Dan Bielefeld is an activist that works for a South Korean NGO. Dan worked in the Washington, D.C. area training young activists in the areas of politics and journalism before going into researching atrocities committed by the North Korean regime. He is currently the Technical Director of the Transitional Justice Working Group and helps pinpoint the locations of mass burial and execution sites using mapping technologies.
Dan will be delivering the opening keynote at this year's Akademy and he kindly agreed to talk to us about activism, Free Software, and the sobering things he deals with every day.
Paul Brown: Hello Dan and thanks for agreeing to sit down with us for this interview.
Dan: Yes, we have a mapping project that tries to identify specific coordinates of sites with evidence related to human rights violations.
Paul: And you were a web designer before joining the organization... I've got to ask: How does one make the transition from web designer to human rights activist?
Dan: I was a web developer for several years before moving to Korea. When I moved here, I enrolled as a Korean language student and also spent most of my free time volunteering with North Korean human rights groups. So, unfortunately, that meant putting the tech stuff on hold for a while (except when groups wanted help with their websites).
Paul: You are originally from the US, right?
Dan: Yes, from Wisconsin.
Paul: Was this a thing that preoccupied you before coming to Korea?
Dan: I initially came on a vacation with no idea that I'd one day live and work here. In the lead-up to that trip, and especially after that trip, I sought out more information about Korea, which inevitably brought me repeatedly to the subject of North Korea.
Most of the news about North Korea doesn't grab my attention (talking about whether to resume talking, for instance), but the situation of regular citizens really jumped out at me. For instance, it must've been in 2005 or so that I read the book The Aquariums of Pyongyang by a man who had literally grown up in a prison camp because of something his grandfather supposedly did. This just didn't seem fair to me. I had thought the gulags where only a thing of history, but I learned they still exist today.
Paul: Wait... So people can inherit "crimes" in North Korea?
Dan: They call it the "guilt-by-association" system. If your relative is guilty of a political crime (e.g., defected to the South during the Korean War), up to three generations may be punished.
Paul: Wow. That is awful, but somehow I feel this is not the most awful thing I am going to hear today...
Dan: For a long time I thought it was just North Korea, but I have since learned that this logic / punishment method is older than the division of the North and South. For a long time after the division, in the South it was hard to hold a government position if your relative was suspected of having fled to the North, for instance.
Paul: What's your role in Transitional Justice Working Group?
Dan: I'm the technical director, so I'm responsible for our computer systems and networks, which includes our digital security. I also manage the mapping project, and I am also building our mapping system.
Paul: Digital security... I read that North Korea is becoming a powerhouse when it comes to electronic terrorism. How much credibility do these stories have? I mean, they seem to be technologically behind in nearly everything else.
Dan: This is a really interesting question and the answer is very important to my work, of course.
Going up against great powers like the US, the North Korean leadership practices asymmetrical warfare. Guerilla warfare, terrorism, these are things that can have a big impact with relatively little resources against a stronger power.
In digital security, offense tends to be easier than defense, so they naturally have gravitated online. Eike [Hein -- vice-president at KDE e.V.] and I went to a conference last year at which a journalist, Martyn Williams of NorthKoreaTech.org said they train thousands of hackers from an early age. The average person in North Korea doesn't have a lot of money and may not even have a computer, but those the regime identifies and trains will have used computers and received a great deal of training from an early age. They do this not only for cyber-warfare, but to earn money for the regime. For instance, the $81 million from the Bangladesh bank heist.
Paul: Ah, yes! They did Wannacry too.
Paul: Do your systems get attacked?
Dan: One of our staff members recently received a targeted phishing email that looked very much like a proper email from Google. The only thing not real was the actual URL it went to. Google sent her the warning about being targeted by state-sponsored attackers and recommended she join their Advanced Protection Program, which they launched last year for journalists, activists, political campaign teams, and other high-risk users.
We of course do our best to monitor our systems, but the reality today is that you almost have to assume they're already in if they're motivated to do so.
Paul: That is disturbing. So what do you do about that? What tools do you use to protect and monitor your systems?
Dan: What I've learned over the last three years is that the hardest part of digital security is the human element. You can have the best software or the best system, but if the password is 123456 or is reused everywhere, you aren't really very secure.
We try to make sure that, for instance, two-factor authentication is turned on for all online accounts that offer it -- for both work and personal accounts. You have to start with the low-hanging fruit, which is what the attackers do. No reason to burn a zero-day if the password is "password". Getting people to establish good digital hygiene habits is crucial. It's sort of like wearing a seatbelt -- using 2FA might take extra time every single time you do it, and 99.9% of the time, it's a waste of time, but you'll never really know in advance when you'll really need it, so it's best to just make it a habit and do it every time.
Another thing, of course, is defense in layers: don't assume your firewall stopped them, etc.
Paul: What about your infrastructure? Bringing things more to our terrain: Do you rely on Free Software or do you have a mix of Free and proprietary? Are there any tools in particular you find especially useful in your day-to-day?
Dan: I personally love FOSS and use it as much as I can. Also, being at a small NGO with a very limited budget, it's not just the freedom I appreciate, but the price often almost makes it a necessity.
Paul: But surely having access to the code makes it a bit more trustworthy than proprietary blackboxes. Or am I being too biased here?
Dan: Not all of my colleagues have the same approach, but most of them use, for instance, LibreOffice everyday. For mapping, we use Postgres (with PostGIS) and QGIS, which are wonderful. QGIS is a massive project that so far we've only scratched the surface of. We also use Google Earth, which provides us with imagery of North Korea for our interviews (I realize GE is proprietary).
I agree, though, that FOSS is more trustworthy -- not just for security, but privacy reasons. It doesn't phone home as much!
Paul: What about your email server, firewalls, monitoring software, and so on. What is that? FLOSS or proprietary?
Dan: Mostly FLOSS, but one exception, I must admit, is our email hosting. We do not have the resources to safely run our own email. A few years ago we selected a provider that was a partner with a FOSS project to run our own email service, but we ultimately switched to Google because that provider was slow to implement two-factor authentication.
Dan: The human right situation in North Korea is very disturbing and the sad thing is it's continued for 60+ years. The UN's Report of the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from 2014 is a must-read on the general human rights situation in North Korea. From the principal findings section (para. 24), "The commission finds that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In many instances, the violations found entailed crimes against humanity based on State policies."
Their mandate looked at "violations of the right to food, the full range of violations associated with prison camps, torture and inhuman treatment, arbitrary arrest and detention, discrimination; in particular, in the systemic denial and violation of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, violations of the freedom of expression, violations of the right to life, ... enforced disappearances, including in the form of abductions of nationals of other States," and so on.
For our mapping project, we published our first report last year, based on interviews with 375 escapees from North Korea who have now settled in South Korea.
They collectively told us the coordinates of 333 killing sites, usually the sites of public executions, which local residents, including school children, are encouraged and sometimes forced to watch. It should be noted that this number hasn't been consolidated to eliminate duplicates. Some people reported more than one site, others none at all, but on average, almost one site per person was reported.
Paul: And how do you feel about the situation? I am guessing you have met North Korean refugees passing through your workplace and that you, like most of us, come from a very sheltered and even cushy Western society background. How do you feel when faced with such misery?
Dan: It's a good question and hard to put into words what I feel. I guess, more than anything, I find the North Korean regime so unfair. Those we met in Seoul have been through so much, but they also are the ones who overcame so many obstacles and now have landed on their feet somewhere. It's not easy for them, but usually the longer they're here, the better they end up doing.
Continuing about the mapping project's first report findings, from those 375 interviewees, we were also told the coordinates of 47 "body sites" - we use the term "body sites" because it's more general than burial sites. Most of the sites were burial sites, but some were cremation sites or places where bodies had been dumped without being buried, or stored temporarily before being buried. This 47 figure IS consolidated / de-duped (from 52), unlike the killing sites number.
Paul: You manually plot sites on maps, correct? You have to rely on witnesses remembering where they saw things happen...
Dan: We manually plot them using Google Earth, yes. During the interview, our interviewer (who himself is originally from the North) looks together with the interviewee at Google Earth's satellite imagery. You have to get used to looking down at the world, which takes some getting used to for some people.
Paul: Is there no technology that would help map these things? Some sort of... I don't know... thermal imaging from satellites?
Dan: Our goal eventually would be to interview all 30,000-plus North Koreans who've resettled in South Korea. The more we interview, and the more data points we get, the more we can cross-reference testimonies and hopefully get a better picture of what happened at these locations. I went to the big FOSS4G (G=Geospatial) conference last year in Boston and also the Korean FOSS4G in Seoul, and got to meet people developing mapping systems on drones. The only problem right now with drones is that flying them over North Korea will probably be seen as an act of war.
When we get enough data points, we could use machine learning to help identify more potential burial sites across all of North Korea. Something similar is being done in Mexico, for instance, where they predict burial sites of the victims of the drug wars.
Paul: You mentioned that the crimes have been going on for 60 years now. What should other countries be doing to help stop the atrocities? Because it seems to me that, whatever they have been doing, hasn't worked that well...
Dan: Very true, that. North Korea is very good at playing divide and conquer. The rivalry between the Soviets and the Chinese, for instance, allowed them to extract more aid or resources from them.
They also try to negotiate one-on-one, they don't want to sit down to negotiate with the US and South Korea at the same time, only with one or the other, for instance. North Korea - South Korea and North Korea - US meetings are dramatically being planned right now, and it puts a lot of stress on the alliance between the US and South Korea. That's definitely a goal of North Korea's leadership. Again, divide and conquer.
So one thing that's an absolute must is for South Korea to work very closely with other countries and for them to all hold to the same line. But there are domestic and external forces that are pulling all of the countries in other directions, of course.
I would say to any government to always keep human rights on the agenda. This does raise the bar for negotiations, but it also indicates what's important. It also sends an important message to the people of North Korea, whom we’re trying to help.
I also think strategies that increase the flow of information into, out of, and within North Korea are key. For instance, the BBC recently opened a Korea-language service for the whole peninsula including North Korea. And Google’s Project Loon and Facebook’s similar project with drones could theoretically bring the internet to millions.
Paul: Do you think these much-trumpeted US - North Korean negotiations will happen? And if so, anything productive will come from them?
Dan: I really don't know. Also, one can't talk about all this without mentioning that China is North Korea's enabler, so if you want to significantly change North Korea, you have to influence China.
To more directly answer the question, two US presidents (one from each party) made big deals with the North Koreans but the deals fell apart. We’ll see.
Paul: We've covered what governments can do, but what can private citizens do to help?
Dan: One major thing is to help amplify the voices of North Korean refugees and defectors. There are a few groups in Seoul, for instance, that connect English speakers with North Korean defectors who want to learn and practice their English. There are small North Korean defector communities in cities like London, Washington DC, etc. I don't know about Berlin, but I wouldn't be surprised!
That's at the individual-to-individual level, but also, those with expertise as software developers, could use their skills to empower North Korean refugee organizations and activists, as well as other North Korean human rights groups.
Paul: Empower how? Give me a specific thing they can do.
Dan: For instance, one time I invited an activist to the Korea KDE group. He and some KDE community leaders had a very interesting discussion about how to use Arduino or something similar to control a helium-filled balloon to better drop leaflets, USB sticks, etc. over North Korea.
Paul: That is a thing? What do the Arduinos do, control some sort of rotor?
Paul: What do you put on the sticks and cards? "The Interview"? "Team America"?
Dan: There are several groups doing this, which is good, since they all probably have different ideas of what North Koreans want to watch. I think South Korean TV shows, movies, and K-Pop are staples. I have heard Wikipedia also goes on to some sticks, as do interviews with North Koreans resettled in South Korea...
Paul: Dan, thank you so much for your time.
Dan: Thanks so much, Paul, I look forward to meeting you and the rest of the KDE gang this summer.
Paul: I too look forward to seeing you in Vienna.
Dan will be delivering the opening keynote at Akademy 2018 on the 11th of August. Come to Akademy and find out live how you too can fight injustice from the realms of Free Software.
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.
After many months of hard work and more than 200 bugs fixed, KEXI is back with a new major release that will excite Windows and Linux users alike.
If you are looking for a Free and open source alternative to Microsoft Access, KEXI is the right tool for you.
