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KDE Ships July Updates and Second Beta of Applications and Platform 4.14

Friday 18th of July 2014 08:00:03 PM

This week KDE released updates for its Applications and Development Platform, the third and last in a series of monthly stabilization updates to the 4.13 series. This release also includes an updated Plasma Workspaces 4.11.11. Both releases contain only bugfixes and translation updates, providing a safe and pleasant update for everyone. Beneath these releases KDE announced the second beta of the 4.14 versions of Applications and Development Platform. With API, dependency and feature freezes in place, the focus is now on fixing bugs and further polishing. Your assistance is requested!

On the language front Farsi (Persian) reached the essential criteria and thus will be again part of this release. Kopete has some important fixes: formatting messages when OTR plugin is loaded but not used for encrypting messages in the chat window and generating HTML messages with the Jabber protocol.

More than 40 recorded bugfixes include improvements to Personal Information Management suite Kontact, Umbrello UML Modeller, the desktop search functionality, web browser Konqueror and the file manager Dolphin. A more complete list of changes can be found in KDE's issue tracker.

To find out more about the 4.13 versions of KDE Applications and Development Platform, please refer to the 4.13 release notes.

The second beta release needs a thorough testing in order to improve quality and user experience. A variety of user styles is essential to maintaining high KDE quality, because developers cannot possibly test every configuration. User assistance helps find bugs early so they can be squashed before the final release. Please join the 4.14 team's release effort by installing the beta and reporting any bugs. The official announcement has information about how to install the betas.

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Plasma 5 Brings a Cleaner Interface on Top of a New Graphics Stack

Tuesday 15th of July 2014 12:46:07 AM


Plasma 5.0

The first release of Plasma 5 is out now. We have worked long and hard over the last three years to tidy up the internals and move to new technologies to bring a solid foundation for KDE's Plasma desktop for years to come. The UI has been tidied up, there is a new Breeze artwork theme starting to take off and high-DPI support has been added. The main design of the desktop and workflows in it have not been altered, we know you like your desktop and have no desire to change it. There is not enough polish in this release to make it mainstream yet, this is only for enthusiasts and people who want to help debug for now.

Many distributions have packages to install or test images to try out although this 5.0 release should not be the default option yet. Plasma 5 is built using Qt 5 and Frameworks 5 and is due to have new releases on a three monthly cycle.

You can discuss your experiences on the Plasma 5 forum on the KDE Community Forums. Please post to social media with the #PlasmaByKDE hashtag.

Major changes in this new version include:

  • An updated and modernized, cleaner visual and interactive user experience
    The new Breeze theme is a high-contrast, flat theme for the workspace. It is available in light and dark variants. Simpler and more monochromatic graphics assets and typography-centered layouts offer a clean and visually clear user experience.
  • Smoother graphics performance thanks to an updated graphics stack
    Plasma's user interfaces are rendered on top of an OpenGL or OpenGL ES scenegraph, offloading many of the computational-intensive rendering tasks. This allows for higher framerates and smoother graphics display while freeing up resources of the main system processor.

Watch the Plasma 5.0 video

Other user-visible changes are:

  • Converged shell
    The "converged Plasma shell" that loads up the desktop in Plasma 5.0 can be extended with other user experiences. This lays the base for a converged user experience bringing up a suitable UI for a given target device. User experiences can be switched dynamically at runtime, allowing, based on hardware events such as plugging in a keyboard and a mouse.
  • Modernized launchers
    The application launchers' user interfaces have been reworked. Among the changes are a visually redesigned Kickoff application launcher, a newly included, more menu-like launcher, called Kicker and a new, QtQuick-based interface for KRunner.
  • Workflow improvements in the notification area
    The notification area has been cleaned up, and sports a more integrated look now. Less popup windows and quicker transitions between for example power management and networks settings lead to a more distraction-free interaction pattern and greater visual coherence.
  • Better support for high-density (high-DPI) displays
    Support for high-density displays has been improved. Many parts of the UI now take the physical size of the display into account. This leads to better usability and display on screens with very small pixels, such as Retina displays.

The Plasma 5.0 Visual Feature Guide provides a video tour around the updated desktop.

Breeze Artwork Improves Visual clarity
Brightness Settings in Plasma 5

The new Breeze theme, which is still in its infancy, welcomes the user with a cleaner, modernized user interface, which improves contrast and reduces visual clutter throughout the workspace. Stronger reliance on typography eases the recognition of UI elements. These changes go together with flatter default theming and improved contrast to improve visual clarity further. Breeze being a new artwork concept, is only starting to show its face. A theme for the workspace components is already available, theming of traditional widgets is under way, and the work on a new icon theme has commenced. The migration to a fully Breeze-themed workspace will be a gradual one, with its first signs showing up in Plasma 5.0.
Plasma 5 brings a greater level of flexibility and consistency to core components of the desktop. The widget explorer, window and activity switcher now share a common interaction scheme. More reliance on vertical instead of horizontal lists provides better usability. Moving the window switcher to the side of the screen shifts the user's focus towards the applications and documents, clearing the stage for the task at hand.

Converging User Experience
Wallpaper Settings

The new-in-Plasma-5 "Look and Feel" mechanism allows swapping out parts like the task and activity switchers, lock and login screen and the "Add Widgets" dialog. This allows for greater consistency across central workflows, improves clarity within similar interaction patterns and changing related interaction patterns across the workspace at once.
On top of that, the Plasma 5 shell is able to load and switch between user experiences for a given target device, introducing a truly convergent workspace shell. The workspace demonstrated in this release is Plasma Desktop. It represents an evolution of known desktop and laptop paradigms. A tablet-centric and mediacenter user experience are under development as alternatives. While Plasma 5.0 will feel familiar, users will notice a more modern and consistent, cleaner workspace experience.

Fully Hardware-Accelerated Graphics Stack
Search in Plasma

Plasma 5 completes the migration of the Plasma workspace to QtQuick. Qt 5's QtQuick 2 uses a hardware-accelerated OpenGL(ES) scenegraph to compose and render graphics on the screen. This allows offloading computationally expensive graphics rendering tasks onto the GPU which frees up resources on the system's main processing unit, is faster and more power-efficient.

Internal changes in the graphics compositor and underlying Frameworks prepare support for running on Wayland, which is planned for an upcoming release.

Suitability and Updates
New Lock Screen

Plasma 5.0 provides a core desktop with a feature set that will suffice for many users. The development team has concentrated on tools that make up the central work flows. As such, not all features from the Plasma 4.x series are available yet, many of them planned to return with a subsequent release. As with any software release of this size, there will be bugs that make a migration to Plasma 5 hard, if not impossible for some users. The development team would like to hear about such issues, so they can be addressed and fixed. We have compiled a list of known issues. Users can expect monthly bugfix updates, and a release bringing new features and more old ones back in the autumn 2014.

With a substantial new toolkit stack below come exciting new crashes and problems that need time to be shaken out. This is to be expected in a first stable release. Especially graphics performance is heavily dependent on specific hardware and software configurations and usage patterns. While it has great potential, it takes time to wrangle this out of it. The underlying stack may not be entirely ready for this either. In many scenarios, Plasma 5.0 will display the buttery smooth performance it is capable of - while at other times, it may be hampered by various shortcomings. These can and will be addressed, however, much is dependent on components like Qt, Mesa and hardware drivers lower in the stack.

