means, that on a typical desktop system, one would install plasma-framework, plasma-generic and plasma-desktop. To add support for other devices, one can simply add another repository (such as a mediacenter or tablet user experience), and a specialized UI will be offered for this.

Supporting Plasma

Plasma, being a central product for KDE, receives many bugreports. In order to provide good support, better prioritization and focus is needed. For this reason, the team plans to structure the different components in Bugzilla in a way that makes it easier to identify higher priority problems (for example in default components), and make a clearer distinction between “officially supported” and “community-supported” components. This should lead to improved stability and shorter reaction times for the core components of the desktop.

Launcher

One of the things that kept the Plasma developers busy during the sprint was the question what to do with the main application launcher. This seems to be a question which has a different answer for almost every user. Plasma’s strategy has been to offer a well-tested default (Kickoff), with other options to choose from (traditional menu, Lancelot). For the next release, this flexibility will remain intact. The idea is to replace the traditional menu with one that works similarly, but sports an updated look and some interaction improvements. The current version of Kickoff, which has already been reimplemented in QML will get a visual update.

KRunner Plans

The future of KRunner, Plasma’s mini-commandline was discussed. There is a replacement in the works, though at this early stage is it unclear when it is going to land. In order to allow an alternative to fully mature before it replaces a core component, the team decided to port the current version of KRunner, and adapt it for improvements in the desktop search area.

Logging in

The team also discussed the login procedure. While KDM has reached the end of its lifetime, being a fork of the ancient XDM, there are better alternatives on the horizon. The Plasma developers decided to improve and update the theming of LightDM and SDDM, although neither are currently perfect solutions. LightDM suffers from requirements around copyright assignment, which some developers refuse to sign; on the other hand, SDDM is not yet fully finished in terms of features needed.


Activity Switching (click for larger)
by Martin Klapetek (CC BY)

Activity Switching

Plasma developer Ivan Čukić presented a redesign of Plasma Desktop’s activity switcher. The new design has a vertical layout and presents a more visual way to manage activities, move and assign windows, and add and rename them. The design presented was well thought out, and apart from a few visual changes, Ivan’s concept was received very positively.

Notication Area Improvements

The team discussed the current version of the systemtray, also known as notification area. The new approach to use one popup dialog for all, which reduces visual clutter, was welcomed. The team has identified a few issues with the current implementation, which will be addressed in the coming weeks. One of the things that was brought up is that applications or services should have a way to enable a Plasma widget in the system tray. This could be useful for Bluetooth, for example, where a widget would show up as soon as the Bluetooth hardware is found or enabled. On the other hand, some widgets which do not make sense in a given hardware environment could be entirely hidden (for example, the battery widget on non-laptop systems).


Wayland discussion (click for larger)
by Martin Klapetek (CC BY)

Kwin/Wayland

KWin maintainer Martin Gräßlin presented the status of KWin and Wayland support in the window manager and compositor, and shared his plans for the future. Wayland support is well under way, although not everything is entirely clear from an architectural point of view. There is simply no example or reference implementation for many of the technical problems we face, so his work is, to no small degree, about covering new ground.

A new focus on design

One of the hot topics during the sprint was the visual and interaction design in Plasma. These things have been identified as needing a more structured approach. Thanks to the effort of Jens Reuterberg, an illustrator from Sweden who recently joined the Plasma team, work has commenced on forming a stronger design team. Another topic in this area was the creation of visual guidelines, which has already been started. The team hopes that these efforts will result in greater visual consistency and more elegance throughout the whole user experience.


Group photo: Left to right: (top) Martin Klapetek, Mitch Curtis, Ivan Čukić, Jens Reuterberg, David Edmundson, Martin Gräßlin, Aleix Pol, Giorgos Tsiapaliokas, Sebastian Kügler, Antonis Tsiapaliokas, (front) Marco Martin, Vishesh Handa, Àlex Fiestas (click for larger)
by Martin Klapetek (CC BY)

Much hacking

Of course there is not sprint without hacking. Many ideas have been put into code already, various pieces have been cleaned up, missing features were implemented. Everyone attending enjoyed the sprint, especially the productive and friendly atmosphere. The whole team is excited and already working on the results of the sprint.

Special thanks go to the KDE e.V. and Blue Systems for supporting the sprint — without their help it could not have happened.

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Open Hardware for KDE

From its beginning, KDE has been a leader in innovation in free (libre) and open source software (FLOSS), but there is a threat to that leadership in one of the fastest growing areas of technology. The advantages of free and open development and use are clear for software; now closed and proprietary strategies have become standard in other kinds of technology. The need for technology freedom has moved from software to other more corporate-controllable areas—notably hardware and the Internet.

As was the case when KDE started, community-developed, freedom-oriented technology is necessary to break the stranglehold of large companies that are more committed to managers and investors than to users. But this won’t be easy and it can’t be left to a few people. The entire KDE Community has a stake in the outcome. For that matter, this should be a concern to anyone who develops free and open software, anyone who uses it, anyone who benefits from it. And that includes just about everyone using technology today.

New hardware has been announced that addresses the need for openness beyond software. Community help is needed to support a generous, far-sighted open hardware project involving mostly KDE people and certainly following KDE principles. Please consider contributing financially to open hardware for KDE.

