The second day of the KDE 4.0 Release Event in Mountain View, California, was a very busy day. Reporters and users joined the hackers, peeking over their shoulders, asking questions and generally trying to figure us out. Talks were given - most notably the keynote by Aaron Seigo, but also covering KOffice, the KDE-Edu project, and multimedia. Read on for more details.
Today we were joined by even more hackers and others outside our own project, like representatives from AMD, Sun, Kubuntu, Mandriva, SUSE, and most of the Slackware team. Even some kernel hackers showed their faces, which resulted in a kernel discussion meeting.
The day started with Adriaan de Groot introducing the release event, mentioning that this is not just a technical event, but also very much a social one.
Aaron Seigo, President of the KDE e.V. then began the keynote, with an introduction to KDE 4, talking about with the history of the project and expressing how far we have come in the last 11 years. Then, Aaron explored what KDE is, and what our community is based on - freedom and openness. Freedom to do work, have fun, and connect with others. Further, Aaron moved on to KDE 4, and discussed the near-future plans and ideas. The vision of KDE 4 is based upon three principles: beauty, accessibility, and functionality. He ventured into the many areas that KDE has improved upon, and pointed to our roadmap for the KDE 4 cycle.
Aaron explained how users expect certain things from their computer, like games, internet connectivity, communication. So we have to meet those expectations. KDE 3.5 already widely met these goals, and so for KDE 4, we had to do chase new ideals. Aaron talked about how KDE is put together, how KDE uses many frameworks and other technologies, and introduced individually introduced them to the audience.
The audience watched an impressive video of the new KWin compositing features, and later, Aaron demonstrated KDE 4 applications live to the audience. After showing the state of our current KDE 4.0 release, Aaron continued with the roadmap for KDE 4. When can we expect KDE 4.0.1, 3.5.9, when will KDE 4.1 arrive? For those curious, that would be respectively this month, next month and July. Furthermore, the future is bright, as KDE will no longer be restricted to running on Linux, BSD and Solaris - yes, Windows and Mac OS X will be supported officially as well for KDE 4.1. KDE-on-Mac and KDE-on-Windows developers came up on stage and showed us what they have. Benjamin Reed, the leading KDE-Mac developer showed us Konqueror, KStars and several other applications on Mac OSX, then Holger Schroder demoed KDE-on-Windows.
Aaron continued, and showed us some crucial applications like KPat (the solitaire card game!) and the scalable graphics it now has. Marble and the OpenStreetMap project were discussed, and finally it was time for questions. Icons, mixing a KDE 4 desktop and KDE 3 applications, the target group for KDE 4.0, and the viability of large deployments were discussed, and Aaron ended the talk with some teasers concerning Media Center systems. The keynote was streamed to several of the KDE 4 release parties worldwide, and it will be put on YouTube and made available for download as soon as possible. Look out for an announcement on the Dot, probably at the beginning of next week!
The next speaker was Inge Wallin, who showed us KOffice and the many improvements it has seen since its last KDE 3.x release, KOffice 1.5. Inge began by introducing the many components KOffice consists of, which is fairly impressive in itself - KOffice is the most comprehensive office suite in existence. The KOffice architecture provides for a large amount of flexibility, where users can mix and match any type of object into any document you want. So you can have a chart in a picture, use graphical effects and vector graphics in your spreadsheet, or have music notes in a vector graphic.
Inge continued talking about ODF and standards, telling us how KOffice was the first office suite to support ODF, and how the KOffice developers are working closely with the OASIS standards committee to ensure the long-term viability of the format. As with the KDE desktop, KOffice is also portable to Windows and Mac OSX - portability and integration are definitely the strong points of KOffice. Embedding in Konqueror or other applications, working with the okular developers - in time, the OpenDocument support from KOffice will end up in the KDE libraries, so that any KDE application will easily be able to support the format. Interest has already been expressed by several KDE-Edu developers.
Further, Inge went on to demonstrate some advantages of the flexible structure of KOffice, which leads to abilities like easy automation and integration into specific workflows, and the ease of extensibility. Real examples of these attributes were provided, such as a version of KOffice applications with a simplified user interface, the music notation shape, KDissert (mind mapping), and Inge also mentioned the start of the KOfficeSource support company.
After the KOffice talk, Google brought in some excellent food and we continued with a talk from Haavard Nord, the CEO of Trolltech. Haavard talked about the symbiosis between the KDE project and Trolltech. He began detailing the state of the Linux desktop in 1996, when KDE was started. The biggest challenge back then was that writing a GUI application was very hard. A simple "hello world" application, based on the technology available back then needed more than 200 lines of code. The founder of KDE, Matthias Ettrich, wanted to use Qt, the premier Trolltech product, because Qt would make it much easier to write a full desktop. Trolltech was founded only 2 years before KDE, and has now grown into a company of over 250 employees, thousands of clients, and many thousands of Open Source developers using it in their projects.
Haavard continued explaining their business model (dual-licensing: GPL and a proprietary license), and he explains how Trolltech makes money from proprietary software developers in order to improve their product for everyone. So for instance, Skype and Google Earth help fund the development of the Qt framework, which in turn benefits us all. Trolltech receive almost half of their customers through their connection with KDE, and many improvements to Qt are suggested or even provided by KDE developers, for example the Phonon multimedia framework. Further, Haavard talked about Qt 4 and KDE 4, how they improved Qt, and how KDE can (and does) benefit from it. A great piece of news is that Qt 4.0 will be available under the GPL version 3 license, effective immediately. The KDE project is very happy to receive this news, and KDE has been working on our own license transition in order to take advantage of other Open Source projects, such as Samba, which have already made the switch. According to Haavard, Richard Stallman had noted that he "was very pleased that Trolltech has decided to make Qt available under GPL v3".
