JUL
6
2017

Antonio Larrosa -- Dragons, Doom and Digital Music


Antonio Larrosa, President of KDE España.

Antonio Larrosa is the current president of KDE España and he and I have been friends for quite some time now. It may seem logical, since we both live in Málaga, are passionate about Free Software in general, and KDE in particular. But in most other respects we are total opposites: Antonio is quiet, tactful, unassuming and precise. Enough said.

But that is what is great about Antonio; that and the fact he is very patient when troubleshooting. I know this because he has often helped me out when I have unwittingly wrecked my system by being an idiot and installing what I shouldn't. When he quietly muses "¡Qué cosas!" (which roughly translates to "That's interesting") you know you've messed up good.

Antonio will be delivering the keynote on the 23rd of July at this year's Akademy, so I caught up with him and asked him about stuff I didn't already know. Turns out that is quite a lot.

Enjoy.

Antonio Larrosa: Hi!

Paul Brown: Good morning Antonio! Long time no see.

Antonio: Good morning! Yes indeed. Heh heh!

[We had talked the day before]

Paul: I think you are aware that the other keynote speaker is Robert Kaye from Musicbrainz, right?

Antonio: Yes, I know. It's quite an honor to have him at Akademy this year and I hope to meet and talk to him, since I love the Musicbrainz project.

Paul: I understand you worked on a project that ties MusicBrainz to a KDE app...

Antonio: Actually, it's not really a KDE app. Some months ago, I learnt about Picard (which is MusicBrainz's music tagger) and I wanted to use it, but it lacked a few features that were important to me. So I had a look at the code and was excited to see it was using Qt, so I decided to contribute to it.

Paul: What did you change?

Antonio: I fixed a small function in Picard's script language to better support multivalue tags. I also improved the support for cover art, like allowing drag & drop from a web browser, a nice way to see differences between old and new covers before saving the changes, better visualization of albums with different covers in different tracks, etc. The fact that it's written in Python and has a very good design made it easy to start contributing fast. The community was quite friendly too, which always helps.

Paul: You have also contributed to Beets. What is that and what did you do?

Antonio: Yes, Beets is (I quote from its web page) "the media library management system for obsessive-compulsive music geeks". Who wouldn't like to use it with that description? It has auto-tagging support which also uses Musicbrainz's metadata (like Picard), but the tagging is not as advanced as Picard, so I tried to improve its multivalue support so at least it could read and perform queries on all tags written by Picard. Apart from very simple patches, the important patches I submitted to Beets are still in the review queue, but I hope they'll get merged soon.

Paul: You are a mathematician, not a programmer, by training. Correct?

Antonio: That's correct.

Paul: How did you get started in programming?

Antonio: I got started when I was around 7 or 8 years old. I had a Dragon 64 and it was almost impossible to find games for it. So, when I got tired of playing the ones I had, I learned to write my own, and found it was great.


The Dragon 64, Antonio's first computer.
Photo by Miguel Durán - Dragon 64, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

Paul: BASIC?

Antonio: Yes, BASIC and a bit of assembly.

Paul: What sort of things did you program on the Dragon? Games? Anything to do with school work? I remember writing a function plotter for the Commodore 64, for example.

Antonio: Really? That's interesting, I did a graph plotter for the Dragon and one of those old text-based RPG games. But no, not really school-related.

Paul: What did you have to do in your text-based adventure?

Antonio: I don't remember very well -- I was around 8, but it was probably something related to killing dragons.

Paul: Of course. If I remember right, the Dragon was quite limited even for the day. What did you upgrade to next?

Antonio: A 286 running at 6Mhz with 640 KBs of RAM and a great big 20 MBs hard disk.

Paul: 20 MBs! Did you have the sensation of: "Wow! I'm never going to fill that up."?

Antonio: Of course! There was plenty of space for so many applications in there!

When I was 12, I created a calculator that parsed mathematical expressions, and then calculated and enunciated the result through the sound card

Paul: How old were you at this stage? Were you already at university? Because those machines were expensive! I don't see a parent buying a 286 for a twelve-year-old.

Antonio: Not at all, I was still at school, maybe 10 years old or so. But I have an older brother who would have been about 15 by then. My father, being a car plater, never used computers, I would go as far as saying he hated them, but he had a good eye for seeing what would be important in the future for us.

Paul: What did you use the 286 for? More games?

Antonio: Yes, I have to admit that I played games when I was 10. But also I learned Pascal and Assembly. When I was around 12 (just before high school) I created a calculator that parsed mathematical expressions, and then calculated and enunciated the result through the sound card. In order to do that, I used Assembly, learned about IRQs, DMA, memory addressing with segments and offsets... It was quite fun. I even had to do my own audio editing application, in order to cut my voice saying different numbers which would then be concatenated together by the calculator.

Paul: Wow! You did all that when you were 12 and on a 286?

Antonio: Yep.

Paul: What did you do in high school? Hack into WOPR?

Antonio: Hah hah hah! No. I wrote and refactored up to 7 times a general purpose object oriented database that I used to store the contents of all my floppy disks so I could search where a file was quickly. Note that I learned about the word "refactor" much later, but that's basically what I did, although at that time I called it "throw everything away and rewrite it better".

Paul: Of course. After all, you probably didn't know about version control then. What year was this?

Antonio: Maybe 1992 or 1993.

You could say that Doom influenced my choice of careers.

Paul: When you say floppies, are we talking about the real thing, those 5 and 1/4 things that often got chewed up in the drive?

Antonio: Yes! 5 1/4 and 3 1/2, in fact. When I started using the application to catalogue CDs, I remember having lots of problems with memory addressing since data structures flooded over segment boundaries. After all, it was a windows 3.1 application.

Paul: Ok. You're now at university, but you decide to go for Mathematics instead of Computer Science. Why?

Antonio: I read back then a now defunct magazine called Dr. Dobbs Journal. One of the special issues was dedicated to 3D rendering as used in games such as Doom. I saw that you had to know a lot of mathematics to understand the articles, and I thought I could learn by myself what was interesting to me from computer science (as I had been doing for many years) but mathematics was different, so I decided to study mathematics.

Paul: Doom influenced your choice of career?

Antonio: Yes, you could say that in a way, it did.

Paul: Why am I not surprised. When did you first hear about free software?

