17 July, 2014

ownCloud 7 awesomeness

One of the things I love from the Free and Open Source software world is that doing things in the open simply leads to better solutions. Resources are often constrained, polish might be lacking, but frequently from the seemingly chaotic processes emerges brilliance.

The upcoming ownCloud 7 has one of those things: server to server sharing. You see, for a long time, I and others have been asking the ownCloud desktop client developers for a feature: support for syncing multiple ownCloud installations. That way, files from our corporate ownCloud installation (of course we dogfood here at ownCloud Inc.!) and my private ownCloud could both be synced to my desktop and laptop. Unfortunately, while it has been on the todo for a while, it just kept pushed down by more urgent feature work.

While you could get it to work already by running multiple clients and playing with the config file locations, it seemed a bit brittle to me and I just accepted this feature wasn't there yet.

Only today, during my bike ride to c-base, did I realize that ownCloud 7 actually introduces this feature. And I even wrote a sneak preview about it! It is the server to server sharing that solves this issue.

What is Server to Server sharing?

Let's step back. What is the major thing that 'private' clouds don't have which public clouds do? Other than the NSA snooping, that is...

Well, you're all alone, of course. If you want to share a file with another student from uni, you have to create an account or use a shared link. He/she will then have to visit your ownCloud to be able to work with you. It gets quickly messy with a lot of files.


This is where Server to Server sharing comes in. You can simply share a link and your collaboration partner can add this, either a folder or a single file, to his or her own ownCloud. They can put the file wherever they want in their folder structure (we've gotten rid of that rigid shared folder concept in ownCloud 7!) and work with you like the file was on their own instance.

That means they can also locally sync the file with their sync client by just putting it in a folder that is synced!

Boom. You don't have to create and manage multiple server accounts in your sync client, creating a folder on your system for each server you work with. No, you just add the share to your ownCloud and put the files wherever you want - in one folder, or grouped by subject - whatever works best.

Now tell me that isn't awesome ;-)

There's more

Of course, this is just a first step to bringing ownCloud servers closer to each other. Our goal is full 'federation' of data: transparent sharing between servers so they can act as one cloud, protecting privacy while giving you the convenience of sharing, collaborating and communicating with friends, family, collegues and more. Once you connected to another ownCloud, you should be able to share files with the users on that server seemlessly - and other data, like contacts or music! You should be notified when things are shared (a news feed!) and be able to comment and chat. This however still needs work. If you're interested in helping to make this happen, consider joining us at the ownCloud Contributor Conference from August 26-31 in Berlin, Germany!


* Note that you can have kind-of server-to-server sharing with ownCloud 6 by manually mounting folders from other servers via webdav. This of course comes with various limitations (you do have to give out webdav credentials, to name one) so the new server to server sharing is a massive improvement...

16 July, 2014

It all comes together: no more Software Compilation but more KDE!

KDE 4.0 demo in Dresden, 2007 (short hair time, yes)
With the KDE 4.0 release we had the issue that everything was one big blob: the libraries, the desktop and the applications, all inter-dependent.

Back then, at the end of 2007, the libraries and many of the applications were in a very good shape. Especially the KDE Edu applications I remember: they were stable, pretty and awesome for many months already before the release and their developers were itching to get their code to users. I had made a blog post with cool video's of KDE edu apps in October 2007. Here is Kalzium at that point:



Unfortunately, the desktop, having undergone a HUGE rewrite, was not at that same level of quality. As I wrote later that Month:
"When I show people the state of Plasma, they're like "hmm, that's not good". So I then proceed to show the Edu and Games, cheers them right up."

But the last release of KDE had been in 2005 (!!) and after more than two years, we really wanted the new and improved apps to get out to users. The desktop was basically workable so we decided to release. Code that is not in users hands rots away...

We all know how that went - distributions shipped it as default and the internet erupted with hate.

Doing better now

So, for the 5 series, we split it all up: Frameworks 5.0 (the new name of our modularized libraries) was released last week, the desktop came out yesterday and the Applications still mostly have to start moving to Qt5/Frameworks 5... We weren't forced to release half-baked stuff but everything came 'when done'.

KDE is now People. And dragons.

Better separation: rebranding

That was possible because we rebranded 'KDE' to mean community in November of 2009. This created (over time...) separate brands  for 'Plasma', 'Applications' and 'Platform' (now 'Frameworks') which could release on their own. Could being the operative term here, as we kept releasing it together.

That created quite some branding confusion, also because we had not thought through all the issues we would bump into. So when we finally decoupled releases at the release of Plasma 4.11 (the latest release in the 4.x series) and the KDE Platform at 4.9 (although that got some serious updates since then and has kept increasing version number for packaging convenience), it was largely ignored.