More of the story follows…

The threat of proprietary & closed

The Internet is under threat from companies that seek unfair leverage with their massive investments…investments, by the way, that are already well compensated. The nature of these companies is such that every possible means must be used to extract value.

The digital hegemony of several U.S. companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google) plus Samsung dominate technology. All of these companies depend to a great extent on free and open software. Microsoft tries (and fails) to stay in this league with such schemes as using its monopoly position to force conditioned users to adopt Windows 8—a mobile phone GUI blown up to a touch interface on a 19″ monitor, positioned by clever marketers as “platform convergence”.

What these companies are doing is not wrong; it’s the way most things work these days.

KDE’s leadership is an opportunity to extend free and open technology, providing creative minds unlimited room to innovate. Mainstream tech companies try to do this without disrupting their profits or stock prices. We are fortunate to have such freedom.

Plasma Active

Nine years ago, KDE started planning for a shared technology base for all types of computers. In September 2011, Plasma Active was released. It shared almost all the underlying code base of the other Plasma Workspaces, along with an innovative user interface specifically designed for tablets and the way they are used. KDE quietly offered platform convergence well before Microsoft or Canonical jumped on the bandwagon.

Plasma Active fits well with KDE’s original goal. As Matthias Ettrich wrote in the announcement of KDE:

“The idea is to create a GUI for an ENDUSER” and “IMHO a GUI should offer a complete, graphical environment. It should allow users to do everyday tasks with it, like starting applications, reading mail, configuring the desktop, editing some files, delete some files, look at some pictures, etc. All parts must fit together and work together.”

Plasma Active is free and open software, readily available to install on any tablet. But it has been installed on only a few types of tablets, and requires higher than average technical know-how to install and maintain.

Why?

Virtually all tablets on the market have either Google’s Android operating system or Apple’s iOS. Neither is truly free and open. Apple technology is closed and proprietary…Apple’s business model. Android is 23% open according to VisionMobile. Installing a different operating system and user interface means violating warranty terms. In addition, there is no standard version of the Android operating system even with the same version number. These operating systems and user interface designs are controlled by Apple, Google and Samsung (which sells approximately 40% of all Android devices). These companies have no interest in making their hardware run KDE software. In fact, doing so would be contrary to the fundamental purpose of such enterprises.

The environment for Plasma Active is far different (and more restricted) than that for other KDE software. With any commercially available desktop or laptop, it is simple to install and run KDE and other free and open software. While there may be some occasional hassles with wireless or graphics, those are easily overcome. Plasma Active comes standard on the open hardware platform called Improv.

Software can’t be free and open if its hardware is closed and proprietary. Improv is as open and free as possible.

The tablet market

In October 2013, Gartner reported that global tablet sales would grow 53.4% for the year, and PC shipments would be down over 11% from the previous year. By 2015, tablets and PCs will sell about the same level.

Users will continue to want the kind of software KDE provides for traditional PCs, for several reasons. (Jos Poortvliet’s presentation at Akademy 2013 has some background.) KDE is viable for the foreseeable future…in the desktop and laptop space. But not for tablets, the fastest growing and highly visible personal computing segment.

Several free and open projects have been started to address the need for alternatives to the Android/iOS market dominance in tablets and other devices. Those projects have faced difficulties that point to the daunting nature of challenges to the Google, Samsung and Apple mobile oligopoly. Other projects such as CyanogenMod have chosen the venture capital route to try and compete. The fundraising goals are substantial:

  • Jolla – €200 million
  • CyanogenMod – $30 million
  • Ubuntu Edge – projected a requirement for $32 million
  • Tizen – multimillion dollar project sponsored by the Linux Foundation and supported by Intel and Samsung

Where do these projects stand?

Jolla began offering a smartphone in Finland at the beginning of December 2013. Their tablet operating system has been exhibited but is not commercially available. A mainstream journalist reports that the Jolla smartphone is a “work in progress” that still has some rough edges, and refers to the ‘beta’ nature of the handset and software.

Prominent venture capitalists have made substantial investments in CyanogenMod. So at least for the moment CyanogenMod is doing fine. They will have to capture major market share to satisfy venture capital investors…time will tell. This professional investment establishes a substantial value for CyanogenMod as a company and hints at the attractiveness of the device market. A market in which there’s a danger of KDE being irrelevant.

Canonical tried to crowdfund a smartphone to round out their converged computing initiative. Against a goal of $32 million, there were commitments of about $12 million. Canonical hinted at backing from major hardware suppliers, but this news was light on detail.

Samsung was expected to launch a Tizen phone at Mobile World Congress in February. Now it appears that Tizen will not challenge Android and iOS this year after all. A Samsung switch to Tizen would be a blow to Android, but it would be good for Samsung’s already rich bottom line. And would further entrench the oligopoly.

According to the tech news site Gigaom, both Tizen and Ubuntu Touch have been set back. However with its substantial, prestigious backing, Tizen is almost certain of being successful.

All of these projects are associated to some degree with free and open software; their funding experiences—successful or not—indicate the potential value of the device industry. None of the organizations promise the degree of freedom and openness typical of KDE.

“The KDE Tablet”

Several years ago, KDE developers confronted 2 questions:

  • How can we ensure that KDE software is relevant to computer users today and tomorrow? KDE development teams are addressing this in various ways.
  • However, without proper hardware, some kinds of software development are not possible (for example, Qt on Android). What hackable ARM-based hardware exists that supports KDE software out of the box?

