Karamba (shot1, shot2) is a desktop enhancement, similar to Konfabulator and Samurize, that appeared on KDE-Look.org (looky) about one month ago. Since then, Karamba has become the highest rated project on looky with a surprisingly large number of themes and extensions having been contributed, subsequently leading to a dedicated category for Karamba contributions. We had a little chat with author Hans Karlsson about himself, KDE, Karamba, and the hype surrounding it.
1. Please tell us about yourself and how you got involved with KDE.
I'm a 25 year old from southern Sweden. I have just finished my education, Master of Science in Computer Science and Engineering, at Lund Institute of Technology. I got my first computer (Commodore 64) around 1986 or 1987 and I've been hooked since then. I became a Linux user in 1999 when I installed Red Hat. Around the end of 2001 I found the kde-look site and there were some impressive looking desktops. Before that I liked, be prepared for a shock :), GNOME more than KDE. But none of them could replace my Window Maker desktop. Window Maker was replaced by KDE when I got a new computer a couple of months later.
2. You are known as themesKnugen on looky and you were contributing wallpapers for nearly one and a half years prior to Karamba. What made you want to create software this time?
I've been coding on and off since I got my first computer. But Karamba is the first program that I've released to the public. I began developing Karamba when I couldn't stand being without the Windows program Samurize anymore. When I had a desktop I thought looked good I uploaded a screenshot to kde-look. It was partly a kind of inverted April fools joke. A suspicious looking screenshot that wasn't a fake was uploaded on April 1st. =) People seemed to like what they saw, so I released the source and some documentation.
3. What were your objectives with Karamba, and what features do you think are still missing?
The objective was to bring Samurize-like functionality to my Linux machine, i.e., displaying system information integrated with the desktop in a good looking themeable way. I think that Karamba has the features that I need right now. But that can of course change. By this I don't mean that Karamba is finished, just that it has what I personally need. One possible direction for Karamba is to make it more interactive. SuperKaramba is a initiative to do this by adding Python scripting capabilities. I think the support for non-Linux platforms can be improved.
4. What is the story behind the name "Karamba"?
As Karamba was supposed to be a Samurize clone I thought of finding a name that had some connection to that. But the word Samurize is a clever word play with the English word summarize, that made it even harder to find a good name. So I decided to continue the loved and hated KDE tradition of using a K name. I wanted a word with a leading "C" letter that can be changed to the mighty "K" letter. Caramba came to my mind after a while, and I thought the word had a positive and happy feeling. Karamba! One gets happy just by saying it. =)
5. Your Karamba project lasted for several weeks between March and April. Right after the announcement on looky its rating skyrocketed and remains the highest rated content on looky even today. There have been over one hundred themes and extensions contributed to looky since then which are making use of Karamba, leading to an own category for Karamba themes. Looking at this all it's safe to call Karamba a true shooting star. Are you surprised about the public response to your project?
Yes and no. Samurize is popular and I really like Karamba myself. My desktop just feels so empty if I remove my Karamba themes. But I can't say that I expected it to become the highest rated item on kde-look, but it certainly feels quite good. I wish to thank all Karamba users for your comments and compliments!
6. On looky, you wrote that the project is practically dead for you now. What led to this situation?
I don't have a really good answer to this. But I'll try to explain it. Before the public release of Karamba I coded when I felt for it. So it could take days between the coding "sessions". It was fun to add the new features I wanted. After the release the work on Karamba became very intense. I tried to help people with, e.g., bugs, compilation errors, patches, feature requests, themes, scripts. Then I was away from home for about two weeks during an easter break from school. But when I came back I couldn't manage to get any work done. The inspiration wasn't there. The work with Karamba felt more like a regular job than the fun hobby I wanted it to be. And the situation hasn't changed yet. I don't blame those who contacted me, not at all. They all wanted to help to make a better program. I just wasn't ready for the seriousness of being a maintainer of a project. The conclusion is that I think Karamba deserves a better maintainer than what I am now. And a little clarification: Karamba is not dead for me, more like deep frozen. A subtle but important difference. :)
7. What are your favourite tools under KDE?
8. What are your dreams for the desktop of the future? How far are we from the ideal desktop?
Very difficult questions. I can't say that I have a vision of a perfect desktop. But there are some things that would make me happier: Improved tabs in Konqueror, better support for transparency in X, and a sound system with mixing capabilities that don't skip and that has no delay. I don't know if there is an ideal desktop, and I certainly don't know how far away it is. But I'm sure that Karamba will be part of it. :)
9. What kind of hardware do you have and what OS do you use?
I have an Athlon XP 1800+ with 512 MB RAM. I use Red Hat 8.0 but, e.g., XFree86, glibc, and gcc is from rawhide and my KDE is from CVS HEAD. So I guess it's more like Red Hat 8.5 or something. :)
10. Any final thoughts and comments?
I just want to wish Ralph M. Churchill, Adam Geitgey, and Matt Jibson good luck. They are currently the people behind Karamba's recent move to sourceforge. This will hopefully make Karamba to gain some momentum.
Best wishes for the future and many thanks to Hans Karlsson for
starting the Karamba effort as well as taking
the time to answer our questions! =)