December 15, 2003

KDE and Debian developers call for greater desktop collaboration

Author: Robin 'Roblimo' Miller

The announcement begins, "We, the undersigned KDE and Debian developers, fans and users of
both, present this strategic proposal for a closer collaboration
between the UserLinux
and KDE projects. It is our
strong belief that we can provide the UserLinux effort with
undeniable value and credibility through its endorsement and
execution." The title of the announcement is Conquering the Enterprise Desktop. Edited 1315 US ESTUserLinux is Bruce Perens's idea for a Linux whose goal will be (his words), "Repairing the Economic Paradigm of Enterprise Linux." Long-time Linux developer (and occassional NewsForge contributor) Russell Pavlicek, when told about UserLinux, wondered why Perens didn't simply work with one of the many existing distributions instead of trying to start a new one. But hey! It's Linux, so the more people working toward the same goal, the happier we are, right?

The KDE/Debian "Conquering the Desktop" concept, which is very similar to Bruce's idea except for being oriented toward KDE rather than Gnome, includes the following goals:

  • Kiosk mode for single-use and unattended terminals
  • Integrated Terminal Server and Client
  • New KDE core desktop "killer apps"
  • New enterprise-ready administration tools
  • More Gnome/GTK integration
  • Better KDE / and Mozilla integration
  • Willingness to work with and support commercial development efforts

The declaration was signed by 32 KDE and Debian developers and users.

Others are going in this direction

Xandros, Lindows, and MEPIS are three (of many) recent desktop distributions aimed at a "non-geek" market that are based on Debian and KDE. Ark Linux and MEPIS are currently distributed under the GPL. The other two contain proprietary components.

Perens claims -- and the claim is probably correct -- that Debian is the #2 server Linux, right behind Red Hat. And, unlike Red Hat, Debian is not suddenly trying to charge "enterprise" customers $1,000 per seat (or processor) per year, a price Perens claims makes Linux more expensive than Windows for many corporate customers.

But the biggest problem for Debian as an end-user desktop operating system base right now is not technical, but the lack of up-to-date commercial and GPL software released as .deb binaries. Commercial software for Linux, especially, tends to be released only in RPM format.

Perhaps a combined KDE-Debian enterprise desktop push will help more software developers, both free and commercial, decide to release their work as .deb packages, which will certainly help Debian and Debian-based distributions become more popular not only among the technically inclined, but with those of us who want our computers to "just work."

Correction: Ark Linux was inadvertnetly mentioned as a .deb-using distribution in the original version of this story, probably because it was the first distribution in which the author used apt to install .deb-packaged software in a "Red Hat-type" environment. References to Ark Linux have been deleted. Thanks go to sharp-eyed readers who spotted the mistake.

Author's note: This article was written using MEPIS 2003.10, the closest thing I've seen to a truly user-ready Debian-based Linux distribution so far.

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