Revolution or Hype?

Yesterday, in a press inquiry which ended up in my mailbox (as most KDE press inquiries do), I got asked whether
KDE4 will be a revolution, or if it’s just a hype. While there certainly is quite a hype around KDE4, the answer
is not quite so simple. Let me try to explain.
The Free Desktop and KDE have come a long way during the last years. There have been various huge changes in KDE’s
social structure, in it’s infrastructure and of course in the sourcecode itself. I’ve split this into three different
areas where I think a shift in paradigm has taken place.

Target Groups

This is probably the one that has the most to do with the question. KDE is
about to enter the mainstream market. KDE4 will not be for geeks and
enthusiasts only, but for a very wide range of users. Those new users (casual
computer users, no IT experts) have different perception of software, and
they’re generally not willing or able to fix small problems, while our
current userbase (early adopters from a marketing POV) can fix minor glitches
themselves. Now let’s have a look what KDE 4.0 will be: First stable version
of our frameworks and libraries, a first set of applications we think meet
our standards. As every dot-oh release, there will be glitches (we are
perfectionists, but we also need to release early, release often). So 4.0
might not be perfect in every single aspects, it *will* need some polishing.
We hope, however, to reach the quality of what currently is KDE 3.5 early in
the release cycle.

Technological

Sound handling and hardware management are two examples that are now being done
in a central place. Software and users need to get used to this. This means
that not every application will take full advantage of all those new
frameworks since they’re just too, well new. Also, being able to make use of
search, semantic desktop features, complete new visual possibilities, easy
access to multimedia and all the goodness the pillars of KDE 4 provide will
set some developers to think what is possible now, it enables creativity
because it makes it easier to integrate all those things in one application.
I’m pretty sure we’ll see some very innovative new applications of those
technologies popping up in the course of the next release cycle, a lot
probably post 4.0. More than once, last weekend someone who was not working
on KDE yet would ask me if his idea of a new application or way to organise work
would be possible to implement. In all cases, with the new technologies it would
even be relatively trivial. This, on the one hand says a lot about the applicability
of our technologies, but also that we’re able to attract new people and that those
people will bring a lot of new and exciting ideas into KDE.

Community

The community has grown a lot during the last 2 to 3 years. We’ve not only
lots of new developers, but also completely new parts of the community. See
the usability people, usability is a process embedded in our development
process now. The Marketing Team is also rather new, and working with the
developers. The KDE community is really growing from a Free Software project
into a Free Culture project and thereby becoming a broader set of qualities.
At the same time, our developer community is
growing, we get lots of new developers and developers shift also into the class of
critical core developers. KDE is a *very* healthy community as it stands.

Bottom line: There’s a hype around KDE4 and we hope we can live up to that. During
the last years, the KDE community has gone through an evolution and is now a mature
and healthy Free Culture project that is about to revolutionise the computing experience.

update:
Computerworld has
published the interview
.

Running KDE4.

Running KDE4.
There was a complaint that it wasn’t possible to run a KDE 4 session, so I thought that it isn’t that bad and tried.
I’m now typing this from a KDE 4 session, here’s my findings: composite works well, I do have transparent windows.
Konsole also works well. Kate also works, I don’t see any immediate problems (above all, it certainly doesn’t crash
on my machine). Marble looks nice (not a major component, but still). Plasma has some applets on the desktop (I don’t
need much, but no problems there). A basic taskbar provides access to open applications. The only Xinerama glitch
I’m seeing is that menues opened appear on the other screen. Not a big deal,
certainly nothing that makes working impossible. KRunner doesn’t start at the moment, but as that one always worked
well for me, I doubt that it’s a long-standing problem, and I assume it’ll be fixed quickly. I’m running kontact
from my KDE3 session, though. (I love my mailbox and I’m not sure how well PIM works already. :-)) Okular, dolphin
and the likes show no problems. And according to powertop, it doesn not even screw up your battery life, it seems.

So Dirk will be tagging beta2 today, and that’s really the time where a lot of the developers should at least
parttime use KDE4. Otherwise we’ll never have it stable. And don’t we all love seeing progress? Do we even remember
having the “Ah that one is fixed now, too” feeling every single day? :-)

Hanging out at FrOSCon.

a sunflower
Arrived in Bonn / St. Augustin yesterday, where on Saturday morning FrOSCon
kicked off. This is the second time the local user group organises this conference and I must
say that this is certainly one of the most relaxed conferences I’ve ever been to. Highlights include good
drinks to keep you running (Go Mate!), couches,
wifi available already before the conference started,
good beer and a lot of nice gimmicks such as the bouncy castle. The atmosphere is very friendly, quite
some KDE-related peeps here, especially Amarok and KDE friendly projects such as Kubuntu, Sidux, Skolelinux
FreeBSD and inevitable the FSFE. The conference is quite a bit more busy than it was last year, and last
one of the gods that make the weather decided to put up sunny, not to hot and above all dry skies on top
of this conference. During my idle time, I talked a bit with Olaf about using Javascript in website and how
this can be done in a way so it’s accessible for everyone. I’ll probably work a bit on websites during this
weekend to make it so. Talk is cheap.