The answer was “NONE”.

So in early 2012, Aaron Seigo announced the Spark (later renamed “Vivaldi”) tablet, which would be produced by the Make Play Live (MPL) project (comprised mostly of people and companies associated with KDE). It would make the necessary hardware available.

Many readers will be familiar with the background. Plucky Aaron and his MPL team have faced significant challenges. One of the most difficult things to overcome has been the nonchalance of hardware suppliers about open source licensing. In addition, suppliers changed components without notice or consultation. In short, it has been an ongoing battle to produce hardware that would run Plasma Active out of the box.

In fact, Aaron and his small hardware development team were forced to engineer hardware from scratch. According to Aaron, there will be an open hardware tablet; it’s a question of when it will be available.

Improv

In the mean time, the efforts to produce an open hardware tablet revealed a need for general hardware development expertise for free and open projects. The Vivaldi lessons could be applied more broadly to all manner of hardware development.

Out of this realization, the MPL hardware development team created Improv.

Improv has two parts:

  1. An interchangeable card with a dual core 1 GHz ARM processor, 1 GB memory, 4GB NAND flash storage, Micro SD card reader,
  2. The standard connector on this card plugs into a feature board that provides access to I/O functions, including USB, HDMI, SATA, VGA, and a 44 pin DIL with a range of I/O possibilities.

Improv hardware drawings are open and readily available, software is covered by free and open source licenses, and interfaces are well-documented. In other words, Improv is open hardware, as open as it can be given that all graphics processing units (GPU) are closed and proprietary.

More information and detailed specifications are available at the MakePlayLive website. Improv comes with the Mer operating system, the lean Core Linux distribution that is a direct descendent of MeeGo. Additional software configurations are available, in fact encouraged.

Improv has been designed, prototyped, tested and retested. It can’t be bricked by installing other software or experimenting with configurations; there’s no need to root the device. Concepts prototyped on Improv can be turned into complete, custom products using the same hardware.


Improv & Plasma Media Center

Improv is done. It’s ready. In typical KDE fashion, Improv was accomplished while others were saying what they were gonna do.

Aaron said this about the Improv:

Improv is hardware produced *for* free software rather than hardware that *happens to run* free software. It supports a range of software from a standard modern Linux user space all the way up to a full featured desktop. Openness for hardware and software is the goal rather than an accident or a market result.

For the KDE Community—KDE software on the device is just part of the picture. The device itself is a gift to KDE. We made Improv so we could have such a device for KDE.

Improv is a hardware template, a starting point for new products without requiring the resources of a large company with an in-house hardware team. Use it at home for a personal server or other project. It’s perfect in a school setting for education. But it can also be used to create entirely new products, experiment and prototype, and manufacture if there is demand. Improv is designed to grow from idea to finished product, all on the same hardware/software platform.

The know-how and manufacturing chain that has been assembled for Improv is available to anyone who wishes to build upon it. Rather than starting from scratch, Improv is a ready-made starting point for product development and creation.

Improv is a product that can open the doors to the world of ubiquitous, device-centric computing for KDE and other free and open projects. No more waiting for a big vendor to be kind and take our needs into consideration. No more trying to shoehorn KDE software into devices with proprietary lock-in.


Improv & Konqueror

I understand…how do I contribute?

That’s the pressing dilemma. With software, it’s easy for developers to contribute. A lot of people make their first contribution to free and open software with a single patch. Anyone can download the code and work with it. Start small. There’s room for many contributors.

Hardware development is different; it involves physical pieces and is done in chunks. For example, board layout with multiple components and complicated routing is a one-person job.

Aaron and the small team have succeeded at creating the hardware. No further contributions are necessary towards its development. Improv works and works well.

However, there is another big difference between hardware and software—cost. Creating software has no out-of-pocket expense beyond the initial investment in a computer. Distributing one more copy of a KDE application has virtually no associated cost. On the other hand, hardware has a direct cost. Designing a printed circuit board is mostly done in software. But there is a cost to prototype and produce each copy of that physical board.

Aaron and a few others have personally paid these development costs. As can be inferred from the budgets mentioned above, Improv hardware development has not come cheap. There are no venture capitalists handing out money on this project. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It is a many year project, involving considerable personal sacrifice on behalf of KDE and free/open technology. Improv is based on generosity, not greed.

The team had high expectations that Improv pre-production sales would be enough to cover these expenses. They will eventually, but people want to get their hands on Improvs now. Delivery delays harm the project.

Please lend a hand

Funding is needed for the direct costs associated with manufacturing: electronic parts, feature board assembly and CPU cards.

Hundreds of people have already supported the project by buying an Improv.

You can help…
Consider buying an Improv, even if you don’t plan to play with it. Give it to a student who has just started learning about technology.

Company engineers might use Improv as a platform for building a custom product. It serves well for prototyping, and can mature gracefully to market readiness. Most importantly, Improv can reduce a hardware development schedule by many months with substantial cost savings.

Please consider donating to the project. Donations will only be used for direct manufacturing costs. Any money contributed beyond the goal of $125,000 will be used to produce Improvs for education.

Improv works. Please help push it from proven-design-ready-for-manufacturing to full production.

Take a stand for digital choice. A stand for what KDE has proven to be successful—free and open wins.

