All-around KDE guru David Faure (website) recently attended the Linux Expo in Paris and subsequently the OSDEM developer meeting in Brussels. Below he gives us his very interesting impressions of the events, especially how they relate to our favorite desktop.
Linux Expo Paris
The Expo organizers offered KDE a free booth. Not a big one - I would even say
that it was probably the smallest booth at the whole show :). But the booth was quite nice, with two computers (kindly provided by Mandrakesoft), two huge KDE posters (kindly printed by people at the HP booth, after Gerard Delafont, the French translator who set up the booth, convinced them that they were under-utilizing their printers ;) ). We also had many papers to give away about KDE, prepared by the French "translation" team, but which also does a very good job of promoting KDE. They even had prepared a really nice press kit, which I think
should be translated into English now, so that we can get more journalists to write about KDE.
The booth in front of us was full of books, and I was happily surprised to see
the KDE 2.0 Development book there - for which I wrote the KParts chapter - as I had not seen it in its final form yet.
As usual for some time now, KDE could be seen at almost every booth. As someone said, the small KDE booth wasn't our point of presence, but the whole Expo was:). And we had many, many visitors at the booth (except the day when there was
a strike of the metro company. Don't get me started about Paris!). KDE is definitely used by most of the Linux users in France - and the fact that Linux-Mandrake represents 70% of the French market now (in terms of Linux boxes sold) certainly helps.
Meeting with happy KDE users is very refreshing. The developer point-of-view on the software we release is quite negative on the whole, since we mostly hear about bugs and problems, not so much about all the happy users :). So I was quite reassured about the quality of our releases after many people told me that they were using KDE 2.0[.1] every day, and had no trouble whatsoever with it. Of
course I got a few bug reports (and, hmm, some are quite grave, like AltGr not
working at all in KDM and no way to display the Euro symbol). What comes out of discussing with many people is the obvious need for an office suite under Linux, and this instills me with the idea of starting to work on KWord. The need for MS Office documents filters is urgent as well, of course. It seems that attending this Expo convinced Laurent Montel to start looking at the MS Excel filter for KSpread, which is good :).
I also met many developers interested in using KDE as a development platform. Many more than I expected, in fact - which is very good. There may be a need for translated API documentation in KDE and Qt. Having English-only documentation
seems to be a problem for some (or many, that's difficult to say) French developers. I talked to Trolltech about that, we'll see if something happens. In any case, KDevelop is of great help for many. To attract more developers to KDE, spreading the word about how powerful the KDE/Qt architecture and libraries are is very important. I might write articles about this again, because it's really
the best way to tell people about it. I was impressed to see that many had read the articles I wrote a year ago! And it's another way of providing development support material in French.
On Friday I gave a talk about KDE, the usual talk about overall features and most used applications. It went well, although the room wasn't even half-full, due to the talk starting quite early (9am). No technical problems for the first time - thanks to the fact that IBM provided me with a really nice laptop a week ago. One thing that I emphasized was the fact that we were welcoming developers to join the project, and I particularly talked about the need for people working on KOffice. I realized that most of those who would like to help, need to realize they don't have to be a genius like Reggie to help with KDE/KOffice :), and that it's always possible to start with small bug-fixes before grasping everything. And indeed, we might have "recruited" a couple of new developers, as well as translators!
One thing about presentations: never hack KPresenter the night before a presentation :). When you realize at 2am that you don't have it working , you're in trouble :).
The OSDEM is an open-source developers meeting that took place in Brussels last weekend. It was really interesting. A developer meeting is very different from the usual trade shows. Even though the audience was quite large, it really seems like most of it were developers, and the talks were definitely technical, which was quite interesting.
The presence of a hacking room is also a good hint about the type of event it was :). Speaking of which, I'm quite impressed by how much VALinux did for that event. It seems they sponsored most of it, provided the hardware for the hacking rooms and paid for journalists to come over to the event. I was really surprised by how many journalists where there
- and shortly after my arrival I learned that I had an "interview schedule", to meet most of them during the two days :). This was quite interesting, the journalists being interested by very different aspects of KDE - one of them even already knew a lot about KDE, including DCOP and the kdcop tool :). The journalists came from Germany and from the UK (quite ironical for me, as I am from France and live in the UK now :)), so expect articles about KDE and/or the OSDEM in
German and British magazines.
The downside of those interviews was that I didn't have much time for attending the conferences. I only went to the Mozilla talk, and to the Gnome one :). The first one - I guess I shouldn't comment on the second one :) - made me realize that Mozilla and Konqueror are not really competitors, because their goals are quite different. Konqueror is IMHO the browser everyone needs right now under Linux/Unix :), whereas Mozilla is the development of a cross-platform browser (and mail client etc.), with all the trouble
that cross-platform means. For instance the fact that this involves developing your own toolkit (in the case of Mozilla it's the XUL/XBL framework), to define widgets from some XML description, etc. So when the Mozilla developers are tired of being asked "But when do we have a working browser under Linux ?", they
should point people to Konqueror :).
Later on I actually met with the Mozilla guys in the hacking room, and we discussed various things, from a specific infraction to the DOM specification to the bookmarks implementation. As you might know, Konqueror now uses the XBEL format for its bookmarks, a
format that was defined by the Python XML SIG group. Mozilla uses some RDF format (at least internally, and apparently because many other things use RDF in Mozilla), but hopefully they may be convinced to use something like XBEL ;). It's true that a very good incentive for that would be if it were a W3C standard.
My talk was Sunday morning. It was a presentation of KDE as a development platform. I presented most of the technologies provided by KDE's libraries, and one
hour is even short for talking about all that :). The evening before, I added some slides about out-of-process embedding and XParts, after discussing with Thomas Capricelli and Philippe Fremy, the KVim developers, and realizing
that this new technology was missing from my presentation. Thanks much to the
XParts developers for their very good white paper :). It's great to have XParts, not really for our own use, but so that people can start dreaming again about integration with other object models. I also hacked KPresenter a bit more (did I mention that this is always a bad idea right before a conference ? :)
The room almost full (IIRC it was a 150-people room), and the talk went well. As for all the presentations done during that event, there were 2 or 3 cameras,
filming the whole presentation! I was told that the videos would be available on the web (in a streamed format) soon. That would be really great and helpful for new developers, to have a video presentation of KDE's technologies.
I enjoyed this meeting a lot, and I'm looking forward to the next OSDEM, since
I was told there may be one next year. If only it could take place in a city where it doesn't rain all day, and if there could be a bit more KDE developers, it wouldn't hurt :)