Ars Technica: Deep inside the K Desktop Environment 3.2

Ars Technica features an article "Deep inside the K Desktop Environment 3.2" written by Datschge and Henrique Pinto. After introducing KDE and the project's structure the authors present some new applications of KDE 3.2. After that they explain the key KDE technologies KParts, DCOP, KIO, Kiosk and KXMLGUI and give examples for code reusage and an overview of efforts to integrate non-KDE applications. For developers Umbrello, Cervisia and Valgrind with KCachegrind are introduced and of course KDevelop 3.0. An examination of licenses is preceding the positive conclusion.

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by Kurt Pfeifle (not verified)

This is a phantastic piece of work by Datschge and Henrique Pinto.

Thanks a lot!

Kurt (who's bookmarked it to send the URL out to some friends later today)

by David (not verified)

Yer. I liked the explanation of the development infrastructure (nice diagrams to go with it - developers like their diagrams :)) and the explanation of licensing was well handled. Nice, straightforward explanations with no silliness, which it could have descended into when talking about the licensing of Qt etc. Paying a license for closed-source development work? Whatever next?

by John Tapsell (not verified)

You also have to pay a license to do open-source development that you want to be cross-platform.
(or find someone that has a license and is willing to recompile for windows all the time).

For opensource projects wanting to be cross-platform, qt is pretty unusable :(
I'm in this problem now for, because the artists use windows, and need the tools to work in windows.

by Anonymous Coward (not verified)

Christ - will the whining never stop !!

Just pay up for a commercial licence and help support Qt

by Source (not verified)

Yeah, he works for free, promotes Qt with his free work for free, and now he even want's to make it cross platform and have more people benefiting from it for free? I think it's wrong, he should be paying for it already!

by ac (not verified)

Where in his post does it say he was forced to use Qt? Please point out where he did not have a choice in using something else.

by Datschge (not verified)

Yes, I agree it's bad that customers need to pay for Windows and MacOS licenses first before being able to use Open Source. Oh, wait a moment...

by David Johnson (not verified)

I just went to the page, and in the FAQ is says, and I quote, "Is everything free? Yes. Most of our source code is covered by the GNU General Public Licence (GPL). A few libraries are released under the LGPL , but we recommend the GPL for libraries too."

So in other words, you want all of your library contributions to be under the GPL, but you don't want third party libraries like Qt to be under the GPL. Go figure...

In any case, you can still use the non-commercial Qt (3.2.1 available with new Qt book), and though it's not GPL compatible, all you need to do is to add an exception for your own code.

by CE (not verified)

Oh, he didn't stated that.
He just wanted a free (not gratis) version of Qt/Windows.

And Qt/X11 with Cygwin isn't enough.

But I can understand TrollTech, because of what they experienced with the non-commercial edition of Qt 2.2. (typical for the Windows world?)

by Tukla Ratte (not verified)

>> (typical for the Windows world?)

Rampant piracy?

It's the Windows way!

by cwoelz (not verified)

No words!

BTW, could you point to the updated Compiling KDE CVS for Newbies?

by cwoelz (not verified)

By you I mean Datschge.

by Datschge (not verified)

Eric Bangeman, the responsible Ars editor, changed it. Thank him. =)

by Fabrice Mous (not verified)

Really, really great article. This looks a lot like the feature guide we had with KDE 3.1.

What's the copyright of this article btw?



by MK (not verified)

good question. If it's free enough I would like to add some of it to the Wikipedia article about KDE (

by Anonymous (not verified)

Why not just link it?

by Fabrice Mous (not verified)

You need to contact the responsible ars technica editor for this article.


by Kevin Krammer (not verified)

> With both KDE and Qt/X11 being GPL'ed

I am used to reading this in troll postings but not in articles of KDE promo people.

If you don't want to write that kdelibs are mostly LGPL with some parts being BSD licences, write that KDE is GPL compatible.

"KDE is GPL'ed" in not helping!


They also write this:

... the availability of both the QPL and the GPL for Qt/X11 allows the KDE project to continue its own liberal licensing policy allowing most forms of free software to become a part of the KDE project.

by Dawnrider (not verified)

It's all academic.

