Google+ does rather killoff the notion I had of Google as a highly efficient company who always produce top quality work. Even using the takeout website to download the content from Google+ I found a number of obvious bugs and poor features. But I did get my photos in the end so for old times sakes here’s a random selection.
A marketing campaign that failed to take off
Sprints in Munich thanks to the city council’s KDE deployment were always fun.
Launching KDE neon with some pics of my office and local castle.
One day I took a trip with Nim to Wales and woke up in somewhere suspiciously like the Shire from Lord of the Rings
February means FOSDEM, the largest gathering of free software developers in the continent. I drove for two days down the winding roads and even onto a train and out again to take the bits needed to run the stall there. Fortunately my canoeing friend Poppy was there for car karaoke and top Plasma dev David got picked up along the way to give us emotional support watching Black Mirror Bandersnatch with its multiple endings.
The beer flowed freely at Delerium but disaster(!) the venue for Saturday did not exist! So I did some hasty scouting to find a new one before returning for more beer.
Rather than place us next to Gnome the organisers put us next to our bestie friends Nextcloud which was nice and after some setup the people came and kept on coming. Saturday was non stop on the stall but fortunately we had a good number of volunteers to talk to our fans and future fans.
Come Home to KDE in 2019 was the theme. You’ve been distro hopping. Maybe bought a macbook because you got bored of the faff with Linux. But now it’s time to re-evaluate. KDE Plasma is lightweight, full features, simple and beautiful. Our applications are world class. Our integration with mobile via KDE Connect is unique and life changing.
I didn’t go to many talks because I was mostly stuck on the stall but an interesting new spelling library nuspell looks like something we should add into our frameworks, and Tor is helping people evade governments and aiding the selling of the odd recreational drug too.
At 08:30 not many helpers or punters about but the canoeists got the show going.
In full flow on the Saturday Wolthera does a live drawing show of Krita while Boud is on hand for queries and selfies.
The Saturday meal after a quick change of venue was a success where we were joined by our friends Nextcloud and the Lawyers of Freedom.
Staying until the following day turns out to allow a good Sunday evening to actually chat and discuss the merits of KDE, the universe and everything. With waffles.
This week I gave KDE Frameworks a web page after only 4 years of us trying to promote it as the best thing ever since cabogganing without one. I also updated the theme on the KDE Applications 18.12 announcement to this millennium and even made the images in it have a fancy popup effect using the latest in JQuery Bootstrap CSS. But my proudest contribution is making the screenshot for the new release of Konsole showing how it can now display all the cat emojis plus one for a poodle.
So far no comments asking why I named my computer thus.
It’s not uncommon to come across some dusty corner of KDE which hasn’t been touched in ages and has only half implemented features. One of the joys of KDE is being able to plunge in and fix any such problem areas. But it’s quite a surprise when a high profile area of KDE ends up unmaintained. www.kde.org is one such area and it was getting embarrassing. February 2016 we had a sprint where a new theme was rolled out on the main pages making the website look fresh and act responsively on mobiles but since then, for various failures of management, nothing has happened. So while the neon build servers were down for shuffling to a new machine I looked into why Plasma release announcements were updated but not Frameworks or Applications announcments. I’d automated Plasma announcements a while ago but it turns out the other announcements are still done manually, so I updated those and poked the people involved. Then of course I got stuck looking at all the other pages which hadn’t been ported to the new theme. On review there were not actually too many of them, if you ignore the announcements, the website is not very large.
Many of the pages could be just forwarded to more recent equivalents such as getting the history page (last update in 2003) to point to timeline.kde.org or the presentation slides page (last update for KDE 4 release) to point to a more up to date wiki page.
Others are worth reviving such as KDE screenshots page, press contacts, support page. The contents could still do with some pondering on what is useful but while they exist we shouldn’t pretend they don’t so I updated those and added back links to them.
While many of these pages are hard to find or not linked at all from www.kde.org they are still the top hits in Google when you search for “KDE presentation” or “kde history” or “kde support” so it is worth not looking like we are a dead project.
There were also obvious bugs that needed fixed for example the cookie-opt-out banner didn’t let you opt out, the font didn’t get loaded, the favicon was inconsistent.
All of these are easy enough fixes but the technical barrier is too high to get it done easily (you need special permission to have access to www.kde.org reasonably enough) and the social barrier is far too high (you will get complaints when changing something high profile like this, far easier to just let it rot). I’m not sure how to solve this but KDE should work out a way to allow project maintenance tasks like this be more open.
Anyway yay, www.kde.org is now new theme everywhere (except old announcements) and pages have up to date content.
There is a TODO item to track website improvements if you’re interested in helping, although it missed the main one which is the stalled port to WordPress, again a place it just needs someone to plunge in and do the work. It’s satisfying because it’s a high profile improvement but alas it highlights some failings in a mature community project like ours.