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KDE Ships First Beta of Applications and Platform 4.14

Thursday 10th of July 2014 09:05:38 PM

KDE has released the first beta of the 4.14 versions of Applications and Development Platform. With API, dependency and feature freezes in place, the focus is now on fixing bugs and further polishing. Your assistance is requested!

A more detailed list of the improvements and changes will be available for the final release in the middle of August.

This first beta release needs a thorough testing in order to improve quality and user experience. A variety of actual users is essential to maintaining high KDE quality, because developers cannot possibly test every configuration. User assistance helps find bugs early so they can be squashed before the final release. Please join the 4.14 team's release effort by installing the beta and reporting any bugs. The official announcement has information about how to install the betas.

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KDE Frameworks 5 Makes KDE Software More Accessible for all Qt Developers

Monday 7th of July 2014 08:07:04 PM


Today, the KDE community has made available the first stable release of Frameworks 5. At the Randa Meetings back in 2011, we started work on porting KDE Platform 4 to Qt 5. But as part of this effort, we also began modularizing our libraries, integrating portions into Qt 5 proper and modularizing the rest so applications can just use the functionality they need. Three years later, while a fundraiser for the 2014 Randa Meetings is in progress, Frameworks is out. Today you can save yourself the time and effort of repeating work that others have done, relying on over 50 Frameworks with mature, well tested code. For a full list and technical details coders can read the API documentation.

Highlights

KArchive offers support for many popular compression codecs in a self-contained, featureful and easy-to-use file archiving and extracting library. Just feed it files; there's no need to reinvent an archiving function in your Qt-based application!

ThreadWeaver offers a high-level API to manage threads using job- and queue-based interfaces. It allows easy scheduling of thread execution by specifying dependencies between the threads and executing them satisfying these dependencies, greatly simplifying the use of multiple threads.

KConfig is a Framework to deal with storing and retrieving configuration settings. It features a group-oriented API. It works with INI files and XDG-compliant cascading directories. It generates code based on XML files.

Solid offers hardware detection and can inform an application about storage devices and volumes, CPU, battery status, power management, network status and interfaces, and Bluetooth. For encrypted partitions, power and networking, running daemons are required.

KI18n adds Gettext support to applications, making it easier to integrate the translation workflow of Qt applications in the general translation infrastructure of many projects.

This is just a taste of the many Frameworks made available today.

Getting started

On Linux, using packages for your favorite distribution is the recommended way to get access to KDE Frameworks.

Building from source is possible using the basic cmake .; make; make install commands. For a single Tier 1 framework, this is often the easiest solution. People interested in contributing to Frameworks or tracking progress in development of the entire set are encouraged to use kdesrc-build.

Frameworks 5.0 requires Qt 5.2. It represents the first in a series of planned monthly releases making improvements available to developers in a quick and predictable manner.

Where the code goes

Those interested in following and contributing to the development of Frameworks can check out the git repositories, follow the discussions on the KDE Frameworks development mailing list and send in patches through review board.

KDE is always looking for new volunteers and contributions, whether it is help with coding, bug fixing or reporting, writing documentation, translations, promotion, money, etc. All contributions are gratefully appreciated and eagerly accepted. Please read through the donations page for further information. And as was mentioned above, KDE is currently running a fundraiser to make the Randa Meetings 2014 possible. Your contribution is crucial to make an event like this possible - and with that, projects like KDE Frameworks!

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Where KDE is going - Part 2

Wednesday 2nd of July 2014 09:29:51 AM

This is the second half of the 'where KDE is going' write-up. Last week, I discussed what is happening with KDE's technologies: Platform is turning modular in Frameworks, Plasma is moving to new technologies and the Applications change their release schedule. In this post, I will discuss the social and organizational aspects: our governance.

KDE e.V.

You can't talk about KDE and governance without bringing up KDE e.V. (eingetragener Verein or, in English, registered association). This Germany-based non-profit is the legal organization behind the KDE community, and it plays several important roles.

Initially set up to handle funding for KDE's conferences, the e.V. still has the organization of events as a major task. But that is no longer limited to the yearly Akademy conference. There are now events all over the world, from Camp KDE and Lakademy in the Americas to conf.kde.in in India. In addition, many Developer Sprints, usually with about 5-15 people, are supported, as are the annual Randa Meetings which can attract 40-60 developers.

KDE e.V. also provides legal services, pays for infrastructure and takes care of our trademarks. The KDE Free Qt Foundation is equally represented by KDE and Digia. The Foundation was set up between the former Trolltech and KDE to maintain Qt's open status, and has been continued with Nokia and Digia, the successive holders of the Qt trademark. KDE e.V. is not the guardian of technical decisions, however. This is up to the natural community development processes.

Change

But KDE e.V. does act as an agent of change. It provides a place where core KDE contributors come together and discuss a wide variety of subjects.


We created the KDE Manifesto

In the last 8 years or so, KDE e.V. has been the major driver behind increasing the number of developer sprints and has created the Fiduciary Licensing Agreement which allows it to re-license KDE code when needed, while protecting developers’ interests. The Code of Conduct originated with KDE e.V., as did our Community Working Group which helps deal with communication issues in the community.

A recent example of our ongoing improvement efforts is the KDE Manifesto. This has been for a very long time coming but Kévin Ottens got it to the finish line.

The Manifesto explicitly defines our community: our values and our commitments to each other. The importance of this can hardly be overstated – knowing who you are and what you want helps you make decisions but also shows others what you are about. The Manifesto made plain what was involved in being part of the KDE Community, including the benefits and the ways we operate.

Joining the KDE community

Since the Manifesto was written, several projects have joined KDE or begun the process of doing so:

  • KBibTex (a bibtex editor)
  • QtCurve (theme/style)
  • Kdenlive (non-linear video editor)
  • Tupi (2d animation tool)
  • GCompris (an educational application, former GNOME project - progress)
  • The wikiFM project, an Italian university-based knowledge database
  • Bodega (digital content store)
  • Kxstitch (cross stitch patterns and charts)
  • Trojita (a Qt IMAP mail client)

It is clear that these projects contribute to the growing diversity in the KDE community. The many projects joining us has prompted some refinement of the KDE Incubator, an effort to document the process of becoming part of the KDE community (also started by Kévin, who probably felt sorry for the fallout of his manifesto creating so much extra work ;-)).

Other projects have moved on, or emerged from the KDE community and have become independent communities. Examples are Necessitas (provides Qt-on-Android) and Ministro (installer for libraries on Android) but also the well-known ownCloud project which was announced at Camp KDE 2010 in San Diego and still has many KDE folks involved in it.

Growing Qt'er

KDE has grown – and so has Qt (pronounced 'cute'). The Qt ecosystem today is very big – it is estimated that there are half a million Qt developers world wide! And not only has Qt usage grown, but so has the ecosystem around it, with more and more contributions from more and more companies, communities and individuals. Including KDE.

KDE has always been close to the Qt community, with many KDE developers working for former Trolltech, now Digia, or in one of the companies providing Qt consulting. KDE played a major role in establishing the KDE Free Qt Foundation, and KDE people were critical to the process of creating Open Governance within the Qt Project in 2011. In 2013, the Qt Contributor Summit was co-located with Akademy, and as discussed in the previous article, KDE is contributing a lot of code to Qt and building closer bonds with the Qt ecosystem through our Frameworks 5 efforts.

