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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!

31 August, 2010

Banshee & GNOME

Since a couple of days I'm using the Banshee music player. Last sunday I installed openSUSE with GNOME on my desktop system to play around with it. Banshee surely stuck - I installed it on my laptop with Plasma desktop as well. It's a very nice player with only one weird thing: it really really likes Opeth. Often I set it to play some electronic music at random, then it suddenly starts moves to metal - Opeth usually. Not that I greatly dislike that, I just have no idea why it does it ;-)

Suusie GNOME being nice

Otherwise, openSUSE is treating me reasonably well. The NVIDIA drivers on my desktop are less of a hassle than Intel was on my laptop - they do make the screen fuzzy sometimes, and Compiz really works horrible so I had to disable desktop effects in GNOME. KWin works almost fine somehow... Just a tad slow. GNOME Shell does desktop effects best: completely sharp screen, good performance. It does seem to restart itself sometimes but only the screen goes to showing only the wallpaper for a few seconds.

(I know newer NVIDIA/Xorg/Kernel should solve these issues, btw, I'll just install newer versions once I feel they're stable enough)

Tracker is great - incredibly fast and very little effect on system resources as far as I could tell. Sorry for Nepomuk but when it comes to actually finding files - no dice, it just crashes a lot. Both fill my .xsession-errors up like crazy, however. Vuntz has asked for the tracker errors already :D

In general, GNOME is fast and lean. Only Banshee sometimes manages to sometimes use 161% cpu on my desktop - rather impressive. Luckily I have a nice quadcore :D

Evo less so

Evolution was quite painful, I stopped using it. With the treeview (flat lists don't work with more than 10 mails/day) it is almost impossible to see the individual messages - the 'tree' itself is completely hidden, only showing small triangles leaving you guessing what thread a message belongs to. I added this to the GNOME Pet Peeves Project page, hope someone can fix it... Of course, maybe I just couldn't find the configuration option, lemme know if that's the case and I'll say sorry :D



The keyboard shortcuts don't work for me either - I am used to using the left and right arrow keys to go through the list of messages and the up and down to scroll through the message itself. And keys like A, R and L to reply to all, sender or a list. Not figured out how to configure that and for efficient use of my time, this is crucial. Same with Liferea, btw.

I found out that Xchat didn't do what I needed from IRC (like putting names behind the nicks in the list and hiding part/join messages), neither did Empathy, but Pidgin is much more convenient. And to be honest, it looks better than any messaging app I've used before. I don't use chat (other than IRC) very often so I haven't installed in on my laptop yet, but I might.

Cheese rocks, period. I can however only say that from previous experience - not current, as neither my desktop webcam nor my laptop webcam work :(


Thanks to the Oxygen-molecule theme GTK applications fit in KDE very well. The only exception is the system tray - they don't understand that it is transparent so they show ugly squares behind the icons. But the work on sharing a notification spec makes sure they use the normal notifications in Plasma, nice touch! Within GNOME the KDE apps adjust their theme automatically with the exception for icons - not sure if that's intended or a bug.

Bansee in Plasma Desktop (I must admit I had to adjust colors a bit to make it fit really well - somehow the Oxygen Molecule theme has its colors slightly-off)

GNOME desktops

GNOME offers two desktops - the 'old' one and GNOME Shell. What I like about the default desktop is how easy it is to add applets to the panel - I always want a load applet there to see what is going on. Otherwise it works ok-ish but it ain't very special - unlike GNOME Shell.

GNOME Shell is quite unfinished as it is undergoing heavy development. It seems to ignore about 4 out of 5 clicks of my mouse making it a bit cumbersome to use. Yet I already prefer it over the normal desktop - if only just because I love seeing something new and exciting. It provides a very intuitive way of working with one or more desktops and windows. Most of that intuitivity is in small details - like the ripple effect you see when you bump your mousecursor to the top-right corner of the screen. They still have to improve the menu's but app search already works awesome. While it doesn't work here I know you can just drag an app to one of your virtual destkops to start it there - awesome! So despite the current issues I would definately say GNOME Shell the right direction for GNOME development.

This turned out a bit too long

I initially wanted to write about Banshee alone, cuz I like it - but now this is about pretty much all of my GNOME experience in a few days :D

I might blog more about it, but first I'm working on some OBS and SUSE Studio things - they're both pretty awesome. Oh and did you know you can win 10K with a good SUSE Studio appliance?

17 August, 2010

And what has that dude been doing lately...

Hi all!

Just an update on what I've been up to.

