28 December, 2008

Solid coolness

I've been experimenting with phonon, configuring its output soundcard depending on the applications - my audioplayer used the speakers, my games used the headphone. Unfortunately, the games don't understand any of that stuff and it often didn't work properly. So I turned my internal soundcard off. When I booted up again, I was presented with the following dialog:

That's the first time I saw KDE respond to changes in hardware. Configuration of such stuff has always been something the distribution had to take care of. Some distro's let you manage this by hand (like my Arch), others provide tools like Yast. But we're now moving one step further - integrating this functionality into the KDE libraries, making applications aware of what's going on beneath them. Very cool, that's for sure...

Unfortunately this only works for apps using Phonon. I hope in time, when other development frameworks catch up, something can be found to make this work out of the box with other apps as well.

Oh, and I hope everybody enjoyed Christmas or the other holidays they've had. New year in a couple of days, enjoy that as well and be careful with fireworks ;-)

24 December, 2008


The Chackra project is cool.

They're the guys behind KDEmod, a modular set of KDE packages for Arch linux. For those who don't know Arch, the highlights:
- KISS (simplicity and flat config files over graphical point-and-click)
- Vanilla packages (as little deviations from upstream as possible)
- Rolling release schedule (no fixed releases - if a new app comes out, it gets packaged, tested, and put in the repositories. Releases are just snapshots, done when a new kernel becomes available)
- binary packages by default but excellent automatic source building system (ABS)

The KDEmod packages have always been great. Not just because they were modular, but during the KDE 3.5.x series the developers added interesting patches. Apparently, with KDEmod 4.1.x completely vanilla, they turned their attention to writing their own stuff. Meet Chackra, a livecd based on arch & KDEmod. Comes with an installer (which looks incredibly cool) and after using it you have a fully vanilla arch installation. Finally, they also work on package management tools, hardware configuration - really nice stuff.

The guys made great artwork (just check the Chakra logo & its design) and the whole thing looks already quite polished.

Lovely boot messages (they even mention that pagan party we have every year, whatsitcalled, Xmas).

I've been looking for a distro which could be installed on my netbook (Acer Aspire One). Had to be a (live) usb & easy & fast. And I would love KDE 4.2 SVN or something for demoing it at talks I give. I have Kubuntu now, with KDE 4.1.2. Has done great, but I'm looking for easy KDE 4.2 packages. My desktop PC runs Arch with KDE 4.2 SVN packages updated daily (actually, it's often twice a day, the guy doing that is just as nuts as I was when I still compiled SVN myself). But I didn't look forward to installing Arch on the Aspire One - too much work to get wireless working and such. I've been looking at Suse, even Fedora, even though the first of those isn't exactly fast (at least didn't use to be) and the latter comes with all kinds of GTK stuff I would have to remove for performance & diskspace reasons. Couldn't get either with KDE 4.2 on USB anyway.

Tribe installer

Arxin hardware configuration

Shaman package management

So now there's Chackra. And they even said they might do a second alpha with the KDE 4.2 final release, so within a month I can have that stuff on my laptop. If they can actually make the installer work, as it currently refuses to mount my disk thus stops the installation. Yet, it boots, works & looks pretty decent already, so a big Thank You to the developers!

16 December, 2008

kwin screencast

Hi everyone,

For a presentation I gave last saturday I made a KWin screencast showing off KDE beta 2 stuff. Quality in Youtube is rather low, but viewable (with annotations). Here you go.

And here's blib.tv (better quality & oggfile available).


edit: blip.tv is still transcoding the video to a flash-format, so you can now only view the ogg file if your system/OS is capable of viewing that format. I wouldn't know why it wouldn't be as the video format doesn't have any associated costs or royalties and has been around for years. But if it is not available for you, you just have to wait for the flash version to be ready...

13 December, 2008

blog screwup

To those wondering about my blogs on planet.kde.org again: It wasn't me! Serious, I have no idea why everyone is confronted again with sugarcomabunny, weird guys in a hottub, Spanish food etc etc.

Yet I feel sorry for the more fragile among you who probably had a hard time dealing with all that at once.



06 December, 2008

KDE Marketing in Frankfurt

We're planning our evil world-domination plans in the KDE Office. Way cool, we have an office. It even comes with an official logo at the door.

Last night we prepared for this meeting. Had food, drinks, and concluded KDE developers are nuts. And KDE rocks, of course. This morning we've started defining how we want the release announcement and we've discussed some look&feel stuff. Now on to the writing...

03 December, 2008

Eclipse Democamp/Holland Open

Yesterday I’ve had an interesting evening at the combined Eclipse Democamp & Holland Open Network meeting (organized by TSI Industrial). Lots of suits, but interesting technology nonetheless. I was actually surprised at the cool stuff going on in the Eclipse community. Both in terms of development (you MUST have a look at Mylyn - think Nepomuk in KDevelop) and concerning the community. They still depend for some 45 % on IBM to do their development, but there are also 25% individual contributors and hundreds (actually coming up to a thousand) companies officially contributing either money, manpower or both. They have over 800 contributors, many full-time. And they’re growing at a >30% annual rate.

Why? Because they have clear goals and a strong vision about how to accomplish them. Resources make a difference as well, of course – but it’s definitely in the non-coding area where they probably benefit most from IBM’s support. Creating an ecosystem needs more than good code. They have lawyers who check new contributions, they have this partnership thing for companies, all kinds of stuff.

I believe we can learn a lot from Eclipse, how they do things, how it works out. I have no idea as I’m not a developer but I’m also wondering if there could be cooperation in terms of code or design, or just interaction. Cool stuff is going on in the Eclipse camp, really. And having a commercial ecosystem is a huge benefit we would love to have as well. Meanwhile - I suppose you did have a look at that Mylyn thing? No? Go back and do it.

Ok, I’ll explain a bit. Mylyn is a plugin for Eclipse making it aware of activities. It automatically connects files, bugs and other stuff together to create them and hides the rest. It helps taskswitching enormously, making work much more efficient. It works with all kinds of bugtrackers etcetera, and automatic – no tagging and such, it figures things out by itself. I’ve seen it in action, and it’s bloody cool. The first thing a non-developer thinks after seeing it: I want this for my whole desktop!