Which in turn created some confusion when Frameworks 5.0 came out - several people asked 'where can I get KDE 5', expecting to run the desktop and applications already. Well, I'm quite OK with users saying 'I use KDE' as long as they mean Plasma and realize there is more to KDE than the desktop. Because when I say I use Microsoft, I am not lying. I've always been a huge fan... of their keyboards. Not joking, their operating system wasn't great last time I used it but I love the 'comfort curve' series of keyboards. They should stick to hardware, clearly their strongest point.

In hindsight, we probably better would have waited until there was a real need for the rebranding - like today, or in 2013, when Plasma stopped releasing. Then again, we did expect that to come soon - there already had been talks about disconnecting the releases, it just didn't happen. Well, hindsight is always 20-20, they say...

And as the title points out - there is no more need for the 'Software Compilation' term, which was invented to solve the confusion of 'KDE releases three separate things but all at once'. We no longer release the Applications, Desktop and Libraries at once...

Better communication

Another thing we changed is our communication. In the KDE 4 times, what we did was PROMO: being as positive as one could be ;-)

Since then, we've learned a little actual marketing. Perception management and fancy stuff like that. Including properly explaining what something is and is not ready for! That's why I wrote a known issues section for the Beta of Plasma including:

"With a substantial new toolkit stack below come exciting new crashes and problems that need time to be shaken out."

With a clear section on where we stand in the final release announcement on the dot (See Suitability and Updates on the bottom of the article) we have made clear what the state is - and that we don't think distributions should ship Plasma 5.0 as default. And distributions have picked up on this - at least neither Kubuntu nor openSUSE will ship their upcoming release based on Plasma 5.0.


Forward

Now, the future. Plasma 5.0 is out, and on a 3-month release cycle. Frameworks comes with a new version every month, the Applications are still at 4.13 with a beta of 4.14 out last week. After 4.14 is out, the work on a Frameworks 5/Qt 5 port will commence full-steam but some applications will be ready before others. How will we deal with that conundrum? I don't know yet. There might be two KDE Application releases for a while, as some applications will take longer to get ported than others.

But we're better positioned than ever to bring innovations to the Linux Desktop. So let's see what the future brings!

(Ok, I do have SOME thoughts on where KDE, is going, see Part 1 and Part 2)

09 July, 2014

Puppy eyes versus freedom

With fund raising campaigns running for Krita and the Randa meetings, I've been thinking about charity. My wife told me she wanted to donate to a group of people doing really awesome work for animals. Which is great. Collectively, we spend billions on good causes like that. According to forbes the top-5 charities in the USA alone rack in USD 44 billion in revenue per year. I've gathered a few more numbers:


Organization Purpose Budget (USD)
Salvation Army (just USA) Fight poverty >4.1 billion
WWF (Netherlands) Protect animals 78 million
a Donkey home in the UK Protect donkeys 55 million
Electronic Frontier Foundation Protect online communication 3.2 million
Free Software Foundation Enable Free computing 1.2 million
Amnesty International Protect Free Speech 60 million

From the numbers, I get the distinct impression that we, as in the wider community of Internet Users (that's over half the world population), don't do a very impressive job at protecting what made the internet fun, interesting, useful and above all - free.

I want my kids to have food and shelter, even if they bump into some bad luck in life. Diseases like cancer are worth fighting and we've adopted a dog from the animal shelter in Berlin. But I also want my kids to not have to fear government surveillance or persecution for what they say or think (or are!). And have access to the knowledge and information we've gathered, as humanity.

Unfortunately, the fight for Free Speech is old and is today loosing ground. More and more countries are censoring communication, blocking internet traffic for various reasons. Efforts like ownCloud are great, but not successful enough (yet).

I think we've got a problem here. We fail at protecting our online freedom but the wider public cares very little about these fundamental values. A lot of it is probably due to lack of knowledge and the complexities of the matter, as John Oliver explained in the video below. Or, as I'd like to put it, Freedom doesn't have cute ears and puppy eyes.


Value of freedom online

At some point, this failure is going to impact our real lives. Facebook already knows your political and sexual orientation and that information is dangerously interesting for governments and companies. Even more the ability to influence people if you have access to (and control over!) their online communication. Facebook proved in a recent paper that they could manipulate people's emotions through their news feed. Next is to make you (dis)like certain products, politicians and so on.

In case you were wondering: this, unfortunately, is no science fiction. Advertising works, but as any psychologist can tell you, it is not that strong and you can compensate for it. Our brains take the 'information' coming in from advertisement for second grade information: in case of conflict, it is immediately overridden by more important knowledge. Like what your friends think about something.

Unfortunately, more and more you read what your friends say about things on Google, Facebook and other online media. And they have figured out that using your friends to advertise things to you is terribly effective. Invisibly manipulating the time line on social media like Facebook (just show positive mentions about $PoliticalParty 5% longer, negative ones 5% less) can easily make and break elections. Right now, you still have to buy a senator, something at least a little visible...

