Plasma at QtCon

QtCon opening keynote
QtCon opening keynote

QtCon 2016 is a special event: it co-hosts KDE’s Akademy, the Qt Contributor summit, the FSFE summit, the VideoLan dev days and KDAB’s training day into one big conference. As such, the conference is buzzing with developers and Free software people (often both traits combined in one person).

Naturally, the Plasma team is there with agenda’s filled to the brim: We want to tell more people about what Plasma has to offer, answer their questions, listen to their feedback and rope them in to work with us on Plasma. We have also planned a bunch of sessions to discuss important topics, let me give some examples:

  • Release Schedule — Our current schedule was based on the needs of a freshly released “dot oh” version (Plasma 5.0), Plasma 5 is now way more mature. Do we want to adjust our release schedule of 4 major versions a year to that?
  • Convergence — How can we improve integration of touch-friendly UIs in our workflows?
  • What are our biggest quality problems right now, and what are we going to do about it?
  • How do we make Plasma Mobile available on more devices, what are our next milestones?
  • How can we improve the Plasma session start?
  • What’s left to make Plasma on Wayland ready for prime-time?
  • How can we improve performance further?
  • etc.

You see, we’re going to be really busy here. You won’t see results of this next week, but this kind of meeting is important to flesh out our development for the next months and years.

All good
All good? – All good!

KDAB Signs FLA en masse

At KDE, we take licensing of our software very seriously. In order to make licensing code more straight-forward for developers, and easier to evaluate for third parties, we’ve created the licensing policy which can be found on Techbase. With this tool, we provide guidelines for developers which licenses to choose for their code, so that it matches pieces of software that it is shipped alongside with. It also provides insight for those who would like to distribute KDE software to get an idea how our software is structured, license-wise.

There’s another, not too widely known tool we created a few years ago: The Fiduciary License Agreement, or in short FLA. The FLA is a tool that reduces the headache and work for us in case in the future a license used by us need a change. The FLA is a tool to make this process easier, especially in cases where it would otherwise be impossible (imagine the death of a developer, as an example).

The FLA is simply a mechanism that allows the KDE e.V., as steward of the KDE community, to relicense a piece of code in case the original developer cannot do that anymore. Within this process, the KDE e.V. is bound by strict rules. First of all, it has to act within its mission, which is (paraphrased) to do good for KDE and Free software. If you’re interested in a more complete explanation of this, I’d suggest to read Carlo Piana’s article about it.

Signing the FLA is not mandatory for contributing to KDE, but it does make it easier to deal with unforeseen problems, and thus it can save someone in the future a lot of headaches. (Hopefully, for different reasons, we’ll never run into this case, but you never know.) Even if it’s not mandatory, it’s is, as I explained still a very good idea to sign the FLA. If you care about KDE’s future, please consider doing this. You can download the FLA document on ev.kde.org, and send it to our office in Berlin (address is one the same website). You might recall that I’ve written about this topic earlier — so if those guys sign it, you should, too! :-)

Two weeks ago, we had an exciting parcel arrive in the KDE e.V. office, originating from KDAB. KDAB is a software consultancy, which employs many talented KDE hackers, who still contribute to KDE, either in their Free time, or in time alotted by KDAB. The parcel contained FLAs from many KDE contributors who work for KDAB, and KDAB has organised a batch-signing of those FLAs. Obviously, we’re very happy to see this happen, as it future-proofs KDE’s licensing significantly.

New challenges.

I’ve resigned my job at KDAB last month in a swift move towards more KDE-time. This all came pretty suddenly, but it felt like The Right Thing to do for me personally and for KDE, which I care a lot about. Since May, I’ve been working for Open-SLX, a German company that makes and supports the openSUSE boxed version. My focus in that work is the user experience of the product. The idea is to work upstream (in openSUSE and KDE / Plasma) as much as possible. While Open-SLX benefits directly from my work done in KDE, this is also a nice way to give back to the community, by making sure I get to spend enough time on things that are not directly related to the product. So now I’ve settled into my new job, and up until now, it’s been great. I’ve been able to catch up with a couple of areas in KDE, I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted in the past, and I have started working on some ideas I was dragging around in the back of my brain for a while). One of those things is Project Silk, which is a Project to boost and deeply integrate the web into KDE Plasma and applications. Its motto is no less ambitions than "Freeing the Web From the Browser", so there’s lots of work to do. ;-) Others have already shown off their cool creations, so I’ve got some catching up to do. I’ll share more detailed information about Silk in the next weeks, so if you’re interested in that, hang on just a little bit longer.