And now a company is currently working on bringing that stuff to the Windows desktop. Yep, task/activity based computing. We’ll have to light a fire under Nepomuk (-integration) if we want to get there first, as they’re very far already. And at the very least we can learn from Mylyn how to approach many things in the UI and interaction.

21 November, 2008

talking about Nokia and KDAB

Yesterday I gave a talk at a seminar at Mediaplaza about the cooperation between a community and commercial ventures. To prepare, I conducted an interesting interview with Till Adams from KDAB, contacted Qt Software and read up on some stuff. I must say I enjoyed taking time to really prepare this talk and dive a bit into the subject.

The way KDAB and Nokia/Qt Software work with us is very interesting - they strongly believe in close collaboration, and act accordingly. Great examples of good FOSS citizenship.

I did have a hard time complying to the 30 minutes schedule. I normally talk about KDE for 45 minutes. Now I had to introduce KDE in <15 min to this rather 'green' audience, and then talk about the cooperation between company/community. Interesting challenge, but I think I did a decent job at it.

The amazing pictures created by the KDE India community were incredibly tempting, but I had to resist. Talking about the pillars themselves would take too much time. Would've been too technical as well, I suppose. I did mention Nepomuk and Phonon, but that's because they are cool examples of cooperation of KDE and other organisations. I will use those for my future slides, though, as they're just stunning.

BTW the talk I gave last week at Linuxworld in Utrecht was nice, as I got some intestesting feedback. Still have to think more about that, and integrate it in my future talks. One good point somebody made: yeah, KDE created this great architecture to be able to move faster & incorporate more user input. But currently, many users don't feel KDE is listening. Others agreed with him, so this isn't something we can cast aside. Of course we know why this is - we already KNOW (mostly) where the issues are, and we ARE listening - we're just not always replying to their questions, bugreports and comments...

The distributions shiping stuff we don't think is fully ready for the enduser (everything after KDE 3.5.x and before 4.2) didn't help us much either. They had good reasons for that, of course. Many users wanted to see KDE 4.0, and distributions had to spend a lot of resources on shipping both 3.5 and 4. The unfortunate effect was that many users lost precious features compared to their previous desktop, and the switch didn't go smooth either. But seeing how much time for example the Plasma team has spend on doing what the users requested from them (delaying the cool stuff they'd probably rather be doing) makes clear this is an issue with how we are percieved. Not how we are.

I wouldn't know how to solve this in our communication. Maybe we should just let KDE 4.2 talk for itself...

Anyway. I'll try to get the presentation in KDE SVN as soon as I can. Just in case anybody wants to see it asap, send me an email... firstnamelastname at kde.org should do the trick.

15 November, 2008

Hero of today

I'm sorry for Aaron & the plasma team today. I just read Aaron's blog about the glowing panel. Yeah, it's cool. Really.

But it doesn't cut it right now. Because I just had a good look at KMail and the work done by Szymon Stefanek during his Google summer of code project. He just catapulted KMail into this century ;-)

That stuff ain't cool or wow, as some say.

It's way beyond cool. That piece of work is just so complete, polished - I love it. Yeah, it's so simple, it seems so small to the casual observer - but I think it's wicked ;-)

Everybody on Jeremy's blog is asking for screenshots, so I sat down and made a small walk-through. The tour limited to what I've found in the listview area in like 5 minutes, so there is bound to be more. But you can see that for yourself when 4.2 is out, so here we go.

Let's have a look at KMail and the message pane when you start it up.

Not too ordinary. The look of the header imho doesn't rock, and the layout is rather busy. Notice however how KMail is still grouping the pretty large number of threads from my GMail account. Completely in the background, the interface is incredibly responsive.

So where's the cool stuff? To the right of the search box.

Let's go through the buttons. The first one quickly filters on message status:

Nice, you can quickly find what you're looking for. Not incredibly special, tough. So on to the next one:

Yeah, search. This one is very good. Notice how you can save search folders, and it is also bloody fast (this search felt instant). Now moving on:

That's one heck of a sort choice. Oh my. It might be useful to put some stuff in sub-menu's, but at the very least, you're guaranteed to be able to sort any way you want. Moving on:

So you can choose how the threading works. For example, here's topic starters.

When you change threading, it takes hours to change the view. Of course - I have thousands of emails which have to be re-threaded, right? Nope. It's instantaneously. Sometimes KMail it starts regrouping threads but that's background stuff (16.000 threads takes almost 30 seconds here, and as far as I can tell it does the visible stuff first). And I might be mistaken, but it seems it's even multi-threaded. Yeah, you're reading that one right: KMail properly uses multicores. Oh boy!

Furthermore, it's configurable (notice the nice description!):

Not exactly lacking in fine-tune abilities either:

And as the menu already indicated, this is configurable per folder. So you can have your mailinglist threaded as - well, mailinglists obviously... And conversations as conversations. Lovely.

But you haven't seen the best yet. Oh no... Let's look at the next menu. (I added the last 2 options myself)

Theme? What'd ya mean, theme? Let's see what fancy does:

How's that for cool, huh? Looks much better, imho. And shows more info- efficient. But we're not there yet, of course. A real geek would wonder what configure does:

But the real goodies are in the advanced dialog:

What's so good about it? Each and every one of these items can be configured by drag'n'drop and right mouse clicks! Quick impression (it's hard to describe it or show in screenshots anyway):

So after some playing around, this is what I've made for myself. Good usage of space & lots of info.

It's bloody easy. It's superfast - showing tens of thousands of emails, and changing the view in miliseconds! And I have yet to seen a single crash! There MUST be some Plasma guys thinking now: "What the heck was Szymon thinking, out-witting us with this amazing piece of code?"


For me, Plasma's thunder for today was stolen in almost complete silence, a little over a week ago. KMail is back, and it's steaming hot!

To everybody on the web who complained that KDE was taking the Gnome way, removing features for the sake of usability: take this!
Being able to optimize applications to your personal workflow holds the promise of big efficiency gains, and KDE is offering you those!

My hero of today: Szymon Stefanek!

Of course, the same goes to the whole KDE PIM team, and to Szymon's projectmentor Thomas McGuire. Heroes. Respect guys!

