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People person, technology enthusiast and all-things-open evangelist. Previously community manager at SUSE and now at ownCloud while continuing an decade long involvement in the KDE community. Enjoys avoiding traffic and public transport on bike through Berlin, but only when the weather is good. Loves cooking for friends and family and playing with our dog. Find me also on Twitter!

30 October, 2007


OK. Next time I give a talk (saturday) I will shave.


Konsole performance

I had a discussion about the speed of Konsole with some Gnome users at a CodeYard meeting. Some testing on the spot revealed gnome-terminal was much faster. So I tried to test some stuff at home, too - see if anything has changed with KDE 4.

Well, yes, Konsole got almost twice as fast - still slower than gnome-terminal, though.

[root@wietbak log]# time cat messages.log.4
(lots of output)
real 0m1.923s (Konsole KDE 3)
real 0m1.077s (Konsole KDE 4)
real 0m0.412s (gnome-terminal 2.18)

But there are differences - some files show different results.
Take the output of another file, dunno what it's supposed to be but it's in /var/log, too, and contains many weird characters like these: ���E�Ms� �

[root@wietbak log]# time cat btmp
real 0m1.030s (gnome-terminal 2.18)
real 0m0.819 (Konsole KDE 4)
real 0m0.711s (Konsole KDE 3)

So for this file, the result is exactly the opposite, though the differences are much smaller.

Weird, weird.

Let's cat all files in /var/log, then, see what the overall scores are:

[root@wietbak log]# time cat *
real 0m10.797s (Konsole KDE 4)
real 0m18.940s (Konsole KDE 3)
real 0m6.524s (gnome-terminal 2.18)

real 0m16.423s (xterm)

For those who want to know how xterm does... Besides looking horribly (no anti-aliassing, and flashes horribly while scrolling), it sucks only slightly less than Konsole from KDE 3 in terms of speed.

Anyway, that confirms the first results. Konsole got almost twice as fast, but gnome-terminal is still a lot faster ;-)

Now of course Konsole kicks gnome-terminal in terms of features, but speed matters too ;-)
I'm not unhappy with the current speed (hey, twice as fast, that's good!) but there apparently is room for improvement. So let's see what the future (KDE 4.1?) brings...

28 October, 2007

On vision and Future

The talk I gave at the Dutch Ubuntu Release party marked a point in time where my thoughts about the Vision and Future of KDE have become solid enough to write about them. Of course, many have preceded me - like Aaron, Troy and Wade. And I have been greatly influenced by my research in the area of Social Innovation and Open Innovation at the Dutch research institute TNO. So this doesn't come out of nowhere at all, I've just merged and aligned these different ideas somewhat.

This image by Wade is quite true. Even though a community generally doesn't have the focus a company can enforce from its employees, KDE has a vision. We want to go somewhere, as a community. Not everyone has the same ideas, sure. But out of all these different individuals and sub-communities within KDE, with their own opinions, plans and roadmaps, a big picture appears.

I don't claim I can express exactly what KDE wants for the future - I'm just a member of this community. I have my own ideas, and I'm influenced by my own knowledge about many things - or lack there off. But ideas grow. What KDE is growing into might never have been imagined by anyone who started on this journey. Yet I think the implications of it can be quite clear.

The most simple incarnation of the plan for KDE 4 is "improving our framework". It means we are going to make the KDE libraries better. Add new functionality, improve the existing stuff.

Aaron Seigo has been more verbose, speaking about making it easier to join KDE, to attract new developers. By improving documentation (techbase), but also by making KDE technology available to more people. It is one of the main ideas behind the development of Plasma, a new widget-based framework which replaces the desktop and panels in KDE 4. It is easy to develop for plasma, because it offers a lot of high-level functionality. Without having to worry about the complexities of data gathering, the writer of an applet can focus on the representation - so more bright ideas can be expanded upon. Meanwhile Kross, the new library in KDE 4, allows application developers to support more than just one language for writing extensions and plugins. If you're not fluent in Python, you can use Javascript, or Ruby... The result is more people can contribute - which leads to more innovation.

Innovation is one of my biggest interests (professionally as well as personal), and I have always enjoyed the innovative culture in KDE. We're open to ideas, very open. Of course, this is a property of most F/OSS projects, Raymond knew that already. This has been noticed in management circles too.

So, there's a new management trend in town: Open Innovation. Around the world, MT's are trying to figure out how to take advantage of it. Open Innovation is about opening up to and working closely with customers and suppliers to facilitate innovation and new ideas.

