The next Kubuntu Graphics Stack

One of the things that we have been discussing at length in the past few months is the graphics stack in Kubuntu, and how we’re working towards having Plasma Workspaces 2 running on top of Kubuntu-next and Kubuntu-next-next(-next). In this article, I will explain the strategy we have laid out for a smooth transition.

2013: 4.11 atop XOrg

For Kubuntu-next (13.10), the answer is pretty easy: We’ll be relying on plain old Xorg. End of story. Alternatives do not provide us any benefits, so instead of jumping onto an unproven and at the time of writing buggy new technology stack, 13.10 will present you a stable and proven solution as to the display server, and on top of that provide a KDE SC 4.11 with all the performance improvements that we have worked on in the past months. They will, on many systems be quite impressive. The port to XCB provides a whole slew of advantages, and we have reduced memory consumption significantly in many components, Kontact for example.

Later this year, we’ll make the first test packages of Plasma Workspaces 2 available, which is the upcoming version of Plasma, based on Qt5 and an entirely hardware-accelerated graphics stack. Do not expect them to be much useful at that point, however, as Plasma 2 (and the underlying Frameworks 5) is still a fast-moving target. The packages are mainly useful to catch integration problems early on, such as co-installability of KDE SC 4 and Frameworks 5 packages. Later on be able to run a KDE SC 4 application atop a Plasma Workspaces 2 — mixing and matching whatever is stable and mature enough for you. This eases the transition for our users and makes it a lot easier for us to dogfood ported apps.

2014: Offering Wayland

Fast-forward to 2014. The stable release of 14.04 will be relatively boring (a.k.a. stable :D). Regarding Plasma, it will be based on 4.11 with all the bugfixes we have accumulated until then. Maybe not the most exciting release, but stability and continuity aren’t the worst thing in the world. Also, as 4.11 will get extended support from the upstream Plasma team, this offers quite a nice choice for those that don’t want to upgrade too often.

At the same time, the brave among us will be able to test early versions of Plasma Workspaces 2, which are being constantly updated through Project Neon, a sort of rolling testing releases.

In the first half of 2014, we will start the transition process to the Wayland display server, not for 4.11, mind you, but on top of KDE Frameworks 5 and Plasma Workspaces 2. Project Neon, by that time will get support for Wayland, which likely means that we are going to package a Wayland-based graphicsstack, and maintain that. Not exactly what we’d like to do, but a little more integration work is, in my opinion preferable to rely on a technology which doesn’t provide a stable protocol and is focused solely on another desktop shell. The risk of breakage is not something we want to put our users up with. Us committing to making Wayland available will probably yield a few happy faces in other desktops’ camps as well. So let’s collaborate on that.

Summer 2014 will then (hopefully!) see the first stable version of Plasma Workspaces 2, running natively on a Wayland stack. The time until the 14.10 release will be spent further polishing the living bejesus out of that, so as many of our users as possible will be able to use Plasma Workspaces 2 on top of a fully accelerated graphics stack productively.

Standing up against verbal abuse

Seriously, Linus?
Kernel hacker Sarah Sharp has stood up against the way of communication common on the Linux Kernel Mailing List. I have quite a few thoughts about this, and I thought I’d share them here. Quoting Sarah:

I’m standing up against verbal abuse on LKML. I will happily stand alone, however you can also support this cause. Please speak up, either here on Google+ by resharing this post, or commenting on this post with words of support. If you dare, you can also reply to my lkml email.

http://marc.info/?l=linux-kernel&m=137390362508794&w=2

Thanks for posting this, Sarah. You’re bringing up an important topic here, which is avoided all too often.

Sarah is completely right, and entitled to demand an abuse-free working environment. Thank you for making this explicit, and standing up against those that think it’s not necessary. You’re speaking for a silent crowd, that is now not so silent anymore.

If people really think they can only be productive when using abusive language, they need a reality check and grow up, especially if these people are highly regarded personalities such as Linus Torvalds. What they do is settings a bad example at best, and being actively harmful and divisive at worst.

I wouldn’t care much if that this abusive behavior were happening in their private living room, but in a public place that is not acceptable. It harms our whole community. It cultivates a macho culture of fat white men, while what we really need is diversity.

Within KDE, we have created a culture of friendliness and mutual respect. We have codified this in a code of conduct, and it has grown into the baseline for making work and leisure in the community more fun and less stressful. It also allows us to grow beyond an in-bred bunch of geeks, and become a diverse team, with the skills needed to not just create Free Software, but to contribute to Free Culture (which I think Free software is part of).

Food for thought: If we want Asian hardware manufacturers to work with us on, e.g. drivers for their hardware, and do it upstream, it simply won’t happen in a rude atmosphere that is entirely incompatible with Asian culture (where critique has to be much more subtile). Of course it’s a general problem with cultural diversity.

Spooning, not forking

One thing that strikes me here during Akademy is the sense of community convergence one gets.

While other Free software projects drift apart, splitting up in multiple forks that stop talking to each other, differentiate based on the wrong reasons, what we see here during Akademy is projects growing closer to each other. This is a good development, so let’s look at it a bit more detailed.

KDE is continually evolving, becoming more diverse by the day. As an organisation, we realised that, and many see KDE as an umbrella organisation for Free software, rather than a “project doing a desktop environment”. When we published the KDE Manifesto, we set the tone for this to happen, and now we see it unfold. The KDE manifesto defines KDE as a community of like-minded Free software people. One of the most important adjectives to describe KDE is inclusive, that means that we define ourselves in terms of commonalities, rather than trying to differentiate ourselves from our peers.