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KDE Commit-Digest for 5th January 2014

In this week’s KDE Commit-Digest:
Clicking a Geo URI link will now open Marble; Stars plug-in (Moon and Sun) rendering sees improvements
Okular sees improvements in Find and Undo/Redo actions
Kate makes AltGr enabled keyboards work in vim mode
Choqok i…

KDE Commit-Digest for 29th December 2013

In this week’s KDE Commit-Digest:
Umbrello offers more intelligent context menus: when multiple widgets are selected, a context menu is shown containing only the actions that work on the whole selection; better undo support and visual properties improv…

First Talks for conf.kde.in, Registration Open

conf.kde.in was announced in November, to take place February 21 – 23, 2014 in Gandhinagar, India. This three-day conference, the biggest KDE event in India, will bring together Qt developers, KDE contributors, open source enthusiasts and users from all across the nation. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn, share, contribute, innovate and create around Qt and KDE technology.

conf.kde.in is an excellent platform for you to learn about FOSS and start contributing to it. You will learn about KDE technology and community and how to participate, paving the way for future participation in programs like Google Summer of Code (GSoC) and Season of KDE. Last year, KDE was the largest participating organization in GSoC with 60 students selected. The conference sessions will range from beginner to advanced level, to facilitate all kinds of participants.

Talks

There will be a vibrant gamut of talks at the event; with a variety of technical as well as non technical talks covered by members of the KDE community from the extremes of India as well as the world. Be a witness to this cultural and intellectual infusion of ideas and experiences, of knowledge and guidance; by people from different walks of life, all with a common passion – open source and KDE; ready to ignite the same passion in you through their words and their minds.

Here are some of the talks currently scheduled for this event:

  • How I got involved in KDE and How to attack a problem – Sujith H
  • Hacking on KStars: Progress and challenges – Rishab Arora
  • One app to rule all your media – Sinny Kumari
  • KDE unlike a coconut – Smit Shah
  • Plasma Workspace 2: Little introduction – Bhushan Shah
  • Baloo – Metadata and Search – Vishesh Handa
  • Cute (Qt) C++ idioms – Nikhil Marathe
  • Qt Project – Frederik Gladhorn
  • Language learning with KDE – Samikshan Bairagya
  • Effective Open-Source Speech Recognition in Your Application – Peter Grasch
  • Where KDE is and where it is going – Jos Poortvliet
  • C++11: A Language Renaissance – Kévin Ottens

The above is the incomplete list of talks, we are adding more talks as we get confirmation from the speakers. The updated list of talks can be found at this page.

Every speaker at conf.kde.in is a bona fide contributor to KDE, some of them contributing already for over a decade. Attending the conference will give you the opportunity to meet seasoned open source contributors, discuss with them, exchange ideas with them, learn from them and also teach them something new.

Many of these contributors work for great companies (which themselves are involved in various open source projects) inluding Mozilla, SUSE, Red Hat, Blue Systems, ThoughtWorks, KDAB, Digia. Also you will find that many of these contributors were students until recently.

Wondering what KDE/Qt is?

KDE is one of the largest international free software communities. It has an integrated set of cross-platform applications designed to run on GNU/Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, Microsoft Windows, and Apple OS X systems. KDE is known for its Plasma Workspace, an environment provided as the default working environment on many Linux distributions, such as Kubuntu, Pardus, and openSUSE.

To find more information about KDE, please visit kde.org.

Qt is a cross-platform application framework that is widely used for developing application software with a graphical user interface (GUI) and also used for developing non-GUI programs such as command-line tools and consoles for servers. Qt is used in Adobe Photoshop Elements, Skype, VLC media player, VirtualBox, Dassault DraftSight and Mathematica, and by the European Space Agency, DreamWorks, Google, HP, KDE, Lucasfilm, Autodesk Maya, The Foundry’s Nuke, Panasonic, Philips, Blackberry applications, Samsung, Siemens, Volvo, Walt Disney, Animation Studios and Research In Motion. Qt runs on multiple platforms which include Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, Embedded Linux, Blackberry 10, Android, Sailfish and Ubuntu Phone OS.

To find more information about Qt, please visit qt-project.org.

Details about conf.kde.in

Venue: Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Gandhinagar
Date: 21st – 23rd Feb, 2014
Time: 9:00 AM – 6:30 PM

Registration for the conference is now open. Please register yourself here and grab the “Early Bird” discount until the 15th of January. There are limited seats so hurry up! You will find accommodation options at this page.

We are working very hard to make conf.kde.in 2014 a huge success. And it will happen with the help of your participation. Looking forward to meet you all. Stay tuned for regular updates about this event on our Facebook and Twitter page.

For any queries, feel free to reach us at conf@kde.in.

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KDE Ships January Updates to Applications and Platform 4.12

Today KDE released updates for its Applications and Development Platform, the first in a series of monthly stabilization updates to the 4.12 series. Starting with the next Applications and Development Platform release, 4.12.2, there will also be a main…

KDE Commit-Digest for 22nd December 2013

In this week’s KDE Commit-Digest:
KStars adds support to online plate solving using astrometry.net web services API, optimizes memory usage
Umbrello adds duplication of diagrams
KWin adds an option in oxygenrc to disable window background
Krita adds th…

Frameworks 5 Tech Preview

The KDE Community is proud to announce a Tech Preview of KDE Frameworks 5. Frameworks 5 is the result of almost three years of work to modularize, review and port the set of libraries previously known as KDElibs or KDE Platform 4 into a set of Qt Addons, separate libraries with well-defined dependencies and abilities, ready for Qt 5. This gives the Qt ecosystem a powerful set of drop-in libraries providing additional functionality for a wide variety of tasks and platforms, based on over 15 years of KDE experience in building applications. Today, all the Frameworks are available in Tech Preview mode; a final release is planned for the first half of 2014. Some Tech Preview addons (notably KArchive and Threadweaver) are more mature than others at this time.