First of all, thanks for the great welcome to the community! I've received many constructive and nice comments which made me very happy. I really look forward to working with you all over the next months/years/centuries/eons/etc.

As I don't yet have much insight in our community, I am spending the first month on getting to know you all, getting input on what is needed, what is going on etcetera. Besides of course reading up on mail, following discussions on IRC and playing with openSUSE myself I went to the Novell headquarters for a week and spoke with my colleagues there. It was an interesting week - Novell has a deep commitment to openSUSE but there is still a lot to learn from both sides. I hope to be able to bring the parts of Novell which work on and with openSUSE technology a bit closer to the community and will start with the marketing. The marketing team at Novell has a lot of experience talking to corporate partners and I hope we can use their experience for openSUSE. The other way around I think we can help them a lot in spreading the word about the work Novell is doing in the free software area.

The second week I spend in Nurnberg among the German openSUSE team. That was interesting - first of all because I had no idea Nurnberg is such a pretty city; and second because the people at the office were very inspiring. Again a lot of ideas and if I want to do 10% of what came up there I'd need to clone myself 4 or 5 times. Any hints on how to do that would be appreciated!

Currently I am in Prague to get to know the colleagues there. When arriving, I found out the office had come down. Ok, not that bad, it's just that the air conditioning felt inspired by the rain and started to leak water. Which had resulted in a little disaster. I also found out the peeps here are healthy. I couldn't find anyone to join me for a smoke despite forensic evidence (smoked cigarettes) downstairs suggesting there must be other nicotine addicts. Pavol claims there are less than 5 smokers in the SUSE offices, amazing... Might have something to do with the fruit they have here, up for grabbing. Sometimes there are even slices of melon on a plate. Scary. But good, I esp like bananas, makes the monkey in me happy.

Next up - I hope to finally see my own office in Utrecht next week. I also hope to have time there to consolidate a bit of what has been said to me over the weeks, catch up with mail and such and get back to people I promised to get back to. And get the administrative things done. Like planning for conferences and such...

But before that I already hope to become more involved with the strategy discussion soon. I blogged about that before - I have some opinions on the matter and I think it is important (the discussion, not my opinions). I know many of you feel kind-of left out, not connected to the current discussion - the strategy team is committed to fixing that. I will give them a helping hand where I can, but you all might also have to put in some thinking ;-)

Last, after installing openSUSE on my laptop, I ran into a few instability issues with Xorg. About as bad as on my previous distro, to be exact, apparently the latest Xorg ain't that stable with Intel drivers. If you have regular crashes and have intel hardware, check the bugs below, the suggestions in there fixed my problems.

bug 623245 (install newer xorg packages)
bug 617530 (install newer kernel)

Let me end with wishing you all a good day ;-)

07 August, 2010

Dot readership

Hi all,

A while ago I asked for comments from readers of the dot. There was a lot of valuable feedback which was noted by the dot editors and I'd like to summarize some of the findings. The dot team has unfortunately been quite busy with Real Life (TM) lately so we haven't had much chance of discussing the results yet but some things are already under way.

Ideas and feedback

  • Introduce a Like button - status: To be discussed

  • Pace of articles - OK, so we keep the speed at 1 article/day

  • More technical content like the famous 'Pillars of KDE 4' series by Troy - though one. The dot depends on YOU for content, at least to a large extend. While the promo team writes articles like interviews and reports from meetings, we often lack the technical skills/knowledge to really write about what's upcoming. We might be able to do something like a weekly report on what has been on the planet in terms of upcoming things, but otherwise - we need help from developers or interested users who follow eg mailinglists and commit logs to write about development. Of course kde-promo and the dot editors are more than happy to help with that - even a braindump is often plenty for us to go with and churn out a good article. So send us stuff, please!

  • Allow anonymous comments - working on that. The amount of spam is an issue here but the sysadmin team works on improving the dot to handle it easier and a few dot editors have stepped up to moderate a bit more. But people also mention they go to the KDE forums to discuss articles. Fine with us. FYI, the articles are put on the news section of the forums here. You don't seem to be able to post comments there, however.

  • Introduce or preview apps - like the technical content, it would need a bit more input from the community. If you've seen a new app, let us know! Especially if you have time for a short writeup (again, we fix Spanglish, Germanglish and other language abuse all the time, it's OK if you don't write so well).

