Desktop Linux Conference: KDE Report

On Monday, thanks to the amazing help of Jill Ratkevic, Bruce Perens and Xandros, I was able to attend the Desktop Linux Conference to represent and speak about KDE. I followed a talk by Xandros, another KDE based product, and their demonstration was an impressive example of how KDE is being used to do great things. My talk focussed on what KDE is, what it provides, and where we're going with 3.2. It's standard for KDE developers, but important for those who are looking to move to Linux on the desktop. It was a long day!

There was an excellent turnout for the event, and the facilities were ideal. The talk schedule did change quite a bit, both in speakers and in timing. My talk was scheduled for 3:15 but didn't start until approximately 4:00. At that time everyone, including myself, was tired but we made the best of things.

I spent much of the day listening to other talks and talking to an uncountable number of people about Linux and KDE. I could write forever but it would bore you and take too much of my time, so here are some key points I learned:

  • We still haven't educated people enough regarding FreeQt. People who should be well educated about these things were still trying to tell me that if Trolltech is acquired, KDE would end up being a proprietary platform.
  • Our PR is worse in North America than I had originally imagined. Many people use KDE, few know what it is, and I suspect some think they're using other things even.
  • wants to work with us. We need to work with them. Let's get going folks!
  • Government regulated/approved accessibility is no longer optional. If we don't do it and do it now, we might as well give up hope of seeing KDE accepted into government and corporate institutions.
  • We need to come up with an alternative plugin scheme to Mozilla's XP based plugins that can be used across all Linux browsers, and perhaps on other platforms too. Browser plugins are a mess.
  • The Linux Desktop, according to business types, is Linux+Desktop+Mozilla+OpenOffice. We need to integrate better with OpenOffice, and we need to better educate people about Konqueror.
  • The real target for most businesses (IBM and others) is thin clients and hybrid configurations. Ironically KDE is best suited to this, especially with Kiosk mode (something people were demanding at the conference, and apparently NovellXimianSuse will provide a proprietary Ximian desktop solution for).
  • Businesses want a corporate partner to buy their free desktop from. Go figure.
  • Novell is really stressing the "ISV support" point. It's as though they're taking a lesson from Microsoft - give away inferior product to destroy the competition and then provide expensive peripheral applications and vendor lock-in. Ironic that they took direct shots at Red Hat for apparently trying to do this.
  • We need to be involved with the Desktop Linux Consortium. We need help from everyone to speak about KDE, and additionally about Linux on the desktop in general.
  • We need to continue our work with The X server enhancements coming from there will be very good too.
  • Let's get involved with Fedora. They want our support. There is mutual benefit to be had.
  • Linux on the desktop is a 4-6 million machine pie right now. That's 1-1.5% of the market. There's only one direction to go from here. We need to make sure that KDE remains competitive and retains our majority portion of that pie.
  • There are some great case studies out there, and we need more of them.

This is a summary of what I learned and saw at the conference. Of course it's not a complete picture but I think it illustrates what the direction is for Linux on the desktop, what we need to do, and what's possible in the future.

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Letter of the SUSE CEO to the KDE developers: kde-core-devel

Did you that Quote: "E.g. why do we not open Linux for Apple's Mac OS desktop?"

Yours, Kay

He has said that already in a previous interview (before Novel acquired SUSE) as long-term dream (5-6 years?). But do you really think that will happen?


I don't think it would make any kind of sense. Not for Apple, not for Suse/Novell except one party could buy out the other. Can it now?

But then I question the seriosity of the support for KDE. I understand that Novell bought SUSE for Yast and Server not for KDE.

Yours, Kay

by Ian Monroe (not verified)

Does he mean he wants the Mac OS desktop ported to Linux? Porting Linux to Mac OS would certainly be silly.

I'm trying to order some scrapbooking things,and it won't let me get passed the message,"Required fields are in bold"
Could you please tell me what this means. Thank you,

Sounds like:
KDE is great and I love it. But the Ximian guys will
take care of the desktop stuff from now on.
Bad news for KDE users I fear...

I think you misinterprete something here. To me it reads differently - otherwise he wouldn't write "Novell, we will ALSO enable our
customers to use GNOME with the same convenience and comfort KDE offers to me
and all SUSE employees today.".
This pretty much means that GNOME will stay an alternative.

by Mike (not verified)

He just basically said KDE is better than GNOME but they will try to make GNOME as good as KDE.