And remember children, this kind'a thing actually happens all over the KDE base - we just don't notice these niceties every day, which is why I dedicate this blog to all the cool but unseen stuff going on in KDE SVN!

I'd like to respond to some of the issues ppl brought up below.

About a coolness scale: Plasma rocks. Period. It's just that this morning, after reading the planet, I started KMail, and decided to play with the new look. I didn't like the defaults. After a while I got so excited I just HAD to write about it... Of course there just IS no coolness factor, most of KDE stuff ranks so high it's hard to compare to anything anyway. OK?

Secondly about the mention in Gnome: I'm not gonna remove it because this is simply what is said to me/asked of me by users again and again when I talk about KDE on tradeshows, seminars and online.

09 November, 2008

KOffice rocks

The KOffice Sprint in Berlin is still going strong. The more sleepy among us just arrived at the KDAB office, while the others already had half a day of work behind them. I really feel we did some incredibly useful marketing work, which will make a difference for KOffice. We should definitely have a marketing meeting to prepare for the upcoming 4.2 release of our software, to define key messages & work on the announcement and other some other promo texts.

The developers also have done great stuff. Instead of writing C++ they spend their time reviewing the gui, with the help of usability guru Ellen. And there was fun. We went out for dinner last night, that was cool. Not just because I like food (I really do) but also because it resulted in some weird photos. You'll probably see them appear on some other blogs soon ;-)

I'm sorry the articles about the meeting aren't online, some "dependencies aren't satisfied yet", but it'll work out, really.

Finally but not least, the best thing about the meeting is excitement. Sure, not everybody is jumping around all the time, but there definitely is cool stuff going on. If we manage to reach our goals and do a decent release, I'm pretty sure the world will see the potential of KOffice. And join us making it really great.

08 November, 2008

KOffice sprint 2008

The KOffice team will have a meeting this weekend in the KDAB offices in Berlin. Last year, I was unable to attend, but this year - I'm there again. And looking forward to it. I'm writing this blog in the train, so forgive occasional spelling mistakes, btw. The German country can be distracting ;-)

There seem to be some big plans. Not just in the technical area, like two years ago when KOffice was busily working on infrastructural tasks. This year, a first release of the 'new stuff' is imminent, so the focus has been moved to polishing the release and discussing the marketing surrounding it. As usual I will spend time on daily reports, but I will also join the marketing discussions and work on them. As there are more Marketing dudes & dudettes attending, we'll also be discussing the marketing for KDE in general - and cool stuff is happening on that front.

31 October, 2008

Qt Creator

Hi everyone,

Just enjoyed the article about the new Qt Creator from the trolls. I knew the guys at Qt software were excited about it. They announced it at the Qt developer days in Redwood City, California.

I had seen the website & some screenshots. I must say - looking at most modern IDE's doesn't make me consider learning C++, this one kind'a did. Well, at least, it looked like I could give it a shot. Lovely interface.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see such a extensive, interesting dot article from Richard Moore about it. Of course, some to-be-expected comments followed about KDevelop and duplication of effort. On one hand, I see why - duplication of effort is sometimes a waste of resources. On the other hand, it can enable innovation, bring new things - and sometimes working with a community can have downsides as well. Qt Creator has some different goals as KDevelop, and hopefully in time they can coƶperate on some stuff.

This project seems to be off to a good start, and many in the comment section noted they are happy with a cool Qt IDE - clearly, the verdict up and until now is good. I'd say GOOO trolls!

Moving on, I'd like to mention how KDE trunk is getting impressive lately. Konqi is really getting in shape, to such an extend that I just decided to stop using firefox and get back to my dear old dragon again. Don't ask me what's so good about it - it's really hard to say. Just works, I suppose. Smooth scrolling doesn't slow down on some sites anymore, zooming works great, google maps works like a charm (me big fan), it's bloody fast and I love the integration & decent session management. Oh, and the bookmarks-as-homepage rocks :D

Plasma is improving still, getting a bit more crash-resistent. Sure, applets can crash it, but it just tries to start again - which often works. Not always, and I'm wondering if there is (should be) some routine to figure out what applet caused the issues. Then again, it's probably hard - esp since it's often not me adding an applet which crashes stuff, but simply starting plasma after an upgrade which (clearly) broke things.

Oh, and KWin has done some great things as well. I love (no, **LOVE**) the present-windows-alt-tab-application-switcher. Whatwhatwhat? Yeah, it's the old and well-known alt-tab window switcher which doesn't use a boxswitch (just showing a list of running apps) or one of the good-looking-but-not-too-useful other effects like coverswitch or MS clone flipswitch. No, it shows windows thumbnails like the expose/present-windows effect. You can even use the mouse in there. VERY useful, I must say. Meanwhile, eyecandy is improving as well.

Then there are dolphin & gwenview, improving the little-things-which-count. I'm addicted to show-in-groups, sorted on date, as a way of viewing my files. The most relevant (recent...) are always on top, and the filterbar is there for other files.

Clearly, Amarok rocks harder every day. I do miss some of my favorite features (the que manager and quickfilter in the playlist, boy, do I miss those) but it does the job while looking very good. Does work better on widescreen than my 4:3 one, I must say, but everybody is buying widescreen these days - I really don't understand why MS introduced the ribbon which clearly does NOT take advantage of that. KOffice is imho 'slightly smarter' in the direction they've chosen ;-)

Further down the stack, KDElibs has seen a new & improved file open dialog - really worth it, though it still needs some refinement. The default size & settings, for example, aren't always great (I sometimes see a preview on the right just giving 1 row of icons - turn that preview off, and enable previews on icons - which shouldn't be so darn small either). But hey, details, and there is still a lot of time until it's januari ;-)

Of course I'm skipping over the many many many other apps which are being improved - sorry about that, these are just the ones I use all the time...

From what I can see in trunk, 4.2 will be lovely... KDE, rock on!

30 September, 2008

And how's life...

Hi web,

Haven't blogged for a while - been very (VERY) busy with work and other stuff. I've recovered from the car accident, and so has Kenny. I even bought a new car. This time not yellow (somehow that color doesn't feel right for a car anymore), but boring grey. Aaah well, at least it's corporate-compattible...

