Two office moves for one

I went to Berlin last week to spend a couple of days with my colleagues at the new KDAB office. The new location is in Kreuzberg, just like the old one, but a bit closer to the city centre. It’s very spacy (about 3 times the size of our previous office near Oranienstrasse), so of course there’s plenty of space to host the foosball table. There are also new training rooms, including a meeting room. While not everything is fully equipped yet, it looks very neat and shiny. The perfect environment for a few days of intensive training courses (with good food and other distractions nearby). It’s also quite cool to have the training facilities right next to our office, so we can always call in a specialist for very detailed questions. The Qt Experts at your fingertips, so to say :)
If you’re interested in those trainings as well, some of my colleagues will be present at Camp KDE, to be held next month in San Diego, California. There will be more general Qt trainings (I followed on given by Till last year, and it’s a really excellent opportunity to get some hands-on experience with topics that would take you weeks to cover on your own because of their complexity. I read that we’ll also do a more specialized training course for Qt in embedded scenarios, surely interesting if you’re into “beyond the desktop” kind of topics. KDAB has been working with this kind of stuff for years, and the training courses are fun and interesting to attend, make sure you don’t miss out! I myself won’t be present, since I’m trying to make my desk-time/travel-time ratio a bit more favourable lately (with mixed success, but I’m trying!).
One interesting details was that after arriving in Berlin, when I was trying to find the right door to our (KDAB’s) new office, I noted a sign for Apliki sign close to the KDAB office. Apliki is the company who is working on icon testing, with their most recent icon test the kmail and kontact icons. So I sent Björn an email, and he came over after work for a bit of chat, a beer and a foosball match. He also showed us the backend for the icon testing web application Apliki has developed, which was really interesting since it provides a way to “measure” usability aspects. Unfortunately, usability is often mistaken as an argument to push your own opinion on a UI, why you like it or why you don’t. These tests provide a good way to quantify the recognizability of icons, and thus allow for a less biased view on how well an icon represents a certain action (or status, object, whatever). The backend looked very slick, and allows for more complex correlation of data. Meeting Björn was of course pure coincidence, but just shows how nice and Free software friendly a city Berlin is.

Working with colleagues was one part of the purpose of my trip. As some of you might know, I’ve been serving in the last years on the Board of Directors of the KDE e.V., the foundation to support KDE. We have recently moved our office from Frankfurt, where we started out a couple of years ago to Berlin, which was more practical with Claudia, our business manager living there, and of course with Berlin being the Free software capital in Germany. We’re sharing the Berlin office with our friends from the Free Software Foundation Europe, which is also very nice since there’s a lot of experience, resources and contacts to share, and our goals largely align — while their implementation doesn’t. In short, nice neighbours of which I got to meet some more last Saturday. The party was really nice, about half of the people had FSFE background, the other half KDE backgrounds with a lot of overlap. I’m happy that we found such a nice place with nice people in Berlin’s city centre (the office is in Linienstrasse, about 150m from U-Bahn Oranienstrasse, which is pretty much spot-on city-centre.

On Friday night, Sebastian Sauer (or dipesh, the guy responsible for Kross and its extensive scripting capabilities in KDE) went to Maelcum’s (that’s the guy who implemented proper SSL support in KDE 4) house warming party. After that, we went back to Kreuzberg to hang out a bit at Breipott (note the creative use ot the TLD :)), a bar with live DJ’ing and lots of Free music. You can just bring your USB stick there and copy music you’ve found — completely legal and encouraged. A really nice Free culture showcase.

Logistically, it all worked out pretty well. I had some productive days at the KDAB office (with also some less productive parts after work — true to our mantra of “work hard, play hard”), and could combine it with some KDE business. On the way back from Berlin on Sunday, I visited my mother and met with other family members I don’t see that often before collapsing at home early that night. Those days rocked, but were exhausting nevertheless.

Konstipation

It’s out. Yes, finally. This release has been a bit of a bumpy ride. First thing was that we decided to do the release two days later, because on Tuesday (the date we’d initially planned), we already had KDE 4.3.4 scheduled. Then, yesterday, Dirk, our package-it hero had to struggle with some build problems in various modules.

Still, this is not a perfect beta. When trying 4.4 Beta1, you might find yourself without compositing effects. This problem has crept up in the last two weeks, and we’ve been only able to fix it this morning, too late for the beta. It turned out to be a problem of stricter capability checking, along with a change of the driver version string reported by mesa. Dirk said, he’ll roll another set of source tarballs next week, so you’ll get your compositing effects back. In the meantime, please focus your testing on other problems.

Allen was concerned about a bug that prevents KOrganizer from starting. We though about disabling KDE PIM for this beta, but in the end left it all in since we do want applications tested, buggy or not.

As you see, we’ve clearly shifted focus from get-your-features-in-mode to bugfix-mode. I’ve had a quick look at the statistics. In the past six months, we’ve closed about 18000 bugs in KDE’s bugzilla. Since the release of KDE 4.3.0, we’ve been able to close about 12400 issue reports. Over the last 7 days, we’ve closed about 900 bugreports. I think we should aim at 20000 closed bugreports until the release of 4.4.0 in February.

A “closed” bug means that a bug is either fixed, a duplicate of another bug that has been fixed, or that the bug cannot be fixed in KDE itself. This is the case for upstream (and sometimes also downstream) problems that really need a fix elsewhere. Some bugreports will also be marked “invalid” or “wontfix”, in which case the bug is actually not a bug (that happens :)). In any case, it means that we’ve triaged the bug and looked into it. Bugzilla is one of the important ways to feed back information to the KDE developers.

Of course you can help with the bug-hunting. Collecting data from a large variety of people, systems and usage scenarios is important to find corner-cases developers weren’t able to test or just didn’t think of. Please report those issues you run into! When doing so, for developers it saves a lot of work if you have a good look if your bug is already reported, don’t assume it is, but also don’t assume it isn’t.

When you’ve reported a bug, it’s helpful when you’re responsive to emails and check on your bugreport once in a while. We might need further information, there are often workarounds, and in some cases, it’s helpful for fixing a bug if we have short feedback cycles with someone who’s actually experiencing an issue to check further, or maybe ask to run a patch. The better your bugreport is, the easier it is for us to fix it.

Of course, KDE being Free Software, you can have a go at fixing some problem yourself, the source code is readily available, and if you know a bit about programming, issues are often easy to find and fix. In general, I find the KDE source code to be easily readable and understandable. In doubt, you can always ask another developer for directions, on IRC or one of the -devel mailinglist.

So, what’s so significant about KDE Software Compilation 4.4? Well, it’s a huge package of software, dozens of applications, a kick-ass development platform and an organic and usable desktop shell. One of the more noticeable changes that really cover all applications are probably the subtle transition effects that have been added to the Oxygen widget style and window decorations.

Another doublepluscool feature is the tabbed window manager. This new feature makes it possible to group arbitrary windows using tabs. You can now simply drag a window with the mouse wheel pressed onto another window and they’ll be grouped in tabs. The tabs are part of the window decoration, detaching windows works in the same way. Another very nice feature is the edge snapping. Dragging a window against the left or right border will put it on one the of side of the screen, exactly at half of the width. Dragging against the top edge will maximize a window. This way, you can easily tile (and group, with window tabbing) arbitrary windows.

I’ve stumbled across a nice video of some of the visual changes in KDE Plasma 4.4, you can find it here: