As Valorie said in a recent blog post, accessibility is useful for everybody at some point or another. Clear, highly contrasted icons, easy to reach keyboard shortcuts, and scalable fonts are things we can all appreciate most of the time, whether we have any sort of physical disability or not.
With that in mind, Jean-Baptiste Mardelle will be working on Kdenlive, KDE's video editing software. He'll be reviewing the user interface; that is, the different panels, toolbars, etc., to make it easier to use for people who start editing for the first time. He'll also be working on packaging - creating AppImages and Flatpaks - so the latest versions of Kdenlive can be installed anywhere without having to worry about dependencies.
Marco Martin will be working on Kirigami, the framework that helps developers create apps seamlessly for desktops and mobile phones. His accessibility work will also extend to Plasma Mobile. If he has time, Marco says he would also like to work on Kube, a new groupware client to manage your emails, contacts, tasks, calendars and so on.
When asked what they would be working on, Christian Mollekopf and Michael Bohlender both chanted "Kube, Kube, Kube!". Although the work they will be carrying out is not specifically related to accessibility, one of the main aims of Kube is to offer a friendlier, more intuitive and more attractive user interface, making it easier to use than its alternatives.
Another dynamic duo, Thomas Baumgart and Lukasz Wojnilowicz, will be working on KMyMoney, KDE's personal finance manager. T & L will be working on making KMyMoney's keyboard functionality more consistent. They will also improve porting KMyMoney to Windows, creating an opportunity for a larger audience to use the app.
And then, of course, there will be the invaluable work of the organisers. Mario Fux is the main coordinator of the event, and he will be making sure everybody is fed and watered during the meetings. Simon Wächter and Fox will be helping developers by catering to their needs, plying them with Swiss chocolate, and dispensing hugs for moral support when their code misbehaves.
Randa Meetings 2017 will be all about accessibility.
At KDE, we understand that using an application - be it an email client, a video editor, or even educational games aimed at children - is not always easy. Different conditions and abilities require different ways of interacting with apps. The same app design will not work equally well for somebody with 20/20 vision and for somebody visually impaired. You cannot expect somebody with reduced mobility to be able to nimbly click around your dialogue boxes.
This year we want to focus on things that have had a tendency to fall by the wayside; on solving the problems that are annoying, even deal-breaking for some, but not for everyone.
To that end, KDE developers will be gathering in the quietness of the Swiss mountains and will push several different projects in that direction. David Edmundson, for example, plans to spend his time improving navigation on Plasma for those who prefer, or, indeed, need to use a keyboard over a mouse. This will help users with reduced mobility that find moving a mouse around cumbersome. And Adriaan de Groot will be working on Calamares, an application that helps install operating systems. Adriaan will make Calamares more accessible to visually impaired users by improving integration with the Orca screenreader. Sanjiban Bairagya will be working on text-to-speech on Marble, KDE's mapping application. He wants to make the app's turn-by-turn navigation experience more intuitive by integrating Qt's Speech module.
Apart from the projects mentioned above, we will also have developers from Kdenlive, Kubuntu, KMyMoney, Kontact, Kube, Atelier, KDEEdu, digiKam, WikiToLearn and Krita, all working together, intent on solving the most pressing accessibility issues.
In February, KDE's Plasma team came together in for their yearly in-person meeting. The meeting was kindly hosted by von Affenfels GmbH, a webdesign agency in Stuttgart, Germany. The team discussed a wide variety of topics, such as design, features new and old, bugs and sore points in the current implementation, app distribution, also project management, internal and outward-facing communication and Wayland.
KDE is experimenting with new ways to deploy applications. Under consideration are technologies such as Flatpak, Snap and AppImage, which all have their distinct advantages. Support for bundled applications is being built into Discover, Plasma's software management center, and the KDE Store. An idea is to allow software developers more control over their applications' lifecycle, and to get updates shipped much quicker into the hands of users. Similar as with packages automatically created from our Git code repositories. This can dramatically cut down on the complexity of the deployment chain.
Browser integration in Plasma will be improved by integrating notifications and download progress and multimedia natively into Plasma by providing a browser extension that relays this information to the Plasma shell.
The Plasma team also discussed using touchpad gestures to control the window manager, so users can use specific multitouch gestures to trigger effects like the "desktop grid", "present windows" or swiping between virtual desktops.
Plasma Mobile Ported to Nexus 5X
Plasma Mobile, KDE's ongoing product to provide a Plasma implementation suitable for mobile phones was made to run on the Nexus 5X. The previous reference device, the Nexus 5 (sans "X") was getting a bit dated, and since it's not easily available on the market anymore, a new reference device that people can get their hands on was needed. Bhushan Shah solved the last problems keeping us from using this newer and faster device as a development platform. Images will be appearing shortly, and the team is looking forward to receiving (and addressing) feedback about Plasma on the 5X.