As part of the Calligra suite, KEXI integrates with other office software, providing an easy, visual way to design tables, queries, and forms, build database applications, and export data into multiple formats. KEXI also offers rich data searching options, as well as support for parametrized queries, designing relational data, and storing object data (including images).
A new version of KEXI has just been released, so if you have never tried this powerful database designer application, now is the right time.
KEXI 3.1 is available for Linux and macOS, and after many years, for Windows as well.
KEXI Is Back on Windows
Business environments are often concerned about migrating to FOSS solutions because of compatibility issues with the proprietary software and formats they currently use. KEXI solves that problem with its Microsoft Access migration assistant that ensures database tables are preserved and editable between applications. Even better, KEXI works natively on the Windows operating system. In fact, KEXI was the first KDE application offered in full version on Windows.
After a long hiatus, the new version of KEXI offers convenient installers for Windows once again. Although it's a preview version, the users are invited to try it out, report bugs, and provide feedback.
Usability and Stability for Everyone
Similar to Plasma 5.12 LTS, the focus of KEXI 3.1 was to improve stability and (backward) compatibility. With more than 200 bugfixes and visibly improved integration with other desktop environments, the goal has definitely been achieved.
Usability improvements have also made their way into KEXI 3.1 dialogs. When using the Import Table Assistant, it is now possible to set character encoding for the source database. Property groups are now supported, and users can set custom sizes for report pages.
Great News for Developers
KEXI 3.1 marks the first official release of KEXI Frameworks - a powerful backend aimed at developers who want to simplify their codebase while making their Qt and C++ applications more featureful. KDb is a database connectivity and creation framework for various database vendors. In KEXI 3.1, KDb offers new debugging functions for SQL statements and comes with improved database schema caching.
KProperty is a property editing framework which now comes with improved support for measurement units and visual property grouping. Last but not least, KReport is a framework for building reports in various formats, offering similar functionality to the reports in MS Access, SAP Crystal or FileMaker. The most useful new feature in KEXI 3.1 is the ability to set custom page sizes for KReport.
Alongside Frameworks, KEXI 3.1 offers greatly refined APIs and updated API documentation. According to the developers, “the frameworks are now guaranteed to be backward-compatible between minor versions”.
Translations have also been improved, and KEXI 3.1 is the first version where they are bundled with the Frameworks. This will make it easier for the developers using KEXI Frameworks, as they will be able to use translated messages in their apps.
Make KEXI Even Better
Even with all the excitement about the new release, KEXI developers are already working on new features and improving the existing ones. If you'd like to help make KEXI better, it's never too late to join the project! Take a look at the list of available coding and non-coding jobs.
Although the API documentation has been updated, the user documentation could use some love. If you're good at writing or teaching others, why not chip in?
Finally, if you know a business or an individual that's looking for a Microsoft Access replacement, tell them about KEXI.
They just might be pleasantly surprised with what they'll discover.
Did you know you can install an AI personal assistant on your Plasma desktop?
Mycroft is running through the last 24 hours of the crowdfunding campaign for its Mark II assistant. The machine looks awesome and offers similar functionality to other proprietary alternatives, but with none of the spying and leaking of personal data.
The Mark 2 will be delivered to backers at the end of this year, but you can enjoy the pleasures of giving orders to an AI right now by installing the Mycroft widget on Plasma courtesy of KDE hacker Aditya Mehra.
As the widget is still experimental software, the installation is currently slightly cumbersome. The users have to build it from source and write to directories that should usually be accessible only to the administrator account. The widget also uses Python 2, which is a bit old at this stage.
However, a little dicky bird from openSUSE has told us that they are solving these issues, migrating the software to Python 3 and packaging RPMs. They said they will have packages for Tumbleweed *maybe* as early as next week.
KDE e.V. is announcing today it has received a donation of 200,000 USD from the Pineapple Fund.
With this donation, the Pineapple Fund recognizes that KDE as a community creates software which benefits the general public, advances the use of Free Software on all kinds of platforms, and protects users' privacy by putting first-class and easy to use tools in the hands of the people at zero cost. KDE joins a long list of prestigious charities, organizations and communities that the Pineapple Fund has so generously donated to.