What is Frameworks 5?

The KDE libraries are currently the common code base for (almost) all KDE applications. They provide high-level functionality such as toolbars and menus, spell checking and file access. Currently, ‘kdelibs’ is distributed as a single set of interconnected libraries. Through KDE Frameworks efforts, these libraries have been methodically reworked into a set of independent, cross platform classes that will be readily available to all Qt developers.

The KDE Frameworks—designed as drop-in Qt Addon libraries—will enrich Qt as a development environment with functions that simplify, accelerate and reduce the cost of Qt development. Frameworks eliminate the need to reinvent key functions.

The transition from Platform to Frameworks has been underway for almost three years and is being implemented by a team of about 20 (paid and volunteer) developers and actively supported by four companies. Frameworks 5 consists of 57 libraries: 19 independent Qt addons not requiring any dependencies; 9 that require libraries which themselves are independent; and 29 with more significant dependency chains. Frameworks are developed following the Frameworks Policies, in a vendor neutral, open process.

This KDE News article has more background on Frameworks 5.

Available today

The tech preview made available today contains all 57 libraries that are part of Frameworks 5. Of these, two have a maturity level that shows the direction of Frameworks: ThreadWeaver and KArchive. Developers are invited to take all of the libraries for a spin and provide feedback (and patches) to help bring them to the same level of maturity.

KArchive offers support for many popular compression codecs in a self-contained, featureful and easy-to-use file archiving and extracting library. Just feed it files; there’s no need to reinvent an archiving function in your Qt-based application! ThreadWeaver offers a high-level API to manage threads using job- and queue-based interfaces. It allows easy scheduling of thread execution by specifying dependencies between the threads and executing them while satisfying these dependencies, greatly simplifying the use of multiple threads. These are available for production use now.


The KDE Frameworks and their dependencies (overview is a work in progress)

There is a full list of the Frameworks; tarballs with the current code can be downloaded. Binaries are available as well.

The team is currently working on providing a detailed listing of all Frameworks and third party libraries at inqlude.org, the curated archive of Qt libraries. Each entry includes a dependency tree view. Dependency diagrams can also be found here.

Working towards a final release

The team will do monthly releases with a beta planned for the first week of April and a final release in the beginning of June.

Plans for this period include tidying up the infrastructure, integration with QMake and pkg-config for non-CMake users, getting CMake contributions upstream, and a final round of API cleanups and reviews. Frameworks 5 will be open for API changes until the beta in April.

Those interested in following progress can check out the git repositories, follow the discussions on the KDE Frameworks Development mailing list and contribute patches through review board. Policies and the current state of the project and plans are available at the Frameworks wiki. Real-time discussions take place on the #kde-devel IRC channel on freenode.net.

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KDE at FOSDEM 2014

KDE will be at FOSDEM in Brussels on 1&2 February this year. We will have a stall both days showing off the latest builds of Frameworks 5 and Plasma 2. Saturday will see our Desktop devroom which is shared with GNOME, LXDE and Unity. There will be a a panel discussion with the governing bodies of the GNOME Foundation and KDE e.V. (the association that supports KDE), a presentation about KDE Frameworks 5, and a personal account of challenges and triumphs—“Do you have to be brain damaged to care about desktop Linux?.

If you want to help out in the KDE stall or in the desktop devroom, please sign up on the KDE at FOSDEM wiki page.

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KDE Commit-Digest for 15th December 2013

In this week’s KDE Commit-Digest:
Marble adds support for cyclestreets.net bicycle routing, showing journey duration for OSRM routing
KHelpcenter adds alphabetical sorting for modules and category reorganization to make it easier to use
Akonadi speeds …

KDE Commit-Digest for 8th December 2013

In this week’s KDE Commit-Digest:
Artikulate enables initial learner profile support
Marble gets implementation of movie capturing
Calligra gains Apple Keynote document import filter
Choqok gets initial Pump.io implementation
KWin improves icon handlin…

Install KDE 4.12 in Ubuntu/Linux Mint/other Ubuntu derivatives

Install KDE 4.12 SC(Software Compilation) in Ubuntu 13.10 Saucy/Ubuntu 12.04 Precise/Linux Mint 16/13 and KDE 4.11.3 in Ubuntu 13.04 Raring/Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal/Linux Mint 15/14/ and other Ubuntu derivativesKDE is an international team co-operating on development and distribution of Free, Open Source Software for desktop and portable computing. Our community has developed a wide variety of applications […]

KDE Commit-Digest for 1st December 2013

In this week’s KDE Commit-Digest:
KDevelop adds advanced features for string formatting completion in Python
Kate’s vim mode gains even more options
Amarok can read lyrics from tags
KDE Telepathy supports haze/sipe protocol via a new plugin
Rekonq adds…

Plasma Media Center 1.2 Released In Time For Christmas


Welcome to PMC 1.2

The KDE community has a Christmas gift for you! We are happy to announce the release of KDE’s Plasma Media Center 1.2—your first stop for media and entertainment created by the Elves at KDE. Plasma Media Center is designed to provide an easy and comfortable way to watch your videos, browse your photo collection and listen to your music, all in one place. This release brings many refinements and a host of new features, making consuming media even easier and more fun.

