A second packed day of talks has taken place at QtCon, the largest and most diverse and dynamic gathering of end-user software communities for open development ever. KDE contributors gave talks next to pure Qt coders, the VLC team pondered the merits of porting to Telsa cars and the FSF-E celebrated 15 years with their annual awards.
At this year's Akademy, KDE announced The KDE Store. The new store replaces the services provided by openDesktop.org with a Free-as-in-Freedom software sharing platform.
A Bit of History
OpenDesktop, founded in 2001 was one of the first of its kind, very innovative and perhaps even a bit ahead of its time. OpenDesktop served addons such as themes, wallpapers and other non-compiled assets for applications or the desktop. It never established itself as a platform for distribution of applications, or even binary packages. Nevertheless, openDesktop offered users of KDE software (and other desktops as well) a way to extend their apps, and creators a way to share their work with users.
In recent years, openDesktop hasn't seen much love other than keeping it running, there weren't any new features and no solution for offering binary packages. Compared to modern software stores, it fell short.
A New Beginning
In January 2016, Blue Systems acquired hive01 from Frank Karlitschek and restarted work on openDesktop. Since then, content has been cleaned up, the server backend has been replaced by a more modern and scalable solution, and some future plans have been made. Today, KDE announced that the source code for this new service has been released as Free software under the AGPL, fixing a long standing bug in KDE software: reliance on a proprietary web service. The source code for this new web service has been incubated into KDE and is now actively developed under the KDE umbrella. The new store allows users to easily donate to the creator, so artists, developers and contributors now have a clear revenue model when they upload their content.
KDE e.V. has entered a contract with PLING, a sister company of Blue Systems who run the KDE Store service on behalf of KDE. This agreement guarantees KDE the availability of the source code and data, KDE will receive regular data dumps from PLING, so KDE e.V. can, if that situation should arise, take over operation of the KDE Store. The reliance on a third party has also been reduced. The license of the software, the open development process and the availability of the data put KDE (and its users) in a much better place with respect to the sustainability of this service.
Freeing and migrating the openDesktop services is just the first step. KDE is already looking into also offering applications in containerized form in the software store. This may lead to a much more direct way of distributing software. It will allow users get their software from the developer, thereby cutting out the middle man and reducing the time it takes for an update to reach the users. KDE is currently experimenting with different containerized app technologies, such as Flatpak, Snappy and AppImage. The jury is still out there on which of these will be the most useful formats, as the technologies are very much work in progress, a progress KDE is happy to be at the centre of.
Upwards and Onwards
The new KDE store offers users and developers more freedom, it gives creators a revenue model and users a way to thank them, and if offers interesting perspectives on software distribution for the future.
Perhaps most importantly, it puts all those things in the hands of the community.
There is so much about QtCon and all its diversity and enthusiasm right from the Traffic Cone hats to the Ratatouille to the parallel KDE, FSFE, Qt tracks that all of it can't be summed up even across numerous dot stories. So this article in particular aims at giving a detailed summary of some of the talks not covered in the previous dot story and a more detailed version of the lightning talks for those who prefer a quick read over watching videos.
Today is a historic day for KDE, a community founded 20 years ago. We are celebrating with like-minded communities doing what we do best; discussing and promoting technical achievements with our friendly communities of FSF-E, Qt and VLC. A massive thirteen tracks of talks run concurrently here at the Berlin Conference Centre covering topics from community to debugging to the switch to Qt 6. Dot News can't begin to cover all of them, and many are available on the CCC streaming coverage which already has many talks from today. Here we've picked a few to give some highlights.
David Faure is one of the longest-standing developers of KDE software. Today he wanted to give some history of KDE development as it was done back in KDE 1 days, to see how that links to current community practices. The K in KDE stood for Kool before that was dropped, but who knew the Q in Qt stood for Quasar before that was transformed into Cute. He spoke of the original kfm code which Martin Graesslin said still remained in KWin to support Konqueror as a desktop window. Today it was decided this code could now be removed!
Top Qt hacker and author of qmlbook, Johan Thelin, spoke about Qt in the car industry. Speaking to Dot KDE News before giving the talk, he said he threw away half the slides as marketing, in order to cover stuff which is interesting to open-source coders. He said car industry adoption of open source is hard because changing requirements requires a commercial discussion to work around companies who make some arbitrary specifications from microcontroller-level timing decisions to vague "HTML5 compliance" orders. Ticking the requirements boxes leads to forked or proprietary software. There is also a clash of processes, because everyone comes from waterfall development, are trying to move to agile, but how do you add open source into an environment which needs predictable releases and documentation standards? Qt as an open-source project fulfills these requirements well, compared to other parts of the open source community.