By a strange coincidence the news broke this morning that RHEL is deprecating KDE. The real surprise here is that RHEL supported KDE all. Back in the 90s they were entirely against KDE and put lots of effort into our friendly rivals Gnome. It made some sense since at the time Qt was under a not-quite-free licence and there’s no reason why a company would want to support another company’s lock in as well as shipping incompatible licences. By the time Qt become fully free they were firmly behind Gnome. Meanwhile Rex and a team of hard working volunteers packaged it anyway and gained many users. When Red Hat was turned into the all open Fedora and the closed RHEL, Fedora was able to embrace KDE as it should but at some point the Fedora Next initiative again put KDE software in second place. Meanwhile RHEL did use Plasma 4 and hired a number of developers to help us in our time of need which was fabulous but all except one have left some time ago and nobody expected it to continue for long.
So the deprecation is not really new or news and being picked up by the news is poor timing for Red Hat, it’s unclear if they want some distraction from the IBM news or just The Register playing around. The community has always been much better at supporting out software for their users, maybe now the community run EPEL archive can include modern Plasma 5 instead of being stuck on the much poorer previous release.
Plasma 5 is now lightweight and feature full. We get new users and people rediscovering us every day who report it as the most usable and pleasant way to run their day. From my recent trip in Barcelona I can see how a range of different users from university to schools to government consider Plasma 5 the best way to support a large user base. We now ship on high end devices such as the KDE Slimbook down to the low spec value device of Pinebook. Our software leads the field in many areas such as video editor Kdenlive, or painting app Krita or educational suite GCompris. Our range of projects is wider than ever before with textbook project WikiToLearn allowing new ways to learn and we ship our own software through KDE Windows, Flatpak builds and KDE neon with Debs, Snaps and Docker images.
It is a pity that RHEL users won’t be there to enjoy it by default. But, then again, they never really were. KDE is collaborative, open, privacy aware and with a vast scope of interesting projects after 22 years we continue to push the boundaries of what is possible and fun.
Every year we take a group photo at Akademy and then me or one of the Kennies manually marks up the faces so people can tag them and we can know who we all are and build community. This is quite old school effort so this year I followed a mangazine tutorial and made Akademy Group Photo Automator to do it. This uses an AI library called face_recognition to do the hard work and Docker to manage the hard work and spits out the necessary HTML. It was a quick attempt and I’m not sure it did much good in the end alas. The group photos tend to be quite disorganised and whoever takes it upon themselves to direct it each year makes basic mistakes like putting everyone on a flat stage or making everyone wave their hands about which means many of the faces are half covered and not recognised. And it seems like the library is not a fan of glasses. It also outputs rect coordinates rather than circle ones which ment Kenny had to do many adjustments. Still it’s an interesting quick dive into a new area for me and maybe next year I’ll get it smoother.
The work to rebase KDE neon on Bionic is progressing. Apologies if it feels slow but it’s keeping our infrastructure busy while continuing with the xenial builds alongside. I’ve just managed to get the package version check to turn green which means all the packages are now built. The installable ISOs are also green on our builders, but we’re keeping them hidden until we’ve ironed out the bugs. The two installers we use have some quirks and hacks that need tidied up but the automated install tests are also turning green. Some of you have already found our preliminary instructions for doing the upgrade and it seems to be working for everyone who has tried it, but “it seems to be working” is not what we want, “it is working” is what we want and while the git-unstable edition is green in the tests the user edition is not so some more tidying up to be done there. We’ll announce the installable ISOs and upgrade more formally for beta testing once the tests are green and turn on the full upgrade shortly after. Hasta pronto.
One of the complains about the new streaming entertainment world is that it removes the collective experience of everyone watching the same programme on telly the night before then discussing it. At least in the international world I tend to live in that was never much of an option and instead it is a common topic of conversation now when I meet with people around the world to discuss the best series from the world of media. So allow me to recommend a couple which seem to have missed many people’s conciousness.
On the original streaming media site BBC iPlayer radio there’s a whole new 6th series of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 40 years in the making and still full of whimsical understated comedy about life. And best of all they’re repeating the 1st, 2nd and just started 3rd series of the show.
Back in telly land I was reluctant to pay money for the privilage of spending my life watching telly but a student discount made Amazon Prime a tempting offer for my girlfriend. I discovered Black Sails which is the best telly I’ve ever seen. A prequal to Scottish classic Treasure Island with Captain Flint (who you’ll remember only appears in the original book as a parrot) and John Silver, it impressively mixes in real life pirates from 18th century Carribean. The production qualities are superb, filming on water is always expensive (see Water World or Titanic or even Lost) and here they had to recreate several near full-size sailing boats. The plotting is ideal with allegiances changing every episode or two in a mostly plausable way. And it successfully ends before running out of energy. I’m a fan.
Meanwhile on Netflix I wasn’t especially interested in the new Star Trek but it turns out to include space tardegrades and therefor became much more exciting.
Glasgow’s group of Linux nerds has been gathering for 20 years so I was pleased to eat lots of curry at the Scottish Linux User Group’s 20th anniversary dinner. In the pub afterwards I showed off the new KDE Slimbook II and recorded a little intro. It’s maybe not the most slick presenting skills but it’s my first time making a video 🙂
The partnership with KDE and Slimbook is unique in the open source world and it’s really exciting they want to continue it with this new even-higher end model. Faster memory, faster hard disk, larger screen, larger touchpad, USB-C, better wifi signal, this baby has it all. It’s a bargain too from only 700euro.