Extrapolating change

Based on the above, one could extrapolate. More projects will join the KDE Community, and KDE will become more diverse. KDE is also working on formalizing the relationships with external entities through a community partnership program. This will allow KDE e.V. to work closer with other communities in legal and financial matters and share KDE’s strengths with them. With these changes, the community shows a desire to expand its scope.


The Join the Game program looked for 500 KDE supporters

Another area where change might take place is in the financial area. KDE e.V. does not have the mandate to define technical directions. To sponsor a developer, the Krita team set up the Dutch Krita Foundation to handle the funds. Currently, Krita, Free Software's most successful and powerful drawing application, is running a Kickstarter campaign to obtain funding for several developers with the aim of bringing the upcoming Krita 2.9 release to a new level. In other cases, external organizations supported developers working on KDE code, like Kolabsys supporting several developers on the KDE PIM suite (like Christian), and of course the various Linux Distributions (like Red Hat) which have made massive improvements to KDE possible over the years.

Paid development is a complicated topic, as most KDE contributors volunteer their time. Money can be damaging to such intrinsic motivation. At the same time, some tasks are just no fun – paid developers can perhaps help. Some people in the community feel that KDE e.V. (or perhaps another organization?) could play a more active role in raising funds for certain projects, for example. The Randa Meetings fundraiser 2 years ago might be a sign of things to come, and again we've started a fundraiser to make Randa 2014 as successful as the earlier meetings: Please support it!

There may be more sustaining membership programs such as 'Join the Game' in the future, and suggestions, ideas and practical help in obtaining and using funds for KDE development are very much welcome.

Not all change

But in all this change, it is crucial that the KDE community preserves what makes it work well. KDE has gotten where it is today by the culture and practices of today (see some of my thoughts on this). Like in any community, these are hidden rules that allow KDE to pool the knowledge of so many brilliant people, and without too much politics, to make the best decisions possible. The KDE culture, so to say. This includes well known Free Software soft rules like Who Codes, Decides, RTFM, Talk is Cheap and Just Do It but also very 'KDE' rules like Assume Good Intentions and Respect the Elders. And just like in the French Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, the rules are inseparable and interdependent. They are what makes KDE such an amazing place, full of creativity, innovation and fun.

Of course, in other areas, it can hamper progress or block people from making changes as quickly as they like. All culture has good and bad aspects, and we should stay flexible to adapt to changes and fix shortcomings. This is a slow process, often counted in years, rather than months - putting off some people who wish things went a little faster. But change happens.

Change to keep things healthy

The KDE Community Working Group is an institution with the goal of preserving positive aspects of our culture. The CWG consists of a group of trusted community members dealing with conflicts and social issues. It has been around since 2008 and has recently been given the ability to deal with 'stormy day' scenarios – they will now handle situations where somebody is persistently behaving contrary to the culture. Luckily such situations are extremely rare but it is good to have a process in place to deal with them.

The kde-community mailing list has moved many discussions into an open forum that used to be limited to KDE e.V. members. Opening up our internal discussions is more inclusive; it preserves the open nature of our project in the face of growth and change.

Meta change

Putting these changes together, a pattern starts to emerge:
The Manifesto has defined what we have become and what we want. It has brought in other people and other projects. We open up our community, formalize community management. KDE e.V. wants to collaborate more with other organizations, Frameworks 5 brings KDE technology to a wider audience, and we're bringing our desktop and application technology to more and more devices.

I think KDE is going meta.

KDE is becoming a meta organization. Perhaps you can call it an Eclipse for GUI or end user software, bringing a wide variety of projects together under one umbrella. The challenge for the KDE community is to guide these changes, keep good practices and develop new ones that fit the new world!

Conclusion

KDE is becoming a umbrella-community, a community of communities. A place where people with a huge variety of interests and ideas come together, sharing a common vision about the world. Not a technical vision, mind you, but a vision about HOW to do things. Shared values are what brings us together. And with KDE going meta, there is more room for everybody!

These articles are based on a talk given at conf.kde.in by Jos Poortvliet with lots of input from KDE contributors. A more extensive version of these articles, quoting members of the KDE community for more background, can be found in the upcoming September issue of Linux Voice magazine, 'the magazine that gives back to the Free Software community'

Dot Categories:

Where KDE is going - Part 2

Wednesday 2nd of July 2014 09:29:51 AM

This is the second half of the 'where KDE is going' write-up. Last week, I discussed what is happening with KDE's technologies: Platform is turning modular in Frameworks, Plasma is moving to new technologies and the Applications change their release schedule. In this post, I will discuss the social and organizational aspects: our governance.

KDE e.V.

You can't talk about KDE and governance without bringing up KDE e.V. (eingetragener Verein or, in English, registered association). This Germany-based non-profit is the legal organization behind the KDE community, and it plays several important roles.

Initially set up to handle funding for KDE's conferences, the e.V. still has the organization of events as a major task. But that is no longer limited to the yearly Akademy conference. There are now events all over the world, from Camp KDE and Lakademy in the Americas to conf.kde.in in India. In addition, many Developer Sprints, usually with about 5-15 people, are supported, as are the annual Randa Meetings which can attract 40-60 developers.

KDE e.V. also provides legal services, pays for infrastructure and takes care of our trademarks. The KDE Free Qt Foundation is equally represented by KDE and Digia. The Foundation was set up between the former Trolltech and KDE to maintain Qt's open status, and has been continued with Nokia and Digia, the successive holders of the Qt trademark. KDE e.V. is not the guardian of technical decisions, however. This is up to the natural community development processes.

Change

But KDE e.V. does act as an agent of change. It provides a place where core KDE contributors come together and discuss a wide variety of subjects.


We created the KDE Manifesto

In the last 8 years or so, KDE e.V. has been the major driver behind increasing the number of developer sprints and has created the Fiduciary Licensing Agreement which allows it to re-license KDE code when needed, while protecting developers’ interests. The Code of Conduct originated with KDE e.V., as did our Community Working Group which helps deal with communication issues in the community.

A recent example of our ongoing improvement efforts is the KDE Manifesto. This has been for a very long time coming but Kévin Ottens got it to the finish line.

The Manifesto explicitly defines our community: our values and our commitments to each other. The importance of this can hardly be overstated – knowing who you are and what you want helps you make decisions but also shows others what you are about. The Manifesto made plain what was involved in being part of the KDE Community, including the benefits and the ways we operate.

Joining the KDE community

Since the Manifesto was written, several projects have joined KDE or begun the process of doing so:

  • KBibTex (a bibtex editor)
  • QtCurve (theme/style)
  • Kdenlive (non-linear video editor)
  • Tupi (2d animation tool)
  • GCompris (an educational application, former GNOME project - progress)
  • The wikiFM project, an Italian university-based knowledge database
  • Bodega (digital content store)
  • Kxstitch (cross stitch patterns and charts)
  • Trojita (a Qt IMAP mail client)

It is clear that these projects contribute to the growing diversity in the KDE community. The many projects joining us has prompted some refinement of the KDE Incubator, an effort to document the process of becoming part of the KDE community (also started by Kévin, who probably felt sorry for the fallout of his manifesto creating so much extra work ;-)).

Other projects have moved on, or emerged from the KDE community and have become independent communities. Examples are Necessitas (provides Qt-on-Android) and Ministro (installer for libraries on Android) but also the well-known ownCloud project which was announced at Camp KDE 2010 in San Diego and still has many KDE folks involved in it.

Growing Qt'er

KDE has grown – and so has Qt (pronounced 'cute'). The Qt ecosystem today is very big – it is estimated that there are half a million Qt developers world wide! And not only has Qt usage grown, but so has the ecosystem around it, with more and more contributions from more and more companies, communities and individuals. Including KDE.

KDE has always been close to the Qt community, with many KDE developers working for former Trolltech, now Digia, or in one of the companies providing Qt consulting. KDE played a major role in establishing the KDE Free Qt Foundation, and KDE people were critical to the process of creating Open Governance within the Qt Project in 2011. In 2013, the Qt Contributor Summit was co-located with Akademy, and as discussed in the previous article, KDE is contributing a lot of code to Qt and building closer bonds with the Qt ecosystem through our Frameworks 5 efforts.

Extrapolating change

Based on the above, one could extrapolate. More projects will join the KDE Community, and KDE will become more diverse. KDE is also working on formalizing the relationships with external entities through a community partnership program. This will allow KDE e.V. to work closer with other communities in legal and financial matters and share KDE’s strengths with them. With these changes, the community shows a desire to expand its scope.


The Join the Game program looked for 500 KDE supporters

Another area where change might take place is in the financial area. KDE e.V. does not have the mandate to define technical directions. To sponsor a developer, the Krita team set up the Dutch Krita Foundation to handle the funds. Currently, Krita, Free Software's most successful and powerful drawing application, is running a Kickstarter campaign to obtain funding for several developers with the aim of bringing the upcoming Krita 2.9 release to a new level. In other cases, external organizations supported developers working on KDE code, like Kolabsys supporting several developers on the KDE PIM suite (like Christian), and of course the various Linux Distributions (like Red Hat) which have made massive improvements to KDE possible over the years.

Paid development is a complicated topic, as most KDE contributors volunteer their time. Money can be damaging to such intrinsic motivation. At the same time, some tasks are just no fun – paid developers can perhaps help. Some people in the community feel that KDE e.V. (or perhaps another organization?) could play a more active role in raising funds for certain projects, for example. The Randa Meetings fundraiser 2 years ago might be a sign of things to come, and again we've started a fundraiser to make Randa 2014 as successful as the earlier meetings: Please support it!

There may be more sustaining membership programs such as 'Join the Game' in the future, and suggestions, ideas and practical help in obtaining and using funds for KDE development are very much welcome.

Not all change

But in all this change, it is crucial that the KDE community preserves what makes it work well. KDE has gotten where it is today by the culture and practices of today (see some of my thoughts on this). Like in any community, these are hidden rules that allow KDE to pool the knowledge of so many brilliant people, and without too much politics, to make the best decisions possible. The KDE culture, so to say. This includes well known Free Software soft rules like Who Codes, Decides, RTFM, Talk is Cheap and Just Do It but also very 'KDE' rules like Assume Good Intentions and Respect the Elders. And just like in the French Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, the rules are inseparable and interdependent. They are what makes KDE such an amazing place, full of creativity, innovation and fun.

Of course, in other areas, it can hamper progress or block people from making changes as quickly as they like. All culture has good and bad aspects, and we should stay flexible to adapt to changes and fix shortcomings. This is a slow process, often counted in years, rather than months - putting off some people who wish things went a little faster. But change happens.

Change to keep things healthy

The KDE Community Working Group is an institution with the goal of preserving positive aspects of our culture. The CWG consists of a group of trusted community members dealing with conflicts and social issues. It has been around since 2008 and has recently been given the ability to deal with 'stormy day' scenarios – they will now handle situations where somebody is persistently behaving contrary to the culture. Luckily such situations are extremely rare but it is good to have a process in place to deal with them.

The kde-community mailing list has moved many discussions into an open forum that used to be limited to KDE e.V. members. Opening up our internal discussions is more inclusive; it preserves the open nature of our project in the face of growth and change.

Meta change

Putting these changes together, a pattern starts to emerge:
The Manifesto has defined what we have become and what we want. It has brought in other people and other projects. We open up our community, formalize community management. KDE e.V. wants to collaborate more with other organizations, Frameworks 5 brings KDE technology to a wider audience, and we're bringing our desktop and application technology to more and more devices.

I think KDE is going meta.

KDE is becoming a meta organization. Perhaps you can call it an Eclipse for GUI or end user software, bringing a wide variety of projects together under one umbrella. The challenge for the KDE community is to guide these changes, keep good practices and develop new ones that fit the new world!

Conclusion

KDE is becoming a umbrella-community, a community of communities. A place where people with a huge variety of interests and ideas come together, sharing a common vision about the world. Not a technical vision, mind you, but a vision about HOW to do things. Shared values are what brings us together. And with KDE going meta, there is more room for everybody!

These articles are based on a talk given at conf.kde.in by Jos Poortvliet with lots of input from KDE contributors. A more extensive version of these articles, quoting members of the KDE community for more background, can be found in the upcoming September issue of Linux Voice magazine, 'the magazine that gives back to the Free Software community'

Dot Categories:

Akademy-es 2014: Great success in KDE's return to Málaga

Monday 30th of June 2014 09:13:03 AM

The ninth edition of Akademy-es was held last month in Málaga at the Telecommunications School of University of Málaga. Akademy-es had never been held in the city before but it is where the idea of Akademy-es began, during Akademy 2005, resulting in the first Akademy-es in 2006 in Barcelona. KDE old timer Antonio Larrosa is the link between both editions, being the local organizer of Akademy-es 2014 and Akademy 2005.

This year Akademy-es has continued its upwards trend in people registered, ending up with around 100 people. Talks as always have been varied, including philosophical talks about what KDE is, technical ones about how to use ASAN to debug your apps, practical ones on how to make your computer and your [Android] phone work better together, some programming with an introductory QtQuick talk (in English!), and much more.

Besides the serious talks there was always time for some socializing, an important part these kind of conferences.
Specially interesting was Saturday dinner at La Casa Invisible where we met a group of people that like KDE is investing lots of time in helping society for the greater good.

Finally, please join KDE España in thanking our sponsors Digia, Opentia, openSUSE and Wabobo for helping make Akademy-es 2014 possible.

Dot Categories:

Akademy-es 2014: Great success in KDE's return to Málaga

Monday 30th of June 2014 09:13:03 AM

The ninth edition of Akademy-es was held last month in Málaga at the Telecommunications School of University of Málaga. Akademy-es had never been held in the city before but it is where the idea of Akademy-es began, during Akademy 2005, resulting in the first Akademy-es in 2006 in Barcelona. KDE old timer Antonio Larrosa is the link between both editions, being the local organizer of Akademy-es 2014 and Akademy 2005.

This year Akademy-es has continued its upwards trend in people registered, ending up with around 100 people. Talks as always have been varied, including philosophical talks about what KDE is, technical ones about how to use ASAN to debug your apps, practical ones on how to make your computer and your [Android] phone work better together, some programming with an introductory QtQuick talk (in English!), and much more.

Besides the serious talks there was always time for some socializing, an important part these kind of conferences.
Specially interesting was Saturday dinner at La Casa Invisible where we met a group of people that like KDE is investing lots of time in helping society for the greater good.

Finally, please join KDE España in thanking our sponsors Digia, Opentia, openSUSE and Wabobo for helping make Akademy-es 2014 possible.

