For all the gearheads around the world, the occasion of KDE's 20th birthday brings with it the traditional yet unconventional slice of our virtual birthday cake - our brand new book called 20 Years of KDE: Past, Present and Future scribbled in icing on top.
QtCon talks are over, and today we start the discussion groups and hacking sessions to plan out work on the KDE community's projects over the coming year. If you want to learn what's going on in KDE technologies and community you can spend some time watching over the videos from the QtCon KDE talks.
The talks are over after the three days of QtCon Akademy 2016 which means the BoF sessions and hacking days are about to begin. To close the talks at the conference we had a finishing keynote by Julia Reda, Member of the European Parliament and member of the Pirate Party.
She began by saying that on a fundamental level government is all of us, and it provides the infrastructure for our culture. Software used by the government is also a public service and the only philosophy that takes responsibility for that is free and open source software. Getting governments to use free and open source software is more important then ever because of the importance of technology in society. Computers are no longer limited to some parts of our lives, they are integral to everything we do. She gave the example of the VW Dieselgate scandal which is linked to cars being computers on wheels. There are no check that the software that is tested by regulators is the same that is run by the car hardware. Another interesting aspect is limitations on diesel control can be turned off to save the engine which means in practice they do this a lot and don't even need to tell the regulators. VW had a function programmed into the car which turned off the fuel saving if it deviated from the testing procedures.
Another area were we see the importance of software is robotics. A friend who wears a cochlear implant hearing aid has software which can control what you hear. Software on a pacemaker can be more scary. The source code for her friend's pacemaker had a bug and to test it they had to put her on a treadmill to debug it as there was no other way with the code not being available. Julia wants to know what software is run on her body. The EU parliament is discussing this issue.
An older debate is the use of technology in elections. In US voting infrastructure isn't considered critical infrastructure so it's not treated like an issue even when it has known problems. It's important to be able to inspect any software which has important functions. A more social issue is the debate about whether Facebook algorithms can influence elections. Predictive policing can encourage racist stereotypes, if that's done with software and we don't know how it works any biases can be very dangerous.
If you have Windows 10 running on your fridge there are more fun ways your software can fail. In some fields you might become legally barred from inspecting and tinkering your hardware. Freedom to tinker is important for education and also autonomy and it should be protected in a similar way as a freedom of speech. Information is governed differently from physical goods. Books can have owners but e-books are licensed and can't necessarily be given to your children when you die. Manufacturers will try to get us to rent things rather than buy them. There are tractors where the manufacturer told the owners they could not modify the tractor because that was not in their license. Circumvention of technological protections (such as DVD encryption) should be allowed. Even though these common sense demands were supported by the EU parliament, the EU Commission's proposals are different and e.g. want charges on news aggregators. There are no positive developments yet in copyright to give us more control. Another concerning area is trade secrets, which started as defending uncompetitive behaviour. If you break into the office of a competitor and steal plans that would be covered. But now manufacturers can claim the software is a trade secret and the regulator can't see it, which makes no sense. The US is introducing this into trade agreements to stop say China reading the software from US companies, so we have to make sure governments at least are able to see the software.
Posing for the Group Photo (to be published soon)
There are social developments that make free software significant. Some companies will restrict functions on their products by software which is dangerous. Finally there are moves for laws on what software can be installed on wifi hubs. Manufacturers should make sure users don't use the wrong spectrum but to allow competition, the US FCC has insisted you should allow 3rd party software. So we may have to have trusted computing type signed images for routers which makes installation of Linux on them much more challenging. What can government do about these issues? It's important we make the point governments rely on free and open software. Governments need to start taking responsibility of free software. There's a Prototype Fund in Germany where money is given to free software projects and helps with bureaucracy. With HeartBleed and ShellShock we saw a lot of infrastructure relies on free software but there's no responsibility from manufacturers to take care of it. The EU has started FOSSA, a project to audit free software. Asked in a survey which projects the EU should audit, most votes were for Apache HTTP and Keypass. The 2 year pilot project is coming to an end but they want to continue it and get a permanent budget. Also they want a bug bounty budget. In the future it's important to work within the system and build networks with free software communities and the EU commission. In Bulgaria and the US there are source code policies, they are not perfect but the US has a goal of publishing 20% of software as open source which is a lot better than many other governments. The EU commission has an open source policy but it only commits to not disadvantage open source solution in procurement. So her call for action is to move to a sustainable public procurement system and every government in the EU have a free software policy. The goal should be to make governments not just tolerate Free Software but to promote and improve it. To close the conference we had the annual KDE Akademy Awards and finally representatives of KDAB, KDE, FSFE and VLC came on stage to thank the organisers and wish us a successful onward conference with Akademy.
QtCon talks closed with our annual awards ceremony, the Akademy Awards. Given each year to the most valued and hardest working KDE contributors, they are awarded by the jury from the previous year. This year's winners are:
Best Non-Application Contribution
Aleix Pol who for many years has worked hard not just on KDE code but also on the community with KDE e.V. as a board member and KDE España.
Dominik Haumann and Christoph Cullmann for their work making Kate and the related parts. We all rely on a quality text editor and KDE has the finest one.
To Daniel Vrátil and the KDE PIMsters for creating and maintaining the largest suite of communication applications in the world.
As is traditional, an award was given to the organisers of Akademy, this year represented by Kenny Coyle who has been helping out for nearly a decade running the videos and many other tasks.
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!