I realised that it’s now a decade of KDE releasing its Plasma desktop. The KDE 4 release event was in January 2008. Google were kind enough to give us their office space and smoothies and hot tubs to give some talks and plan a way forward.
The KDE 4 release has gained something of a poor reputation, at the time we still shipped Kubuntu with KDE 3 and made a separate unsupported release for Plasma, but I remember it being perfectly useable and notable for being the foundation that would keep KDE software alive. It had been clear for sometime that Kicker and the other elements of the KDE 3 desktop were functional but unlikely to gain much going forward. When Qt 4 was announced back in (I’m pretty sure) 2004 Akademy in Ludwigsberg it was seen as a chance to bring KDE’s desktop back up to date and leap forward. It took 4 long years and to keep community momentum going we had to release even if we did say it would eat your babies.
Kubuntu at KDE 4 release event
Somewhere along the way it felt like KDE’s desktop lost mindshare with major distros going with other desktops and the rise of lightweight desktops. But KDE’s software always had the best technological underpinnings with Qt and then QtQuick plus the move to modularise kdelibs into many KDE Frameworks.
This week we released Plasma 5.12 LTS and what a fabulous reception we are getting. The combination of simple and familiar by default but customisable and functional is making many people realise what an offering we now have with Plasma. When we tried Plasma on an ARM laptop recently we realised it used less memory then the “lightweight” Linux desktop that laptop used pre-installed. Qt being optimised for embedded use means KDE’s offerings are fast whether you’re experimenting with Plasma Mobile or using it on the very latest KDE Slimbook II means it’ll run smooth and fast.
Some quotes from this week:
“Plasma, as tested on KDE neon specifically, is almost perfect” Ask Noah Show
“KDE plasma is literally worlds ahead of anything I’ve ever seen. It’s one project where I felt I had to donate to let them know I loved it!”
“I’ve switched to Plasma a little over a year ago and have loved it ever since. I’m glad they’re working so hard on it!”
“Yay! Good to see Kickass Desktop Environment get an update!”
Or here’s a random IRC conversation I had today in a LUG channel
<yeehi> Riddell – I adore KDE now! <yeehi> It is gobsmackingly beautiful <yeehi> I put in the 12.0 LTS updates yesterday, maybe over a hundered packages, and all the time I was thinking, “Man, I just love those KDE developers! <yeehi> It is such a pleasure to use and see. Also, I have been finding it to be my most stable GNU+Linux experience
So after a decade of hard work I’m definitely feeling the good vibes this week. Take the Plasma Challenge and be a Plasma Puppy! KDE Plasma is lightweight, functional and rocking your laptop.
KDE is getting good at writing statements on visions and missions and values which define who we are. But less sexy and more technical is our various policies some of which are getting out of date. Pleasingly at Akademy we’ve been able to update two of these policies to comply with current practices and define our activities better.
Application Lifecycle policy defines how projects get into KDE and how they die. The new version adds in Incubator our method of bringing projects into KDE from elsewhere. It also says what is allowed to be done with Playground projects, you can make an alpha release but if you want to make a beta or final release it should go through kdereview.
Projects must live in kdereview for two weeks and there’s a link to a sanity checklist for things which are often checked in new apps. There’s a new timelimit of two months to stop stuff living in kdereview forever.
Then your project can become a live project and the policy lists the options it can go into: Applications, Frameworks, Plasma or Self Released. Self Released used to be called extragear but now it’s just stuff that isn’t somewhere else.
When something a project is no longer useful the KDE gardening team could be asked to help out or it could move to unmaintained. All the kdelibs4 apps in KDE Applications will move to unmaintained in the next few months.
Even more exciting is the updated Licensing Policy. The big changes here are moving docs and wikis to CC-BY-SA 4.0 which is better recognised and more interchangeable than GNU FDL. We also now allow Affero GPL for server software and infact recommend it. It updates some versions of bits such as noting that Qt is now GPL 3 in places and uses a better variant of MIT. It also requires use of GPL 2+3 or later approved by KDE e.V. unless there’s some reason not to which simplifies a choice away.
Thanks to Matija and others who have helped out on this.
ISO Image Writer is a tool I’m working on which writes .iso files onto a USB disk ready for installing your lovely new operating system. Surprisingly many distros don’t have very slick recommendations for how to do this but they’re all welcome to try this.
It’s based on ROSA Image Writer which has served KDE neon and other projects well for some time. This adds ISO verification to automatically check the digital signatures or checksums, currently supported is KDE neon, Kubuntu and Netrunner. It also uses KAuth so it doesn’t run the UI as root, only a simple helper binary to do the writing. And it uses KDE Frameworks goodness so the UI feels nice.
It’s in KDE Git at kde:isoimagewriter and in bugs.kde.org, please do try it out and report any issues. If you’d like a distro added to the verification please let me know and/or submit a patch. (The code to do with is a bit verbose currently, it needs tidied up.)
I’d like to work out how to make AppImages, Windows and Mac installs for this but for now it’s in KDE neon developer editions and available as source.