Antonio: I was finishing high school, and my brother, who studied computer science, came home with a bunch of floppy disks containing a new operating system. It was Linux 1.x.

Paul: Linux 1.x! So you guys installed it?

Antonio: Of course! If I remember correctly, it was around 1995 and it was a Slackware distribution.

Paul: Let me guess, you had to dig out your monitor manual and work out the vertical frequency.

Antonio: Yes, finding out the specific horizontal frequency of your monitor was a nightmare, indeed. I also remember having troubles with the 20th something floppy and having to start again, inserting and swapping floppies. But I was excited that I could for the first time write a program in which I could reserve a block of memory of more than 64 KB of memory and just address any byte in it without caring about segments and offsets. Definitely those were other times.

Paul: Did you install it on your 286?

Antonio: No, by that time I had a 486.

Paul: Were you aware of the "Free as in Freedom" thing back then?

Antonio: I read about it, but of course I couldn't understand the importance of "Free as in Freedom" until some years later. At that time, I only knew that I had the sources for everything that run on the computer, and that allowed me to change things to make them work the way I wanted.

Paul: That was exciting, wasn't it? So different from the constraints of other OSes.

Antonio: Exactly! At that time I had an electronic keyboard with a MIDI interface which I used to connect to my windows 3.1 system. The keyboard didn't support the General MIDI standard, but windows 3.1 had configuration parameters so I could configure it to work. Once Windows 95 was released, they removed those options so my piano wouldn't work any more. But I had this operating system with all the sources for the MIDI player (playmidi at that time). You can guess what happened.

Paul: So when did you discover KDE?


Antonio's first KDE project: KMid.

Antonio: The playmidi author didn't accept my changes because the sources differed a lot from what I used. I sent him a real letter with an actual floppy disk since I didn't have Internet access back then. He didn't release any newer versions with different implementations either. So I decided to do my own MIDI player, but instead of doing a terminal application I wanted to make an X11 app. I looked through the options, which at that time included Athena widgets, Motif, and so on. I found KDE searching for alternatives, and absolutely loved it.

Paul: And the rest is history...

Antonio: Yes.

Paul: What projects have you worked on, apart from your personal MIDI thing?

Antonio: Apart from KMid, I worked on KPager, which was the application that showed the virtual desktop miniatures, and parts of kdelibs, specifically the library version of KMid and the icon loader classes which I maintained for several years. I also worked on all sort of applications fixing bugs everywhere I could.

Paul: Your day job is being a developer at SUSE, right?

Antonio: That's right.

Paul: Is there any overlap between your job at SUSE and KDE?

Antonio: To some extent: I'm a SLE (SUSE Linux Enterprise) developer working in the desktop team. As you may know, SLE is a term that refers to all the enterprise oriented distributions made by SUSE. The latest release only includes the GNOME desktop, so much of my work at SUSE includes fixing issues in GNOME. On the other hand, openSUSE not only comes with both KDE and GNOME, but openSUSE Leap uses KDE by default, so I also work on fixing KDE issues too.

Paul: How many people work on KDE at openSUSE?

Antonio: Really not as many as I'd like. In general there are around 10 people, but actively working everyday on KDE at openSUSE there are around 4 or 5 persons. If anyone reading this wants to help. We're always at the #opensuse-kde channel on Freenode.

Paul: What about the openSUSE community, volunteers?

Antonio: In general, everyone contributing to KDE packages in openSUSE is a volunteer. As I said, there are around 10 maintainers, of which I think only 2 or 3 are employed by SUSE. Fortunately, there are more community packagers helping with the near 1000 KDE/Qt packages available in OBS.


The openSUSE Build Service is where the community creates packages of their favorite software.

Paul: This is the openSUSE Build Service thing?

Antonio: Yes. That's where we build all openSUSE distributions (Leap, Tumbleweed, Krypton, Argon, etc.) and where we develop all packages that users can install in their openSUSE systems from software.opensuse.org.

Paul: And unofficial packages too, right? I mean, if there is something that is not in the official repos, you can look for it on software and it fetches and installs it from OBS, yes?

Antonio: Yes, that's right. Users wanting to try the latest version of any package can search for it on software.opensuse.org and install it from there with a one-click installer.

Paul: I imagine there is a warning that pops up when you try to install from an unofficial repo.

Antonio: Yes. Installing unofficial packages is not recommended in general, since users can break their systems if, for example, they install a buggy glibc library, but it's possible to do so.

Paul: Let's get back to the reason we are doing this interview: Is this your first keynote at an Akademy?

Antonio: Yes, it is and I'm really very honored.

Paul: Have you thought what you want to talk about?

Antonio: I have a general idea. I want to talk about KDE and its ecosystem, everything that KDE is, and where KDE is at this moment/where we want it to get to.

Paul: "Ecosystem" as in the people working on it? Or the state of the tech?

Antonio: The state of the communities around KDE compared to KDE's own community and how we could improve it and make it grow.

Paul: When you say "the communities around KDE", what communities are you referring to?

Antonio: Distribution communities, the Qt community, communities from other projects that use KDE libraries...

Paul: What is one thing we can learn from them?

Antonio: Well, something I learned is that we (KDE) are not alone and everything we do affects other communities, while at the same time, everything they do affect also our beloved KDE community. If we want to prosper, we all need to learn to work with others and let others work with us so we all benefit from the shared work.

Paul: And is that not happening?

Antonio: That is happening, but there's always room for improvement. For example, we at openSUSE made a terrible job at requesting help from KDE developers some months ago and the request was interpreted by some KDE developers as a threat. Fortunately I think we solved those problems nicely and the misunderstanding is fixed now. But we really should have done a better job at communicating better.

I started going to Akademys before they were called Akademys.

Paul: Let's talk about the tech for a moment. What is, in your opinion, the most exciting KDE project right now?

Antonio: Well, that's a personal opinion, and you might say that I'm cheating, but I'd say that the whole KDE Frameworks is great. If you ask me for an application, I'd probably say Mycroft. The author has a talk scheduled at Akademy that I hope to see.

Paul: Ah yes, the Free Software alternative to Alexa-like AIs.

Antonio: Correct.

Paul: Have you been to all the Akademys?

