The combined KDE/Amarok booth and developer room at the annual Free and Open Source Developers' European Meeting (FOSDEM) in Brusssels was a great experience (as usual!). Many people showed up from the KDE and Amarok communities, and we had a hard time fitting all our cool hardware and people in the booth. Luckily, the talks drew quite a crowd, and the booth became less busy as the day progressed. Read on for an overview of FOSDEM 2008 from the KDE perspective.
FOSDEM started out with a large group of KDE and Amarok people working like crazy to get the booth set up. We had all kinds of weird (and more standard) hardware, from a KDE-branded SUN-based thin client and a small VIA box, to large and small monitors connected to laptops - and all of it running KDE, in some cases the bleeding edge of development (destined to become KDE 4.1). Meanwhile, the Amarok people showed off their latest work on Amarok, with an appearance of their Mascot, Mike, who came in from the woods to 'Rok with the crowd.
After our group photo and a short welcome by Bart Coppens, Nikolaj Hald Nielsen gave a talk about Amarok 2.0 - the new way to "rediscover your music". Nikolaj also introduced a new friend, the Amarok Wolf Mike. Nikolaj then gave an outline of the history of Amarok, mentioning Free Software and the new trend which is going on besides the Free Software movement itself, the Free Culture movement - think Creative Commons or the rise of more open music sites such as Magnatune. Nikolaj is employed by Magnatune now, and he discussed some details of their contributions. It is great to see a company who really gets Free Culture and Free Software! In the future, thanks to the support from Magnatune, Amarok will support a variety of different music stores.
In the next talk, Bart Coppens started to show us some cool and less cool things about KOffice 2. Starting with the bad, he told us how, due to the developers having less time to work on KOffice, the current state of several applications was disappointing. The developers therefore recently decided to restrict their release goals, focusing on the applications they can make stable for KOffice 2.0. Those applications will most likely be KPresenter, KChart, KSpread and Karbon. Yes, KWord and Krita both might not make it for the first KOffice 2.0 release! This is an very unfortunate state of events for the one of the most innovative office suites, and there has been talk of hiring someone to get KWord into a usable state for the release. Meanwhile, Krita is very complete in terms of architecture and features, but those features aren't reflected in the interface yet - and that may not change any time soon either.
Now, on to the good stuff: the target of the big refactoring of the KOffice codebase, getting a tighter, lighter and more integrated KOffice is finally starting to bear fruit. Two technologies were presented by Bart to illustrate his points. To explain the idea behind Flake, imagine rough terrain which is flattened out and made more consistent by snow flakes. With Flake as the backend technology for KOffice 2, the similarities between many different components are put into a common core. This makes the components much more lightweight, more flexible, and easier to write. Another technology is Pigment, the color management system which now allows all KOffice applications to have proper color management - something very interesting for people working with graphics professionally.
Bart showed elements from Karbon and KWord, and he talked a few minutes about KPresenter and the plans for that application. Apparently, Aaron Seigo has promised to work on it to ensure it works nicely with Xinerama and generally does what he needs it to do while giving talks all over the world. Unfortunately, earlier experiments with sound & video in KPresenter failed, mostly due to Phonon not being ready for Flake shape integration.
After Bart, Sebastian Trueg entered the stage to talk about the Nepomuk project. Nepomuk is a research project with more than 20 organisations from across the European Union. Sebastian is mainly tasked with integrating the results of the research into KDE. The target of the Nepomuk project is to create a Social Semantic Desktop. Explaining, Sebastian gave the example of a file you once received from someone by mail and then saved somewhere. It can be difficult to find the file with current technologies, as that specific piece of information is lost when you save the file. Semantics are about relationships - and this file had a relation with the email. Nepomuk integration in KDE will allow you to find the file when looking for files related to the person you received the mail from. The Semantic Desktop will try to gather this kind of information automatically, or allow you to easily augment it so it can help you find your data or accomplish tasks easier.
Sebastian provided examples, explaining the benefits of these technologies and then continued to talk about the current state of Nepomuk in KDE. Currently, we have basic tagging, rating and commenting in Dolphin, and a basic search interface with a nice syntax. It allows you to search for rather specific things, but is not very easy to use yet. A final thing we will see soon is the ability to browse through the tags as if they were folders in Dolphin.
Similar functionality is planned for KDE-PIM, which Sebastian Kuegler now turns to. During a recent meeting, the KDE-PIM people decided they would love virtual folders (or live searches) within KMail. Such folders can show, for example, emails from a certain person or about certain subjects - and are updated live when new emails arrive or become tagged. Better search is generally something the PIM hackers want, and doing so by tightly integrating Nepomuk sounds like a smart move. All in all, the compelling vision behind Nepomuk left us impressed again.
Free software in Telecommunications focusing on Qtopia
Knut Yrvin works as community manager at Trolltech's office in Oslo. He started his talk by telling the crowd inside the developer room about the history of both Qt and KDE. Then, Knut started to explain the concepts behind Qtopia, Trolltech's extention framework which has its focus on developing applications for mobile and embedded systems. Qtopia allows developers to deploy quite advanced applications everywhere. The ease of porting desktop applications to Qtopia, especially with Qt 4.x is really amazing! We can only agree: as at the KDE booth Marijn Kruisselbrink (of KOffice fame) was showing KStars on a NEO1973 phone - and according to him, he only had to recompile it!
After the technical description of Qtopia, Knut went over the actual implementation of Qtopia running on hardware. Knut started showing off the Trolltech Greenphone (A developer tool which has been discontinued) and explained its advantages and disadvantages. Trolltech decided that they are actually not a hardware company and therefore shouldn't be really providing hardware but instead software that runs perfectly on it.
After the Greenphone went through the rooms and the usual "ooh" and "aaah" responses were expressed, Knut started talking about the next generation Open Source mobile appliances. The next phone running Qtopia is going to be the NEO1973, manufactured by a partner vendor with quite a few differences in comparison with the Greenphone. For example, the NEO is being developed very closely with the community. Another nice thing Knut mentioned was that Trolltech is also sponsoring the OpenEmbedded project.
KDE on Windows
Later, Holger Schröder gave a talk about KDE on Windows, starting with its history and progressing to the current status. Holger gave a demo to the crowd and showed off KDE applications running on Windows and interactively asked the public to ask him to show their favorite KDE program of choice. After the demo, he discussed the technical difficulties the team had to face when getting kdelibs ported to the (non-POSIX) Windows platform and explained the distribution system they had to set up for getting all KDE software distributed in a centralized way.
On Sunday, the KDE Devroom turned into a shared room with GNOME and other projects as it became the "Cross-Desktop" room. Unfortunately, we were unable to cover all talks going on, but we do have a short overview for you. After another warm welcome by Bart Coppens and Christophe Fergeau, Kurt Pfeifle and Simon Peter gave us an overview of the current status of KLIK on KDE and GNOME.
And during these talks, our booth received many interested visitors asking about KDE 4.x and the upcoming stuff, or looking at Amarok. Some were even working on code or hunting bugs - or blogging about the event. And, of course, discussing important issues like beer or things of less importance like code. We saw a few cool new things, like Marijn Kruisselbrink demonstrating Plasma running on Mac OS X and many different checkouts that each looked totally different... And don't forget about the neat Sun-provided thin client running Solaris and KDE. Or the fact we ran out of merchandise again ;-)
And of course, both days ended with lots of beer, fun and good food in Brussels! Until next year...