"KDE is immensely grateful for this donation. We would like to express our deeply felt appreciation towards the Pineapple Fund for their generosity" said Lydia Pintscher, President of KDE e.V.. "We will use the funds to further our cause to make Free Software accessible to everyone and on all platforms. The money will help us realize our vision of creating a world in which everyone has control over their digital life and enjoys freedom and privacy".
"KDE is a vibrant community that has been developing a number of awesome products like Plasma that empower the user's freedom." said a spokesperson for the Pineapple Fund. "I especially admire the UX and design of KDE's products, as they are approachable to new audiences who are not Linux geeks. I hope this donation can power further KDE development!".
This donation will allow KDE to organize events that bring the community together; sponsor development sprints to improve the usability and performance of existing tools; pay expenses for contributors traveling from distant locations; attract more contributors and build a more inclusive community; create new and safer programs; and carry out research for future generations of KDE's environments and applications.
Today is "I Love Free Software Day"!
We're celebrating by shining a spotlight on our contributors and on our collaboration with other FOSS communities and organizations. Free Software is an integral part of our lives, and it's important to show appreciation, support, and gratitude to everyone who works on making it better every day.
One of those people is Franklin Weng, a KDE contributor who started his Free Software journey by translating Kalzium. Franklin's contributions led him to amazing opportunities and projects. Read on to find out why he loves KDE so much.
Kalzium – The Start of An Amazing Journey
by Franklin Weng
When I was a high school student, chemistry was not my cup of tea. My grades in chemistry were not bad either, but I hated memorizing those organic compounds. Then, I decided to major in computer science at university, and from that moment, destiny tightly bonded me and Free and Open Source Software.
Around 2001 or 2002, I started to use and later contribute to KDE. However, Kalzium is the start of another amazing story for me. It happened in 2007...
I started translating KDE software around 2005. At the time, the Traditional Chinese language packages had almost been abandoned by KDE because of the very slow translation rate. Some senior FOSS community members called to others to "save" Traditional Chinese, and finally we did. From that moment on, I kept translating KDE because I simply asked myself: "Since I'm using this desktop environment, why not do it?"
So I translated everything in KDE. Everything. I started with KMail because I wanted a mail client that would reside in my system tray. Then I translated more KDE PIM applications, KDE Multimedia, KDE Graphics, KDE Games,... even KOffice. And of course, KDE Edu applications - from the simple, lovely ones, like KTuberling, KTouch, and KHangman, to huge ones like KStars and KGeography (that last one is enormous). Kalzium was just another one for me; I even translated KMyMoney - without any accounting background.
Then in 2007, I got an email.
"I saw you translated the Kalzium software. Could we meet and talk about that?"
That email was from my now friend, Eric Sun, who was (and still is) the Executive Secretary of the Open Source Software Application Consulting Center (OSSACC), a project launched by the Ministry of Education in Taiwan. The project promotes free software for use in primary and high schools. At first I had no idea why this guy would like to meet me. Would he discuss chemistry with me? I wasn't a chemistry-aholic at all!
We met at a Burger King in Taipei. He introduced himself and told me about his idea, which made me appreciate him a lot! He, as the Executive Secretary and also an FOSS enthusiast like me, wanted to introduce educational Free Software applications to teachers and students to help them acquire knowledge from many different fields, without any financial cost.
To promote those Free Software applications, the first step is, of course, to localize them. Teachers and students, especially in primary schools, would never accept software with English interfaces. He noticed that there had been some software with Traditional Chinese translations, and he was curious about who did it. Bingo! It was me.
After that, we have also done a lot of work together, mostly introducing public domain educational resources, including FOSS to schools. I became one of KDE e.V. members and the president of the BoD of Software Liberty Association Taiwan, an NPO which promotes FOSS in Taiwan. In recent years, we have helped Taiwan governments to migrate to LibreOffice and ODF.
Thinking about the past 10 amazing years on the road of promoting FOSS, the start point was that I translated Kalzium. Of course, I wasn't aware that contributing translations to KDE would give me such an amazing tour in my life. Nevertheless, I always use this as an example to tell my young friends in Taiwan: "See? Chemistry is not my thing, but translating Kalzium (and many other KDE applications) made my life wonderful!"