Antonio: Not all, but nearly. I started going to KDE meetings before they were called Akademys. My first one was KDE-Two, in 1999.

Paul: Wait... Was that what it was called back then? Just "KDE" and a number?

Antonio: Yes, the first meeting was "KDE One", the second "KDE Two", and so on.


Antonio Larrosa, 2nd row, 2nd from right, at the Kastle KDE meetup in 2003.

Paul: How did it change to "Akademy"? Were you in that meeting?

Antonio: Well, it wasn't any kind of "special meeting". After the "KDE Three" meeting in 2002, we had a get-together in an old castle in the Czech Republic in 2003, so it was clear that we should call that one "Kastle". Then, in 2004, the meeting was organized in a "Filmakademie" film school, so we called it "Akademy", and in 2005 we thought that it was important to keep the same name every year to build a brand, so we decided to name it "Akademy" just like the previous year, and it was named “Akademy” from then on.

Paul: And again history was made. Which has been your favorite Akademy so far?

Antonio: Always the coming Akademy! But of course I have a special fond memory of the one we organized in Malaga in 2005.

Paul: Almería is close to Málaga, so it may be just as good, right?

Antonio: I'm sure it'll be even better! We've learned a lot about organizing events since then.

Paul: Well, I for one look forward to your keynote. Thanks Antonio!

Antonio: Thanks to you for the interview.

Paul: It's a pleasure. See you in Almería.

Antonio: You can count on it.

About Akademy

For most of the year, KDE—one of the largest free and open software communities in the world—works on-line by email, IRC, forums and mailing lists. Akademy provides all KDE contributors the opportunity to meet in person to foster social bonds, work on concrete technology issues, consider new ideas, and reinforce the innovative, dynamic culture of KDE. Akademy brings together artists, designers, developers, translators, users, writers, sponsors and many other types of KDE contributors to celebrate the achievements of the past year and help determine the direction for the next year. Hands-on sessions offer the opportunity for intense work bringing those plans to reality. The KDE Community welcomes companies building on KDE technology, and those that are looking for opportunities. Join us by registering for the 2017 edition of Akademy today.

For more information, please contact the Akademy Team.

JUL
3
2017

KDE at Asian FOSS conferences

It feels great to say that KDE has active contributors across the globe. Two KDE contributors recently presented talks in Asia about their work and encouraged new contributors to join us and get started.

Hong Kong Open Source Conference 2017


Heena in Hong Kong

Heena Mahour presented a talk on ‘KDE : Journey of a SoK student to GCI organization administrator’ at Hong Kong Open Source Conference 2017.

HKOSCon is an open source event held in Hong Kong which aims to showcase and promote open source projects and activities happening across the globe.

Heena discussed her experience as a Season of KDE student which was her initial project and how she continued contributing to KDE afterwards. She also talked about recent trends in the community outreach program Season of KDE and her insight into the Plasma projects as an example of the vastness of KDE.

Heena also discussed the contributions made by KDE in Google Code-In, encouraging the students to get started with it. She provided information about GCompris and Pairs and a word cloud from Season of KDE Twitter posts and listed the contributions she had made so far.

It was amazing to help the new contributors join the KDE community in a similar fashion as to how her mentors helper her.


FOSSASIA 2017


Anu in Singapore

Anu Mittal presented a talk on ‘K’oding with KDE at FOSSASIA 2017, Singapore.

At the FOSSASIA conference, many communities showcased their hardware, designs, graphics, and software. Anu talked about KDE, what it aims at, the various programs that KDE organizes to help budding developers, and how they are mentored. She walked through all the steps to start contributing in KDE by introducing the audience to KDE bug tracker, the IRC channels, various application domains, and the Season of KDE proposal format.

She also shared her journey in KDE, talked briefly about her projects under Season of KDE and Google Summer of Code. The audience were really enthusiastic and curious to start contributing in KDE. Overall her experience working in KDE has been very enriching. She wished to share her experiences to help budding developers get started.

It was interesting to see an emerging interest to participate and contribute to open source. KDE is one of the projects students are keen to contribute to. We do hope we, together as a community, keep it blooming more.

JUN
18
2017

Robert Kaye -- Music Buff, Entrepreneur, Akademy Keynote Speaker


Robert Kaye, creator of MusicBrainz

Robert Kaye is definitely a brainz-over-brawn kinda guy. As the creator of MusicBrainz, ListenBrainz and AcousticBrainz, all created and maintained under the MetaBrainz Foundation, he has pushed Free Software music cataloguing-tagging-classifying to the point it has more or less obliterated all the proprietary options.

In July he will be in Almería, delivering a keynote at the 2017 Akademy -- the yearly event of the KDE community. He kindly took some time out of packing for a quick trip to Thailand to talk with us about his *Brainz projects, how to combine altruism with filthy lucre, and a cake he once sent to Amazon.

Robert Kaye: Hola, ¿qué tal?

Paul Brown: Hey! I got you!

Robert: Indeed. :)

Paul: Are you busy?

Robert: I'm good enough, packing can wait. :)

Paul: I'll try and be quick.

Robert: No worries.

* Robert has vino in hand.

Paul: So you're going to be delivering the keynote at Akademy...

* Robert is honored.

Paul: Are you excited too? Have you ever done an Akademy keynote?

Robert: Somewhat. I've got... three? Four trips before going to Almería. :)

Paul: God!



MetaBrainz is the umbrella project under which all other *Brainz are built.

Robert: I've never done a keynote before. But I've done tons and tons of presentations and speeches, including to the EU, so this isn't something I'm going to get worked up about thankfully.

Paul: I'm assuming you will be talking about MetaBrainz. Can you give us a quick summary of what MetaBrainz is and what you do there?

Robert: Yes, OK. In 1997/8 in response to the CDDB database being taken private, I started the CD Index. You can see a copy of it in the Wayback Machine. It was a service to look up CDs and I had zero clues about how to do open source. Alan Cox showed up and told me that databases would never scale and that I should use DNS to do a CD lookup service. LOL. It was a mess of my own making and I kinda walked away from it until the .com crash.