Dot Categories:

KDE Commit-Digest for 11th May 2014

Monday 30th of June 2014 04:27:59 AM

In this week's KDE Commit-Digest:

  • Clang backend of KDevelop gains basic implementation of adjust signature assistant
  • Kscreen KCM has been rewritten; the interface has two parts: a view with monitors that can be dragged around to reposition screens, and a widget-based part, that provides detailed configuration for each screen, like resolution, rotation, etc
  • The screen locker gets the KCM back too
  • Akonadi gets incremental changes for MERGE and tag support for MERGE and APPEND
  • KMyMoney supports SQLCipher database driver
  • Plasma Media Center prioritizes photos taken by a camera-like device.

Read the rest of the Digest here.

Dot Categories:

KDE Commit-Digest for 11th May 2014

Monday 30th of June 2014 04:27:59 AM

In this week's KDE Commit-Digest:

  • Clang backend of KDevelop gains basic implementation of adjust signature assistant
  • Kscreen KCM has been rewritten; the interface has two parts: a view with monitors that can be dragged around to reposition screens, and a widget-based part, that provides detailed configuration for each screen, like resolution, rotation, etc
  • The screen locker gets the KCM back too
  • Akonadi gets incremental changes for MERGE and tag support for MERGE and APPEND
  • KMyMoney supports SQLCipher database driver
  • Plasma Media Center prioritizes photos taken by a camera-like device.

Read the rest of the Digest here.

Dot Categories:

Randa Meetings Interview Three: Vedant Agrawal

Friday 27th of June 2014 09:28:36 AM

Vedant Agarwala

Thanks again for your further support of the Randa Meetings fundraising. We have now reached almost 40% of the our goal and there is still time to go. Please help even more and spread the word. If we reach our goal we can have an even more stable Kdenlive, more applications ported to KDE Frameworks 5, further progress on Phonon, a look at Amarok 3, even better KDE educational applications, a finished port of GCompris to Qt and KDE technologies, an updated KDE Book, more work on Gluon and a new and amazing KDE SDK!

Here is another little snippet of the musings of a young student, Vedant Agarwala, from India who is doing his Google Summer of Code project with KDE this year.

Could you describe yourself in a few lines and tell us where you're from?

I am a Computer Science Engineer, currently in my final year of graduation from National Institute of Technology, Durgapur.

How did you first chance upon KDE? Could you describe your journey in short?

Towards the end of my first year in college I wanted to do some real world coding - code that actually had some meaning and that would be really useful to someone - as opposed to college assignments/evaluations - and so I had a talk with one of my college seniors who was a two-time Google Summer of Code student. He was a KDE developer and suggested I do the same. That was the beginning of my journey into Linux, Open Source and KDE. It has been uphill since and two years later; here I am; eagerly awaiting arrival at a KDE Sprint.

Could you describe your Google Summer of Code experience and GSoC project in short?

So far my GSoC experience is really nice. Some really busy times researching, coding, testing, debugging. I am improving the way lyrics are fetched and displayed in Amarok. Personally; I like to follow the lyrics of the song that is playing; so I added this idea to the Ideas Page for GSoC 2014. And now here I am, working on it. The goal of my project is to highlight the particular line from the entire lyrics text that is being played.
My ultimate goal is to add the features that I have promised. I hope I achieve it. Not only would it improve the Amarok experience, it would pave the way to developments in Amarok; like karaoke. I love karaoke (even though I am very bad at it). Though it is out of the scope of this project to implement a karaoke feature, implementing LRC support is halfway to karaoke.


Amarok - a powerful music player for Linux, Unix and Windows

Could you tell us how GSoC helps many students like you both in increasing their knowledge as well as in experience?

GSoC is a great program for us students who get paid for working on Free Software. A lot is learnt while writing code over a period of three months. It is different from bug fixes that take typically a week. Also, the mentorship and two evaluations by Google (on which the stipend depends) are great motivators.
Rather than spending time writing closed source code for companies (in internships), students can spend their summer vacation contributing to the world of Free Software.

Why is KDE so special to you?

KDE to me is freedom. I used windows before KDE software and I felt like a bird let out of a cage.

Is this your first time at Randa?

Yes it is my first time. To any KDE conference actually.

When did you first hear about the meetings in Randa and why do you wish to be a part of it?

I heard about this meeting in Randa from Myriam on IRC. I'd heard that she, Mark and other developers of Amarok and KDE were going to be there and so I thought that it would be a nice opportunity to meet them in person.

Which specific area of KDE Applications do you contribute to?

I work on Amarok - KDE's music player.

What is your specific role in the particular group of KDE Applications that you are a part of and how long have you been working?

I contribute code, do some code reviews, and fix bugs. I have been working on it for one and half years now.

Have you got anything in particular planned for Randa?

I have planned to talk about porting Amarok to Qt5 and talk with Amarok developers to decide what Amarok 3.0 will be like.

Why do you think meetings such as Randa are very important for KDE and for Free Software communities around the globe?

The contributors of Free Software do not receive any monetary perks for the work they do. Sponsored meetings like this is a nice incentive, especially for students.

Is this your first time to Switzerland? Are you excited about being in another country?

I went to Switzerland when I was 5 years old. I haven't been abroad after that. Those memories are a haze but I would love to re-live them this time.

Thanks a lot, Vedant, for your time for the interview and dedication to Amarok and the KDE community.

Please support us in the organization of the Randa Meetings 2014.

Dot Categories:

Randa Meetings Interview Three: Vedant Agrawal

Friday 27th of June 2014 09:28:36 AM

Vedant Agarwala

Thanks again for your further support of the Randa Meetings fundraising. We have now reached almost 40% of the our goal and there is still time to go. Please help even more and spread the word. If we reach our goal we can have an even more stable Kdenlive, more applications ported to KDE Frameworks 5, further progress on Phonon, a look at Amarok 3, even better KDE educational applications, a finished port of GCompris to Qt and KDE technologies, an updated KDE Book, more work on Gluon and a new and amazing KDE SDK!

Here is another little snippet of the musings of a young student, Vedant Agarwala, from India who is doing his Google Summer of Code project with KDE this year.

Could you describe yourself in a few lines and tell us where you're from?

I am a Computer Science Engineer, currently in my final year of graduation from National Institute of Technology, Durgapur.

How did you first chance upon KDE? Could you describe your journey in short?

Towards the end of my first year in college I wanted to do some real world coding - code that actually had some meaning and that would be really useful to someone - as opposed to college assignments/evaluations - and so I had a talk with one of my college seniors who was a two-time Google Summer of Code student. He was a KDE developer and suggested I do the same. That was the beginning of my journey into Linux, Open Source and KDE. It has been uphill since and two years later; here I am; eagerly awaiting arrival at a KDE Sprint.

Could you describe your Google Summer of Code experience and GSoC project in short?

So far my GSoC experience is really nice. Some really busy times researching, coding, testing, debugging. I am improving the way lyrics are fetched and displayed in Amarok. Personally; I like to follow the lyrics of the song that is playing; so I added this idea to the Ideas Page for GSoC 2014. And now here I am, working on it. The goal of my project is to highlight the particular line from the entire lyrics text that is being played.
My ultimate goal is to add the features that I have promised. I hope I achieve it. Not only would it improve the Amarok experience, it would pave the way to developments in Amarok; like karaoke. I love karaoke (even though I am very bad at it). Though it is out of the scope of this project to implement a karaoke feature, implementing LRC support is halfway to karaoke.