New Features and Improvements

Working with feedback from users since the previous release, the team has implemented many cool new features and a variety of improvements and bug fixes.


PMC Artist Images

Improved Music Mode
A lot of effort went into improving the All Music mode so that you will have a good time navigating through your music—search by artist, album or just see it all.

Artist and Album Cover Retrieval
From now on, your collection will look better and it will be quicker to locate that album you want to listen to. While PMC already used album covers contained in your music files, this new release enables PMC to go to last.fm and fetch new album covers and artist images!

Folder Previews for Picture Browsing
While browsing for pictures, you can now see thumbnails of pictures that are inside folders, making it easier to identify which folders are interesting. This feature was much requested and the team is glad to be able to deliver it in this release.


PMC Folder Previews

Keyboard bindings for media control
It’s not always convenient to use the mouse or media buttons to control your media playback. You can now also use the keyboard; default shortcuts include (N)ext, (Z)Previous, and space for Play/Pause.


PMC Playlist

Multiple Playlist Support
You want to listen to different kinds of music in different moods and situations. For this it was essential that you be able to create your own playlists to manage your music. This is now possible as the team has built an interface to create and manage these playlists.


PMC Icons Were Updated

Shiny new icons for controller
The controller icons didn’t work well on darker screens so a change was needed there. The new icons are much easier to distinguish.

Please ask

If you requested a feature that is not listed above, feel free to contact us! The team might be working on it already, or might not know about it if there was not a feature request on bugzilla (see “Bugs and Feature Requests” below). You can also leave comments and requests on this article.

Videos and Screenshots Of What’s New

Below is a video of what’s new in this release. You can also click through to Youtube directly.

There are more screen shots of Plasma Media Center 1.2.


PMC showing photos from Flickr

Installation

You can get the source here. Please follow these instructions to install Plasma Media Center on your machine.

For binary packages, check to see if your distro has them. If you are a packager (or know someone who is), the team can help with any questions regarding packaging. Currently, ArchLinux (AUR), Fedora, OpenSuse and Ubuntu have packages for Plasma Media Center.

Learn More and get involved

To know more about Plasma Media Center, check out the wiki. If you want to contribute, this page will get you started.

Bugs & Feature Requests
Found any bug in PMC or want to have your favorite feature included in future release? File a bug to bugs.kde.org. You can use the same link to request features; please indicate “Wishlist” in Severity.


PMC with more photos

Thanks to our Google Code-In students:

  • Egor Matirov for fixes to Picture Strip
  • Ilkin Musaev for designing icons for the media controller
  • Oskar Jauch for displaying system time on the home screen

Coming Up

The team is already hard at work on the next release of Plasma Media Center! Some things to expect in the next release:

  • Local File Browser Searching
  • Settings screen for:
    • Configuring media locations (for indexing)
    • UI Customization
    • Ignoring media like very small images (icons) or very short audio files (audio from games, apps etc)
  • Navigation improvements to Picasa
  • Detailed info about Youtube videos

For detailed release and feature plan of PMC 1.3.0, please take a look at this wiki page.

Thanks to all the developers, testers and people for giving useful feedback on improving Plasma Media Center. The team hopes you are as excited as they are and will enjoy this release!

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Plasma 2 Technology Preview

KDE’s Plasma Team presents a first glimpse at the evolution of the Plasma Workspaces. Plasma 2 Technology Preview demonstrates the current development status. The Plasma 2 user interfaces are built using QML and run on top of a fully hardware accelerated graphics stack using Qt5, QtQuick 2 and an OpenGL(-ES) scenegraph. Plasma 2 is a converged workspace shell that can run and switch between user interfaces for different formfactors, and makes the workspace adaptable to a given target device. The first formfactor workspace to be demonstrated in this tech preview is Plasma Desktop, showing an incremental evolution to known desktop and laptop paradigms. The user experience aims at keeping existing workflows intact, while providing incremental visual and interactive improvements. Some of those can be observed in this technology preview, many others are still being worked on.

Plasma Shell

Architecture & Roadmap

While the underlying graphics stack changes fundamentally in the new Plasma edition—moving it to a fully hardware accelerated OpenGL(ES) scenegraph—the user interface components have been ported to make use of this new technology. As such, this is not a rewrite from scratch, but a port to a new graphics system. Plasma 2 Technology Preview builds on top of Qt 5.2, QtQuick2′s OpenGL scenegraph and the KDE Frameworks 5.

KDE Frameworks 5 is a modular version of the KDE Libraries and will be released independently from the Workspace. A preview of KDE Frameworks 5 has been postponed slightly to early 2014, a first stable release is planned for later that year. Together with Plasma’s converged Workspace shell, which supports switching between different, modular device-adaptable Workspaces, Plasma is more suitable for deployment on a wider range of devices. The team planses to release the first stable version of Plasma 2 this summer, with an end-user ready desktop Workspace. More formfactor Workspaces, such as Plasma Active and Plasma Mediacenter are planned to be added as they reach stable ports to Qt5, KDE Frameworks 5 and the Plasma 2 Framework.