Then in 2000, I sold my Honda roadster and decided to create MusicBrainz. MusicBrainz is effectively a music encyclopedia. We know what artists exist, what they've released, when, where their Twitter profiles are, etc. We know track listings, acoustic fingerprints, CD IDs and tons more. In 2004 I finally figured out a business model for this and created the MetaBrainz Foundation, a California tax-exempt non-profit. It cannot be sold, to prevent another CDDB. For many years MusicBrainz was the only project. Then we added the Cover Art Archive to collect music cover art. This is a joint project with the Internet Archive.

Then we added CritiqueBrainz, a place for people to write CC licensed music reviews. Unlike Wikipedia, ours are non-neutral POV reviews. It is okay for you to diss an album or a band, or to praise it.

Paul: An opinionated musical Wikipedia. I already like it.

Robert: Then we created AcousticBrainz, which is a machine learning/analysis system for figuring out what music sounds like. Then the community started BookBrainz. And two years ago we started ListenBrainz, which is an open source version of last.fm's audioscrobbler.



MusicBrainz is a repository of music metadata widely used by commercial and non-commercial projects alike.

Paul: Wait, let's backtrack a second. Can you explain AcousticBrainz a bit more? What do you mean when you say "figure out what music sounds like"?

Robert: AcousticBrainz allows users to download a client to run on their local music collection. For each track it does a very detailed low-level analysis of the acoustics of the file. This result is uploaded to the server and the server then does machine learning on it to guess: Does it have vocals? Male of female? Beats per minute? Genre? All sorts of things and a lot of them need a lot of improvement still.

Paul: Fascinating.

Robert: Researchers provided all of the algorithms, being very proud and all: "I've done X papers on this and it is the state of the art". State of the art if you have 1,000 audio tracks, which is f**king useless to an open source person. We have three million tracks and we're not anywhere near critical mass. So, we're having to fix the work the researchers have done and then recalculate everything. We knew this would happen, so we engineered for it. We'll get it right before too long.

All of our projects are long-games. Start a project now and in five years it might be useful to someone. Emphasis on "might".

Then we have ListenBrainz. It collects the listening history of users. User X listened to track Y at time Z. This expresses the musical taste of one user. And with that we have all three elements that we've been seeking for over a decade: metadata (MusicBrainz), acoustic info (AcousticBrainz) and user profiles (ListenBrainz). The holy trinity as it were. You need all three in order to build a music recommendation engine.

The algorithms are not that hard. Having the underlying data is freakishly hard, unless you have piles of cash. Those piles of cash and therefore the engines exist at Google, Last.fm, Pandora, Spotify, et al. But not in open source.

Paul: Don't you have piles of cash?

Robert: Nope, no piles of cash. Piles of eager people, however! So, once we have these databases at maturity we'll create some recommendation engine. It will be bad. But then people will improve it and eventually a pile of engines will come from it. This has a significant chance of impacting the music world.

Paul: You say that many of the things may be useful one day, but you also said MetaBrainz has a business model. What is it?

Robert: The MetaBrainz business model started out with licensing data using the non-commercial licenses. Based on "people pay for frequent and easy updates to the data". That worked to get us to 250k/year.

Paul: Licensing the data to...?

Robert: The MusicBrainz core data. But there were a lot of people who didn't need the data on an hourly basis.

Paul: Sorry. I mean *who* were you licensing to?

Robert: It started with the BBC and Google. Today we have all these supporters. Nearly all the large players in the field use our data nowadays. Or lie about using our data. :)

Paul: Lie?

Robert: I've spoken to loads of IT people at the major labels. They all use our data. If you speak to the execs, they will swear that they have never used our data.

Paul: Ah. Hah hah. Sounds about right.

Robert:Anyways, two years ago we moved to a supporter model. You may legally use our data for free, but morally you should financially support us. This works.

Paul: Really?

Robert: We've always used what I call a "drug dealer business model". The data is free. Engineers download it and start using it. When they find it works and want to push it into a product they may do that without talking to us. Eventually we find them and knock on their door and ask for money.

Paul: They pay you? And I thought the music industry was evil.

Robert: This is the music *tech* companies. They know better.

Anyways...

Their bizdev types will ask: where else can we get this data for cheaper? The engineers look around for other options. Prices can range from 3x to 100x, depending on use, and the data is not nearly as good. So they sign up with us. This is not out of the kindness of their hearts.

Paul: Makes more sense now.

Robert: Have you heard the Amazon cake story?

Paul: The what now?

Robert: Amazon was 3 years behind in paying us. I harangued them for months. Then I said: "If you don't pay in 2 weeks, I am going to send you a cake."



Amazon got cake to celebrate the third anniversary of an unpaid invoice.

"A cake?"

"Yes, a cake. One that says 'Congratulations on the 3rd anniversary'..."

They panicked, but couldn't make it happen.

So I sent the cake, then silence for 3 days.

Then I got a call. Head of legal, head of music, head of AP, head of custodial, head of your momma. All in one room to talk to me. They rattled off what they owed us. It was correct. They sent a check.

Cake was sent on Tuesday, check in hand on Friday.

This was pivotal for me: recognizing that we can shame companies to do the right thing... Such as paying us because to switch off our data (drugs) is far worse than paying.

Last year we made $323k, and this year should be much better. We have open finances and everything. People can track where money goes. We get very few questions about us being evil and such.

Paul: How many people work with you at MetaBrainz, as in, are on the payroll?

Robert: This is my team. We have about 6 full-time equivalent positions. To add to that, we have a core of contributors: coders, docs, bugs, devops... Then a medium ring of hard-core editors. Nicolás Tamargo and one other guy have made over 1,000,000 edits to the database!

Paul: How many regular volunteers then?

Robert: 20k editors per year. Más o menos. And we have zero idea how many users. We literally cannot estimate it. 40M requests to our API per day. 400 replicated copies of our DB. VLC uses us and has the largest installation of MusicBrainz outside of MetaBrainz.

And we ship a virtual machine with all of MusicBrainz in it. People download that and hammer it with their personal queries. Google Assistant uses it, Alexa might as well, not sure. So, if you ask Google Assistant a music-related question, it is answered in part by our data. We've quietly become the music data backbone of the Internet and yet few people know about us.

Paul: Don't you get lawyers calling you up saying you are infringing on someone's IP?

Robert: Kinda. There are two types: 1) the spammers have found us and are hammering us with links to pirated content. We're working on fixing that. 2) Other lawyers will tell us to take content down, when we have ZERO content. They start being all arrogant. Some won't buzz off until I tell them to provide me with an actual link to illegal content on our site. And when they can't do it, they quietly go away.