With this new job, I’m also able to spend a bit more time on KDE e.V. things. I’m a Board Member for some time already. Being able to sneak in a bit more of that structured desk time for things that need doing in the near future is surely a good thing. Regarding the e.V., I’ll travel with Ade to Berlin on Friday to meet Celeste, Cornelius and Frank there for an extended weekend of board work (and fun).

I’m a *real* developer …

… not just a marketing guy. :-) During the Qt Developer Days in Munich, I took the Qt certification exam (actually as one of the first people to take it). It was my birthday, so they let me pass:

Nokia Certified Qt Developer
Also, right now I’m in Reykjavik, Iceland for the KDAB company meeting and 10 year anniversary. Preliminary conclusions: Watch out for roastbeef, it tastes like whale, riding on a horse feels like riding a square-wheeled bicycle (but slightly more scary) and having infinite amounts of energy under your rearside makes for interesting and relaxing uses and given a large-ish island with tectonic and seismic activity, you’ll find the capital at the most likely spot for an earthquake.

NLUUG Fall 2009: The Open Web

Just returned from the semi-anually dutch UNIX user group conference. This fall’s edition, which was today, was titled The Open Web. I had a presentation scheduled, titled Freeing the web from the browser. I talked about ways how we can overcome limitations of the web, such as fitness for very small and very large screens, different input methods, caching, and generally making online data available to rich client applications in a meaningful way. I managed to completely avoid using the term “Cloud”, I’m proud of that. A combined roadshow for Akonadi (while my fellow KDABians are chipping away at the Kontact/Akonadi porting) and Silk, so to say. The talk was well received by its estimated 70 attendees (ok, given the size of the conference this year), with only one person asleep (front row, and at least he was a VIP speaker). I also did a first public demo of Selkie, the standalone web application Richard Moore and I have been working on after Akademy. I’m planning to do a screencast shortly, for those two or three people online that would like to see what it is as well.

A couple of notable things happened today in the Marketing of today might also be interesting to share. Jos Poortvliet (of Dot fame) and Frank Karlitschek (fellow board member and social desktop swabian) and Adriaan de Groot (of FSFE and pink whip fame; no whip this time around though, that must be an Akademy thing). We talked a bit about next steps in an effort to put more structure into the various brands KDE has. Right now KDE has many different meanings (a desktop, applications, a community, …). This leads to real practical problems, it is for example hard to explain to everybody that you can run KDE applications also in GNOME, Windows, Mac OS, on Maemo … — it’s called KDE applications because it’s part of the KDE desktop, right? Wrong. That needs fixing though. This probably involves creating a more distinct identity (“brand”) for the desktop / workspace environment and individual applications. This effort is a longer term process, and is well underway already.
Schuberg Philis, the conference’s main sponsor impressed me with a very sensible idea. Instead of having a huge booth with big machines, interesting for geeky folks, the brought in a battery of espresso machines and (so I heard) the dutch champion barista to make coffee. And good coffee it was (I’m still bouncing). Quite a nice marketing performance, not so “in your face”, still a presence suitable for a conference’s main sponsor, in a way that really adds value to a conference — excellent coffee.
The third thing that struck me was the appearance of rekonq’s new icon (rekonq is a webkit-based web browser which integrates well with other KDE applications and the desktop). The rekonq team has taken Konqi (a young dragon) and turned it into an adult dragon. We’ve been playing with this idea in the KDE’s marketing team some time ago, taking our teenage Konqi and make it a full-fledged dragon, sharp teeth and fire included. Cool to see this in rekonq, I think it’s a neat metaphor especially for this app. I’ve just pulled the latest code from its git repo to give it a whirl.
Fourth, Qt marketeer troubalex a.k.a. Alexandra (sometimes referred to as “trouble alex” by certain very funny people), didn’t make it to Ede due to someone in the family being sick, get well soon from the Netherlands.
I also met Koen Vervloesem, who recently did an interview (the link should be publically accessible by now) with me.