And it works. FOSS has proven to be not just a superior development model for software, but the freedom is also conductive to innovation. Of course, this is what every good open source project does. We're a natural at that.

But we are doing more. Yes, the work by Aaron (and many others) makes it easier to contribute. The improvements to the KDE libraries, and the support for more and easier languages to write full applications in does the same. Yet, there is another big thing coming which will help us to become more innovative: The Pillars of KDE 4. These new technologies we are introducing in KDE 4 like Decibel (communication), Phonon (multimedia) and Akonadi (PIM data) will increase our innovative capacity. Which is, to quote myself: "the capacity of an organization to generate and use ideas (inventions) to perform effectively" [1].

What is an invention? It's simple. Inventions are the connection of existing ideas and technologies into a new one. Now imagine. Providing people with bright ideas with incredibly powerful, high level components they can connect and combine in any way they want - all this within an atmosphere highly conductive to innovation. No management, nobody telling you what to do, no paperwork. No limitations.

See where this is going? We are creating a perfect opportunity for the Free Desktop to leap ahead of the competition. Apple and Microsoft won't be able to keep up with us... Ever.

Does every KDE developer realize the full potential of this? Not all of them, maybe. But you'd be surprised how many grasp at least a big part of this future. And not only our own people, but the Free Software community at large is aware something big is going on. We're already the second-largest FOSS project, but we're growing like crazy - new developers join us almost daily.

High expectations for KDE 4. No, not for 4.0 - I think most people already understand 4.0 will just be the beginning. Not terribly stable. Nor fully complete. But it will have these foundations in place and it will enable us to start innovating.

Boy, am I looking forward to the future!

[1] my unfinished paper about "The effect of psychological safety and climate for initiative on the effectiveness of explorative and exploitative innovation" (translated).

27 October, 2007

accelerated rendering

Of course we have some experts in this area in the KDE community (zack is well known, but I wouldn't forget about Mosfet or the people working on KWin.

Now my understanding of this stuff (being not a developer) is always very limited - which does nothing to lower my interest in them... So when I read this blog on the gnome planet, I found it very interesting. I mean, it has pretty pictures, you know... And hardware accelerated rendering, preferably using openGL for everything (or at least more than we do now) is something I'd love to see - it really sounds like a big thing in terms of performance ;-)

Now the person who wrote this blog isn't very positive about this, but I agree with some of the comments there - OpenGL probably won't go away. Or would it be possible to integrate it with toolkits? This blog by Daniel Molkentin talks about using just the normal Qt api, yet the drawing goes through OpenGL. Sounds like neat, but what about all the other drawing in KDE/Qt?

The point of this blog is mostly that I haven't read about lower-level stuff like this for a while in the KDE blogosphere, and I'd love to see that change ;-)

How's the status of Arthur? Animations KDE4 are still kind'a disappointing in some areas - at first I blamed compositing (and it does make matters slightly worse, yes, but just slightly). Take the run dialog - it has an animation when you click options. Lovely, but it never works smooth, even the 100th time (you'd say it has cached stuff, and it has, but it's not enough). It's not just having to resize the window (even though that's bad), but even after that it's not exactly smooth.

And the background gradient in Oxygen has the disadvantage you often see a plain background flashing when resizing or animating things. As I see the CPU usage max out, I wonder if the GPU is used for any of these things - and if not, why not? Where's the bottleneck? X, Qt, other infrastructural stuff, or can't the GPU help at all?

So, who's involved in these things, and willing to write about them - what can we expect for KDE 4.0 and the future? Will these things be solved, is 3D hardware acceleration gonna help us anytime soon? When I see the animations in Vista - they're very smooth, and CPU usage keeps low, so it seems to me they've got the issue solved, haven't they?

25 October, 2007

Colors again

A bit more work went into the Colors configuration, and imho Matthew Woehlke is doing a great job there. Today I played a little with the 'contrast' slider there, which gave the following screenshots, starting with Oxygen's own colorscheme, and then the 'Midnight Meadow' scheme.