The basic fact is this: we have the library card catalog, but not the library. We mostly only collect facts and facts are not copyrightable.

Paul: What about the covers?

Robert: That is where it gets tricky. We engineered it so that the covers never hit our servers and only go to the Internet Archive. The Archive is a library and therefore has certain protections. If someone objects to us having something, the archive takes it down.

Paul: Have you had many objections?

Robert: Not that many. Mostly for liner notes, not so much for covers. The rights for covers were never aggregated. If someone says they have rights for a collection, they are lying to you. It's a legal mess, plain and simple. All of our data is available under clear licenses, except for the CAA -- "as is"

Paul: What do you mean by "rights for a collection"?

Robert: Rights for a collection of cover art. The rights reside with the band. Or the friend of the band who designed the cover. Lawyers never saw any value in covers pre-Internet. So the recording deals never included the rights to the covers. Everyone uses them without permission

Paul: I find that really surprising. So many iconic covers.

Robert: It is obvious in the Internet age, less so before the Internet. The music industry is still quite uncomfortable with the net.

Paul: Record labels always so foresightful.

Robert: Exactly. Let's move away from labels and the industry.

Though, one thing tangentially, I envisioned X, Y, Z, uses for our data, but we made the data rigorous, well-connected and concise. Good database practices. And that is paying off in spades. The people who did not do that are finding that their data is no longer up to snuff for things like Google Assistant.

Paul: FWIW, I had never heard of Gracenote until today. I had heard of MusicBrainz, though. A lot.

Robert: Woo! I guess we're succeeding. :)

Paul: Well, it is everywhere, right?

Robert: For a while it was even in Antarctica! A sysadmin down there was wondering where the precious bandwidth went during the winter. Everyone was tagging their music collection when bored. So he set up a replica for the winter to save on bandwidth.

Paul: Of course they were and of course he did.

Robert: Follows, right? :)

Paul: Apart from music, which you clearly care for A LOT, I heard you are an avid maker too.

Robert: Yes. Party Robotics was a company I founded when I was still in California and we made the first affordable cocktail robots. But I also make blinky LED light installations. Right now I am working on a sleep debugger to try and improve my crapstastic sleep.

I have a home maker space with an X-Carve, 3D printer, hardware soldering station and piles of parts and tools.

Paul: Uh... How do flashing lights help with sleep?

Robert: Pretty lights and sleep-debugging are separate projects.

Paul: What's your platform of choice, Arduino?

Robert: Arduino and increasingly Raspberry Pi. The Zero W is the holy grail, as far as I am concerned.

Oh! And another project I want: ElectronicsBrainz.

Paul: This sounds fun already. Please tell.

Robert: Info, schematics and footprints for electronic parts. The core libraries with KiCad are never enough. you need to hunt for them. Screw that. Upload to ElectronicBrainz, then, if you use a part, rate it, improve it. The good parts float to the top, the bad ones drop out. Integrate with Kicad and, bam! Makers can be much more useful. In fact, this open data paradigm and the associated business model is ripe for the world. There are data silos *everywhere*.

Paul: I guess that once you have set up something like MusicBrainz, you start seeing all sorts of applications in other fields.

Robert: Yes. Still, we can't do everything. The world will need more MetaBrainzies.

Paul: Meanwhile, how can non-techies help with all these projects?

Robert: Editing data/adding data, writing docs or managing bug reports as well. Clearly our base of editors is huge. It is a very transient community, except for the core.

Also, one thing that I want to mention in my keynote is blending volunteers and paid staff. We've been really lucky with that. The main reason for that is that we're open. We have nothing to hide. We're all working towards the same goals: making the projects better. And when you make a site that has 40M requests in a day, there are tasks that no one wants to do. They are not fun. Our paid staff work on all of those.

Volunteers do the things that are fun and can transition into paid staff -- that is how all of our paid staff became staff.

Paul: This is really an incredible project.

Robert: Thanks! Dogged determination for 17 years. It’s worth something.

Paul: I look forward to your keynote. Thank you for your time.

Robert: No problem.

Paul: I'll let you get back to your packing.

Robert: See you in Almería.

Robert Kaye will deliver the opening keynote at Akademy 2017 on the 22nd of July. If you would like to see him and talk to him live, register here.

About Akademy

For most of the year, KDE—one of the largest free and open software communities in the world—works on-line by email, IRC, forums and mailing lists. Akademy provides all KDE contributors the opportunity to meet in person to foster social bonds, work on concrete technology issues, consider new ideas, and reinforce the innovative, dynamic culture of KDE. Akademy brings together artists, designers, developers, translators, users, writers, sponsors and many other types of KDE contributors to celebrate the achievements of the past year and help determine the direction for the next year. Hands-on sessions offer the opportunity for intense work bringing those plans to reality. The KDE Community welcomes companies building on KDE technology, and those that are looking for opportunities. Join us by registering for the 2017 edition of Akademy today.

For more information, please contact the Akademy Team.

MAY
30
2017

Plasma 5.10, Simple by Default Powerful When Needed



Plasma 5.10

KDE Plasma 5.10

Monday, 30 May 2017. Today KDE has released Plasma 5.10 with new features across the suite to give users an experience which lives up to our tagline: simple by default, powerful when needed.


Panel Task Manager





Middle Mouse Click to Group

Task Manager, the list of applications in the panel, has gained options for middle mouse click such as grouping and ungrouping applications.