Ow, and I got a new assignment, which is interesting. I now work at a small organisation (500 employees) which distributes 2.5 billion euros to the schools & universities in the Netherlands. Yeah, each person working here distributes 50 million euro a year on average ;-)

On to KDE related stuff - a lot going on. We're discussing freedom of speech & rules of engagement - that's one heck of a topic. I always find it hard to participate in such discussions, as I generally see how both sides have a good point. And when I try to keep it simple, I have to retract or say I was sorry for what I said... Meh, I'm not good in keeping a fight going. I don't think that barfight with Sebas is ever going to happen.

Aaah, and there is the report about social innovation in KDE. Sorry guys, haven't had much time to spend on that yet, but I will. I've got a nice piece of theory ready, giving the basics - but it's still very much company-oriented, and I want to make a KDE specific piece. Thus still work to do.

Last of all, can I say KDE 4.2 is going to rock? I've been participating in some discussions here and there, most notably a dutch Mandriva forum but also at places I gave a talk about KDE. The feedback is pretty much what we've been hearing a lot: looks cool, probably a lot of potential, but I miss *pet feature X*. Why did you remove that feature etc etc. And often the "you guys are pulling a Gnome on us" is thrown in.
Hehe, they really fear the Gnome, apparently :D

But from my experience in Trunk I can tell them most issues are fixed, most features are implemented - and of course I can explain what we are TRYING to do.

To re-itterate (feedback welcome):
The reason for the missing features is not that we actively removed them, but all the work we put in the infrastructure. We heavily improved the inner workings of KDE, and now have to port, sometimes even rewrite everything. It'll take a while, but it will make KDE more maintainable, improvable and of course cool.

Then, after more questions about missing features and /me talking about 'we want to improve usability':
Don't worry, we're NOT pulling a Gnome 2.0 on you guys. Yes, we want to improve our usability, but in a Better Way (TM). If adding a feature would lower usability, we try to come up with a way of doing it SMART. We like having our cake and eating it too, and in many cases, it is possible. But when it is not, we DO implement the feature, unless it's really really obscure and almost nobody will use it. Of course, doing things this way takes a bit more time and work and experimentation. So missing features are not due to the KDE developers going the 'dumb-it-down' way, but due to a lack of time.

Meanwhile, I always mention:
Creative ideas on increasing usability while not decreasing featureset, or even increasing the featureset without a decrease in usability are MORE than welcome. Even if we're talking wild ideas here - we're willing to try things, we know that's what it takes to innovate. You've seen us do it - and we'll continue doing so.

The good thing is our users trust us, and they are often pretty big KDE fans. They do get confused by all the apparent focus on bling & clean interface in KDE, and the lack of features. But when we explain the underlying reasons for the changes, they generally understand it. And they are willing to wait a bit more. Many DO complain about the approach distributions have taken: "If you guys tell us KDE 4.2 is the release we're all waiting for, why do many distro's switch to 4.1?". I can only tell them I think the distributions are imho making a mistake - but who am I to tell eg Ubuntu, Mandriva or Suse to change their way?

What does surprise me is how big the influence is of a few missing features compared to all the cool new stuff, which seems mostly ignored. This I think is a clear proof that the few features Linux misses, compared to Windows, really hurt a lot - despite all the things we do better. Of course, part of this is familiarity as well, something Gnome does just right: incremental improvement. Unlucky for them, it gets you only so far.

Wow, that was a huge braindump, without any pictures, so I'll stop right here. Let me just finish by saying I think this community is great. The recent discussions about freedom made me realize how much we all appreciate it - something binding us together, imho. Despite (often actually fairly minor) differences in opinion.

16 August, 2008

car accident

Hi there!

Some might have heard already how Kenny and /me got involved in a car accident yesterday...

The story is rather simple: we arrived in Amersfoort (where I live), and after dropping of Jos van den Ooever at the trainstation I wanted to show Kenny a bit of the center of the city. Now the center isn't very car-friendly, but we managed to find a little street which did show some promise. So we went in there - and suddenly full stop... We were out for a few seconds, then came by, saw flames coming out the front of the car. I had an airbag in my face, and generally felt like shit.

After we got out of the burning car and the police & firebrigade came, we figured we apparently went into a street which was 'guarded' by a rising bollard. And that thing decided to come up and look around just when we drove over it. It threw the car a couple of metres to the side, totally destroying the engine block. Actually that engine block was totally flipped in the engine compartment! The resulting fire was rather scary, but besides some water damage the goods in the care were fine. The care itself is a total loss, though.

Luckily we're relatively OK. Both have pretty heavy chestpain, most likely due to the seatbelt, but no permanent damage as far as we can tell right now.

So, that's the end of Akademy for Kenny & me ;-)
Not especially great, and I'll have to buy a new car, but alas - we had some kind of special experience, right?

If you're interested in pictures, look on kenny's site:

15 August, 2008

innovation BOF

The innovation BOF went both worse and better than I expected. It turned out to be hard to go from the theoretical level to more practical implications. But the audience was great, they came up with some very useful ideas, which I'll go through in a minute.

But first about the questionare I've blogged about and which I would like the KDE contributors to fill in. It measures things which according to lots of scientific articles are important for innovation. This is mostly kind'a vague, think about concepts like 'formalization' which measures the extend to which the organization uses formal structure & rules to get things done or keep ppl in line. The idea is to see if there are area's KDE is doing bad in, and then figure out what we can do to improve. The full questionare takes approx. 30 min in dutch, and I've removed a bunch of questions, but I can't promise it'll take you less than 30 minutes. It has been translated, and most of you take it in another than your native language, which might make it take longer.

It is very important to fill in all questions. I know this feels targeted to commercial organizations, so you might have to think of a way how this applies to you. Please try to do so, because I can't use incomplete questionares. Here it is: questionare.

In the BOF I essentially went through the constructs, explaining what they did and meant. Some nice ideas came out of the resulting discussion. Here are the notes:

To increase input from users and improve our incremental innovation (bringing a more polished user interface):
- get a 'suggest improvement' menu item in the Help dialog. At first this should report a wish, but in time it should probably point to an ideastorm (Ubuntu's site, Dell's site) like page. We should try to make it as easy to add input as possible.
- basket had/has some very cool user-feedback-gathering tools, it would be great if someone would pick that up. It would be useful during alpha's and beta's go gather (statistical) input.