Clock and Calendar

Current Status

Plasma 2 is in heavy development; this tech preview reflects a snapshot of this process. While the basic functionality is there, it contains many known and unknown bugs. The team is working on completing and improving the underlying infrastructure and smoothing out the user experience in more and more workflows. Plasma 2 is “dog-foodable”, but not yet fit for wider testing of its functionality. The Plasma team will open the issue tracker in the coming weeks, after most of the show-stoppers have been fixed. Session- and power management services have been ported and are functional. Components that together make up the desktop, such as the task manager, launcher menu, notification area, clock and calendar have basic, but functional ports available. The coming weeks and months will be spent on finishing this functionality, ironing out bugs, visual polish and applying some smaller architectural updates to a number of parts of the workspace experience.


File Transfers

Plasma 2 Technology Preview starts up with a basic default desktop layout, providing an application launcher, a pager to manage and switch between virtual desktops, a taskbar, notification area and a clock. It comes with a number of example widgets. All of these components are basically functional, and will be further polished in the coming weeks and months.

KWin Window Manager and Compositor

The window manager and compositor of the Plasma Workspaces, KWin, has reached a close-to-production-grade quality in this technical preview. This is a very important milestone, given that KWin was the application most difficult to port by the KDE community.


Network Management

The porting of KWin was difficult because it made heavy use of low-level windowing system specific API inside the Qt libraries, which was removed due to the introduction of the Qt Platform Abstraction in the Qt 5 releases. More details about the required changes are available in the KWin maintainer’s Akademy talk. Most of the required API changes were already incorporated in the 4.11 release.

The Qt plugin for the X11 windowing system switched from XLib to XCB. This required rewriting large parts of the event filter inside KWin – a step which could only be done after porting to Qt 5. It was completely unknown what kinds of problems would be hit by such a port. There are not many window managers and compositors which have been ported to XCB. During the port the KDE team needed to add new features to Qt, was hit by regressions and bugs both in Qt and the XCB protocol bindings. Given that KWin had to be rebased on top of a new windowing system abstraction inside Qt, it is a great achievement to have a near-production-quality X11 window manager and compositor after such a short time.

A third area of unknown issues was the usage of OpenGL inside the compositor and QtQuick. This introduced a completely new area of threading related issues, which are explained in more detail in this blog post. Overall these issues are mostly solved, though the Aurorae-based window decorations have not reached production-ready quality; the Oxygen window decoration is recommended at the moment.

Although there was lots of porting involved, there are also new features which became available in the technology preview. The window decorations are now able to follow the color scheme of the decorated window—an important feature for the excellent image and photo applications Krita and digiKam by the KDE community that prefer a dark color scheme. This feature is also available through the window rules framework.

In the scope of Google Summer of Code, the configuration module for Desktop Effects was rewritten. It is making strong use of the new QtQuick Controls to enable a more flexible configuration. One of the first new features added to this configuration module is the integration of video previews of the effects. These videos have been created by Google Code-In students.

Getting the Plasma 2 Tech Preview

We recommend building Plasma 2 Tech Preview from our git repositories. Git tags for this tech preview have been created. Packagers can pull the source code with the “plasma2tp” tag from the respective git repositories. Most people will want to regularly update to the latest version of the KDE Frameworks 5 in order to get a constant stream of improvements. This is best achieved with kdesrc-build, which automates the fetching, building and installing and updating of the respective source code modules. Regular testing ISO images have become available, and are in the process of receiving the last set of updates that have gone in.

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Akademy 2014 – Brno, Czech Republic

Where is the next Akademy? In Czech, “KDE je příští Akademy?” as ‘kde’ means ‘where’ in Czech.
Akademy 2014, the annual KDE community summit, will take place from 6-12 September in Brno, Czech Republic.


Brno, Czech Republic

How did your team get involved in Akademy? What are your connections to KDE? Please tell us about yourselves.
We are a group of open and free software enthusiasts. Some are students; others work as software developers, testers or have other roles in various open source projects. We all share one passion—KDE. Some of us work or have worked on KDE as part of our day jobs, some of us contribute in our spare time. Some are KDE users; what would be a better way to start participating in the KDE community than organizing Akademy? Many of us are members of the Fedora KDE SIG—the team responsible for KDE on Fedora. In the past, some of us participated in organizing other events. Bringing the KDE community to Brno has been our dream for a long time. We finally had the opportunity and happily grabbed it.


The Brno Team
Daniel Vrátil, Iveta Šenfeldová, Jan Grulich, Jaroslav Řezník, Jozef Mlích
Luigi Toscano, Lukáš Tinkl, Martin Bříza, Martin Holec, Martin Kolman

Why do you want to help organize Akademy? What do you expect?
We see our effort as just another kind of contribution to KDE. As active contributors, we understand the need for community members to meet in person to discuss and plan for the future. From past years, we know that Akademy is not just about software. It’s first of all about the people. The KDE community is unique. We want to express our gratitude for people’s hard work by hosting this event, and giving all the great KDE people a way to foster friendships and relationships that shape the community. And thanks to many college and university ICT departments and IT companies located in Brno (and elsewhere in the Czech Republic), we believe that Akademy in Brno is a great opportunity for students, experts and others in the local community to get in touch with KDE people and benefit from KDE’s work. We are also certain that KDE will benefit from all the experiences in Brno—people, culture, hospitality.