Amarok - a powerful music player for Linux, Unix and Windows

Could you tell us how GSoC helps many students like you both in increasing their knowledge as well as in experience?

GSoC is a great program for us students who get paid for working on Free Software. A lot is learnt while writing code over a period of three months. It is different from bug fixes that take typically a week. Also, the mentorship and two evaluations by Google (on which the stipend depends) are great motivators.
Rather than spending time writing closed source code for companies (in internships), students can spend their summer vacation contributing to the world of Free Software.

Why is KDE so special to you?

KDE to me is freedom. I used windows before KDE software and I felt like a bird let out of a cage.

Is this your first time at Randa?

Yes it is my first time. To any KDE conference actually.

When did you first hear about the meetings in Randa and why do you wish to be a part of it?

I heard about this meeting in Randa from Myriam on IRC. I'd heard that she, Mark and other developers of Amarok and KDE were going to be there and so I thought that it would be a nice opportunity to meet them in person.

Which specific area of KDE Applications do you contribute to?

I work on Amarok - KDE's music player.

What is your specific role in the particular group of KDE Applications that you are a part of and how long have you been working?

I contribute code, do some code reviews, and fix bugs. I have been working on it for one and half years now.

Have you got anything in particular planned for Randa?

I have planned to talk about porting Amarok to Qt5 and talk with Amarok developers to decide what Amarok 3.0 will be like.

Why do you think meetings such as Randa are very important for KDE and for Free Software communities around the globe?

The contributors of Free Software do not receive any monetary perks for the work they do. Sponsored meetings like this is a nice incentive, especially for students.

Is this your first time to Switzerland? Are you excited about being in another country?

I went to Switzerland when I was 5 years old. I haven't been abroad after that. Those memories are a haze but I would love to re-live them this time.

Thanks a lot, Vedant, for your time for the interview and dedication to Amarok and the KDE community.

Please support us in the organization of the Randa Meetings 2014.

Dot Categories:

Where KDE is going - Part 1

Thursday 26th of June 2014 01:01:22 AM

This article explores where the KDE community currently stands and where it is going. Frameworks, Plasma, KDE e.V., Qt5, KDE Free Qt Foundation, QtAddons - you heard some of these terms and want to know what all the fuss is about? A set of articles on the Dot aims to bring some clarity in the changes and constants of the KDE community in 2014 and further. This is the first article, diving into the technical side of things: Plasma, applications and libraries.

KDE is People

Today our technology goes much further than the humble beginnings in 1996, when we started out building a 'Desktop Environment'. KDE today has many hundreds of active developers. They make not only a 'desktop' (Plasma Desktop) but also a variant for tablets (Plasma Active) and TVs (Plasma Media Center); Plasma Netbook is already 5 years old!

Meanwhile, the KDE applications have gone beyond simple clocks and calculators – we have a full office suite, mail and calendaring, video and image editors and much more. Not only that, KDE applications are being ported to multiple platforms - not just Windows and Mac, but also Android and other mobile operating systems. And our libraries (being renamed to Frameworks 5) are going modular, making them freely available to a far wider audience than just KDE developers.

Today, KDE is no longer a Unix Desktop Environment. Today, KDE is people: Us. You and me. And our technologies—Plasma, Applications and Frameworks—are doing more today than ever before. Let's explore where they are going, starting with Plasma, central to our desktop interface.

Plasma by KDE

Plasma was conceived as the next generation of KDE's desktop technology. When its architecture was drafted in 2006 and 2007, the goal of the developers was to build a modular base suitable for multiple different user interfaces. It is easy to see this as an obvious goal in a world with high resolution displays, tablets, mobile phones, media centers and so on. But as argued here, until today, KDE technology is unique in its ability to converge the different form factors at a code level. Others are still either attempting to build one interface for a wide variety of devices, looking for a middle ground or have realized that user interface convergence is a futile exercise and created separate interfaces.


Multiple Plasma Workspaces in March 2011 Plasma 5

Plasma took some time to mature, in part due to its ambitious design, in part because the technologies it built upon were not mature enough for the needs of Plasma. This is still somewhat of a problem today, and the 4.x series has workarounds to deal with the deficiencies in the platforms below it.

This is where the next generation of Plasma technology comes in. Conveniently named Plasma 5, it will bring pixel-perfect design and super smooth performance thanks to the QML and Qt 5 technologies and fully hardware accelerated display rendering. High DPI support and the ability to work with Wayland (Linux's next generation display server) are planned as well, but neither are expected to be fully finished with the first release.


A scalable UI

With Plasma 5 the team can start working on bringing seamless switching of work-spaces when moving from device to device. For example, plugging a keyboard and mouse into a tablet can trigger Plasma to transform its tablet-and-touch optimized UI into the desktop interface. And the applications, being notified of the change, can follow adapting to the new form factor. The current Plasma technology already can hint to applications which QML/ Javascript/ graphics files fit the current form factor and is already being used in Plasma Active, the tablet-optimized workspace of Plasma. None of this requires logging out-and-in – you can just continue working with the document you were working in or keep reading that web site!

These capabilities put the current Plasma far ahead of any competitor and the gap will only increase with the release of Plasma 5. But these advanced features do not take away from the familiar interface. The Plasma team is fully aware of value of established work flows of computer users and the need of not disrupting them. This means that there will be minimal feature loss or changes in the setup of the desktop. Just butter-smooth performance, polished look and more flexibility.

The Visual Design Group, Interaction Design and Usability
A new design for Plasma

Aside from technical work, there is design and usability work going on. The idea behind the Visual Design Group was to build a team in KDE which would focus on design. This is done in a rather novel way, led by the enthusiasm of Jens Reuterberg, a FOSS enthusiast and designer from Sweden. Since the inception of the design team, there has been work in many areas. There have been new icons and improvements to existing design elements of KDE software but the majority of work has been focused on Plasma 5. A widget theme is in development, a cursor theme as well and icons are being discussed. And Plasma 5.0 will move to the Oxygen font by default. But the team also looks at interaction design and work flows in the interface, working together with the KDE usability team.

The usability team keeps developers and designers experimenting with new user interfaces close to the ground, making sure the user impact of their work is evaluated. The team conducts surveys and tests as well as using its own expertise to help the KDE developers design powerful but easy to use applications.


The new lock screen

Usability experts have been giving feedback in various areas of KDE's software, for example working closely with the developers of a new network manager interface for Plasma. Another example is the chat room experience in KDE Telepathy. Currently, work is being put into redesigning Systemsettings and many other things.


A redesigned battery applet

At events like Akademy, the usability team gives developers training in testing user interfaces with real users. Aside of working directly with developers and training them, the usability team has been reworking KDE's Human Interface Guidelines.

Work in progress

The first release of this new generation Plasma will not be without its issues. With a substantial change in underlying stack come exciting new crashes and problems that need time to be shaken out. This can also lead to visual artifacts. While QML2 brings better looks due to its seamless integration of openGL and more precise positioning, the immaturity of Qt Quick Controls, the successor to the 15 year old widget technology in Qt, will bring some rough edges in other areas. Moreover, as the latest Beta announcement points out, performance is also heavily dependent on specific hardware and software configuration:

In some scenarios, Plasma 5 will display the buttery smooth performance it is capable off - while at other times, it will be hampered by various shortcomings. These can and will be addressed, however, much is dependent on components like Qt, Mesa and hardware drivers lower in the stack. This will need time, as fixes made in Qt now simply won't be released by the time the first Plasma 5 version becomes available.” Plasma 5.0 is scheduled for release July 2014.