When it came to the importance of psychological safety, autonomy and involvement in decisionmaking:
- forcing usability on developers would hamper innovation as it's bad for psych safety. It is important to keep things very closely ingegrated - integrate usability in the 'normal' tutorials. The ideas about a new development model, 'always summer in trunk' and such are also smart in this regard.
- related would be the rewarding of innovative ideas. Maybe have an interesting-branche-of-the-week article.
- and to improve serendipity we should keep ideas which didn't work very well around - it does often happen that things which didn't work in a certain context are a huge success in another place.

The final idea which came up was to have 'innovation sessions' at akademy for certain innovations. We could discuss ways of improving the application in major or minor ways, brainstorm about issues etc.

Now I have to think of what needs to be done to capitalize on these ideas, make them happen. Stay tuned for another blog, and of course the analysis of the survey data.

All in all, it wasn't as great as it could be, but it did turn out to be useful. And I've learned something (still have to figure out what exactly).


13 August, 2008

innovation in KDE

Hi everyone!

As most of you know, I'm pretty interested in innovation. Recently I decided I should go and try to do something for KDE in this area. After all, I've studied this topic in depth, and I might be able to put that knowledge to some use.

This will be done in two ways:
- there will be an innovation BOF at Akademy, tommorrow morning, 10-11.
- I translated and reworked the questionare I developed while doing my internship at TNO for KDE. I am asking all KDE contributors to fill it in (sorry, it's huge) and I will analyze the results, see if I can make some recommendations.

So - everyone who is interested in innovation and in identifying and doing something about the things holding it back in KDE - join me tomorrow in the innovation BOF (room 1).

And to every active KDE contributor: Please take the time to fill in the survey! You can find it at the following link:

It includes a bit of an explanation about the why and what. And it'll probably take 20-30 minutes to fill it in. I'll do whatever I can to make that time worth it, I promise!

Thanks in advance.

10 August, 2008

Akademy 2008 - day 1

First: Akademy rocks.

Now that's out of the way, I'd like to ask everyone who has made some great pictures to email them to me. You know, jospoortvliet on the KDE servers. Pretty please?

Further - Akademy rocks, really does. Having fun... But you know, if ppl would send pictures, I wouldn't have to worry about the daily articles having no pictures in them...

Aaah well, luckilly, it's fun here. I think I can say Akademy rocks. And if anyone has things which should be on the dot, besides pictures, please get the ideas to the press room or email danny and me ;-)

Last night was cool, had fun, beer, food (ate too much but that's rather normal for me). Did I mention I like Akademy?

Oh, and take a sec to thank those ppl walking around with these yellow KDE lanyards, as they're working their asses off to make Akademy rock as much as it does!

For those waiting for the daily article - as you might have guessed, it only needs a couple of photos and it's ready.

06 August, 2008

Akademy 2008

Hi there!

I'm going! As I couldn't choose which one of the two next pictures I found visually most pleasing:

And boy, am I looking forward to belgian beers & great KDE company... It's been a year, you know, since last Akademy. Of course I've seen some of you since then, but Akademy - it's just special.

BTW I'll be joining that unconference thing by hosting a meeting about innovation & vision. Most of you probably know how obsessed I am with those topics, and I happen to know a little about it so if you're interested in brainstorming how we, as in KDE, can become even more innovative, join!

I'll also be handing out a questionaire which I developed while doing my internship at TNO, a Dutch semi-government research institute. It is intended to measure how innovative an organization can be and to identify roadblocks for becoming more innovative.

23 May, 2008

Vision X

Last week I gave a talk at the Ubuntu Release Party in Amsterdam (NL, of course). It was fun, just like last year. And again I was surprised how much broader this meeting was than 'just' free software. Free Culture was heavily represented, and there even were talks about digital freedom/privacy projects like Little Sister (Dutch, sorry). And of course we saw Big Buck Bunny, the movie by the Blender project. I can tell you - it's a piece of art. Literally, of course, but also in the sense of 'an stunning piece of work'. Pixar couldn't have done it any better, and if you consider the resources it was done with - amazing.

As usual, my talk focussed more on the vision of the KDE project than on specific details. Of course my own interest in Innovation, both social and open (somehow that sounds funny) have quite an influence on how I see this topic. On the other hand, being in this community of course gives me at least some illusion that what I say about what the project as a whole wants is founded in reality. But a check, now and then, never hurts. I've talked about vision and future before, not too many comments that time, so now I'm gonna ask explicitly for comments.

Of course - I realize we are many. As one of your T-shirts says: different people, different ideas. But it also end with: same vision. Is that true? Do we share a vision? Does something coherent emerge from the fog-of-war surrounding the development of KDE? I believe so. Yet I really wonder what people would say if one asks them: "What is the mission of KDE?" and "What is the vision of KDE?"

So, think about it for a second. What would you say? I've dug up a 'mission statement' from a mayor company to help you think ;-)

Improve the quality of people’s lives through timely introduction of meaningful innovations.

In a world where complexity increasingly touches every aspect of our daily lives, we will lead in bringing sense and simplicity to people.


- they want MEANINGFUL innovations
- And to get there by focusing on sense and simplicity, to help people cope with increasing complexity

Now KDE. Our website states:
It is our hope and continued ambition, that KDE will bring open, reliable, stable and monopoly free computing enjoyed by scientists and computing professionals world-wide to the everyday user.

The above seems to be our mission, that's for sure. Now, how do we get there? That's where the vision comes in. How do we fulfill our mission?

Not everyone will say the same. Actually, I don't think there will be much coherency - so, do we or don't we share a vision?

I will continue this blog next time, as I'm really looking forward to your comments (and maybe even other blogs - one can dream, right?)

14 May, 2008

Now in better quality...

Hi everyone,

For those interested, here some locations were you can get the full-sized full quality videos I made a few days ago:
Niels v Mourik was nice enough to provide me with some diskspace and bandwith. Kudos!

Plasma video (22 mb)
KWin video (32 mb)
Dolphin video (27 mb)
Gwenview video (11 mb)
video with other applications (40 mb)

And another (clearly very) nice person, Mel Mazzone, put them here.

