We are here today to talk about the Strigi project - the indexing and search technology of KDE 4 - and to interview Flavio Castelli, a key developer of Strigi. Read on for the interview.
Flavio can you introduce yourself to the KDE Italia readers? What did you study? Have you got a job?
I was born 25 years ago in Bergamo, a city near Milan in Italy. I have just taken a second level degree in computer engineering. Now I'm working as a consultant for an IT company in Milan.
When did you hear of KDE for the first time? When did you start using Linux and why?
I discovered KDE and Linux at the same time. In fact the first Linux distribution I installed was shipped with KDE 2 as window manager. I was only eighteen and I had just heard about Linux from one of my schoolmates and some magazines. I found a Red Hat 6.2 installation disk in a magazine and I installed it just for fun.
I tried to use Linux for some months but I ended-up removing it because I wasn't able to solve lots of problems. In those days I didn't have internet at home nor did I know other Linux users.
Then, during the first year of university, I met Linux again. Since I discovered that some stages of the previous summer required Linux knowledge, I installed it again. When the summer arrived there where no interesting stages, but in the meantime I had discovered a new world...
How and when did you get involved in KDE?
I joined the KDE development with the birth of Strigi. That happened during February / March 2006. I had never taken part in such a big and important project before.
How was born Strigi, can you tell us a story about meta information engine search designed for KDE?
The first desktop search program for KDE was Kat. It was a promising project sponsored by Mandriva and maintained by an Italian guy called Roberto Cappuccio.
Unfortunately Kat never reached a stable official version. Its latest versions had some serious bugs, which showed the need to reorganize the source. Roberto had just began to rewrite some parts of Kat when, for personal reasons, he had to leave the development. So the project was left without its leader, with serious problems to fix and a simpler layout to be found. Since the Kat development team was really small, nobody tried to continue Roberto's work.
In the same period, Jos van den Oever (Strigi's maintainer) created the Strigi project. At the beginning Jos had just written some plugins for Kat. He needed a stable version of it to test his code. Since Roberto was really busy and his work was going on slowly, Jos decided to create a small program for his tests. So when the Kat project was closed, Jos expanded this small program and the Strigi project was born.
Lately Strigi entered in KDE 4 with the kdesupport SVN module. This KDE 4 core developer decision let you be proud of your contribution?
Well, I'm really happy and proud of it. I think I'll be happier when, with KDE 4 official release, more people will discover, use and (I hope) appreciate Strigi.
What makes you contribute for KDE instead of the competitors?
When I started using Linux I tried lots of window managers and desktop environments. I liked some of them, but in the end I realized that KDE was my favourite one.
Every day I have lots of advantages using tons of open-source programs. So I decided to offer my time and capabilities to the KDE project. My aim is to contribute to its evolution and to permit other people to use a good and always up-to-date product.
In short I would like to do something useful for other people... :)
Can you say that programming for KDE was an investment? You got C++/Qt programming experience that helped you enriching your personal curriculum. Can this be of help getting a job? Can it be a good call ticket to go to a job interview with a software company?
By working on KDE I'm constantly improving my skills, and that's really good. In the meantime it is a good point on my curriculum. I think that programming for KDE can help during a job interview, but unfortunately this isn't assured (especially here in Italy).
Are you part of a Linux Users Group? Have you ever presented some works for the LUG or in Free Software events?
I'm one of the members of BGLug, which stands for Bergamo Linux User Group. As part of it I had the chance to organize lots of events related to the spreading of Linux and Open Source.
Have you ever stayed at an aKademy or at a Free Software Event? If so can you tell us briefly how it was? What did you do? Do you think a KDE user/developer has to participate at least once to the KDE developers conference (aKademy) in his/her life? Or at a Free Software event?
Unfortunately I have never joined an aKademy. I was going to join two of them but in both cases I didn't find a good (alias cheap) flight.
Indeed, last February I participated in the Bruxelles' FOSDEM. This is an annual meeting of all the European Open Source developers. At FOSDEM I gave a talk regarding Strigi desktop integration. It has been a really positive experience that I'll try to repeat next year!
I think that an open-source developer should take part to a similar manifestation because it can be really useful. By joining these events you can meet lots of interesting people and share with them your opinions. You can't even imagine how many ideas can be born from these debates.
What is the more beautiful experience with KDE? To know the other developers? Or something else?
Actually the more beautiful moment took place after my speech at FOSDEM. When people started asking questions on Strigi I felt in the flesh the interest for my work. It has been gratifying.
Do your parents and friends use Linux and KDE?
I have lots of friends using Linux. While my parents are still using Windows, my sister used Linux for some times and finally switched to Mac OS X.
Also my girlfriend used Linux and KDE for some time. She liked it, but now she uses Windows all the time (that's a choice of her company). Obviously she knows that, living with me, she will meet Linux and KDE again :) .
What could be your slogan to attract people to KDE? Can you give also some "reasons to stay with *nix/KDE"?
Choose the best, switch to Linux & KDE! Ok, I'm not a great advertising man :) .
I suggest to use KDE on Linux (or anything else from the *nix family) because in this way you will obtain a complete and stable system with a good user experience. But, most important of all, you'll have a totally free system.
If one day you won't be working on KDE anymore what could be the reason? Too much time to dedicate to a new job, to your family or what else? Or simply you decided to leave behind your passion for KDE and so leave KDE team? What will you miss of the KDE experience? Obviously we hope you can work in the KDE team for a lot of time yet.
I hope to work on KDE for a long time. I think that a bad interaction between work and family could make me leave KDE.
How much time do you usually spend on KDE?
Every day I spend two hours on KDE, that's the time the train takes to reach my office and bring me back home. Then there're two or more evenings per week, but these ones depend on my "real life" matters. Unfortunately the good times of university are over... :( .
Flavio what are your plans for KDE 4?
Make Strigi better and better. I would like to see it become KDE's "Spotlight".
Personally I want to make the file system monitoring feature stable and multi-platform. Strigi currently offers this functionality only on Linux systems. I would like to extend it to Solaris and BSD.
I'll also try to improve and extend the unit testing suite that I have just rewritten, the main goal is to obtain a good quality assurance tool.
What was your first Linux distribution and why? You tried many ones before you get the right one?
My first Linux distribution was Red Hat. Then on my laptop I've used Slackware for a couple of years. In the meantime on my home PC I tried Mandrake, Red Hat again and in the end, Gentoo.
I immediately fell in love with Gentoo, so I left Slackware and I installed this beautiful distribution on all my computers. I continued to use it also when I changed the architecture of my laptop, switching to an iBook G4.
Anyway after some years I didn't like any longer the wait for the building of all programs, so I switched to Debian. I chose this distribution because it gives good support to the PowerPC architecture.
Which distribution do you use now? Why?
I'm still using Debian. I like it because it is available on different architectures, offers lots of binary programs and, most of all, has a good package manager. I don't care too much about the new Linux distributions or the evolutions of the other ones. I'm really happy with Debian and I don't feel the need to change it.
Mac OS X or Linux?
Linux forever. Since I have two Macintosh I used Mac OS X for some time. I liked some aspects of this OS, but there're lots of things I don't like. I found that Linux is the operative system that fits my needs.
What is your favourite place in the world?
A green place with broadband :) .
Flavio, thanks for your time,