Essentially all the people ever talking about this topic are deliberately stirring. They know what the true situation is, and just try and subvert the conversation because they can. They have no interest in being set straight and the precise wording of an article such as this will make no difference.

Just mention KDE or QT in any article on Slashdot or OSNews, and the GTK/anti-QT lot come out to play. That's just life.

by Kraig (not verified)

Its all they have to justify there existance.

by Joergen Ramskov (not verified)

You should contact the editor and make them aware of it. I'm quite sure they're willing to update it if there are errors in the article.

by Datschge (not verified)

While I agree that out of the context the quoted text doesn't fare well I don't see a huge need to correct it since what I'm saying there highly depends on the context anyway. The wording as is is imo the easiest to understand one in that context without having to add a whole sentence explaining how the GPL is the lowest common denominator among the licenses in that specific case and how that matters. I think I sufficiently described each cases for the reader both to follow the text easily and grasp the basic idea described. And I won't be able to avoid it if someone really wants to take the text out of context. Feel free to disagree.

Nota bene: regarding the licensing issue I'm actually surprised that Dre didn't appear yet with his theory claiming that use of open source within companies is still distribution. Ah well... =P

by Debian User (not verified)

Topic says it all. Grats.

Yours, Kay

by ac (not verified)
by Jonathan Brugge (not verified)

For dutch readers, there's an article on ( which talks about the licensing also mentioned in the article by Ars Technica and also mentions some other points from the article. It's based on the article by Ars Technica and might be a good read for those who prefer Dutch. The story from Ars Technica provides for a very nice read, so you're encouraged to read that as well :).

I'm still planning to write something like this article, but which also goes into more detail about the possibilities of Konqueror or KIO, and maybe arts and Kontact and numerous other applications. Given enough time, that could make for an interesting article as well.

by Datschge (not verified)

Something like that could easily be extended to a KDE User Book or something like that for promotion. After the generally positive feedback for this article I'm inclined to give it a try if the effort is combined to directly benefits other areas like help documentation and 'what's this' context help etc. =)

by Inorog (not verified)

Thanks a lot for the excellent KDE review you wrote. I read it with interest, only to discover that I felt as if I was speaking it myself, but a lot clearer and cleaner than I could. I like the very crisp phrasing and the rich hyperlinking.

Great work!

by Alex (not verified)

I haven't seen such a good in depth article in a long time and this is by far the ebst review I have ever read.

by Solic (not verified)

It's an odd story for me. I was a long time GNOME advocate, it was fun and I never really got into KDE or wanted to. My first disitrbution was Redhat, as often seems to happen, you fall in lvoe with your first distro ;p It had its problems, I did not sue Redhat 7.2 as my full time desktop, Windows to me was a better desktop, but I still liked to ocassionally play around with it etc. and I was always on Linux and GNOME related websites even though I did not use it so much. The more time pased, the more polished Redhat got, and than out of nowhere it seemed, GNOME 2.0 came, I was throughly dissapointed. Never had I thought that a project could go backwards so fast, I am not speaking about the architecture, amybe that was better, but from a user's point of view it was a nightmare. It crashed more often than Windows by a longshot, it was very very slow, and too many features were removed. I am all for simplifying the user interface, removing redundant options, and options nobody uses, but just too many good features were removed which could have simply been implemented better. I would rather have 3 more items clog up my menu and have the features I need instead of some haughty developer telling me what people use and making me lose 3 hours. I did not like the new attitude of the GNOME project, it felt elitist and it was no longer fun, it didn't feel like it had a personality of it's own, it was rather molded into whatever IBM, SUN and Ximian wanted it to be, no longer what the loyal users wanted. But, I stuck with it, I was afterall still a GNOME zealot. That is until Redhat 9 came about, I liked it, it was an improvement as a system, but GNOME felt very much the same, I didn't even notice any new features, just a lot fo bugfixes, optimizations and a few UI fixes here and there, but I expected more. So, I decided to give KDE a whirl and see how it improved since the last time I tried it which was at version 2.2. WOW, it felt a lot faster than before, even though GNOME started up faster, KDE was faster to use and it had many of the features I wanted in GNOME before, but it was also lacking soem I liekd in GNOME, such as drawers, emblems, more attractive thumbnails, and shadowed text. I liked it and I decided to spend more time with it, after spending 2 more weeks switching between the two I was using KDE more often than GNOME and I started being interested in the community. I noticed that it felt like an OSS project, like GNOME once was, it had the sense of spirit, hope, joy and passion I admired in GNOME before. Best of all, it was not in the least bit elitist, I could submit whatever I wanted to websites like KDE-LOOK and my only judge was the community, not some high and mighty elitist judge. With KDE 3.2, and after following it's development, I am switched on it. I do not use KDE 3.2 full time as Fedora does not ship with it yet, but I did try it in a recent Mandrake Beta and I liked it very much, lots of improvements everywhere as the authors mention. THe KDE releases are meaningful, they are feature absed, not time based, that's why KDE 3.2 took a year to get out the door, due to the delays. The developers are very dedicated and made sure when they released it that it was what they wanted it to be. GNOME, since their new attitude change has made no delays, they would rather release a buggy product rather than delay it for their users. I also like that KDE is much more moderate. GNOME is all or nothing when it comes to many issues, such as the UI. It's either remove all features practically which are not used by 80% of people or remove none, KDE carefully examines what they remove and will not remove what they don't feel is essential because they don't screw their users. They are improving their UI rapidly, NOTE IMPROVING, NOT REMOVING EVERYTHING so there is nothing to improve. The way GNOME handles it reminds me of Win2k3 which instead of improving secuirity and fixing vulnerabilities simply sht down all services with exploits. GREAT SOLUTION GUYS!