Also, as an organisation that is in the business for 17 years, we have gathered a large body of expertise, best practises, knowledge how to run a community. We have also proven to be a sustainable and stable organisation.

At Akademy, the KDE community is joined by a wide variety of people not directly involved with KDE. We have VLC here, Razor Qt, Mer and of course our long-time friends from Qt present. This, on the one hand provides excellent opportunities for cross-pollination and solving common problems (or even just sharing pain!), on the other hand it makes us think if we’re at the right level of collaboration right now. Is there more to share among these distinct organisation, does it make sense to merge some of them and share the overhead?

This surely is food for thought, and I expect this class of discussions to last until long after Akademy, but it is very refreshing to see. It also increases the value of all our communities. Synergy through convergence.

It’s also an excellent way to make new friends, and look outside our own frame of reference.

Looking back, looking ahead.

Dragon- and Jackfruit, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, chocolate, palm sugar and tahoe from JavaThis year’s general assembly of KDE e.V. during Akademy will be my last one as a member of the KDE e.V.‘s Board of Directors. I had been elected during Akademy 2006 in Dublin, and since then served the KDE community by working on organisational bits necessary to support a Free Software project. We’ve seen times where our environment wildly changed, times of growth, consolidation, growing pains. Looking back fills me with satisfaction how we have developed KDE e.V. as an organisation. I think KDE e.V. is exemplary in many ways for other Free Software, and Free Culture projects. One of the cornerstones here is continuity, we simply had the time to learn a lot, to define and implement necessary processes around administration, fund-raising, legal questions, conference organisation and many more. As it stands today, KDE e.V. is an organisation that provides the continuity necessary for a community to think ahead, and the necessary infrastructure to foster and support those next steps. KDE e.V. is also an organisation that constantly evolves, reacting, but also foreseeing and preparing for the next steps. We have a well-functioning team in place to guide this, and I’m confident that the current and coming board members will keep developing KDE e.V. as an organisation towards its goal of supporting KDE.

The Merapi volcano, as seen from the BorobodurEarlier this year, I had also resigned from my role as one of KDE’s release managers. When I joined the release time, around KDE 3.5 (our software compilation was still called KDE back then), our release process was becoming dysfunctional. In KDE 3 times, coolo (to some known as Stephan Kulow) was the release dude, and it was all in his hands. He did a great job, but, just like in many other areas of KDE, embodied a single point of failure. Not that he, or others we relied on, ever failed, but it’s usually more a matter of statistics than personal skills, attitude and motivation. For critical tasks (and actually releasing all the work of such a community for others to use is a pretty critical one!), you want a team in place that can fall back on each other, both to spread workload and risks. Afin, KDE needed release managers, and after a detour through a more official body (the KDE e.V.-elected Technical Working Group, for those who remember this episode), it became clear that only a self-motivated group of people that want to get the job done will work. In hindsight, this sounds completely natural and closely aligned to KDE’s way of achieving things, but I think this way had to be walked, we have learned from it, and in the end, there’s a competent team in place which can deliver our software in time and quality. As being on the release team is work, and at times quite a lot, I wanted to get rid of this eventually. I managed to pull out, I think without leaving too much of a hole. A few releases have been done without me actively particating. Probably, most people won’t even have noticed. Perfect.

So am I on the way out? Most certainly not! I’ve been consistently shifting from organisational tasks to more technically oriented work, which to me personally, is a good development. I simply get more kicks out of writing code than reading emails. In that regard, I think I’m in good company.

The sun rising over BaliOn a professional level, I’ve been working for Blue Systems on Plasma’s upcoming version for a while now. I’m spending most of my time on Plasma and our Frameworks 5 effort, and enjoy that a lot. It gives me both the time to intimately understand more parts of our codebase, and much opportunity to learn new things and improve and develop existing skills. The work happens entirely within KDE infrastructure and community, and I’ve got a bunch of great colleagues who are equally eager to take big steps, technologically with our codebase. My role has now shifted a bit to also include team coordination tasks, which is an interesting exercise. On the one hand, a geographically spread team is harder to keep track of, but this is offset by the great motivation, skills and attitude of my colleagues (within both Blue Systems and KDE).

Incense in a buddhistic templeLuckily, my life’s not all KDE and the serious business of software development. In May, Kim and me travelled to Indonesia. We spent a few nights in the jungle of Borneo, took a walk with Orang Utans. We planted trees, and slept the nights on the deck of our boat acompanied by jungle noises and clear skies. On Java, we visited the Borobodur, a giant buddhistic temple, one of the 7 wonders of the world, we learnt about the roots (literally and figuratively) of many conveniences such as coffee, rice, tobacco and latex. We climbed up a Volcano. From Java, we set off to Bali, travelled along its North coast and then spent some time on Gili Trawangan, which is part of a group of sandy, tropical islands just off the coast of Lombok. The time in Bali and on the Gilis did my scuba diving skills really well. The area is excellent for diving with warm waters and amazing marine life. My finning technique has improved vastly and I’ve got dehydration under control much better now. During our dives we spotted lots of coral, soft and hard, vast amounts of colourful reef fish, turtles, reef sharks, morays, sea snakes. The abundance of colour and life was enchanting, though fragile.

With all that said, some of you will meet me later this week in Bilbao for Akademy. I will arrive on Wednesday already, going to see Depeche Mode and The Editors at BKK festival. If you want to talk Frameworks5, Plasma2 or anything else which lies in my line of interest: Talk to me.