aKademy's conference track, which ran Saturday and Sunday, was different from those of past years, Seigo says. In the past, Seigo says aKademy has had a user-focused conference, but "this year, we've decided to focus acutely on the technical side of life." Most of the talks have focused on KDE 4, and speakers have been able to not only discuss their new applications and technologies, but also to demonstrate them.
KDE 4 progress
According to Seigo, KDE 4 development is coming along "quite nicely." The first technical preview, dubbed Krash, was released in August. "That was a huge amount of effort. What was a little bit frustrating, only so many people are familiar with that code [the base libraries] and only so many that will work on it ... it was not a trivial task."
Now with Krash and the base libraries are in place, Seigo says that application developers can start writing applications productively "without tearing their hair out."
"There's still work to be done on the libraries, but application developers have started to join the KDE 4 process. It's really nice to have visual progress. For morale, it's a very nice thing."
Developers and hardcore testers have already started banging on Krash, but it will be a while before KDE 4 is in the hands of the average user. Seigo says that the KDE team will be discussing the schedule and writing code during the remainder of aKademy.
New and interesting in KDE 4
It's too early to provide a full feature list for KDE 4, but Seigo did talk about a few features that should appear in KDE 4 that will make the switch worthwhile.
The Solid hardware library for KDE 4 should make life more pleasant for Linux users by "allow[ing] applications to be very easily aware of hardware around them. If you unplug your network, for instance, KMail isn't going to continue to say, 'I can't see your server.' If you fire up a presentation or video, [KDE] won't give annoying pop-ups."
Linux users have also struggled with audio and media problems for some time. Audio, in particular, is something of a mess due to the number of different sound daemons that users have to deal with. Different programs want to use different sound daemons, and different Linux vendors choose different sound daemons as the default.
With KDE 4, Seigo says that Phonon will go a long way to clearing up the confusion, and make it much easier for developers to enable multimedia features in their applications.
"Phonon will defer the actual decision of media engine to the OS vendor, and all apps will use it. Some won't be using KDE aRts sound system, some using Xine, some using GStreamer. We have one united framework that rides on top of any of these frameworks, and is really nice."
Seigo also says that Phonon will allow developers to put multimedia features like multimedia playback in their application with "half a dozen lines of code" instead of hundreds of lines of code.
The goal right now, says Seigo, is to have KDE 4 done "in the first half of '07." Some distributions, like Kubuntu and openSUSE, will put out KDE 4 packages right away when KDE 4 is released. In fact, Krash packages are already available for openSUSE and Kubuntu.
However, Seigo says that "mainline" distros will probably be slower to incorporate the new release and their users won't start seeing KDE 4 until the second half of 2007.