I don't see how that will happen. if that happens it means that KDE would no longer be better than GNOME because right now anyway you package GNOME, like in Fedora or like in Ximian Desktop it isn't better than KDE. If oyu take an apple and put it in 50 different packages it will still be an apple and you can't make it an organge. by this its almost like hes suggesting to stop KDE development and wait for GNOME.

by OI (not verified)

Something like that.
And that's why that "we will strongly support KDE"
seems pretty much like...bullshit.

To me it sounds like that the current amount of "strong" support will be kept (but there will be no 40 Indian programmers hired to work on it additionally).

Pls, don´t get this wrong, I bought SuSE to support KDE, as I thought they do the best for this wonderful project. But looking at the latest development, I´m not really sure, if they continue theire way... Doesn´t matter what they write in theire letters... Can anyone tell me, which distro is supporting KDE strongly with developers or even money, so I will swith to this distro;)?

If you want to support KDE (and only KDE) I guess the best way is supporting KDE directly, see ;)

What really bugs me with this is that *there is no organization in the world*, big or small, that in the end of the day will keep two internally competing units. They just MUST streamline the operations, or otherwise they are stupid. Everything else said seems like a lie - but the big question is, which way to go. Obviously they don't know that either.

The beauty of Open Source is that the least they have to do is install a stock KDE which will be good.

The isuue is they may want an environment they can control better, and which they can give their customers without any hidden costs. There are hidden costs associated with Qt. Yes, their customers can use Qt Free, but it just means too much explaining to do. If they do that, I can understand where they are coming from, like I understand where Redhat is coming from when they prefer GTK to Qt. If their customers decide on Qt, its neither better nor worse for Redhat. They may have to make such a decision, and they may not have to if it makes financial sense to support the 2 environments.

Personally I was very impressed by the mail by Richard Seibt to kde-core-devel. How many times did the CEO of such a big linux company post to a _developer_-mailinglist to assure his support? Obviously SuSE must have been contacted by a lot of customers to make that happen.

And I think the content is pretty much positive as well: I worked for SuSE for 3 years as a KDE developer and I know that most people who work at R&D at SuSE like KDE - many of them even started to use Linux because of it. So while I have always been sure that KDE at SuSE is something the R&D department can't live without I haven't been completely sure in regard to their (current) management.

Therefore I it's quite a relieve for me to see that in the first 30% of his mail SuSE's CEO characterizes KDE as the user chosen de facto standard in Europe and asserts that there would be no corporate/consumer desktop without KDE today.
Of course he has got to take Gnome into that picture as well, so there's no surprise that he tells how Gnome will fit into the picture at SuSE in the future. It's no surprise that Ximian will take over this part. Interesting point is that he uses the word "also" for the Gnome support - so it's still targeted as an alternative and obviously not as a default.
In the last third of the mail he says that SuSE is commited to deliver what the customer asks for. As he already mentioned in the first part customers - especially in Europe ask for KDE. So for the current foreseeable future they will very very probably stay with KDE.

Of course nobody can guarantee that it will stay this way. But IMHO as long as KDE developers listen closely to their users we can make sure that SuSE's customers continue to ask for KDE as the default.

I think it's pretty much telling that although Redhat defaults to Gnome (well actually in the current releases not so much anymore), KDE still enjoys such a high acceptance in the US - So many many people there are obviously not very much satisfied with Redhat's default and change it to something that makes more sense to them. Compare this just to SuSE in Europe where switching to Gnome would be easier to find out and easier to do: Still on the last LWCE in Frankfurt about 90% of all desktops showed KDE (the remaining ones mostly MS Windows). And this is pretty much consistent with my own experience with SuSE customers.

So IMHO there isn't too much to worry about - just much work to do: We have to continue to make sure that KDE will stay the best desktop environment around and people Have a lot of fun with it :-)

Yeah, right on. I am a first class Win-to-SuSe-mover, normally operating in the embedded market, and like this kind of support and attitude from vendors.

Best regards
The Netherlands

by Alex (not verified)

"Novell is really stressing the "ISV support" point. It's as though they're taking a lesson from Microsoft - give away inferior product to destroy the competition and then provide expensive peripheral applications and vendor lock-in. Ironic that they took direct shots at Red Hat for apparently trying to do this."


"The real target for most businesses (IBM and others) is thin clients and hybrid configurations. Ironically KDE is best suited to this, especially with Kiosk mode (something people were demanding at the conference, and apparently NovellXimianSuse will provide a proprietary Ximian desktop solution for)."

SUSE will no longer back KDE in the long run? Slowly GNOME is replacing KDE in their distribution?

