I’m going to Randa

Tonight I’ll board a sleeper train which will get me to Randa, Switzerland by tomorrow morning. I’m travelling to that small village in the Swiss Alps to participate in the Platform11 sprint.

What is this platform11 sprint about? (Randa’s trainstation only has 2 platforms, one towards Zermatt, one towards Visp. That’s probably not it.) The wiki page about the sprint makes it more clear, however:

To examine the current state and near future of the KDE Platform (kdelibs and kdebase-runtime), particularly as it relates to the growing usage of it in new contexts such as mobile or on Windows and MacOS and its traditional usage as a set of conveniences and consistency creators for KDE application development.
The sprint will aim to create an actionable, multi-year roadmap for kdelibs and kdebase-runtime and will examine issues of modularity, topicality and the inherent dichotomy between the KDE Platform as an application development framework (similar to Qt) and as a stand-alone platform to target (similar to, e.g. Windows, MacOS, etc.)

To me, this sprint marks an interesting point in the lifecycle of KDE 4, as we are now rethinking the structure of our platform.

Platform or Frameworks?

Last week, we had an interesting discussion wether the development libraries KDE software bases upon are called a platform or frameworks. I personally prefer to think of it in terms of frameworks, because that has a less exclusive nature to it. A platform sounds very much monolithic, while frameworks give a modular impression — and indeed, one of the goals of the Platform 11 sprint is modularity of our "platform".

Plasma Active and Platform11

One of the goals for me for participating in Platform 11 is to make our development frameworks more suitable for building non-desktop systems. There have already been efforts that work into this direction for quite some time (the platform build-time profiles come to mind, or recent work on libplasma2), but we haven’t yet had a focused meeting where we sat together to discuss our platform as a whole. That will likely mean a bit of restructuring in our libraries, deprecating some overly old stuff, and examining where we’re lacking a consistent API for modern needs. Geolocation comes to mind here, and rumours are that there’s an exile-kiwi coming with plans to Randa.

Last night, during dinner Kim asked me what I’m looking forward to in Randa other than technical and community bits. My answer was “watching the mountains”. As I’m living in the Netherlands, mountains are not a normal thing in sight, and the magnitude of those Swiss Alps keeps astonishing me. I’m also looking forward to those idle moments staring at the mountains.

Berlin Desktop Summit: Deadline for visa and travel assistance

Some administrative bits.

For the upcoming Berlin Desktop Summit, some people might need visa. The organisation (KDE e.V. and GNOME foundation) can help here. Since we’re a relatively small team, and visa application can be critical to a person being able to attend, we need you to send us your visa request as soon as possible, but in any case before June, 1st. This is necessary so we can do the necessary paperwork and make sure important contributors will be able to attend. Please get in contact with the GNOME foundations travel committee or the KDE e.V. board of directors if you need a visum.

If (you’re a KDE hacker and) you need assistance with travel costs, and you haven’t already applied, please also do so quickly. There’s also a June 1st deadline for that. (The rationale being here is that we do not want to decide on a first-come-first-serve basis, but we need some planning security.)

See you in Berlin!

What’s new in Plasma Active?

We’ve been busy bees in the growing Plasma Active team, so it’s time to post some progress updates. In case you forgot, Plasma Active is a KDE project to create a desirable user experience for the device spectrum, with its first focus to create a system suitable for tablet computers. In my first post about Plasma Active, you can see the basic shell running on a 10 inch Viewsonic Viewtab. In this post, I’m using a Wetab to demo the current state of Plasma Active. The Wetab is one of our test devices. It’s a nice target device since it’s Intel Atom-based, which makes building Plasma Active a bit easier, and thus shortens our development-testing-deployment cycles considerable. The Wetab can currently be gotten from German Ebay for 219€ + shipping, so it’s also quite affordable.

Back to the software, though. Our focus in the past weeks has been two-fold, we’ve done a lot of “small fixes” which greatly improve the user experience. The other class of changes is less visible at this point, but still fun and exciting.

Virtual Keyboard Layout

new virtual keyboard layout The virtual keyboard is using a layout that is more suitable for tablet computers, containing more characters on the first, easily reachable “page” of it. This makes text input a lot less annoying (let’s face it, touchscreens are not ideal for typing as they lack haptic feedback, so it can only become so good). There’s still a bunch of things that would make the keyboard better, and of course it has its fair share of bugs, but it basically works and isn’t too annoying, either.

Top Panel and Window Switching

We’ve also done some work on the top panel, holding access to network, power management, the calendar and a bunch of other things. While the panel would slide out a bit in our early versions to make the hit area bigger, we found that this intermediate step is not necessary, we increased the default height of the panel a bit which works nicely. The panel is still meant to be slided out, but for a different purpose. We will be putting a strip of window previews in there, replacing the current appswitcher sitting in the top left corner. Most pieces for the new panel-and-window-switching mechanism are already in place, but it’s not finished yet.

Snazzy new Activity Switcher

New activity switcher in Plasma Active During Tokamak, Marco has merged a new, snazzy Activity switcher into Plasma Active. This activity switcher offers a wheel-like interface which you slide in from the right. It has previews (or rather post-views ;)) of your activities, and you use a small slider on those previews to switch to an activity. (These activities right now provide spaces for different sets of widgets, but will be given more meaning thanks to the Contour project, which develops a semantic workspace framework for Plasma Active. As all the parts necessary to make basic activity handling in Plasma Active work, we’ve decided to merge this new switcher already, since the “old” one was really very basic, and wasn’t quite so intuitive, due to lack of visual feedback (i.e. previews).

Try it!

open-slx has created a new Plasma Active image, which can be run live off of a USB stick, you can find the latest version here (spot the plasma-active.current.iso). There are also openSUSE and Meego packages available (the latter being a bit less mature, but we’ve made really good progress in the past days.)

If Plasma Active has spawned your interest, or you would like to find out how you can get your software to run on and integrate well with Plasma Active, get in touch with us, either on IRC, or via our mailinglist. You can find more information on the Plasma Active pages on communitybase.

Tokamak 5 Photo Blog

Tokamak 5 has ended, the house is mostly clean and proper again, so time to post some photographic evidence of what has been an epic sprint.

Tulips, typical for the Netherlands. Not all of them made the end of the sprint.

Tulips, typical for the Netherlands. Not all of them made the end of the sprint.

Artur, looking into QtWebkit performance on Plasma Active

Artur, looking into QtWebkit performance on Plasma Active.

Dario and Ivan

BBQ, yes, that's a Brazilian taking care of the veggie grill.

BBQ, yes, that’s a Brazilian taking care of the veggie grill. (The tricolore shirt is for easier Visa procedures.)

Kevin, API bitch and Kanban master.

Kevin, API bitch (his words) and Kanban master.

Daily stand-up to catch up with other's activities.

Daily stand-up meeting to catch up with others’ activities.

No comment. (XKCD reference welcome.)

No comment. (XKCD reference welcome.)

We know what to do with ... pancakes.

We know what to do with … pancakes. (Don’t worry, Aaron and the pancake had a wonderful rest of the evening. Pancakes were kindly made by Adriaan.)

Groupphoto. Taken one day after Dario and Ruphy left, so we don't look like an Italian-only team.

Groupphoto. Taken one day after Dario and Ruphy had to leave, so we don’t look like an Italian-only team. Also clearly a Thursday.

Primary means of transportation. Looks more stupid in wide-angle.

Primary means of transportation. Looks more stupid in wide-angle.

OranjePop, one of the concerts.

OranjePop, one of the concerts. Verdict: Can’t really sing, but surely fun music to listen and watch.