Further, here the videos on Youtube in much better quality (thanks to Quintesse:


If video does not work try this link


If video does not work try this link


If video does not work try this link


If video does not work try this link

Other applications like Konsole, systemsettings, Dragonplayer, Skanlite, KSysguard and more.

If video does not work try this link

12 May, 2008

New screencasts

Next week will be the Dutch Ubuntu Release Party. Not sure where that link points too - it shows the dutch release party page for me, but being a rather generic URL - www.releaseparty.eu - I guess one could expect to get a local page served or something. If that's true it would be both neath and annoying.

Anyway. I also gave a talk about KDE 4.1 at Guademy in Valencia (Spain) a couple of weeks ago. It went relatively well, except for the live preview. Shouldn't have done that - not only didn't it work very well, it also destroyed the whole 'flow'. Got lost, so to say. That's why for the Ubuntu Release Party I've spend the last 2 days making screencasts of what I want to show. Took a lot of time so I began uploading them to Youtube. They were made in 1024x768 resolution (My little laptop uses that res natively, and I hope to encounter beamers with the same resolution) for a sharp image.

Guess what Youtube did to them... Yeah, they look horrible.

Now I want to put them online somewhere. But they are - well, what is big? 100 mb together. So, first I decided to create a torrent. Which can be found HERE. Please seed, and ehm - I have a horribly slow upload so it's gonna take a while...

I will also try to find a location to put the files online for faster and easier download, but for now the torrent is all I have.

If you insist on viewing the Youtube videos (or just can't wait a couple of days until the torrent is done downloading :D) just go to my profile on Youtube.

Edit: that was quick - already 4 ppl on torrent. One even KTorrent 3.0.2, I wonder why that person wants to see the videos ;-)
Anyway, if they all share, speed might not be that bad.

Edit2: apparently, it's videos not video's ;-) And screencasts would be even more correct, right?
Downloading the screencasts should be pretty fast now, btw, 25 seeders...

27 April, 2008

Will's second talk - pimping PIM

Apparently I'm a huge fan of Will, as I also made notes of his second talk about Akonadi and pimping PIM. It's rather unfortunate some guys who were interested in his talk didn't come, but at least I enjoyed it.

Starting with the history of KDE PIM, he explained how the hackers want to go from a very monolithic infrastructure in KDE 3 to a much more modular and flexible system in KDE 4. Akonadi will be that new infrastructure. The way KDE 3 handled data wasn't scalable, and in these days of huge social networks and all kinds of online and offline data you need something which can adapt to any new kind of information easilly. Something which can be used by the whole free desktop - a clean seperation of UI and data, caching, sharing and easy synchronisation. Akonadi will make it easier for application developers to access and combine data, thus allowing new and innovative uses of knowledge and information on the Free Desktop.

Further Will went into some more specific details of the Akonadi design, explaining the choices which were made. For example, they choose to use IMAP as the main protocol for the movement of data instead of DBUS mostly for efficiency reasons - DBUS is used for controlling the Akonadi server, though. Akonadi is entirely type independent, and features a smart cache for remote data with change notification and conflict detection. So, you can store anything you want, work offline with your data, your applications are always up-to-date and Akonadi also ensures the integrity of your data.

And of course - as Akonadi will be here soon, Will gave some pointers about how to use it and the roadmap for the future. There is a developer preview available, so it's time to start having a look now... The Akonadi developers are looking for someone willing to write glib/gtk bindings so the cross-desktop part can get started, and of course there are many other things which could be written. One can clearly see Akonadi fits in the KDE strategy of enabling more innovation and thus serving the Future of the Free Desktop. I can only say 'great job' to the KDE PIM developers!


So, it's time for a blog. I'm in Valencia (Spain) right now, lying in the grass, enjoying the last rays of sunshine.

Me outside. Ignore the kind-of agressive look, it's just the sun in my face. I'm really a nice guy, really...

I can say Valencia is one heck of a city. Beautiful women (yeah, what's on a man's mind?), beautiful weather. The people are very nice, and they have some pretty amazing buildings out here. I'll go and make a few pictures tonight, but they won't really capture the sheer size and beauty anyway, so I won't bother posting them here. I can and will bore my parents with them, though ;-)

Meanwhile, Guademy also rocks. They've put me with a Gnomie in a hotelroom, a very nice one I must add. The conference is also interesting, even though many talks are in Spanish (Saturday was better in that regard).

This was good food...

Last night, we went out for food and after quite a walk (more than an hour in total) we got to the most insane restaurant you've ever seen. As my Brittish roommate said - the total randomness of that place is disturbing. It started with the peanuts... A guy game with a bucket of peanuts, throwing them on the table with a large spoon. We were kind'a surprised, but they just got started. The dishes were also thrown careless on the table, and you had to use a mug to get the sangria out of a baby's potty... Everything was silly, complete with penis-shaped bread (with a complementary guide on how to slice it), weird combinations of food and when they threw the spoons for the desert from the bar onto the table (that's at least 5 metres...), we thought we had seen it all. Nope. They finished the dinner with a large bottle of champagne with a penis on it, topped with whipcream (?!?). They made one guy swallow the penis, then made it 'cum'... You should've seen it. Of course they picked one with a beard so he had cream all over his face, and the champagne spat all over the place. Wicked cool. I don't think a place like this would work in the Netherlands, they're taking it pretty far - but it's perfect for a bachelors' party. By the way, despite the fact I said to the organizers I believe them when they say this restaurant isn't typical for Spanish people, I do think the average Spanish person is at least slightly disturbing :D

My slightly disturbing Gnomy roommate on the right, a way more disturbing French Gnome Releasemanager on the left.

Back to the conference - they made me gave my talk twice - so I had a live audience to practice for the first time. Used Will's laptop, which is much faster when crashing KDE 4.1 Alpha 1 ;-) It went pretty well, except for me totally forgetting to do something with the cooperation theme - I only thought about ways of doing that after I gave the talks.

Oh, and for those who so kindly care about me having to use my incredibly slow laptop with the loose battery - I managed to fix the latter issue with some tape. It doesn't shut down randomly anymore, makes it much more enjoyable. It's still slow, of course, but I can live with that until I buy my own EEE PC or whatever equivalent ultra-portable.