Tell us about Brno. Why is it the place for Akademy?
Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic. It’s the administrative center of the South Moravian region and the Czech capital of judicial authorities: the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Administrative Court and others.

Brno is a beautiful city with many historical attractions, such as the Veveří castle from 11th century, the Špilberk castle from 17th century, St. Peter and Paul Cathedral originally built in 11th century and many others. There will be plenty for Akademy attendees to do when they break for leisure.

With 13 universities, 33 IT departments and research facilities, and over 120,000 students, Brno is a center of education and science—a great place to attract new people to KDE. Akademy will take place at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Communication at Brno University of Technology, about 20 minutes from the city center by public transportation.


Akademy Venue at Brno University of Technology

About Akademy

For most of the year, KDE—one of the largest free and open software 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, consider new ideas, and reinforce the innovative, dynamic culture of KDE. Akademy brings together artists, designers, developers, translators, users, writers, sponsors and many other types of KDE contributors to celebrate the achievements of the past year and help determine the direction for the next year. Intense workshops at the conference bring those plans to reality. The KDE Community welcomes companies building on KDE technology, and those that are exploring possibilities involving free and open source technologies.

2014 will see the 12th edition of Akademy, when once again a few hundred Free Software enthusiasts will gather for 2 days of talks and 5 days of workshops and coding sessions. For more information, please contact the Akademy team.

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KDE Releases Applications and Development Platform 4.12

The KDE Community is proud to announce the latest major updates to KDE Applications delivering new features and fixes. With Plasma Workspaces and the KDE Platform frozen and receiving only long term support, those teams are focusing on the technical t…

Qt 5.2 – Foundation for KDE Frameworks 5

On December 12th, the Qt Project released Qt 5.2. Congratulations to the Qt community for this great milestone! This version will form the foundation of Frameworks 5, the upcoming modularized release of the KDE libraries. As part of the Frameworks effo…

KDE Commit-Digest for 24th November 2013

In this week’s KDE Commit-Digest:

  • Device notifier works in Plasma 2, Power Devil ported to KF5/Qt5
  • Gwenview gains RAW preview
  • In KIPI, new GoogleDrive and Dropbox export plugins are available
  • New option in configuration Appearance->Borders->Scrollbars Visibility controls scrollbar visibility in Kate
  • Work continues on urlbar in rekonq
  • There are many new optimizations: Akonadi database structure changes, memory usage in Trojitá, mail directories accesses in KMail
  • Akonadi removes unneeded Strigi and ODBC/Virtuoso backends support.

Read the rest of the Digest here.

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A First – KDE and the Outreach Program for Women

The KDE Community participated in the Outreach Program for Women (OPW) for the first time this year. It was more successful than expected. KDE got many great applications and mentored 4 students contributing to Free Software. The Outreach Program for Women encourages women to get involved in free and open source software. It provides a supportive community to begin contributing any time throughout the year, and offers focused internship opportunities twice a year with several free software organizations. Unlike the Google Summer of Code (GSoC), the Outreach Program for Women is open to non-students and non-coders.

KDE was glad to attract KDAB as a sponsor for one program slot. 2 other places were supported financially by the OPW sponsor pool that included many prestigious organizations such as Bloomberg, Google and several others. GNOME started OPW and has more information about the program.

Krita

One of the KDE projects that participated in OPW was Krita. Maria Far and Chinkal Naglpal did a great job for Krita this summer as OPW interns. They set up a webshop selling Krita-branded merchandise and helped manage the website. They created a coordinated system for the webshop, filled it with great items, created a database of artists who use Krita, integrated a variety of social networks, and fixed many issues with the website.

Mentor Boudewjin Rempt said:

I have really felt the results of their work both in terms of new contributors joining and in terms of new users. Financially, the shop isn’t bringing in much yet — drawing people there turns out to be tricky. I particularly enjoyed the series of artist interviews they did — and are continuing with! It’s been a learning experience for me, too!

Artikulate

Another project that also offered opportunities for OPW participants was Artikulate. Artikulate is a young project, born in the KDE Education playground less than a year ago, and still on the way to its first end-user release. Despite its age, this pronunciation training application attracted two people, Magdalena Konkiewicz (OPW participant) and Oindrila Gupta (GSoC participant). Their projects had the goal to help drive Artikulate to the first release. Their mentor Andreas Cord-Landwehr said:

During the last three months, Magdalena and Oindrila did great work in polishing the user interfaces, establishing workflows for contributors, creating course material and documentation, and much more. With their work and successful recruiting of new contributors, Artikulate really made a big step forward.

The most visible contributions—though only a small piece of their work—can be seen in the new configuration dialogs, import mechanisms for courses, and learning statistics. As an immediate result of the work done in OPW, a preview release of Artikulate will be released soon.

Rewarding outcomes

The OPW participation was a very rewarding experience for the KDE Community. The close collaboration between interns and mentors also helped to integrate the new contributors into KDE’s work and to create a pleasant team experience for them. All four participants want to continue contributing to their respective projects as they unanimously felt very welcome. Myriam Schweingruber, OPW coordinator for the KDE Community together with Lydia Pintscher, said:

It was a great experience to see the many interesting applications when the program started, and the contagious enthusiasm the four interns showed throughout the duration of the project. I am confident that all of them will continue to be great contributors to our community.

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