While not strictly Plasma, the team made a final push to getting KDE's websites at www.kde.org updated. A tireless effort by Ken Vermette with the help of Harald Sitter and a few more helping hands lead to the shiny new design being revealed during the course of the sprint.
On the less technical side, a sprint such as this is always a good opportunity to talk about how we work together, and how we present ourselves to the outside world. While we have made great strides to improve our software by applying more thorough review processes, continuous testing and integration and paying more attention to the wishes and problems of our users, we want to put more focus on stability. One way to achieve this is to move bigger feature merges more towards the beginning of a development cycle, thereby increasing the amount of time we have for testing and ironing out problems.
Sprints like this are only possible with the support of our community. We would like to thank the KDE e.V. for making this sprint (as many others before) possible. A special note of appreciation goes out to all those who donated to KDE e.V., without your support, we cannot get together in person to discuss and work. Personal interaction, while not necessary on a daily basis helps us to improve our collaboration, communication, team-work, and not at least the software we create for our users.
Linux Action Show
The Linux Action Show did an interview with the team at the sprint, watch this episode from 5 minutes in to meet the crew.
In March, the yearly meeting of KDE's Plasma team was held in Geneva, kindly hosted by the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN). In-person meetings provide unique opportunities to work together face-to-face, at high bandwidth to tackle problems together and plan for the future. As there were some other groups present during this meeting, notably the visual design group and the Wiki cleanup team, there was ample opportunity to think outside of the Plasma box.
The Plasma team discussed many topics that are currently being worked on, or need more attention, but also sat down to hack on the code. The result was a nice mix of hands-on activities and dreaming of the future.
The Randa Meetings 2015 came to a successful end a while ago, so it is time to look back, see what we achieved and give you a little summary of the events that took place in the Swiss Alps this year. As usual we had quite a collection of meetings in one big house, which is why the event is called Randa Meetings, in plural. We might have already explained that last year, but it seems to be something that doesn't stick yet!
The meetings altogether were a big success, thus we would like to thank all the supporters, sponsors and other people and groups who made the event possible. As we pointed out during the fundraiser: It's because of these people, hopefully including you, that people from all across the globe were able to get a lot of work done and make the software you love even better. The participants did not only fly to Switzerland from all across the globe, they also were quite a mixed bunch regarding age, background and projects they are working on. So if you like the work we are doing and describe below don't hesitate to support us and donate.
Modern life has become increasingly dependent on software systems. Many daily used devices rely on Free Software for their basic functionality or additional services. TV sets, ATMs, smartphones, media centers and in-flight entertainment systems are examples of how Free Software has been pushing the boundaries of current technology. This is achieved by using well-proven solutions, developed in a collaborative, open, and trusted way. The Workspaces, Applications, and Frameworks delivered by KDE are representatives of the empowerment Free Software provides to our lifes. Examples are educational applications of the KDE-Edu suite, lots of KDE technology deployments in public centers for digital inclusion and a full open software stack for mobile devices with Plasma Mobile.
Furthermore, in the past few years KDE has been a quite fruitful community for incubating projects like GCompris, ownCloud, and WikiFM. This is a good indication of how open, diverse, and bold the community turned out to be. KDE also coaches young Computer Science professionals: our continuous participation in programs such as Google Summer of Code (GSoC) and Season of KDE (SoK) has been providing a welcoming and fertile atmosphere for newcomers, helping leverage their technical and social skills and enjoy the full experience of Free Software contribution.
About a year ago, we talked with several people who were going to work together in Randa, Switzerland. These people were united by a love of KDE and had common motives—to make KDE technology better and have tons of fun while doing it!
The 5th edition of the Randa Meetings high in the Swiss Alps in August 2014 was a huge success, with many new features and major new additions to KDE technology, through the dedicated efforts of about 50 KDE developers taking a week out of their busy lives to bring great software to users.
Among the attendees last year was Călin Cruceru, an enthusiastic Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2014 student working on Marble, the virtual globe and world atlas. He was one of the youngest members of KDE, and worked ardently in Randa along with his mentors and fellow GSoC students during the week. The 2014 Randa Meetings were productive for the Marble project, and quite an experience for Călin who was in his first KDE sprint.
All of this was possible because of your donations to the fundraiser for the Randa Meetings. We are asking you to continue with your financial support this year; we are excited about the Randa Meetings in 2015 with the theme Bring Touch to KDE.
It's been quite some time since the Randa Meetings 2014 and even this year's edition of the KDE Community Summit called Akademy has already happened, but it's still nice to look back and see what was accomplished at this KDE Tech Summit in the middle of the Swiss Alps.
And before we tell you what all the seven groups that participated in the meetings this year (and because of the different group and collection of several meetings under one and the same roof it's called "Randa Meetings" with a plural s ;-) we would like to thank all the supporters and people who made this gathering possible. It's because of you that we were able to work hard for a whole week and make the software you love even better. On the group picture you see how diverse KDE is and that this year some KDE contributors could bring their families and partners and thus didn't need to decide between either family or hacking for KDE.