by A New Invention... (not verified)

... is called paragraphs! My eyes are burning!

by The Badger (not verified)

Work on that attention span, then!

by Tukla Ratte (not verified)

Yeah, kids these days and their "paragraphs". Why, we never used paragraphs in the old days, before the MTV. Bah!

by Aaron J. Seigo (not verified)

these are the kinds of anecdotes that make me so very happy. not because of someone switching away from something (in this case GNOME), but because it's evidence that the project's efforts and visions are being communicated to KDE users through the resulting product. that's an amazingly difficult thing to do, and i'm in awe of everyone involved. =)

Solic: welcome to KDE. i hope we can continue to provide you with the software you _want_ to use. =)

by Eric Laffoon (not verified)

I concur. This post highlights the point that you and I are so strong on... that usability is not reduced user options but intelligent presets and carefully thought out and organized options. Eliminating options to eliminate confusion does not empower users. Empowering users in a way that is friendly is an exercise in it's self and not an easy, short, trite answer. Not to downplay how challenging it is to accomplish these design objectives and have them be noticed I think the evidence of the effort is actually pretty easy to see if you're looking.

I'd also like to say that I've read a lot hype in public postings about how great it is to be rubbing elbows with the corporate user base. Currently most desktop Linux users are individuals who are here because of various reasons. I think it's safe to say that in most cases those reasons and interests are not the same as a corporate IT department manager's. In fact in many cases the corporate end users have different interests than those administering their systems. I'm not against the corporate admins because I think KDE Kiosk is what they need. However I think we need to always keep in mind what users want. I also think users will tend to want pretty much what we want... really good programs that will let them work their way. I'm really proud to be able to be part of KDE because people do see that.

by Debian User (not verified)


did you try Konstruct then? Give it a try. If you have the development packages installed, it works nicely.

Yours, Kay

by chris (not verified)

You're saying that GNOME removes functionality without thinking about it. Your statement is giving me a bad headache.
GNOME releases are NOT automatically buggy, just because they are released twice a year. It's more a time-based release plan. Features which are ready will be included, otherwise they'll be dropped. Really simple, right?
Fortunately, you just seem to be (another) user and thus you don't have enough insight in GNOME or KDE.


by standsolid (not verified)

wow. that felt like one long rant in one breath that I agreed with!

here, here!

//standsolid, the great//

by Alex (not verified)

I forgot to mention that while the writting is generally very good, it sometimes ommits ofs and VPL is Visual Page Layout not Visible I think.