Next up was something very exciting, the Linux MCE people had finally arrived at the Release Event. They showed a demo video showing the great functionality of LinuxMCE, and even provided attendees with free LinuxMCE DVD's containing a 20-minute installation guide movie and a full software stack. Then, Aaron Baalbergen from Pluto started to talk about the future of Open Media Center software. LinuxMCE wants to integrate tightly with KDE - both in the area of underlying frameworks, and in the user interface. Technologies like Phonon and the other pillars allow them to improve their technologies faster while also bringing new functionality to KDE.
A question that came up was how the ecosystem worked. There is a company, Pluto, which is behind the code of LinuxMCE, but while they released the software for years, it wasn't used a lot outside of their company. The LinuxMCE project turned this around, and Pluto supports the project in getting a wider audience. They hope to work with KDE and get improvements into the software which will then be available to everyone, so they can become more interoperable and working together, creating an ecosystem which helps them to improve their software further. The final plan is to do what Trolltech does, and give their product away under the GPL while collecting money from those who don't want to release their software under the GPL.
After a short break, we had Kyle and Aron, the winners of our "all expenses paid" release event invitation contest on stage. They were asked to say a few words on their winning entries. They expressed their thanks to the KDE contributors, and offered us free beer!
Paul Adams of Sirius talked about how the Free Software community has matured over the years into a complete product ecosystem. It is no longer just about development, but also about artwork, marketing, selling... and also research? Large parts of the community have traditionally been slow to formally embrace research in their work. Through SQO-OSS and NEPOMUK, KDE has indirectly benefited from millions of Euros in public funding with noticeable effects on the KDE 4.0 release. Strigi is a great example of this within KDE. However, KDE can still do more in this arena. If we can develop a culture of embracing both formal and informal research efforts throughout our work, then the results can be even stronger than we have seen to date. In the Free Software world, we don't have commercial shareholders to worry about, and so we can afford to ask questions and be more creative in our endeavours (because instead of shareholders, we have users who want cool software). By engaging in research and with researchers, we place ourselves in a much better position to deliver.
The sixth talk was by Jeremy Whiting on the KDE-Edu project, which started with a brief history of one of the most popular and active KDE sub-projects. Jeremy explained how many KDE-Edu applications are often used to showcase the great stuff KDE has, as they often look very cool - and KStars is a prime example of this. The educational apps also attract many new users and developers, and give the KDE libraries a good workout. Good examples are the many issues the education applications exposed in KIO, the SVG rendering engine, Phonon, GetHotNewStuff (of which they are clearly the largest user), and many other frameworks. Jeremy showed off the many cool and sexy features from KDE-Edu, from applications like KAlgebra, Kalzium, Parley, Step, and Marble. KStars was actually demonstrated by Jason Harris, its main developer, who showed how educational KStars can be. KStars should be in every science classroom, and thanks to the release of Qt 4 for Windows and Mac, we will hopefully see that happen in the future. As you can imagine, this would bring many new users and developers, and the KDE-Edu people are very excited about that.
Next up was the Amarok talk, where Jeff Mitchell explained how Amarok wants to help us all to "rediscover" our music. Amarok 2.0 aims to redesign their most appreciated feature, the context browser. Currently, it is a HTML-based view, and there are some issues with that. It is not incredibly fast nor without rendering glitches, and it is not enormously flexible either. So something new was needed. It was decided to base the new Context Browser on Plasma. It was easy to use for Amarok developers, and is fast and flexible. And Qt 4.4 will introduce QtWebkit, so that they can still render HTML if they want.
Another area where Amarok 2 is focused is on hardware support. The current hardware support implementation is pretty complex, and still doesn't always work. KDE's media manager had some limitations, and Amarok had a lot of complex, custom code to be able to handle more than just generic storage devices. They are closely working with the Solid developers to ensure that Solid delivers what Amarok needs. A lot of work was spent on working with the hardware abstraction layer technology to ensure that it all works properly. The third focus of Amarok 2 is portability - they get hundreds of requests to get Amarok on Windows and Mac OSX, and they want to cater to that user segment. The opinion of Amarok developers is that running Free Software on proprietary platforms is better than running proprietary software on proprietary platforms - so Amarok on Windows or Mac OSX is a good thing. At first they planned to get rid of KDE and go Qt only, but now, with KDE available across platforms, Amarok can continue in the KDE family. Phonon is an essential component in the cross-platform implementation. Another big reason to work with KDE is the friendly developer community which didn't make it a burden to contribute back, but made it fun. The Amarok developers are incredibly happy being part of the KDE community and are proud to be a part of KDE Extragear.
After this last talk, we were treated to cocktails, accompanied by excellent Japanese-inspired food. We spent another hour at the Google headquarters socialising, before going back to the hotel, where the fun and interesting discussions continued long into the night. And the Karaoke is always enlightening. Really an excellent, interesting and productive day for the KDE community in North America!
Some pictures of the Release Event are available here.