Big thanks to Franklin for contributing to KDE for so many years, and for spreading the word about our software and its educational potential!
Do you have a story about how you fell in love with KDE? Let us know in the comments!
To start with, it comes with a choice between an Intel i5: 2.5 GHz Turbo Boost 3.1 GHz - 3M Cache CPU, or an Intel i7: 2.7 GHz Turbo Boost 3.5 GHz with a 4M Cache. This makes the KDE Slimbook II 15% faster on average than its predecessor. The RAM has also been upgraded, and the KDE Slimbook now sports 4, 8, or 16 GBs of DDR4 RAM which is 33% faster than the DDR3 RAM installed on last year's model.
Other things to look forward to include:
a crisp FullHD 13.3'' screen,
the dual hard drive bay that gives you room for a second hard disk,
a bigger multi-touch touchpad that supports all kinds of gestures and clicks,
a slick backlit keyboard, more powerful WiFi antennas,
and 3 full-sized USB ports, one of which is the new reversible USB-C standard.
The KDE community has worked closely with Slimbook to make sure that everything works as it should. After test-running the KDE Slimbook II extensively, we can confirm it is sleek, we can confirm it is powerful, and we can confirm that beginners and power users alike will enjoy this full-featured and modern Plasma-based laptop.
Although performance and stability have been the prime goals for this version of Plasma, some of the new features include spring-loaded folder views, improved Wayland support, interactive notifications, and more.
Plasma 5.12 LTS is the second long-term support release from the Plasma 5 team. Developers have been working hard, focusing on speed and stability for this release. Boot time to desktop has been improved by reviewing the code for anything which blocks execution. The team has fixed bugs in every aspect of the codebase, tidied up the artwork, removed corner cases, and ensured cross-desktop integration. For the first time, Plasma offers experimental Wayland integration on long-term support, so you can be sure it will continue to improve the Wayland experience.
Also, you can now control music playback from the lock screen, interact with notifications, use "spring-load" folders to move files around without actually opening Dolphin, and change your applications to use global menus à la macOS.
Despite the security meltdown that swept over the tech community, our 2018 started out great - and it's all thanks to you. Your donations helped us reach the goal of our end-of-year fundraiser.
We would like to thank everyone who participated in the fundraiser, and also to all our community members who spread the word about it on social media and their blogs. You are all a wonderful community, and we are proud to be a part of this journey with you.
Having released an update for Plasma 5.11 just at the beginning of 2018, Plasma developers are now gearing up for the first major release of the year. Plasma 5.12 will be the new LTS (Long-Term Support) version, replacing Plasma 5.8.
Since many Linux distributions will rely on this version of Plasma, the developers wanted to make it as stable and fast as possible. Startup speed and memory usage will be visibly improved, particularly on low-end devices.
The KScreen utility will allow Wayland users to adjust the output resolution as well as enable and disable selected outputs. Discover, the software management application, will support the dist-upgrade command for new major releases of distributions. Application screenshots will look better than ever, and support some useful options such as navigation between images. A lot of work has been done on Flatpak support in Discover, and plenty of critical, usability-impeding bugs have been fixed.
It is important to note that new features for KWin on X11 will no longer be developed after Plasma 5.12. Moving forward, only the features relevant to Wayland will be added.
Krita Paints Masterpiece Features
Digital artists, rejoice! A major Krita release with big, beautiful changes is coming this year. With Krita 3.3.3 released just recently, all the attention is now shifting towards Krita 4.0. This version will bring improved integration with Inkscape, allowing the users to copy and paste shapes directly between the two applications.
Krita 4.0 supports Python scripting, comes with a new text tool, and allows bigger brush sizes. Expect two major changes related to file formats, too - instead of ODG, SVG will be the new default vector format. Additionally, the file format for color palettes will change, and the new one will let users create their own color groups.
We're always happy when new or small projects take off and grow to become an important part of the KDE Community. Here's a small selection of some interesting KDE applications to keep an eye on:
If you're into 3D printing, you should try Atelier. Along with its backend, AtCore, Atelier allows you to control your 3D printer, calibrate printer settings, check its status, and send print jobs to the printer. Although the application is still in beta, you can use it on Linux, macOS, and Windows, and there is even an AppImage if you'd prefer not bother with dependencies.