Read more:

The KDE Applications

Compared to the desktop and libraries, the situation with KDE's applications is simpler. Currently at 4.13, the next release will be 4.14, coming in August. After that there will be another release (together with KF5-based applications) but what comes next is still up for discussion. KDE's release team has been experimenting with shortening the release cycle. Shorter release cycles seem to be a trend throughout the ecosystem, facilitated by improved tools and processes.

A very fast release cycle?

Experiences in the world of mobile and web applications have shown that users are far more likely to start using features and appreciate small batches instead of large dumps. Short release cycles can bring bug fixes and improvements to our users much faster. On the other hand, most users of KDE software access their software and updates through the downstream distributions which are on slower release cycles even though they have repositories for updated software. Therefor this is a discussion which needs to include the distributions as much as the upstream developers.

And in any case, both our release infrastructure and our promotion will have to be adjusted as well. This has been started on the KDE Community mailing list, with proposals involving a clean up of the KDE Applications and changes in the release cadence.

Moving to Frameworks 5

The trend towards shorter release cycles requires many questions answered before it becomes feasible in practice. But a move to Frameworks 5 is certain to happen at some point, the question merely is when. Some applications have already started porting, encouraged by the swift progress being made on Frameworks 5. However most have not; it is not likely that most applications will have been ported to Frameworks 5 by the end of the year. Porting is relatively easy but the teams vary in focus and goals so we will have a Frameworks 5 based Applications release next to a 4.x series for a while.

Here again, KDE developers want the upgrade process to be smooth for users. In short, the 4.x series will be with us for the time being, and a Frameworks 5 series will be available in parallel. Regardless of the series, applications will work fine under any desktop. Developers want to ensure that migration is not an issue.

Read more:

KDE Libraries

When KDE began more than 15 years ago, development was application-driven. Libraries were intended to share work, making development easier and faster. New functionality in the libraries was added based on simple rules. For example, if a particular functionality was used in more than one place, it was put into a shared library. Today, the KDE libraries provide high-level functionality like toolbars and menus, spell checking and file access. They are also used occasionally to fix or work around issues in Qt and other libraries that KDE software depends upon. Distributed as a single set of interconnected libraries, they form a common code base for (almost) all KDE applications.

Frameworks 5

Under the KDE Frameworks efforts, these libraries are being methodically reworked into independent, cross platform modules that will be readily available to all Qt developers. Some functions have already been adopted as Qt standards. The KDE Frameworks—designed as drop-in Qt Addon libraries—will enrich Qt as a development environment. The Frameworks can simplify, accelerate and reduce the cost of Qt development by eliminating the need to reinvent key functions. Qt is growing in popularity. Ubuntu is building on Qt and QML for Ubuntu Phone and planning to move over the desktop in the future. The LXDE desktop and GCompris projects are in the process of porting over to Qt. Subsurface (a divelog project made famous by having Linus Torvalds as core contributor) has had its first Qt based release.

With Frameworks, KDE is getting closer to Qt, benefiting both, as well as more and more users and developers. The Frameworks team plans to go for monthly releases with 'branch-less development'. This means that everything will be developed in master, so each release will contain a few new features and bugfixes. Of course, this type of release cycle comes with a price of its own. Features in released modules can only be introduced in a very fine grained way so as to not jeopardize stability and our continuous integration and testing tools will be taken very seriously. All modified code has to come with corresponding tests and there is a strong focus on peer review. This model is still under discussion with the distribution teams, considering the impact on their release practices. KDE Frameworks 5.0 is planned to be released in the first week of July 2014.

Read more:

Conclusion

Now, we've covered the Frameworks, Applications and Plasma—the full gamut of KDE technologies. By summer of this year we can expect new generation Frameworks and Plasma to be available. The Applications will take a tad longer, but should run on any desktop. All have release cycle changes, no longer releasing as part of the full "KDE Software Compilation". Compared to the previous major change in platform (KDE 4.0), these will be incremental on a technical level. Plasma 5 and Frameworks 5 are very much about taking advantage of the fact that our infrastructure has caught up with our ambitions. We intend to deliver these benefits in the form of a great experience for our users!

Next week, we'll publish part two of the 'where KDE is going' mini-series, with a look at KDE's governance and how our community has been changing.

These articles are based on a talk given at conf.kde.in by Jos Poortvliet with lots of input from KDE contributors. A more extensive version of these articles, quoting members of the KDE community for more background, can be found in the upcoming (August) issue of Linux Voice magazine, 'the magazine that gives back to the Free Software community'

Dot Categories:

Where KDE is going - Part 1

Thursday 26th of June 2014 01:01:22 AM

This article explores where the KDE community currently stands and where it is going. Frameworks, Plasma, KDE e.V., Qt5, KDE Free Qt Foundation, QtAddons - you heard some of these terms and want to know what all the fuss is about? A set of articles on the Dot aims to bring some clarity in the changes and constants of the KDE community in 2014 and further. This is the first article, diving into the technical side of things: Plasma, applications and libraries.

KDE is People

Today our technology goes much further than the humble beginnings in 1996, when we started out building a 'Desktop Environment'. KDE today has many hundreds of active developers. They make not only a 'desktop' (Plasma Desktop) but also a variant for tablets (Plasma Active) and TVs (Plasma Media Center); Plasma Netbook is already 5 years old!

Meanwhile, the KDE applications have gone beyond simple clocks and calculators – we have a full office suite, mail and calendaring, video and image editors and much more. Not only that, KDE applications are being ported to multiple platforms - not just Windows and Mac, but also Android and other mobile operating systems. And our libraries (being renamed to Frameworks 5) are going modular, making them freely available to a far wider audience than just KDE developers.

Today, KDE is no longer a Unix Desktop Environment. Today, KDE is people: Us. You and me. And our technologies—Plasma, Applications and Frameworks—are doing more today than ever before. Let's explore where they are going, starting with Plasma, central to our desktop interface.

Plasma by KDE

Plasma was conceived as the next generation of KDE's desktop technology. When its architecture was drafted in 2006 and 2007, the goal of the developers was to build a modular base suitable for multiple different user interfaces. It is easy to see this as an obvious goal in a world with high resolution displays, tablets, mobile phones, media centers and so on. But as argued here, until today, KDE technology is unique in its ability to converge the different form factors at a code level. Others are still either attempting to build one interface for a wide variety of devices, looking for a middle ground or have realized that user interface convergence is a futile exercise and created separate interfaces.


Multiple Plasma Workspaces in March 2011 Plasma 5

Plasma took some time to mature, in part due to its ambitious design, in part because the technologies it built upon were not mature enough for the needs of Plasma. This is still somewhat of a problem today, and the 4.x series has workarounds to deal with the deficiencies in the platforms below it.

This is where the next generation of Plasma technology comes in. Conveniently named Plasma 5, it will bring pixel-perfect design and super smooth performance thanks to the QML and Qt 5 technologies and fully hardware accelerated display rendering. High DPI support and the ability to work with Wayland (Linux's next generation display server) are planned as well, but neither are expected to be fully finished with the first release.