Oxygen Low Contrast

Oxygen High Contrast

Yeah, not a huge difference. Personally, I prefer the 'Beos' color scheme, here in high contrast:

Here we have Midnight Meadow:

low contrast

medium contrast

high contrast

And last but not least, about Plasma performance. Some time ago, KNewsTicker was ported. Now there is a discussions going on about the release status on the KDE development mailinglist, and the KNewsTicker developer argued Plasma performance was bad - his applet used 15% on a 2 ghz Core2Duo, while just scrolling some text. Well - either he fixed the performance issue, he had a configuration problem, or someone else did something cool - but I can't reproduce it at all:

Further complaints about plasma performance (high cpu usage when moving plasmoids around) lead to Aaron testing the difference between KDesktop in KDE 3 and Plasma in KDE 4 - KDesktop used 3 times the cpu for moving an icon than plasma for moving a (transparant, svg, good looking) plasmoid... And to finish the 'performance sucks' argument off really well, Aaron mentioned there still is a lot of lowhanging fruit to fix, and Qt 4.4 is gonna speed things up a lot. Well, if Plasma performs as good as KDesktop with superkaramba, you won't hear me complaining (it does a LOT more). And it really looks it does - not just from Aaron's comments. Try KDesktop and Superkaramba with a few applets and be shocked (and that's not just superkaramba, all applet things in linux suck in terms of cpu usage - looks like Plasma is soon going to be the most sane implementation available).

BTW - see how cool KDE 4 looks ;-)
This is svn from a few hours ago, so the latest & greatest. And after playing with it for some minutes, I must say the main reason I don't switch fully to KDE 4 is because I installed it as a separate user, and I would have to migrate it to my current account or migrate my data to the other account ;-)

22 October, 2007

KDE 4 - does it work or not?

After a few blogs which where rather positive, we're now also seeing blogs and comments much more negative (I don't feel like linking to them, sorry).

Aside from some speed issues (which I don't see, frankly KDE 4 is clearly faster here in many aspects - see my previous blog), 90% of the complaints is about the state of Plasma

Now I agree Plasma is a big thing, important for KDE - but judging the whole of KDE by the part which is least finished - I think that's unfair. And to be honest, 90% of commments about Plasma are about the panel with the still-very-basic taskbar and the missing menu. The menu still is in playground (could be it was just moved into kdebase, btw) and well, yes, the taskbar - it's not very ready either.

But come on. Think about it. You're complaining about 10% of 10% of KDE 4. Actually, much less, as I've made up these numbers :D

So how much time would it take to write a decent panel, provided the current state? And Plasma will still see a lot of work, it's not frozen yet, unlike the rest of KDE. I'd rather see everyone trying and talking about all the new good stuff instead of complaining about the almost-last portion of KDE still in flux...

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. And there is Dolphin, Ksysguard, Gwenview, Okular, Kolourpaint, KRDC, Konsole - all those apps which have seen so many improvements. Or these small things, like the file dialog, the character selection dialog, the shortcut dialog... I don't hear anyone raving about those. Is that just because they COULDN'T get past the missing menu and not-so-great taskbar applet? Please...

We should be realistic (KDE4 won't be perfect, and will have regressions) but all this complaining doesn't do much good either. Feel free to report bugs for those things which are supposed to be finished (I just emailed the kwin developers about the not-working window-shortcut feature). And join those working on the things still not ready. And complain to your mum.

Take care.

20 October, 2007

Who did this?

Here another "KDE4 is really usable" blog. Well, I just want to point that out up front. Oh, and my day was different from Wade's. Yesterday I gave a talk to dutch students about KDE 4, I didn't get machette's to my head. Aaah well, everyone's different.

The real topic is something else, though - I wanna know who did the following:

That person deserves some kudos. I haven't seen any blogs or whatever about it, but I think it's a great job. Solid Usability Work the KDE Way (tm): make it easier to use and more powerful at the same time. Yes, it's a bit harder, but much more rewarding to not take the easy route of 'dumbing down'. Nice work... Of course, there is more to do, maybe the person who did this can spare some time on the 'edit toolbars' dialog as well.... Currently drag'n'drop is broken ;-)

Another thing which I wanted to mention: Cornelius said he was amazed by the speed of KDE 4 apps. Now I took that with a grain of salt, as I hadn't seen any amazing speed yet - Okular was slow, I had seen konqi using 100% cpu and still stutter on scrolling, KWin didn't exactly go smooth... But while making the above screenshots I used kwrite, and indeed - kwrite4 starts faster (feels at least twice as fast) as kwrite3 (both in my kde3 session)! And other apps do the same. Gwenview is like 10 times faster, and konqi4 seems faster without pre-loading than konqi3 with! Konsole seems a tiny bit slower, though.