I think this is a bad idea for them. They have invested quite a bit into KDE, their employees know KDE best and their customers buy SUSE for KDE, and SUSE has had a bad track record with GNOME.

Furthermore, there is room for two desktops, both DKE and GNOME emphasize on different things and both are better at some things than the other. I thought that SUSE would continue to have KDE as the default, but would just work on the GNOME option to bring it to the same level. It sounds like, this is not what is happening and I am very dissapointed in SUSE for selling out like this if my fears are true.

Having GNOME become the single major force on the corporate desktop is bad for Linux and and it means less choice for consumers as well as reduced innovation. I fear for the future of SUSE, and KDE, but I am hoping that SUSE will put its faith in KDE as it has in the past and that they have done this to bring LINUX forward not just for the money.

by Alex (not verified)

If he truly means what he is saying and it is not just good pr for SUSE so that their customers wouldn't be upset, than I am happy. But, i have my doubt about the truth of what he is saying, surely you can understand, after all Novll has purchased Ximian and Ximian Desktop 2 has destroyed my KDE on both redhat and SUSE when I installed it. Nothing worked in it anymore. I do not like it that Ximian sababtoges KDE when you install it, this is the same kidn of thing Microsoft did to Wordperfect.

by George Staikos (not verified)

I'm not sure, honestly. Novell did announce that they are making Kiosk-like support for Evolution (and I believe via support in XD but I'm not entirely sure). They said that the client would be free but the server would probably be proprietary.

I only tell it like I heard it, and I won't make assumptions about what that means.

Don't read all of this as much as "Gnome" but as "Ximian Desktop".

by Alex (not verified)

No matter how I spin it, XD is still GNOME, just in a nicer package its kind of like Staroffice vs Openoffice.

by Anonymous (not verified)

> wants to work with us. We need to work with them.

I'm looking forward to "Q" having a GUI toolkit abstraction.

> Government regulated/approved accessibility is no longer optional

There much depends on Qt 4's accessibility support. Still some months away.

> We need to be involved with the Desktop Linux Consortium.

KDE is member of the Desktop Linux Consortium.

> We need to continue our work with The X server enhancements

I hear that already patches for this exists eg for ksnapshot taking screenshots with mouse pointer.

> Let's get involved with Fedora.

Sounds like something for the "KDE for Red Hat Linux" project.

by George Staikos (not verified)

> > We need to be involved with the Desktop Linux Consortium.
> KDE is member of the Desktop Linux Consortium.

Being involved and being a member are completely different things.

by Chakie (not verified)

Isn't Fedora the future for RedHat? The distro that had KDE in it just because it had to be included? Why would someone want to work with Fedora then? It's a US distro, ergo it's a Gnome distro. I'm stuck with a RedHat 9 at work, and the KDE there was just plain bad, I had to konstruct a newer and unbroken KDE just to be able to work comfortably.

by Alex (not verified)

This is the reason we should work on Fedora, just to get their crippled KDE up to spec. So people like you won't need to konstruct a new KDE when they are forced to use it and so that people everywhere who use the distro won't think that the KDE shipped with Fedora is really as good as KDE gets. Redhat has a larg emarketshare, especially in the US, it is no coincidence that KDE's PR and acceptance is lower in US and that Redhat and GNOME's marketshare is higher in the US.

We can change that.

by Richard (not verified)

It is already been worked on:

by A. Nonymous (not verified)

As I understand it, is a part of the Fedora project, or at least closely linked with it. The kde-redhat page is full of references to Fedora.

by Derek Kite (not verified)

Well, Redhat tried, and it didn't sell. They basically abandoned the whole thing, and spawned Fedora.

Give them a chance to learn from their mistakes.

What is interesting is that the successful desktop distributions use KDE.


by lrandall (not verified)

>What is interesting is that the successful desktop distributions use KDE.

Yeah, I also find that very interesting. When I first started using Linux one year ago, I came in with no biases, and decided to see which I would choose between Gnome and KDE.

Interestingly enough, I started with Gnome because out of the box I thought it looked better, but got frustrated with using it within a day or two, so I switched to KDE, and I never looked back from there. Six months later I removed Windows from my hard drive completely.

KDE is the only way to go on the desktop

by Michael Pyne (not verified)

Just because a distribution is American doesn't mean it's a GNOME distribution. I find that the KDE support in Gentoo, for example, is excellent. I'm sure the same is true for distributions such as Debian. As far as Fedora is concerned, the fact that it is the future of Red Hat is exactly the reason why KDE should work with Fedora. If the Fedora Project is indicating that they're trying to drop their policy of crippling KDE, then I think KDE should give them all the help they need. Remember, we need Fedora more than they need KDE if we're trying to gain mindshare and desktops.

by Ross Baker (not verified)

--Remember, we need Fedora more than they need KDE if we're trying to gain mindshare and desktops.