As I didn't manage take notes, no real articles from this event. I did take notes of one of the most interesting talks by two Novell employees, Will Stephenson and Rodrigo Moya about their experiences with cooperation between our two desktops. So, here you go, enjoy...

We can do more together - duplicating code wastes time and resources. Besides, it makes it harder for third parties to decide what to support or use, and it makes the linux platform seem fuzzy. When making a choice, you have to take into account many issues, and currently you can't use a best-of-breed policy. Finally but maybe worst, there is also a lot of duplication of data required or used within these applications as well. Concluding, when you've got shared implementations for software, you can develop new features faster, have more stable software and make it easier for 3th party developers while giving users a less hard time as well.

The current situation is that we do share several things, but at the same time still duplicate many others. If you save a password in the Gnome-keyring, you will have to enter it again to ensure it ends up in KWallet. Luckily, icons and MIME types are shared these days, as wel as technologies surrounding fonts, the systemtray and pdf reading. For the future, there are plans to solve some of the still existing issues. A shared keymanager will make life easier for users, and so will a shared sessionmanager which allows restoring the state of applications next time you log into your desktop.

Now Rodrigo went into the specifics of sharing - why would you want or do it? How important is it? There are of course the obvious reasons: developers are spread thin over the huge codebases. Meanwhile, users demand more and more from their software. As the relative number of technical users goes down, users expect more stability. Enterprise users demand very specific features and migrants from proprietary software want their new software to do what their old software did. They aren't used to the perpetual state of development we know in the Free Software world. So things must change somehow.

Currently, the playground for standardisation is far from perfect. Some projects at freedesktop.org are pretty successfull like HAL, DBUS, Telepathy and the XDG-utils. But other projects didn't turn out incredibly successfull - sometimes it's just too much work to share things. Stephen argues sharing should start from the beginning. The right people should be involved from the start - developing something for one desktop, then throwing on freedesktop.org and call it a standard doesn't work.

The biggest limiting factor seems to be lack of awareness of each others technologies. Often, the knowledge is out of date or just too limited. Better documentation and pointers to the right people would make a large difference. Currently, developers' awareness of the technology from they other project is non-existent or outdated, and interaction often happens just by chance. Equivalent peers working on similair projects should strategically be brought together somehow. Meetings like Guademy could be used for that, but also the normal hacking sessions might be a place to start.

Stephen has some ideas where we need to focus on, based on some heuristic questions like wheter the functionality is already implemented (and how) or if it is about UI code or not. Sharing boring stuff like how to talk to flickr is the way to go here. Focus on things you can factor out in a separate library.

Of course, there are different ways and levels of sharing. For example, you can build upon a shared library. On the other hand, you can have a common specification but have codewise totally different implementations. Or just use the same data. Or even only share some policies. It is important here to not go and try to share toolkit-level stuff, but focus on framework functionality.

Currently, there are several bariers to sharing - but most of them are psychological, not technical. Not liking C or C++, thinking bad of glib, (often bogus) licensing issues - these should be pointed out and debunked. Luckily, there are several very successfull projects we can point to as proof sharing works. We can examine them to find out what does and does not work. As mentioned before, the split of UI and the underlying technology is what made Poppler and Webkit popular We need to find the lowest common denominators in terms of functionality to identify what to share - and it works. Of course there ARE technical issues - if you want to share something, it often can't depend on the libraries you are used to work with. That does mean more and more difficult code to maintain, so you should carefully think about what and when to share.

Now Rodrigo went into some specific ideas to make sharing easier. There are some infrastructural things we can do to share more. For example, synchronising desktop release dates would make a big difference. We could of course start by having a shared release/roadmap for the shared projects, and as KDE is also going for 6 month releases now.

A next step would be to improve the sharing of data. We've done icons now, but for example the default locations for music and documents are still defined by distributions. Sharing webbrowser caches and metadata is still far away - but would make life easier for users. Take for example a KDE user who runs firefox. If he opens a textfile from a secure location, he won't just have to identify himself to firefox to access the location, but again when he opens the file in KWrite because Firefox and KDE don't share the authentication. There is something we need to fix!

Despite the fact both desktops are competing with things like the GNOME Online Desktop and Plasma we should respect each others freedom to innovate, and it shouldn't stop us from looking for ways to share.

Will doing his thing

The above talk really captured the spirit of the conference - sharing and cooperating. It was interesting and I believe there might even be a few concrete results. At the very least there will be more Gnomies at the next Akademy...

29 March, 2008

Tibet II

I would like to add a little to my previous blog about Tibet, if you don't mind.

There were some comments about the Olympics not being about politics. Well, I don't know about that. The Greeks who started that whole thing laid the foundations of our modern society in terms of democracy and freedom. The Ancient Olympics were as much about politics as today - maybe even more.

Another thing the comments were about is how I/the US/the rest of the world are spreading lies about whether Tibet is part of China or not. Well, I couldn't care less. I know it is rather etno-centric of me, but I don't care much about history. Sure, one can learn from it - but whether some area once belonged to some country or not - how does that matter? I believe people should judge and be judged based on NOW, not on what their forefathers did but on what they do and did in their own lives.

Finally, about news and dishonesty of media: I don't believe a government is qualified to dictate what people should know or not know, say or not say, think or not think. How could it? It's, just like everything else in the world, run by humans. Humans are not infallible, and neither is a government - or any other organization for that matter. Psychologists have discovered hundreds of common errors in the way people think and work together (just have a look at Groupthink). In the western society there is a healthy suspicion towards powerful organizations like large companies and governments - and for good reason. That's one true thing History taught us: such organizations inadvertently turn evil somehow. Bureaucracy, the way large organizations keep themselves together, does this by alienating people and by taking away their responsibility. It's hard if possible at all to prevent that from happening. And as far as personal power goes, who doesn't know how 'power corrupts'?

Just like free software leads to better software, freedom leads to a better government. Not perfect - but as there is no guarantee a single, relatively small group of people can always make the right decisions, freedom is your best bet. Despite all its shortcomings.