Sure, you don't want kbuildsycoca4 to run first, but after that's done - applications are wonderfully fast. It's like someone turned 'speed' on in Trunk, somewhere in the last week... Whoever did that, nice work!

Now, the last thing: colors. I've just been trying the colorscheme things, and they work great - see the following screenshots (yes, the second one, called Beos(?), gives the higher contrast many ppl seem to want from Oxygen).

The oxygen style also does a pretty nice job on darker colorschemes (unlike most KDE3 styles):

16 October, 2007

picture viewers & widgets

While writing stuff about KDE, you have to make screenshots. And often modify them basically (resizing, converting, stuff like that). So I get to play with some image viewers like Gwenview and showFoto and with image editors like KolourPaint & Krita. Kolourpaint and Krita are rather complementary. Kolourpaint, after all, is basic, quick and easy to use while Krita can do the heavy lifting. Gwenview and showFoto, do have more overlap, but Gwenview is faster, smaller and does the basics, showFoto is more featureful. Now I know there are more imageviewers in KDE (kview, kuickshow, and some third party things like squirelsomething) but I'm glad I don't have them installed - I'd rather see showfoto as fast as Gwenview, and I'd ditch Gwennie (or the other way around). Now Gwenview gets some love for KDE 4, and as far as I can tell, it's going to be the default imageviewer. Maybe. Why maybe? Well, I'm unsure - it seems Okular also wants to be an image viewer, right? On one hand - cool - annotation. But I'd rather then see the annotation stuff shared between KDE apps with Nepomuk or Strigi or something...

Now on to something more positive. Someone started a discussion on the kde usability mailinglist. It's rather long, but I became interested when the pretty pictures came. Someone pointed to this problem:

I found a solution which is already used in KOffice:

It looks pretty good, but there where some comments - discoverability isn't great. A right mouseclick is needed to be able to enter text, and it isn't obvious that it is possible at all. Plus, the guys wanted a drop-down. So Hans Chen made a mockup:

I'd say, with a editable combobox instead of a 'hidden' one on hovering (see top right mockup), it's great and should be the default zoom thing in KDE 4... ;-)

14 October, 2007

demo videos

We had a booth at T-DOSE, yesterday and today. I made a bunch of movies, to put them in a playlist and let it run.

Unfortunately, my laptop's videodrivers act rather weird, so xine gives a blue screen to many of the movies, vlc crashes, and mplayer can't properly resize the movies, so it leaves the previous one on the screen. KMplayer does a great job, but I've not been able to get it to just PLAY (let alone loop) the frickin' playlist (WTF is it for?!?). It just stops immediately after each video. Blegh, spend a lot of time on these issues :(

So however useless these video's where, I'm putting a few of them on youtube for your viewing pleasure. Here is the first one, showing off Kalzium.

Edit and another one, KSudoku.

Indeed, the edu apps and the games make for excellent videos ;-)

12 October, 2007


Some time ago, there was a discussion on the KDE PIM mailinglist. A certain Michael, apparently a big fan of the RS (RetroShare) messenger technology (serverless/p2p stuff), came asking if it would be possible to integrate that application (Qt-based and FOSS) into KDE PIM. He noted how Google Mail has Google Talk integrated, and how Thunderbird is also working on integrating IM.

Others on the mailinglist explained him there was already some integration with Kopete. He then started talking about OO.o, which apparently was looking for an email application to integrate into the suite, together with IM (and probably cooperative stuff as well). He pointed out KMail and RS messenger would have a shot. At a certain point, I said to him:
Let them work with the other freedesktop standards instead of doing ad-hoc integration. Working with Telepathy and Akonadi would be much better, as that would mean integration with all apps that work with those infrastructures, so much less duplication of effort.

He then asked me if I would like to help translate RS to dutch, and I did help a bit with that. Story closed, apparently. This was a little over a month ago.

Then, a few days ago, it started again, on the KOffice mailinglist. He said he heard on the KDE PIM/KMail mailinglist there would be integration between KOffice and KMail. With integration, he apparently meant they would merge, which of course lead to a "huh?" from Boudewijn.

And again, I tried to explain how it would be unlikely KDE would integrate with just one application, but rather go for a common infrastructure. Then came the email I really wanted to let you guys read, as Kevin Krammer wrote such a beautiful response, pointing out the exact flaw in reasoning which made this discussion go on and on:

Basically a misconception based on the way applications aggregate functionality on uncooperative platforms such as Windows, i.e. by putting all in the same application.