I disagree. Mindshare -- yes. To capture desktops they need KDE as much as KDE needs them!

by Datschge (not verified)

"we need Fedora more than they need KDE if we're trying to gain mindshare and desktops"

Who or what is Fedora? =P

Seriously though, Fedora, being a successor to Red Hat but barely publically mentioned by them at all, is not (yet? never?) in a position where it could claim to be helpful for any project simply due to the fact it's a very new brand only insiders (aka geeks) really know about. The fact that Fedora, in contrary to the former Red Hat Linux, won't be made available as boxed software to the more general public is further weakening the potential goal of bringing Linux desktop to the average joe.

RH's version of KDE was indeed crappy, but Fedora != RedHat.

Still crappy IMO, lots of features they had on by default in GNOME were off in KDE. Sure, I could turn them on, but that defies the point. For example, an easy Samba browser, recent documents etc were default in GNOME in KDE I had to do it themselves, but these are just small issues there were things that pisse dme off more.

by Anonymous (not verified)

Fedora as of today is still 9x% RedHat - or where are the independent developers? And even then the "steering committee" deciding about if and how to include KDE consists of 100% RedHat employees.

by Roberto Alsina (not verified)

The KDE support in Fedora is completely different from Red Hat's, really.

So, where are the independent developers? Doing the KDE packages.

by Navindra Umanee (not verified)

Oh really? Have you installed Fedora? What does the KDE look like? A stock distribution or still BlueCurve?

I'd be very surprised if it wasn't in tune with Red Hat's offering... I guess Fedora is pretty much a fork of Red Hat!

by Roberto Alsina (not verified)

I have no idea how a stock fedora looks like.

However, I've been using Fedora with the kde-redhat source in my apt since almost 6 months ago, and it is pretty much a stock KDE from CVS, without
the dependency mess, with many extras (PyKDE, yay! :-), and yes, with bluecurve as default.

Or at least it was the default 6 months ago, IIRC.

Fedora is slightly worse in terms of KDE support. Instead of just using the session menu to choose KDE as your default, you now have to go back to the system menu - find the desktop switch option (under more system settings I believe) and then reboot). Also, still all gnome speed buttons on the bottom taskbar under KDE. And no k3b CD Writer etc.

That's not what I would call a slight issue. That's what I would call a major step back.

What is this KDE GNOME "part of the world" talk?
Putting some kind of nationalistic stamp on a distro
is really ridiculous.

Don't you understand? Gnome is an _international_
desktop. KDE is an _international_ desktop.


Of course that's true and all, but for various reasons, KDE seems to be more popular in Europe ( ) than in North America (because of RedHat), and vice versa (because of every other non-commercial distro)

I'm an American who uses KDE :-)

by theorz (not verified)

I have to agree with pretty much everything there.
Especially on backing the xserver. Have you guys seen this:

by Mike (not verified)

Looks promising.
THX for the link.

by kinema (not verified)

Does anyone know if there are any KDE developers working on supporting Keith's new extensions? I know that they may not be finished yet but it would be a great thing to see KDE support things like true alpha blending as soon as the capablities are in the X server.

by Anonymous (not verified)

Fredrik Hoeglung is following this X server development very close.

by cies (not verified)

This transperant/SVG overlays look gorgeous!

I dream of ksvg doing all the icons like this eventually ;-)

by David Gerard (not verified)

So what was the problem with XPCOM plugins?

by George Staikos (not verified)

It's extremely complicated for other browsers to implement. It would be like standardizing on KParts and having, ex Mozilla, implement all their plugins like that. It's just not practical.

by manyoso (not verified)

I think KDE really needs a big champion. I would love IBM to get involved and go with KDE for their desktop platform of choice. Alternatively, I think KDE needs to see the rise of a corporate champion that will take stock KDE and market it. Xandros, Lycoris, Lindows all use KDE, but none of them really fit in with the KDE community. We need a symbiotic relationship with a major corporate backer like GNOME has/had with Ximian/Novell that will push stock (or near stock) KDE exclusively. No GNOME components.

Also, I understand that KOffice will be using the OpenOffice formats in an upcoming release. Will we then be able to use the OpenOffice import/export filters for Word? If so, then I think we should still ride the KOffice horse for all it is worth.