Going wrong?

So there's the problem: these companies control our communication and can manipulate it, even without outright censorship. Your negative opinion expressed online about $POLITICIAN simply won't show in other people's feeds. Or only in the feeds of those who would disagree anyway, and will comment negatively, so you won't say that next time. Propaganda refined to perfection!

1984 was a world that was obviously wrong. In 2014 we've learned that it just won't be that obvious - but not any less wrong.

How are we going to solve this?

08 July, 2014

Frameworks 5.0 is out!


It took us a while but here it is. And I think we did quite a decent job communicating this to the outside world with articles like

For the final release (this one, I mean) we had far less time than I had hoped - I wrote most of the announcement last Saturday (though we started a few days earlier and had our already-prepared communication plan) and we didn't really rally as much of our 'friends' to help promote the release as I had planned initially. And yesterday my internet broke down so in the end, Mario and Jonathan R had to put most of it live, half a day behind plan. But despite these issues, it did turn out quite well I think.

Now the communication is done and it is up to the code to prove itself in real life!

As I blogged before, I think this is a huge deal for Free Software on desktops AND mobile devices - it goes far beyond the KDE community. Qt is by far the largest Free Software ecosystem doing native (non-web, I mean) end-user software, but much of that is proprietary. Which makes sense - Digia and the other companies in and around Qt have to make money and don't have 'spreading Free Software' as their prime goal. Frameworks introduces a genuine FOSS touch to that, hopefully bringing many of these developers in touch with the KDE community and the Open Source development processes.

Oh, and just a few more days to go to support Randa 2014, and support it really needs. Remember, this is where Frameworks started! Let's see what KDE comes up with this year at Randa ;-)

07 July, 2014

Awesome people!

You might have seen that KDE has a new Konqi drawing. Like our previous mascot, you don't see Konqi very often. That is not just because we don't love Konqi (at least, I do) but also because we don't have that many pretty pictures of Konqi.

For articles I'm always in a pickle when it comes to adding some images. I've been a bit creative myself but it often leads to things like this:

It is probably creative (if you get it, that is) but it is not very good. For an article about bug hunting I cut out the Konqi on the right out of the group pic. Yeah, also - it kind of works, but barely.

Then it hit me. Why not ask the artist who made these Konqi's to... make some more! I emailed Tyson Tan and he simply replied asking what and when.

And now: some awesome Konqi's are coming to the dot! Today, we released the first in a hopefully long line of articles with Awesome Konqi's. Check out our Frameworks konqi below:


As sebas said:
I'm actually quite impressed how well it depicts something as deeply technical and abstract as Frameworks 5.

Indeed. This makes me happy!

26 June, 2014

Where KDE is going...

In my blog about conf.kde.in, I promised I would blogify my talk about KDE's future but failed to publish it until now. I thought the content might be a good fit for on paper. It took a while, but the upcoming Linux Voice should feature an extended version of these blog posts about where KDE is going, with quotes from a variety of KDE folk providing some background.

Meanwhile, on the dot I have published an updated version of the first blog post about the technical side of things: KDE software. It is mostly aimed at people not intimately familiar with KDE but curious about what is coming. Users, for example...

If you find a bug, report it to me or the dot editors! And: spread the article around for users and interested people to read...

23 June, 2014

ownCloud Conf coming... And REWE offers a cheap way to get there!

ownCloud is organizing an ownCloud conference/hackathon at the Technische Universit├Ąt Berlin this August. And as Steffen Lindner shared on twitter, the German REWE supermarket is offering cheap tickets to go to Berlin from all over Germany during the event!


Getting and staying there

The REWE supermarket has a "Ganz Deutschland, ein Preis" action where you can get a retour ticket from anywhere in Germany to Berlin, including seat reservations, AND a €10 discount on a future trip for BahnCard holders - for €79. Not a bad deal (depending on where you live of course), but you'll have to grab it this week! The ticket is valid until the 31st of August, which fits perfectly as that is the last day of the ownCloud Contributor Conference!

I have also just put up some hotel options on our website. I'd recommend to try to book the three star Novum hotel Gates, for just €34 per night it is a nice deal. If you prefer something a little more up, try the four-star Novotel am tiergarten, for about €75/night.

So, that means: you can now book travel and hotel. Don't forget to register on this page. Note that you have to first create an account and then actually register for the event!

About oCC

The goal of the ownCloud Contributor Conference is to Get Stuff Done™, but we also want to offer people interested in coding on onwCloud a chance to learn a thing or two. So, while we simply have a doors-open hackathon from 26-31 of August, on Saturday the 30th we feature techtalks and workshops where people can learn to write ownCloud apps, using the ownCloud share and syncing API in their application and more.

PS there's a nice article over at Linux.com about why Frank started ownCloud. And we have also released the first Alpha of ownCloud 7!