Besides, the fact the Chinese government, just like any dictatorship before and after it, tries to limit any independent reporter in their country and Tibet in particular imho shows they KNOW what they do is wrong. Or at least the realize people would oppose their actions - and if you are not confident in your own decisions, if you aren't even willing to defend them in the open - how can anyone trust you? Believe me, the American government isn't much better - they try to keep journalists away from what they do in other places in the world as well. I think it's a safe bet they have reasons for that which aren't entirely honest (or just plain evil). In that regard, the Chinese government isn't better or worse (though the scale might differ, and the US government is a lot more limited in what evil they can do thanks to the laws governing their country).

Anyway. Life sucks, that's for sure. At least for many in this world. I'd be the last to say what happens in Tibet is anything special - people are oppressed all over the world. And they have been - for ever. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't care, right?

So on this blog you can find a little script you can use to show your discontent with what the Chinese government is doing. As they took down Tibet.org, we can take down their site. Bad? Illegal? Probably. Not a solution? Sure. Luckily, YOU can exercise your 'evil, western etc' freedom to protest this, so just comment on my blog if you think this is wrong - and I and others will read it. And as most of us here are sensible people, if you make a compelling argument, we can decide NOT to use this script. After all, it's the choice of every individual reading this blog. As long as he/she lives in a free country, that is.

For those KDE-ers who think this topic doesn't belong here: you're right (maybe I should mention our new KDE 4 slogan 'Be Free'? Aaah well....). This will most likely be the last blog about this topic.

23 March, 2008

Tibet and the Genocide Olympics

I usually only blog about KDE related stuff here, but I think the current situation warrants something else. What is going on in Tibet is horrible, and the Chinese government should be ashamed of themselves - again.

And apparently, the Chinese government took this war digital. Tibet.org is down, and I just read reports about emails with malware being send to known supporters of the Tibetan cause from unknown Chinese origin. Nothing is sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Chinese government had something to do with this. So they started it themselves.

Seeing the atrocities going on, it seems the Chinese really want their 'Genocide Olympics' (hint to the Darfur situation, but equally relevant to the cultural and now growing physical genocide in Tibet). I know KDE isn't into politics, but honestly, is this politics? This has got to stop.

So. What can freedom-loving people like we do now? Not too much, but imho the least we can do is protest, speak up. This is my little thing. Who's with me?

22 March, 2008

pretty cool Plasma stuff

Plasma themes rock ;-)

Now you can have a much more consistent look throughout KDE 4. Just us a theme combined with a matching colorscheme and you're good to go.

Here are a few screenshots showing how KDE 4 trunk can look these days.

I must say Slim Glow really is a favorite of mine, it always looks good. For those who wonder how hard it is to install Plasmathemes: ridiculously hard. Really. You have to through at least 3 mouseclicks on weirdly named buttons like "Get more themes", pick one yourself (the horror!) and click "install", then you even have to CLOSE the window... Luckily by then you only have to choose the theme you want to apply and it's done. Boy, when will KDE grow up and start thinking for us silly users? Or at least let us google, then sort through a website, download, locate and add themes by hand. Wait, you can, of course. It doesn't have to be three mouseclicks, it can be needlessly complicated just like you're using Windows ;-)

For those who like pink (and honestly, who doesn't?) here a Fluffy-bunny based look as finishing touch. Respect to the guy/girl who made "Sugarcoma Bunny" (find it on kde-look.org).

15 March, 2008

what, two panels?

Even though it's not friday anymore, I was kind'a inspired by Aaron's blog to start playing with plasma again. Aaron speaks about an add panel patch from Stephan Binner and I had to check it out. So here you go:

As you can see, Plasma now also supports themes, I would love to see the Fluffy Bunny theme get in there by default :D

There still are some issues with layouting of widgets, sometimes they overlay each other. And it's pretty hard to move them on the panel (hint: you can't) (edit: Binner just blogged about a patch he has ready which will make this possible!!!). I hope these can be worked out before a release, as such things are very crucial to a 'finished' feel. But despite these issues, it's getting more and more fun to play with Plasma - pity I forgot to put the ball on those screenshots... (Edit, I didn't forget it, it's there, just look under the comics plasmoid) Yes, a ball. Red. Round. You can throw it around, it bounces of the side of the screen and the panels. Nice demonstration of physics on the Plasma desktop. I wonder who will come up with a patch which lets you throw all widgets around ;-)

Oh, and check the Plasma Roadmap on Techbase, it has some nice stuff already. I hope they can get to all of it...

04 March, 2008

That'll teach him

Hehe.... Last Sunday, Aseigo blogged about Dashboard widgets and how Plasma now natively supports them. Yes, he did mention Zack had to get some fixes in Qt. But despite that, half the world tried to get the code. And that code didn't just need qt-copy (which almost every KDE hacker probably has compiled) but the latest qt-snapshot AND a patch against it from playground... Now that's not just obvious (nor fast to compile), and Aaron didn't blog about it. So for the last days, the Plasma IRC channel has been flooded by ppl asking Aaron how to get the Dashboard stuff compiled ;-)

He must be getting crazy. Even more, that is, as I can imagine having Zack over for a few days must leave someone in a certain... mood... ;-)

And yes, FOSDEM rocked, I just didn't blog about it due to a lack of time. So, to make up for it, a few pictures.

A certain someone (once Akademy organizer) drunk 'a little' too much and had to be carried, Lydia and Jos (vd oever) doing so on this picture. I had my share as well. I must say that certain person (K....) was very quiet the following day, not surprisingly, considering his condition when I took this picture.

Our happy other last-year Akademy organizer (you can enjoy that status only for like 4 to 5 more months, so I suggest you do so, Riddel!)

Yeah, this is what the Amarok ppl had to show. They didn't give me screenshots, so here's an actual Screen Shot.

Mike, the Amarok Mascot.

21 January, 2008

Hot tub rocks!

After the horrible accident this afternoon, the KDE hackers made up with the crocodile (after all, it's family of our beloved mascotte), and enjoyed some time in the hottub.

Yes, it was HOT in that thing...

It proved to be very difficult to get them out of hacker mode, though, as they continued to discuss improvements to plasma. It finally took the magic sentence "I've got beer in my fridge" to get them out of the hot tub and in to what could be described as closer to normal life. I must confess that the beer brought them back into discussing plasma... Probably not an incredible good thing considering the effects of alcohol on some people.

(they're back at work...)