A scalable UI

With Plasma 5 the team can start working on bringing seamless switching of work-spaces when moving from device to device. For example, plugging a keyboard and mouse into a tablet can trigger Plasma to transform its tablet-and-touch optimized UI into the desktop interface. And the applications, being notified of the change, can follow adapting to the new form factor. The current Plasma technology already can hint to applications which QML/ Javascript/ graphics files fit the current form factor and is already being used in Plasma Active, the tablet-optimized workspace of Plasma. None of this requires logging out-and-in – you can just continue working with the document you were working in or keep reading that web site!

These capabilities put the current Plasma far ahead of any competitor and the gap will only increase with the release of Plasma 5. But these advanced features do not take away from the familiar interface. The Plasma team is fully aware of value of established work flows of computer users and the need of not disrupting them. This means that there will be minimal feature loss or changes in the setup of the desktop. Just butter-smooth performance, polished look and more flexibility.

The Visual Design Group, Interaction Design and Usability
A new design for Plasma

Aside from technical work, there is design and usability work going on. The idea behind the Visual Design Group was to build a team in KDE which would focus on design. This is done in a rather novel way, led by the enthusiasm of Jens Reuterberg, a FOSS enthusiast and designer from Sweden. Since the inception of the design team, there has been work in many areas. There have been new icons and improvements to existing design elements of KDE software but the majority of work has been focused on Plasma 5. A widget theme is in development, a cursor theme as well and icons are being discussed. And Plasma 5.0 will move to the Oxygen font by default. But the team also looks at interaction design and work flows in the interface, working together with the KDE usability team.

The usability team keeps developers and designers experimenting with new user interfaces close to the ground, making sure the user impact of their work is evaluated. The team conducts surveys and tests as well as using its own expertise to help the KDE developers design powerful but easy to use applications.


The new lock screen

Usability experts have been giving feedback in various areas of KDE's software, for example working closely with the developers of a new network manager interface for Plasma. Another example is the chat room experience in KDE Telepathy. Currently, work is being put into redesigning Systemsettings and many other things.


A redesigned battery applet

At events like Akademy, the usability team gives developers training in testing user interfaces with real users. Aside of working directly with developers and training them, the usability team has been reworking KDE's Human Interface Guidelines.

Work in progress

The first release of this new generation Plasma will not be without its issues. With a substantial change in underlying stack come exciting new crashes and problems that need time to be shaken out. This can also lead to visual artifacts. While QML2 brings better looks due to its seamless integration of openGL and more precise positioning, the immaturity of Qt Quick Controls, the successor to the 15 year old widget technology in Qt, will bring some rough edges in other areas. Moreover, as the latest Beta announcement points out, performance is also heavily dependent on specific hardware and software configuration:

In some scenarios, Plasma 5 will display the buttery smooth performance it is capable off - while at other times, it will be hampered by various shortcomings. These can and will be addressed, however, much is dependent on components like Qt, Mesa and hardware drivers lower in the stack. This will need time, as fixes made in Qt now simply won't be released by the time the first Plasma 5 version becomes available.” Plasma 5.0 is scheduled for release July 2014.

Read more:

The KDE Applications

Compared to the desktop and libraries, the situation with KDE's applications is simpler. Currently at 4.13, the next release will be 4.14, coming in August. After that there will be another release (together with KF5-based applications) but what comes next is still up for discussion. KDE's release team has been experimenting with shortening the release cycle. Shorter release cycles seem to be a trend throughout the ecosystem, facilitated by improved tools and processes.

A very fast release cycle?

Experiences in the world of mobile and web applications have shown that users are far more likely to start using features and appreciate small batches instead of large dumps. Short release cycles can bring bug fixes and improvements to our users much faster. On the other hand, most users of KDE software access their software and updates through the downstream distributions which are on slower release cycles even though they have repositories for updated software. Therefor this is a discussion which needs to include the distributions as much as the upstream developers.

And in any case, both our release infrastructure and our promotion will have to be adjusted as well. This has been started on the KDE Community mailing list, with proposals involving a clean up of the KDE Applications and changes in the release cadence.

Moving to Frameworks 5

The trend towards shorter release cycles requires many questions answered before it becomes feasible in practice. But a move to Frameworks 5 is certain to happen at some point, the question merely is when. Some applications have already started porting, encouraged by the swift progress being made on Frameworks 5. However most have not; it is not likely that most applications will have been ported to Frameworks 5 by the end of the year. Porting is relatively easy but the teams vary in focus and goals so we will have a Frameworks 5 based Applications release next to a 4.x series for a while.

Here again, KDE developers want the upgrade process to be smooth for users. In short, the 4.x series will be with us for the time being, and a Frameworks 5 series will be available in parallel. Regardless of the series, applications will work fine under any desktop. Developers want to ensure that migration is not an issue.

Read more:

KDE Libraries

When KDE began more than 15 years ago, development was application-driven. Libraries were intended to share work, making development easier and faster. New functionality in the libraries was added based on simple rules. For example, if a particular functionality was used in more than one place, it was put into a shared library. Today, the KDE libraries provide high-level functionality like toolbars and menus, spell checking and file access. They are also used occasionally to fix or work around issues in Qt and other libraries that KDE software depends upon. Distributed as a single set of interconnected libraries, they form a common code base for (almost) all KDE applications.

Frameworks 5

Under the KDE Frameworks efforts, these libraries are being methodically reworked into independent, cross platform modules that will be readily available to all Qt developers. Some functions have already been adopted as Qt standards. The KDE Frameworks—designed as drop-in Qt Addon libraries—will enrich Qt as a development environment. The Frameworks can simplify, accelerate and reduce the cost of Qt development by eliminating the need to reinvent key functions. Qt is growing in popularity. Ubuntu is building on Qt and QML for Ubuntu Phone and planning to move over the desktop in the future. The LXDE desktop and GCompris projects are in the process of porting over to Qt. Subsurface (a divelog project made famous by having Linus Torvalds as core contributor) has had its first Qt based release.

With Frameworks, KDE is getting closer to Qt, benefiting both, as well as more and more users and developers. The Frameworks team plans to go for monthly releases with 'branch-less development'. This means that everything will be developed in master, so each release will contain a few new features and bugfixes. Of course, this type of release cycle comes with a price of its own. Features in released modules can only be introduced in a very fine grained way so as to not jeopardize stability and our continuous integration and testing tools will be taken very seriously. All modified code has to come with corresponding tests and there is a strong focus on peer review. This model is still under discussion with the distribution teams, considering the impact on their release practices. KDE Frameworks 5.0 is planned to be released in the first week of July 2014.

Read more:

Conclusion

Now, we've covered the Frameworks, Applications and Plasma—the full gamut of KDE technologies. By summer of this year we can expect new generation Frameworks and Plasma to be available. The Applications will take a tad longer, but should run on any desktop. All have release cycle changes, no longer releasing as part of the full "KDE Software Compilation". Compared to the previous major change in platform (KDE 4.0), these will be incremental on a technical level. Plasma 5 and Frameworks 5 are very much about taking advantage of the fact that our infrastructure has caught up with our ambitions. We intend to deliver these benefits in the form of a great experience for our users!

Next week, we'll publish part two of the 'where KDE is going' mini-series, with a look at KDE's governance and how our community has been changing.

These articles are based on a talk given at conf.kde.in by Jos Poortvliet with lots of input from KDE contributors. A more extensive version of these articles, quoting members of the KDE community for more background, can be found in the upcoming (August) issue of Linux Voice magazine, 'the magazine that gives back to the Free Software community'

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