Friday, after arrival, we took on the task of making sure the BBQ works and the beer is of high quality,
I’m glad to announce that both failed none of our tests, so we were rather safe for saturday night — same exercise.
photos. My talk on Saturday about KDE4 went really
well, a double lecture hall packed with people
(probably the biggest one here), the organising team’s estimate is 400-450 people attending this talk, I was able to
go through most of the new frameworks (“pillars”), such as Solid, Phonon, Plasma, Oxygen et al, talk a bit about
our community, demo what’s currently there and finally answer quite some interested questions. People were really
positive of how far we’ve come with KDE so far, and there’s lots of people waiting eagerly for KDE4 while most
seem to understand that stable and cool software doesn’t develop itself. I’ve talked to quite some people and it’s
amazing how our stuff gets people to think. I’ve heard the questions “do you think it would be possible to implement
[insert amazing idea here] with that?”, the answer has more than once been “Yes, in fact, I think it’s quite easy
because that’s what the frameworks are made for” — workflow improvement ideas are quite popular. This is to me a
good indication that we’re underway very well, and that we’re poking into people’s imagination.

This morning, I had another talk scheduled, “CodeYard – bringing Free Software development into Highschools”. While
the audience was much smaller, the audience was interested in what we’re doing and received the talk really well.
After that, I took advantage of Torsten showing up here in St Augustin presenting Marble, then sat down at a couch
in the Chiilout area, mainly to finish this blogentry and upload photo’s. That didn’t happen until two hours later.
Turned out there’s a Canadian sitting next to me, named Zak Greant. I knew his name from the FLOSS foundations
list, he’s a staff member of the Mozilla Foundation. We talked about topics such as Free Software adoption (no
really!) sneakers, college drop-outs (see my crack dealer
blogentry
) and generally had a relaxed time.
Zak shared some interesting insight in how the Mozilla Foundation works, and how it’s related to the Mozilla
Corporation and how he sees the software ecosphere developing after becoming mainstream. We also chatted a bit about
business ethics. I seem to have this strange talent to always pick the one Canadian out of the masses, good thing
they’re generally enjoyable folks. :-)

Summering along

a sunflower
I’m on a train right now to Darmstadt, where BasysKom
kindly hosts a meeting of the KDE e.V. Board of Directors. Adriaan is on the same train,
Cornelius and Klaas will be arriving tonight, Aaron as well, albeit a bit later. He’s coming
in from Oslo which saves him one jetlag.

The main purpose of this meeting is — apart from the really administrative stuff such as
registering the board at the court — how we can speed up the process of getting an
employee to handle administrative work for the KDE e.V.. That should give us, the board
some more room for developing projects and looking into the future. Besides, it’s a waste
if really good developers (not me, mind you) are bogged down with administrative legwork for
a couple of hours every week.

Last weekend, I’ve been to Haldern Open Air, a smallish
(i.e. 6k people) festival in the west of Germany. I was with Kim and met a couple of my friends there
(friends from the time before I moved to the Netherlands). We spent the days barbequeing,
drinking beer, listening to music and relaxing. The weather just turned into summer when we
arrived there, perfect for camping. The festival is in a very rural area, we
literally camped between cows (and their leftovers), one of which got a new calf on Saturday morning.
I’ve also taken some time to make photos, most notably sunflowers.

After returning from the Board meeting in Darmstadt, I’ll be at home for two nights and then
going on vacation for roughly a week. We’ll first get on a night train to Vienna, stay there
for a couple of days and then travel on to Bratislava. Vacation time is much needed, although
my travel schemes currently won’t make you believe that. After the vacation, I’ll be speaking
at FrOSCon about KDE 4 and
CodeYard
. After that, I’m at LinuxConf Europe in Cambridge, and short thereafter on
another week of vacation in Portugal, mainly for the wine. End of September I’ll either travel
to Brussels for a EU FP6 Concertation Meeting or to Berlin for a week of hacking on SQO-OSS.