A major redesign of the user interface is in progress, so you can expect better views and multiple workspaces that will allow you to manage more than one 3D printer using one instance of Atelier.
Productivity isn't such a hot buzzword anymore, but people are still looking for better ways to organize their tasks. Enter Zanshin, a small but powerful app grounded in the philosophy of simplicity. It allows you to sort your tasks into projects and divide them into different contexts.
Zanshin integrates with the KDE PIM suite and KRunner, making it easy to add new tasks from incoming email or display them in your calendar. A new version of Zanshin just came out, with features such as recurrent tasks, support for attachments, and the ability to focus on the currently active task to minimize distraction.
Latte Dock officially became a KDE project (as part of our Extragear collection) at the end of 2017, but it has been a community favorite for a long time.
This highly configurable dock allows you to organize your launchers and running applications, and new features are added constantly. Recent changes made it possible to share custom dock layouts with other users (and download theirs), and improved dynamic backgrounds for application windows that interact with the dock.
A new music player on the KDE stage, Elisa is still in development, but it's an exciting project to follow. One of its main features is music indexing, which optimizes the speed of your music collection. Elisa allows you to browse music by artist and album, or display all tracks, as well as create custom playlists. The developers are currently focused on improving the interface. You can try Elisa on Linux and Windows.
Akademy on the Blue Danube
August may seem far away, but we're already preparing for the biggest KDE Community event of the year - Akademy 2018! The annual gathering of KDE community members will take place in Vienna, Austria, from the 11th to the 17th of August at the University of Technology (TU Wien).
The call for participation is now open, and you can send your proposals for talks, panels, and workshops until March 12th, 2018. Of course, you can also simply come as an attendee -- after all, there is no admission fee, and everyone is welcome. Whether you're a seasoned KDE contributor or someone who just started using KDE software two days ago, we would like to meet you!
More Ways for You to Contribute
During our end-of-year fundraiser, many people asked us about using cryptocurrency to support KDE. We listened, and we made it possible - now you can donate Bitcoin using bitpay. You can also donate directly from our Facebook page, or participate in our Join the Game project, where you can become a supporting member of KDE and take part in our General Assembly meetings.
Of course, it's not all about the money. If you would like to contribute to KDE as a developer, take a look at our Season of KDE mentorship project. Want to write articles about KDE for this website? Get in touch with the KDE Promo team, and they will help you get started. There are so many venues to becoming a KDE contributor, and as part of our long-term goals, we will work on making the process of joining easier.
Akademy is the KDE Community conference. The 2018 edition is from Saturday 11th to Friday 17th August in Vienna, Austria. If you are working on topics relevant to KDE or Qt, this is your chance to present your work and ideas at the Conference. The days for talks are Saturday and Sunday, 11th and 12th. The rest of the week will be BoFs, unconference sessions and workshops.
What we are looking for
The goal of the conference section of Akademy is to learn and teach new skills and share our passion around what we're doing in KDE with each other.
For the sharing of ideas, experiences and state of things, we will have short Fast Track sessions in a single-track section of Akademy. Teaching and sharing technical details is done through longer sessions in the multi-track section of Akademy.
If you think you have something important to present, please tell us about it. If you know of someone else who should present, please encourage them. For more details see the proposal guidelines and the Call for Participation.
The submission deadline is 12th March, 23:59:59 CET.
Accommodation & Travel information
Information about how to get to Vienna and the recommended accommodation is now available on the Akademy website
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. For more information, please contact The Akademy Team.
However, these days “KDE” stands for the community and the work we carry out – and that is more than just code. KDE sponsors students and budding developers, meets in events and works in sprints. All of this ultimately, yes, helps KDE produce more and better software. But more importantly, it encourages a large number of people to work together for the common good.
With that in mind, here goes our tribute to the larger KDE community and the landmarks reached in 2017:
New developers and students were brought into the KDE fold in 2017. We showed them how to start contributing to Free Software, opened up career opportunities for them, and helped them realise their full potential.
KDE also sponsored developers and supporters to allow them to visit events far from their homes. We helped Lays Rodrigues from Brazil get to the developer sprint we run every year in Randa, Switzerland. Lays is working on Atelier, a graphical interface for controlling 3D printers.