Several other improvements here include:

  • Places jump list actions in File manager launchers (e.g. pinned Dolphin in Task Manager now lists user places)
  • The icon size in vertical Task Managers is now configurable to support more common vertical panel usage patterns
  • Improved app identification and pinning in Task Manager for apps that rely on StartupWMClass, perl-SDL-based apps and more


Folder View Is the New Default Desktop



Spring Loading in Folder View

Folder on the Desktop by Default

After some years shunning icons on the desktop we have accepted the inevitable and changed to Folder View as the default desktop which brings some icons by default and allows users to put whatever files or folders they want easy access to. Many other improvements have been made to the Folder View include:

  • Spring Loading in Folder View making drag and drop of files powerful and quick
  • More space-saving/tighter icon grid in Folder View based on much user feedback
  • Improved mouse behavior / ergonomics in Folder View for icon dnd (less surprising drop/insert location), rectangle selection (easier, less fiddly) and hover (same)
  • Revamped rename user interface in Folder View (better keyboard and mouse behavior e.g. closing the editor by clicking outside, RTL fixed, etc.)
  • Massively improved performance in Folder View for initial listing and scrolling large folders, reduced memory usage
  • Many other bug fixes and UI improvements in Folder View, e.g. better back button history, Undo shortcut support, clickable location in the headings, etc.
  • Unified drop menu in Folder View, showing both file (Copy/Move/Link) and widget (creating a Picture widget from an image drop, etc.) drop actions
  • It is now possible to resize widgets in the desktop by dragging on their edges and moving them with Alt+left-click, just like regular windows


New Features Everywhere

Lock Screen Now Has Music Controls
Lock Screen Now Has Music Controls

 

Software Centre Plasma Search

Software Centre Plasma Search offers to install apps

 

Audio Volume Device Menu

Audio Volume Device Menu

There are so many other improvements throughout the desktop, here's a sample:

  • Media controls on lock screen
  • Pause music on suspend
  • Software Centre Plasma Search (KRunner) suggests to install non-installed apps
  • File copying notifications have a context menu on previews giving access to actions such as open containing folder, copy, open with etc
  • Improved plasma-windowed (enforces applet default/minimum sizes etc)
  • 'desktop edit mode', when opening toolbox reveals applet handles
  • Performance optimizations in Pager and Task Manager
  • 'Often used' docs and apps in app launchers in addition to 'Recently used'
  • Panel icons (buttons for popup applets, launcher applets) now follow the Icons -> Advanced -> Panel size setting in System Settings again, so they won't take up too much space, particularly useful for wide vertical panels
  • Revamped password dialogs for network authentication
  • The security of the lock screen architecture got reworked and simplified to ensure that your system is secured when the screen is locked. On Linux systems the lock screen is put into a sandbox through the seccomp technology.
  • Plasma's window manager support for hung processes got improved. When a window is not responding any more it gets darkened to indicate that one cannot interact with it any more.
  • Support for locking and unlocking the shell from the startup script, useful especially for distributions and enterprise setups
  • Audio Volume applet has a handy menu on each device which you can use to set is as default or switch output to headphones.


Improved touch screen support



Virtual keyboard on Log In and Lock Screen

Virtual keyboard on Log In and Lock Screen


Touch Screen Support has improved in several ways:

  • Virtual Keyboard in lock screen
  • Virtual Keyboard in the login screen
  • Touch screen edge swipe gestures
  • Left screen edge defaults to window switching
  • Show auto-hiding panels through edge swipe gesture


Working for the Future with Wayland

We have put a lot of work into porting to new graphics layer Wayland, the switch is coming but we won't recommend it until it is completely transparent to the user. There will be improved features too such as KWin now supports scaling displays by different levels if you have a HiDPI monitor and a normal DPI screen.

Keyboard layout support in Wayland now has all the features of X11:

  • Layout switcher in the system tray
  • Per layout global shortcut
  • Switch layout based on a policy, either global, virtual desktop, application or per window
  • IPC interface added, so that other applications can change layout.


Plymouth Boot Splash Selection



Plymouth KControl Module

Plymouth KControl Module

A new System Settings module lets you download and select boot time splashes.


Bundle Packages



Selecting a file using file chooser portal, invoking openURI portal and notification portal

Flatpak integration with xdg-desktop-portal-kde: selecting a file using file chooser portal, invoking openURI portal and notification portal

Experimental support for forthcoming new bundle package formats has been implemented. Discover software centre has gained provisional backends for Flatpak and Snappy. New plugin xdg-desktop-portal-kde has added KDE integration into Flatpak packaged applications.

Support for GNOME’s Open Desktop Ratings, replacing old Ubuntu popularity contest with tons of already existing reviews and comments.


Full Plasma 5.10 changelog

MAY
15
2017

Plasma 5.10 Beta, Slicker Desktop

Also available in:

English | Català | Nederlands | Svenska | Українська



Plasma 5.10 Beta

KDE Plasma 5.10 Beta

Monday, 15 May 2017. Today KDE has made a testing release of our desktop Plasma 5.10 with new features across the suite to give users an experience which lives up to our tagline: simple by default, powerful when needed.


Panel Task Manager





Middle Mouse Click to Group

Task Manager, the list of applications in the panel, has gained options for middle mouse click such as grouping and ungrouping applications.

Several other improvements here include:

  • Places jump list actions in File manager launchers (e.g. pinned Dolphin in Task Manager now lists user places)
  • The icon size in vertical Task Managers is now configurable to support more common vertical panel usage patterns
  • Improved app identification and pinning in Task Manager for apps that rely on StartupWMClass, perl-SDL-based apps and more


Folder View Is the New Default Desktop



Spring Loading in Folder View

Folder on the Desktop by Default

After some years shunning icons on the desktop we have accepted the inevitable and changed to Folder View as the default desktop which brings some icons by default and allows users to put whatever files or folders they want easy access to. Many other improvements have been made to the Folder View include:

  • Spring Loading in Folder View making drag and drop of files powerful and quick
  • More space-saving/tighter icon grid in Folder View based on much user feedback
  • Improved mouse behavior / ergonomics in Folder View for icon dnd (less surprising drop/insert location), rectangle selection (easier, less fiddly) and hover (same)
  • Revamped rename user interface in Folder View (better keyboard and mouse behavior e.g. closing the editor by clicking outside, RTL fixed, etc.)
  • Massively improved performance in Folder View for initial listing and scrolling large folders, reduced memory usage
  • Many other bug fixes and UI improvements in Folder View, e.g. better back button history, Undo shortcut support, clickable location in the headings, etc.
  • Unified drop menu in Folder View, showing both file (Copy/Move/Link) and widget (creating a Picture widget from an image drop, etc.) drop actions
  • It is now possible to resize widgets in the desktop by dragging on their edges and moving them with Alt+left-click, just like regular windows


New Features Everywhere



Lock Screen Now Has Music Controls
Lock Screen Now Has Music Controls

 