  • Bring the commit digest back! - Oh yeah. We want that as much as you all do. Danny has been working on a webinterface to 'crowdsource' the work, and we hope at some point he'll be able to finish this so we can move on this. EDIT Danny has blogged that he's indeed going to do this hopefully asap! EDIT2 and now his pretty blog design also works in Chromium ;-)

  • OpenID from KDE - don't count on that. It is a lot of work to be an OpenID provider, and the KDE sysadmins don't seem to feel like doing that work. It's not really our place anyway. But there is work on having a single logon system in all KDE infrastructure, which should alleviate the pain a bit.

  • Articles from the dot on planet KDE - not a bad idea at all. It's under discussion now ;-)

  • Articles about the vision and future of KDE - yes. Good one. The discussion about that is often happening on Planet KDE, but could also be summarized on the dot. I call on those leading that discussion to think about posting their thoughts to the dot once in a while! And hopefully somebody reading this feels like summarizing the discussion for the dot every now and then ;-)

  • OpenID more prominently - under discussion ;-)

  • I can help! - Good! We need two types of help: editing/reviewing (= become a cool dot editor. Just mail dot-editors on kdeorg for info); and writing of articles (contact kde-promo on kdeorg or me or dot-editors).

And in generaly most commenters said they love the dot. We as dot editors like that ;-)

the dot matters!

News from the dot is picked up by quite a few major news sites like and (soon) - so don't underestimate the readership of the dot. Think about that when you write an interesting blog about what has been going on in your app lately, or when you announce something on your blog! These things can easily go on the dot, so contact us a few days in advance so we can schedule things. And yes, you can still blog things you put on the dot, we don't care about being exclusive or anything ;-)


03 August, 2010

KDE strategy for openSUSE

As I mentioned in two earlier blogs now, within openSUSE a strategic discussion is going on - what direction should we, as a distribution community, take?

I would like to address a few things in this post. First of all, why a strategy, and what will it and won't it do? Second, there is one strategy I'd like to mention specifically, as I think it's disrupting but as a community proposal it deserves to be discussed as any other strategy. That's about the KDE strategy for openSUSE.


But first about the idea of a strategy in the first place. The strategy portal page talks about it plenty and I won't repeat that. I only want to stress what a strategy does and doesn't do.

It does:

  • help make project wide decisions; for example say we choose the home for developers proposal and the liveCD is full. Do we remove the second media player or the second debug tool? The first it is...

  • help focus marketing; say the marketing/promo team wants to set up a campaign targeting a group of ppl, who should they choose? A clear focus helps a lot.

  • help attract contributors; having a clear story and purpose helps attract contributors. It will also attract a specific kind of contributors, to be precise the ones to whom the strategy appeals and who are thus likely to implement it.

  • help in making a choice; if you're a contributor or user you have certain needs. Looking at the strategy and marketing can help you make a decision for one or another distribution!

Note that all these serve to make the impact of the strategy bigger over time - people who like it will start using it, voice their opinion, get involved, steer...

It does not:

  • mean we become less open; so if you want to focus on creating a pro-audio spin while the community has chosen for the focus on developers - go ahead. Nothing will change in that department: who codes, decides, and we're an open community.

  • mean we will actively remove things which don't fit the strategy; so if we focus on being being a mobile and cloud distribution, we won't remove OpenOffice for Google docs! We might put a Google Docs button in the menu, next to OO.o, or we might put resources in google docs import/export instead of MS Office 12 support.

So a strategy gives focus and direction, but does not limit much - except when it comes to either-or questions where it gives direction. A strategy is also broad - it has influence on pretty much everything you do. Example: server technology. The cloud proposal has influence on openSUSE as a server - we would integrate and ship things like OwnCloud, Etherpad and similar server technologies in an early stage. As a base for deriviatives we would make sure setting up a server can be done easily from the SUSE Studio GUI. And when we aim for developers, the build service should be integrated so developers can write their application and build it for over 10 distributions with one click.
And third, besides giving focus and being broadly applicable, a strategy also unites. It gives everyone in the community a common goal, lets us focus on our strengths, and binds us.

the KDE proposal

Looking at those three goals of a strategy you might understand a bit better why the number 1 KDE strategy ain't the best of the proposals. While you all know me as a KDE guy, I can't really support this idea. Talking to the strategy team and the dude who submitted it initially (Marcus), it has been improved a bit. It used to just talk about KDE - as in, let's be Ubuntu for KDE. That is focusing on a solution, not stating the goal or the problem you try to solve. Now it proposes to have a strong end-user focus, making it a bit more inclusive. You can then choose the right technology for the right job.