Pradeepto told the inspiring story of KDE India. He wanted to spread the word about KDE but didn't know how, so he invited himself to conferences around India to talk about it and soon found he had no free weekends. He was encouraged when Aaron Seigo visited the country bringing his energy to FOSS.IN. Pradeepto spoke about and showed photos of his other KDE heroes who inspired and encouraged him. Running stalls at computer shows around India, the KDE booths became hacking hubs for free software projects and people. Then he started Conf.kde.in which has run for several years at universities in India and found new heroes, now people from India spreading the word about KDE and our software across India and around the world.
After lunch VDG founder Jens gave the KDE keynote about design and angry nerds. He gave the popular story of people who were designing a DVD burning application for Apple when Steve Jobs walked in to draw a square on a whiteboard for files with a button for burning, throwing away all the work that had already been done! Jens always worries about the desire for designers, because that can be the desire to be bossed around. But geeks and nerds rebel against people who try to boss them around (like Linus' NVidia salute). How best to organise? The VDG isn't bossy and isn't good at it and shouldn't be because they'd lose people quickly. Jens spoke about getting excited and knowing that many devs are scared to get too excited but shouldn't be. He said, "focus on inspiring people to work instead of complaining or ordering." Talk more about the people who make, such as Marco, who is a rock star. Know that criticism is 90% complements and that criticism can hurt. Inspire through action and creation instead of words. Accept dissent, applaud it, and learn to deal with it. Spot the difference between an angry debate and a divisive fist fight. Collaboration is key with whomever. Be happy to fail; it can be magnificent! Was KDE 4.0 something good? He said yes, because we had to do it for each other to support the community.
Plasma maintainer David Edmundson spoke about the last year for our flagship product, Plasma Desktop. He showed a graph of hours use of a desktop which shows that use is not reducing making the desktop as relevant as ever. Linux on the desktop has increased to be 2.5% of all users, which is millions, and any company would be pleased to have that many users. He highlighted the new features in the three releases Plasma has had since the previous Akademy and highlighted the upcoming LTS release of Plasma 5.8. In the last 12 months 194,000 lines of code have changed with 26 commits on average a day by 146 different contributors. Making a desktop like Plasma requires many different skills and knowledge as all the needed components are integrated. For instance, systemd decided to change how suspend in handled when you close a lid, which needs both the old and new use-cases supported. The X session management protocol is so old it predates the Spice Girls but we still get complaints if we try to drop it. We are now trying to support computers with less resources than a few years ago such as an ARM computer which was given free with a magazine, so resources for running a desktop are not necessarily increasing.
David also spoke to a full room about bad Qt Quick coding. Having coded a lot of Plasma 5 and ported many Plasmoiids he has a whole catalogue of poor design decisions. He gave a technical talk which covered a range of problems that are common such as widgets not being sized properly with word wrap.
Bhushan gave an update on Plasma Mobile on which he has been working for the past year. He highlighted the KWin Wayland improvements which had been made for Mobile which will work on Desktop too. There was the release of Kirigami, the toolkit previously known as Plasma Mobile Components. He wants better integration with Plasma Desktop such as having KDE Connect "just work" or Plasma Desktop showing when you plug a phone into a larger display.
Qt's Chief Maintainer and former KDE hacker Lars Knoll gave an update on the state of Qt. There's over 250 active contributors and the latest edition has had half a million downloads directly from their website. He showed graphs of contributors which are about 2/3rds from Qt Company, most of the rest from KDAB, Intel and Audiocodes. He'd welcome more people from other companies and communities. He spoke about the CI system which runs more incrementally than previously but will need some work in the next year to keep it running smoothly. Coming soon is a new configuration system, unified between all platforms and based on Qmake but with JSON as the input. Qt Lite will be way to make a customised version of Qt. What about Qt 6????[sic] Is this year the right time to start? No. One possibility is after Qt 5.11 in 2019? The last release in the Qt 5 series has to be an LTS edition. He doesn't think we have an urgent need to move over. Qt 6 wants to be as source compatible as possible with Qt 5 and probably use C++17. PySide should become part of Qt again, people are working on it again but it requires a lot of work, and the goal is to fully support Python. He says that for Qt 6 we should consider what to move out of Qt Core, because it's big enough. Web Assembly is a new low level virtual machine to run C++ code in a browser. it's being worked on by Google and others and it has a large potential to bring Qt to the web.