One of the talks I attended was held by Bastiaan Jacques. Bastiaan talked about the status of GNASH, and why it’s important to have a Free flash content viewer, even if Flash sucks and is actually not a piece of technology the “Open Web” should move forward with. During his talk, I downloaded the source and tried to build it. There were some issues building it with my Qt 4.6 installed in a non-standard path, which Bastiaan helped fixing after his talk. I’ve added to my “interesting things to investigate” list to further look at gnash and see in how far it’s suitable for displaying content we really cannot get in a better format than flash (and, by design, easy to integrate also in native client applications).

Another talk I attended was the one by Mozilla hacker Paul Rouget. Paul showed some things that are part of the HTML 5 standard, for example the new video and canvas tags, and then quickly went over to show a bunch of demos what you can do with JavaScript, CSS transformations, SVG and the video tags and canvas tags. Pretty fun stuff, although I have concerns if shipping large amounts of JavaScript code that can even do pixel-based transformation and analysis of image is really the way to go for the web of the future. It doesn’t at least solve problems such as accessibility of data for other applications, it is in fact encouraging putting more and more application logic into web pages, mixing content and presentation and making it hard to actually use the resulting content in a meaningful way (think caching, attaching semantic information or making web pages suitable for different input methods and displays). Pretty entertaining, and a good final presentation anyway (let’s be honest, after a long day of technical talks you’re entitled to some bling).

After the conference, I was invited to the speakers’ dinner, held in a nice restaurant in Ede. Food and conversations were good, and it was nice to learn a bit about others view of various topics. All in all a very interesting, enjoyable and generally worthwhile conference.

Qt DevDays Report Published on Heise; Silk

After visiting the Qt developer days last week (in my capacity as KDAB‘ian, I got the opportunity to train my rusty German a bit. I had been asked to write a report for Heise (a German IT publisher of the C’t and iX magazines). My report has been published yesterday, you can read it here (again, our theme this week is: No English ;-)). So now I’m a journalists (on the Internet, everyone is).
I’ve published a similar article (this time in English, but it went public last week, so it doesn’t count) on The Dot.

Work on Silk is also progressing nicely. I’m getting more and more the hang of Webkit and what cool stuff you can do with it. Richard Moore has just been blogging about our adventures with webkit on QGraphicsView. I had collected some information about that during DevDays and the Maemo summit the weekend before where I met Kenneth (at both events), a Danish/Brazilian QtWebkit hacker and Ariya (the food guy) who patiently answered my questions. More about progress in Silk will be revealed in the coming weeks as we’re making good progress.

Interviewed about Project Silk, Qt DevDays

Koen Vervloesem has published (well, kind of published, it’s LWN subscriber-only right now, but AFAIK will become publicly available later) an interview with Frank “Social Desktop” Karlitschek and me. The interview provides a preview of what Frank and me will discuss in our respective presentations during NLUUG’s fall conference which will be held on October 29th in Ede, Netherlands. I heard that registration is still open, so if you happen to be in the area, drop by. For the majority of my readers (those that aren’t LWN subscribers and not able to come to “The Open Web” conference, this post is more turns out pretty useless though . As the interview was published on my birthday (I’m 33 now), I’ll just take that as an excuse. Random related fact: The KDE project is — to the day — exactly twenty years younger than I am. Happy birthday fellow gearheads!

Mostly unrelated fact, I’ve just returned from the Qt DevDays in Munich where I “hung out” with my fellow KDABians. A Dot (the KDE news site) story reporting about that is coming up (I’m about to queue it for review by fellow dot-editors).

Update: The Dot article has been published.

More Update: A Dutch version of the article is up on Transparante Zaken