Still, while the strategy focuses on a traditional strength of openSUSE (a great integration of KDE apps and a good Plasma Desktop setup), it does not bind but it segregates.that is another traditional strength of openSUSE: being a broad, all encompassing community. This strategy is not broad at all (it is still only about one desktop technology) and does thus not give direction for a large part of the openSUSE community. Moreover, it's too specific and technical to attract most 'common' users. They aren't interested in technology but in the result.


I think it might be good for KDE and in the long run might work for openSUSE. Even though focusing on technology instead of the goal (end users) Not so sure about Free Software in general however. We, as in the Free Software desktop community, were just starting to build real bridges between each other - next year will have a Desktop Summit again!

Perhaps more important, this proposal would chase away an important part of our community - the many non-KDE users and contributors. And the costs could be serious and in many area's. KDE and Gnome technologies can help each other. A good example of that, something I've been lately involved in (yet I needed Bryan to remind me of it) would be a11y or accessibility. This is something which has been moving within the KDE community lately, in part due to some inquiries a government organisation did at last Linuxtag. However, there currently are very few good tools like screen readers written on KDE technology, to eg the Orca screenreader has to be used. Which is fine - and something openSUSE has an edge in as we ship both good KDE and Gnome libs and apps!

What it should be

I think it would be good to have a proposal focusing on end user products, on something aunt Tilly can work with. openSUSE could be a distribution aiming for polish, the final touch. Working on creating a great end user product. And both the Gnome and KDE people would be able to work with it, as would the Apache team, the Kernel team and all others in the community!

my offer

I'd be willing to write such a proposal (yes, short notice, I know) if ppl think we should have it. I'm NOT saying here that that's the direction we, as in openSUSE, should choose - personally I like the poweruser proposal as well as the developer proposal. Oh and the cloudy one as well... Besides, I've been involved only so short, my vote doesn't count as I'm not even an openSUSE Member right now. So the openSUSE community should vote - not me. I'm just here to help!

02 August, 2010

mouse buttons in linux

While going through openFATE (the feature tracking tool openSUSE uses), I bumped into one asking for "Present Windows" effect as mouse button shortcut. In essence, this user has one of those million-button-mouses, and wants to use them.

I've heard that tune before, and last time I checked, linux users were still out of luck. Now I never had any idea what to use these 'extra' buttons for, until I bumped into this request. Having a button to triger an expose-like effect: great idea. Sure, I go with my mouse to the top-left of my screen and I can see all my apps just fine.

Still, I have only 4 corners on my screen (yes, it is square, as most computer screens) and 3 are in use already (app launcher, close window and clock). So I'd love such flexibility...

Now I don't know where the limiting factor is right now - what is needed to make it possible to assign actions to mousebuttons other than the left, right and middle one? Anyone who knows? Anyone up for doing something about this?

Oh, one more thing, on the openSUSE forums, IRC channels and mailinglists a discussion about the strategic direction of openSUSE is going on. Will blog about it later, but for now - if you care about openSUSE, this might be a good time to check things out. Finding a direction matters!

01 August, 2010

Just started...

Hi all!

As of now I'm an employee of Novell. That means a couple of things.

First of all: awesomeness, working with all of you!

Second the boring stuff: I'll have to update linked-in and some other sites. And put a disclaimer on this site - my previous employer (the Dutch government) wasn't exactly involved in what I did for KDE... And I'll have to go through the administrative stuff in the company. Boy, do I look forward to that ;-)

Third, I should get started. I'll be flying to the US of A tomorrow to meet people at the Novell offices. So if you want me to tell them anything in particular, let me know! Remember, for now, it's my FirstNameLastName on gmail if you want to mail me.

Besides that, I will of course start doing things within and for openSUSE. After all, my job will basically have three sides (at least that's how I currently see it):

  • Help openSUSE archieve world domination (eg be a volunteer in openSUSE, evangalize to the outside world etc)

  • Work on the relationship between Novell and openSUSE (eg corporate communication, organizing events & stuff)

  • Spread and promote openSUSE within Novell

Now I might have this nice 'community manager' title, but as I said before, please note that that's just a Novell title. Nice towards the outside and for points 2 and 3, but within the community - don't expect me to change anything on my own... I'll just be another dude trying to help out. I'll take on things which I think are important (I'll obviously listen to suggestions) but I can't promise to solve every single problem there is. There are only 24 hours in a day and I need my beauty sleep!

But still, excitement is keeping me awake right now - I seriously look forward to this. There is interesting stuff going on, not the least of which are the strategy discussions going on. If you want to have a say in where openSUSE goes - get involved.

Rock on,