Of course! And this other way of thinking and working seems pretty hard to understand. See how companies often have trouble separating "Freeware" with "Free Software". And even when they do, how hard it can be to play by the rules, or to cooperate with the larger community. See how users have trouble with the paradigma's in the FOSS world, like how installing and managing software work.

And of course, the central theme of FOSS is cooperation. It's what we do, breath, live (see what I stumbled upon yesterday, or how currently has a story about Volkswagen working on the linux kernel - which you can't read yet, subscribers only). And apparently, it is hard to understand it's full implications, no matter how basic it is for human nature... Kevin on that again:

Obviously KDE applications, on any platform, can do better, i.e. using our framework's cooperation infrastructures and shared libraries.

So the idea/suggestion can be rephrased as "thing about using communication infrastructure", which I am pretty sure the KOffice developers are already thinking about for future releases, e.g. collaborative editing.

Topics such as this show how more advanced the KDE framework is. While other office projects have to basically swallow communication tools (probably a full blown PIM suite), KOffice has the option of just interfacing with the respective domain specialists' work.

Amen. The KDE, the Linux, the FOSS way of thinking is so much more advanced, many on the other platforms don't even get it when we try to explain it ;-)

I really hope and expect this to change. Over time, both users and companies will start to understand. And that will benefit FOSS enormously. It's about communication. Explaining how we think and work is incredibly important. Cooperation is so fundamental to how we think and work, even when we 'compete' with other projects, we don't even see it that much anymore. We don't get it when others don't get it, and try to explain the details instead of the big picture (like I did).

Love to ya all,


09 October, 2007

performance 2

Now I got a few responses on my blog about performance in windows, so I thought let's add a few new irritations.

My university has recently build a really amazing new library. It's architecture is pretty stunning, imho. Of course, it was WAY over budget, but hey, spending a few million on great architecture - I'm not even that opposed to it. Though they cut all college hours by a few % to pay for it... Aaah well.

There are a lot of PC's in there. They use thin clients, win Xp... Big, 19" screens, nice keyboard and mouse. Feels like they choose the wrong resolution, though (non-native). I can't change it, the whole thing is locked down pretty heavy.

So. And how is the performance on those things? Well, it depends. Sometimes, the Start menu reacts in 2-3 seconds, but it can be minutes. It often takes me 3 minutes to start Calculator... It's very irregular, though. SPSS runs reasonably fast, at least when doing it's calculations. Yet, every time I middleclick a link in IE 7, it takes at least a minute before the new tab is opened.

Those of you with a lot of work to do and slow hardware know how frustrating this is.

Aaah, well, that gives some time to play...

05 October, 2007


This morning, we found blood on the chair and table next to my little lovely dwarf hamster Putsy's cage. Which of course scared the hell out of us.

Now Putsy proved to be allright, fluffy and lovely as ever. He now comfortably walks over me, and I can carry him around. You've got to be careful, though, as he doesn't understand heights at all - just walks around... Rather stupid, but hey, what'd you expect from an animal which fits in a toilet roll... :D

He really likes that transparent ball to run in, btw - he runs through the whole room. We where afraid he wouldn't like it, but as far as I can tell he's really into it - as soon as he can get into it, he will...

Edit: for those concerned (thanks), I forgot to mention we thought our cat got Putsy ;-)
We now figured it probably went the other way around and Kippy, our cat got hurt. We can't find any wound, but hey, furry animal...


While making screenshots for my presentation, I found a few bugs. First in the file open/save dialog, where drag'n'drop to the bookmark bar on the left didn't work. Yes, DID not, Rafael Fernández López fixed it a few hours after my report ;-)

Now there's a weird problem in dolphin, which I stumbled upon while I was making a screencast - the Columns view doesn't work properly with Split screen mode - see the Youtube video:

As there's a huge bugfixing and coding frenzy going on (do you guys ever sleep? I think there's an average of 100 commits/hour right now, been like that since yesterday). So I hope this gets fixed too. Rafael is already in contact with Trolltech about the "horizontal scrolling in Dolphin's Columns view goes with 1 pixel per scroll" issue. Boy, is that a busy guy :D

Anyway. If someone has a working Dolphin, I'd love to see a screencast like the one I made earlier - but then with Oxygen style, and also with some Columns view animations.
I can't get kde to compile right now - which makes sense with our Special Extra Extra Binary Incompatibility Day - but you know, I've got a presentation tomorrow and I want to show off some stuff ;-)

Back to the (too much) work I have...