A sponsorship for Anu Mittal (a software engineer) and Vasudha Mathur (a student software engineer) allowed them to make it to Akademy in Spain all the way from India. Anu is a contributor to several applications in KDE's educational suite of programs, and Vasudha is writing a Qt interface to Rocket Chat, a free, open source team chat system for enterprises. Vasudha's implementation will work both on desktop and mobile devices.
Talking of Akademy...
This year the KDE community met in full force in August in Almería, in the south of Spain. 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.
This year's event attracted over 110 attendees travelling mainly from Europe, but also from North and South America, and Asia. Over the weekend, visitors were able to attend more than 40 different talks on all kinds of topics, ranging from developing applications for mobile phones to best ways for collaboration between communities.
And then, thanks to our sponsors and donations from community members, KDE developers assembled again in Randa, Switzerland, ready to tackle the challenges of accessibility. Voice feedback and keyboard navigation got added to Plasma, Marble got smoother and developers started working on a better text-to-speech engine for the mapping app. The developers also discussed accessibility best practices and decided testers should check if an app can be used only with the keyboard and then only with a mouse. They also agreed that customizations should be kept to a minimum. In summary, KDE developers made everything better for everybody.
The Qt World Summit (QtWS), held in Berlin in October, was a meeting of another kind altogether. Our target at this event was to convince people from enterprises and a wider developer community to Power Up using KDE-based libraries and framework. Visitors could try Plasma Mobile working on an actual handset, and also play with the upcoming Pinebook, a Plasma-enabled ultra-notebook built around the Pine 64 SBC. Attendees could also recharge literally, relaxing at our ample sitting space with comfy cushions in an open and informal atmosphere, while topping up the batteries of their devices with the plugs and USB charging stations strategically placed all around the sitting area. Our aim was to make visitors feel welcome not only to our booth, but also to our community.
But helping people discover Free Software by discovering KDE is only one of the ways we helped further FLOSS in 2017...
We supported the cause for a wider adoption of Free Software in several ways during 2017. We partnered with Purism to work on getting Plasma Mobile ready for their Free smartphone, Librem5. We are proud that KDE's early participation in the crowdfunding campaign was instrumental in pushing it over the finishing line and then some. Not only did we help them surpass their initial goal of $1.5 million and then reach 2 million dollars, but we also precipitated a flurry of endorsements from other Free Software projects, such as Gnome and Monero. The end result is that a fully open and privacy-respecting Linux-based phone is much nearer than you think.
And then we helped the Free Software Foundation Europe campaign push for increased adoption of Free Software in public institutions. The Public Money? Public Code! campaign advocates for software developed using public funds to be released and shared under Free Software licenses. We raised awareness by blogging about it, and published an article about the campaign here, in the Dot. We then spread the news through our social media accounts.
Talking of which...
It has been a good year for growth of the KDE community. We have ramped up our activity on social media to help more people become aware of the benefits of Free Software in general, and of KDE environments and applications in particular.
Our Twitter following has swelled to well over 51,000 users, and our subreddit now has more than 10,000 subscribers. This is a massive audience that re-tweets, comments and posts about what we do, helping us reach an evergrowing audience. We have also increased our presence on Facebook and G+.
Thanks to these outlets, we get to talk to more and more people every day. Our social media accounts allow for a two-way conversation with users we would otherwise never hear from.
More than Software
Although it may sound trite, the long and short of it is that KDE nowadays is more about people than about writing code. Of course, we love our software and adore the talented developers, but we see beyond developing apps and environments. We consider our technology a force for good; a way to help bring usable, accessible and powerful software to the people.
Over the years, we have discovered that we need more than excellent developers to do that. We need a whole community willing to contribute a wide variety of skills, technical and otherwise. Fortunately, KDE has managed to build a strong community, and it is thanks to you and people like you. None of the above milestones would have been possible without your support and your contributions. You can help us even more by donating to our End of Year fundraiser or by spreading this article far and wide, raising awareness of the work we all do together.
Thank you because you made 2017 wonderful, and thank you again because we know you'll make 2018 even better.