Software Centre Plasma Search

Software Centre Plasma Search offers to install apps

 


Audio Volume Device Menu

Audio Volume Device Menu

There are so many other improvements throughout the desktop, here's a sample:

  • Media controls on lock screen
  • Pause music on suspend
  • Software Centre Plasma Search (KRunner) suggests to install non-installed apps
  • File copying notifications have a context menu on previews giving access to actions such as open containing folder, copy, open with etc
  • Improved plasma-windowed (enforces applet default/minimum sizes etc)
  • 'desktop edit mode', when opening toolbox reveals applet handles
  • Performance optimizations in Pager and Task Manager
  • 'Often used' docs and apps in app launchers in addition to 'Recently used'
  • Panel icons (buttons for popup applets, launcher applets) now follow the Icons -> Advanced -> Panel size setting in System Settings again, so they won't take up too much space, particularly useful for wide vertical panels
  • Revamped password dialogs for network authentication
  • The security of the lock screen architecture got reworked and simplified to ensure that your system is secured when the screen is locked. On Linux systems the lock screen is put into a sandbox through the seccomp technology.
  • Plasma's window manager support for hung processes got improved. When a window is not responding any more it gets darkened to indicate that one cannot interact with it any more.
  • Support for locking and unlocking the shell from the startup script, useful especially for distributions and enterprise setups
  • Audio Volume applet has a handy menu on each device which you can use to set is as default or switch output to headphones.


Improved touch screen support



Virtual keyboard on Log In and Lock Screen

Virtual keyboard on Log In and Lock Screen


Touch Screen Support has improved in several ways:

  • Virtual Keyboard in lock screen
  • Virtual Keyboard in the login screen
  • Touch screen edge swipe gestures
  • Left screen edge defaults to window switching
  • Show auto-hiding panels through edge swipe gesture


Working for the Future with Wayland

We have put a lot of work into porting to new graphics layer Wayland, the switch is coming but we won't recommend it until it is completely transparent to the user. There will be improved features too such as KWin now supports scaling displays by different levels if you have a HiDPI monitor and a normal DPI screen.

Keyboard layout support in Wayland now has all the features of X11:

  • Layout switcher in the system tray
  • Per layout global shortcut
  • Switch layout based on a policy, either global, virtual desktop, application or per window
  • IPC interface added, so that other applications can change layout.


Plymouth Boot Splash Selection



Plymouth KControl Module

Plymouth KControl Module

A new System Settings module lets you download and select boot time splashes.


Bundle Packages



Selecting a file using file chooser portal, invoking openURI portal and notification portal

Flatpak integration with xdg-desktop-portal-kde: selecting a file using file chooser portal, invoking openURI portal and notification portal

Experimentla support for forthcoming new bundle package formats has been implemented. Discover software centre has gained provisional backends for Flatpak and Snappy. New plugin xdg-desktop-portal-kde has added KDE integration into Flatpak packaged applications.

Support for GNOME’s Open Desktop Ratings, replacing old Ubuntu popularity contest with tons of already existing reviews and comments.


Full Plasma 5.10.0 changelog

MAY
4
2017

KDE e.V. Community 2016 Report

The KDE e.V. community report for 2016 is now available. After the introductory statement from the Board, you can read a featured article about the 20th anniversary of KDE, and an overview of all developer sprints and conferences supported by KDE e.V. The report includes statements from our Working Groups, development highlights for 2016, and some information about the current structure of KDE e.V.

Featured Article – 20 years of KDE

In 2016, all of us celebrated 20 years of the KDE Community with a number of parties around the world. We participated in the awesome QtCon in Berlin, announced the book 20 Years of KDE: Past, Present and Future and the KDE timeline. In this featured article, Lydia Pintscher brings back the early KDE impetus for digital freedom that still remains alive in every contributor's soul.

Supported Activities and Specific Reports

The report provides summaries of eight KDE e.V. supported developer sprints and six trade shows and community events where the KDE Community had its presence. Specific reports from the KDE e.V. Working Groups and KDE España are also presented. Finally, the report contains development highlights for 2016, and a short overview of mentoring programs in which KDE has been involved.

Results

The report concludes with a list of contributors who joined KDE e.V. during 2016, and presents the current members of the KDE e.V. Board of Directors. We invite you to read the entire report!

MAY
2
2017

Have You Heard? KDE Applications 17.04 and Plasma 5.9.5 Now Available

The last two weeks have been busy for the KDE Community. On April 20 we announced the release of KDE Applications 17.04, and five days later we released a new set of bugfixes and translations for Plasma, officially versioned Plasma 5.9.5.

Both new versions of our products have introduced several features and stability improvements to the overall KDE user experience. Here are some of the highlights from the latest KDE Applications and Plasma releases. As always, you can find a lot more information in their respective changelogs.

What's New in File Management?

If Dolphin is your file manager of choice, you will be happy to hear that it now allows you to interact with the metadata widgets in the tooltips. The Places panel now has better context menus, and opening a new instance of Dolphin using the "New Window" option will launch it in the same target folder as your current Dolphin window.

A significant change that affects not only Dolphin, but also Kate and KWrite, is that launching these applications as root on Linux systems has been disabled by default. The reason for this is that it is a safety risk to run GUI apps with root privileges in the X Window System (X11).

When it comes to viewing your files, Okular will be even better at it thanks to numerous improvements. You can now create bookmarks from the Table of Contents, resize annotations, and disable automatic search while typing.

Finally, Ark - the application that lets you manage compressed files and folders - now has a handy plugin configuration dialog and a Search function to help you look inside your archives.

What About Multimedia Applications?

The biggest improvements in the multimedia department will be visible in Kdenlive, KDE's video editor. The profile selection dialog has been fully redesigned, and it is now much easier to tweak the framerate, screen size, and other details of your project. Perhaps the coolest new feature in Kdenlive is the ability to play your video directly from the notification you receive when rendering is completed.

Other multimedia applications received some minor improvements, for example Gwenview now lets you hide the status bar in the application window.

Don't Forget About KDE Edu!

Our educational applications have seen some interesting changes. KAlgebra - the powerful graphing calculator and math-learning tool - has a new 3D back-end on the desktop, and its mobile version has been ported to Kirigami 2.0.