Still, the best article so far, and I love that they actually talked about the architecture.

by Andras Mantia (not verified)

Yes, VPL = Visual Page Layout.


by Lost in KsCD Wa... (not verified)

What happened to KsCD? Who redesigned it from something that resembled an actual CD player into a programmer-designed interface? Maybe something happened to the Debian SID packages of it for 3.2.0-pre1v1 but my god does it suck -- sorry but it does. Please go back to the old interface. I can't even figure out how to adjust the volume in it now. I'll admit with the old one, it was a bit goofy to have the configuration options under a button with a hammer. Now all the other stuff is put under an "Extras" button w/drop-down menu. Then the track is put on top. Who ever designed the new one must have been on a 128hr code-a-thon.

by rinse (not verified)

I like the new kscd interface, it is much easier to localise (to dutch for example :)
It is more elick, mor mature.
Dunno why the track is put on top, I gues on the bottom would be much better.
The volume can be adusted by clicking on the volume icon.


by Lost in KsCD Wa... (not verified)

Well it's probably easier to localize, but then are CD players that different in Denmark? For example, don't you have a "<<" for previous/rewind and ">>" for next/fast-forward. Maybe not, I don't know.

Anyway, it doesn't really looks like a CD player anymore. It looks like a computer program. A CD-player application is one where I think it should emulate the real-world equivalent.

Thanks, I see how to adjust the volume now. I didn't really pay attention to that button -- since everything else went kinda non-standard.

Again, *PLEASE* change KsCD back to how to it was or ditch it and use Noatun completely.

by André Somers (not verified)

I think it is a very good thing to move away from trying to emulate real world devices. These devices are limited by their very nature of being physical, why impose the same limitations on software?
I like a computerprograms that look and act like my other computerprograms. Sure, a set of |< << >> >| buttons would be handy, but they belong in an ordinary toolbar, not modeled to look like "real" buttons. If I want to play my CD's in a real CD player, I'll do just that.

by Lost in KsCD Wa... (not verified)

Yea but, KsCD is suppose to emulate a CD player. How much more can a CD player do than well, be a CD player. Everything under the current "Extras" button is fine.

For most programs yea fine, they should look and feel like programs. However when they emulate real-world devices that do specific tasks, they should look-and-feel like the real-world devices. If you call something a "CD player", then people will think it should operate like the CD players they're use to.

by buggy (not verified)

"If you call something a "CD player", then people will think it should operate like the CD players they're use to."

Instead, they should thing that it PLAYS CDs.

Nothing to do with how CD player devices are.

by Stephen Douglas (not verified)

No, it's not supposed to emulate a cd player. It's supposed to play audio cds.

by Tuxo (not verified)

I also think that the new KsCD looks less visually appealing than the old one. I agree that the old one had to be improved, but the new one is a step backwards IMHO:

1) The volume slider and the track drop-down widget on top look very much out-of-place. Why not put them on the bottom of the application window?

2) The play, stop, previous and next buttons belong together and should be grouped and displayed appart from the other buttons that are functionally differernt.

3) The icon of the play button is placed too far away from the text (Play). This looks not very elegant in my opinion.

As a side note, I very much like how Apple groups functionally similar buttons together and separates them by space and type of representation from functionally different groups of buttons. This is in stark contrast to KDE, where most often all buttons of a given application are thrown onto toolbars, lined up one after the other, leading to a decreased usability, as the user has to first visually scan through the row(s) of numerous icons in order to find the icon that executes the desired operation.

by rinse (not verified)

"Well it's probably easier to localize, but then are CD players that different in Denmark? For example, don't you have a "<<" for previous/rewind and ">>" for next/fast-forward. Maybe not, I don't know."
I dunno about Denmark, I'm From Holland :)
But the old kscd did not have enough room to fit the dutch words into.

" Anyway, it doesn't really looks like a CD player anymore. It looks like a computer program. A CD-player application is one where I think it should emulate the real-world equivalent."

Emulating real world applications is a bad thing useability wise. Real world devices have different limitations compared to computer GUI's. KCSD is a computerprogram, not a real world cd-player. So it should look like a computer program.


by Roberto Alsina (not verified)

Oh, yeah. This, for example, is a real world device:

If someone mimics it, I´m gonna be pissed :-)