To finish the day there were dozens of short lightning talks. Jens gave some rules of bad UI design and hypnotised us with an animation that showed why animations should never last more than 2 seconds. Riccardo (Ruphy) gave an update on WikiToLearn which now has over 800 textbook chapters and expects to have over 1000 by the end of the week.
Tonight, we party in Berlin, including this unique take that VLC team has on playing Pokemon Go. See you for more talks tomorrow, keep an eye on the Live streams.
QtCon has opened in Berlin at the fabulous Berlin Conference Centre. It started with a welcome by president of the KDAB group and one of the original KDE developers Matthias Kalle Dalheimer. He welcomed the different but related communities together and encouraged developers to talk to each other. This is a unique opportunity for volunteer and employed, open source and proprietary, student and old-timers to come together and exchange thoughts, needs and have some fun. He also welcomed representatives from all the communities on stage.
Lars Knoll from Qt Company said how they straddled both proprietary and open source worlds and asked for people to talk to them about missing or lacking features in Qt.
Lydia Pintcher from KDE presented our new KDE vision "A world in which everyone has control over their digital life and enjoys freedom and privacy."
Jean Baptiste from VLC said it was exciting for a bunch of hackers to Berlin when all they had wanted 15 years ago was try to keep the university network busy with Doom.
Erik Albers from Free Software Foundation Europe said they were happy to be celebrating 15 years of existence and invited us to their parties over the weekend.
Raul Krauthausen talks about open data for wheelchair users
Our keynote from German disability campaigners Raul Krauthausen and Holger Dieterich talked about how people use open data and software for social activism. He told the story about how they collected used bottles for the recycling refunds to help their group of disabled activists. But there was no information about where the recycling facilities were or whether they were accessible with wheelchairs. There was no data available.
So they used OpenStreetMap to facilities of all sorts are available to create Wheelmap which lists facilities that are accessible. The project started to get feedback of people who said their lives had been changed and quickly a community of volunteers around the world translated it and picked it up in other countries. It was advertised by Google even though it used OSM rather than Google Maps which got many more people interested who ported it to other platforms.
They took it into school to teach pupils about the needs of wheelchair users and how to feed back to the map. They concluded by saying that open data is now fashionable with many local and national governments exploring the possibilities. There are other projects who do similar work than wheelmap but it doesn't all exchange. They hope to make one service which can be connected to once, which is completely open source and which anyone will use. This changes people's lives so they can travel the world without restrictions.
With the keynote over the massive conference begins. Thirteen rooms of talks running for three days over tracks covering Community, Web, Best practices, Automotive, Mobile and Embedded, Let‘s talk business, Tooling, QtQuick, Multithreading, OpenGL and 3D. Let the exploration begin!
Today KDE has been arriving in Berlin for Akademy, our annual meeting, which is year is part of the larger QtCon conference. This year we are teaming up with KDAB to gather together with the wider community of Qt developers for the first time, which is a major opportunity to share experiences between the open source and the commercial worlds. Also at the gathering are the VLC developers. VLC is one of the most successful open source projects successfully reaching out to users on all platforms and is a project we have long cooperated with. And the Free Software Foundation Europe will be brining the important political edge to our talks.
QtCon is happy to welcome Julia Reda, the closing keynote speaker. Member of the European Parliament for the Pirate Party and Vice-Chair of the Greens/European Free Alliance. Reda's legislative focus is on copyright and internet policy issues.
As a member of the European Parliament and together with Max Andersson, Julia Reda initiated the pilot project “Governance and quality of software code – Auditing of free and open source software” in 2014 as a reaction to the so-called “heartbleed” bug in OpenSSL. The idea turned into the pilot-project "Free and Open Source Software Auditing“ (FOSSA) that is aiming at improving the security of those Free Software programs that are in use by the European Commission and the Parliament.
KDE and Canonical's Ubuntu have collaborated for years. Today we celebrate the extension of this collaboration with the addition of Canonical to the KDE Patrons family, as part of the corporate membership program.
From 1 to 4 September 2016 the communities of KDE, Qt, FSFE, VideoLAN and KDAB join forces in Berlin for QtCon. The program consists of a mix of Qt trainings on day 1, unconference sessions, lightning talks and more than 150 in-depths talks on technical and community topics on days 2 to 4. Track topics range from KDE‘s Latest and Greatest, Testing and Continuous Integration and QtQuick to Free Software policies and politics, Community and Beyond code. Check out the program.