If you love music more than math, the new version of Minuet will delight you. The music education tool now comes with more scale exercises and ear-training tasks, plus an entire Test Mode for practicing and monitoring your progress.

KStars, our desktop planetarium, will now work much better on OS X, and KGeography now includes a map of Ghana.

New Members of the KDE Applications Family

We are happy to announce that K3b, the disk burning software, is now part of KDE Applications. In other great news, several applications have been ported from their old kdelibs4 base to KDE Frameworks 5. The list includes KCachegrind, Kajongg, kde-dev-utils and kdesdk-kioslaves.

No longer included in KDE Applications is the unmaintained development tool Kommander.

What About the New Plasma?

The most obvious changes introduced in Plasma 5.9.5 are related to window decorations and other visual tweaks. Themes in the System Settings module are now sorted, Plastik window decoration supports the global menu, and Aurorae window decorations support the global menu button. KWin will respect theme colors in buttons, and you will be able to edit the default color scheme of your Plasma Desktop.

Moreover, your Plasma session will correctly handle the event of disconnecting a primary screen and replacing it with a new one. The Media Controller Plasmoid has been fixed, and can now properly seek tracks longer than 30 minutes.

Where Can You Get All These New Things?

Both KDE Applications 17.04 and Plasma 5.9.5 are available in KDE neon. Linux distributions are expected to provide packages or update their existing ones in the coming weeks. Users of Arch Linux, Manjaro Linux, and Gentoo should already see our latest software in their repositories.

If you can't wait for your distribution's packages, you can always download our source code and compile it yourself. We provide build instructions for both KDE Applications and Plasma.

What's Next?

Plasma 5.10 is expected at the end of May. If you have been following our developers' blogs, you might be aware of some upcoming features. Folder View will have a much more prominent role on the Plasma Desktop, and it will include practical spring-loading navigation.

A lot more is in the works, and we will reveal some of the novelties as the release date approaches. Make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to keep up with all the news. If you're planning to celebrate the release of Plasma 5.10 by hosting a release party, start preparing now! Our Community Wiki has some tips on how to organize a local KDE event.

In the meantime, let us know about your experience with KDE Applications 17.04 and Plasma 5.9.5 in the comments!

APR
28
2017

Kirigami 2.1 is Out

Kirigami UI lets you easily design and create convergent apps that work on desktop and mobile environments. Platforms supported by Kirigami UI include Windows, Android, and Linux. Kirigami is especially indicated for KDE's Plasma Desktop and the upcoming Plasma Mobile platform, KDE's graphical environment for mobile devices. Apps developed with Kirigami will probably also work on MacOS X and iOS with minimal tweaking, although these platforms are not officially supported yet.

APR
28
2017

User Question: With Some Free Software Phone Projects Ending, What Does Plasma Mobile's Future Look Like?

Q: With some free software phone projects ending, what does Plasma Mobile's future look like?

A: The future is rosy. While it is true that Plasma Mobile used to be built on the Ubuntu Phone codebase, that was superseded some time ago. The recent events at Ubuntu and other mobile communities have not modified the pace of the development (which is pretty fast) or the end goal, which is to build frameworks that will allow convergence for all kinds of front-ends and apps on all kinds of devices.



The "converged" KAlgebra app running on an Android phone.

That framework for apps already exists. It is called Kirigami. Usually an operating system gains traction because of its apps. Think back when Android was the underdog to iOS, what did Google do? Lower the bar and put in place incentives for developers to create apps for Android.

The plan is that Kirigami will make the underlying platform irrelevant. If developers can port their apps with minimal hassle, and users can run their apps the same on all platforms, including the desktop, the possibility of having a shot at grabbing a slice of the mobile market becomes much more realistic. Even for new players, the main hurdle at the point of entry, i.e. having a well-stocked app store, disappears.

In the last couple of weeks Plasma Mobile developers have been working with some other mobile communities and has now announced the Halium project. This project aims to develop a common free, open and community-backed base-layer for all GNU/Linux-based mobile operating systems, including Ubuntu Phone which lives on through the UBports project. This interface will allow all operating systems to interact with the Android subsystems that control hardware and other low level components.

As you can see, the Plasma Mobile developers are working on bringing a common framework both to the UI side front and to the base layer. Interestingly, they are doing this, not only for the benefit of Plasma Mobile, but, in true Free Software fashion, for every community with a mobile project. This was already the goal before what happened at Ubuntu, by the way.

So, as I said at the beginning, the future for Plasma Mobile is bright.

APR
28
2017

Akademy 2018 Call for Hosts

Akademy, KDE's annual conference, requires a place and team for the year 2018. That's why we are looking for a vibrant, enthusiastic spot in Europe that can host us!

A Bit About Akademy

Akademy is KDE's annual get-together where our creativity, productivity and love are at their peak. Developers, users, translators, students, artists, writers - pretty much anyone who has been involved with KDE will join Akademy to participate and learn. Contents will range from keynote speeches and a two-day dual track session of talks by the FOSS community, to workshops and Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions where we plot the future of the project. Friday is scheduled for the KDE e.V. General Assembly and a pre-Akademy party/welcoming event. Saturday and Sunday covers the keynotes, talks and lightning talks. The remaining four days are used for BoFs, intensive coding sessions and workshops for smaller groups of 10 to 30 people out of which one day is reserved for a Day Trip of the attendees around the local touristic sights. Hosting Akademy is a great way to contribute to a movement of global collaboration. You get a chance to host one of the largest FOSS community in the world with contributors from over the world and be a witness to a wonderful inter-cultural fusion of attendees in your home town. You'll also get great exposure to Free Software. It is a great opportunity for the local university students, professors, technology enthusiasts and professionals to try their hand at something new.

What You Need to Do

Akademy requires a location in Europe, with a nice conference venue, that is easy to reach, preferably close to an international airport. Organizing Akademy is a demanding and a resource intensive task but you’ll be guided along the entire process by people who’ve been doing this for years. Nevertheless, the local team should be prepared to spare a considerable amount of time for this. For detailed information, please see the Call for Hosts. Questions and applications should be addressed to the Board of KDE e.V. or the Akademy Team. Please indicate your interest in hosting Akademy to the Board of KDE e.V. by June 1st. Full applications will be accepted until 15th June. We look forward to your enthusiasm in being the next host for Akademy 2018!

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