August 27, 2004

Report from the KDE World Summit: Day six

Author: Tom Chance

Wednesday at aKademy provided KDE hackers with
their first day without a special focus. The KDE PIM (Personal Information
Management) developers had a discussion session, I led a Quality Team session
on media and promotion work, and the usability playing ground continued;
otherwise, developers roamed around chatting, hacking, partying and sleeping (a
little). And if that didn't satisfy the KDE developer, he could always take some
time out for one of three consecutive dinners or celebrate his
exam results.The day began with the KDE PIM Birds of a Feather session, which was well
attended (in part thanks to the usability tests the previous day), and which
centered around the next release. Whether part of KDE 3.4 or 4.0 (depending on
whether or not KDE has a 3.4 release), the PIM developers agreed to have some
kind of release at the beginning of 2005. The focus will be on polishing the
application, most of which will involve working on the usability of the GUI,
based upon findings from the usability tests performed at aKademy. Professionals
from Relantive AG attended the meeting to share their
thoughts,and discuss interaction with Developers were happy
with the detail and style of the reports given to them. But problems arose with
the consequent feedback and discussion; the usability professionals and
volunteers need to send the developers some kind of mockup that the developers
can then comment on. Using images or Qt Designer UI files will slow the
process down, especially from the usability side; having a server with an
up-to-date version of NX (discussed in the writeup of day two ) was proposed,
allowing the usability people and developers to collaborate on UI files
with ease as well as providing the usability people with appropriately
configured Knoppix CDs.

OpenGroupware integration work was scheduled for
the weekend, which is expected to ease the integraton of Microsoft Exchange
since the two programs use the same protocol. Developers were mindful of promoting certain
servers as being "supported" when the support may in fact remain partial, and
also agreed not to fully promote KDE's own groupware server solution, Kolab, and
its integration with Kontact, until it is fully usable. The combination of
Kontact (the consolidation of the mail, news, calendaring, scheduling and
contact management features of KDE PIM together in one application) and Kolab (a
groupware server) already give KDE a comprehensive PIM solution, so as
Kontact becomes compatible with a greater number of competing solutions, barriers to free software
adoption with be broken down.

Various issues with libraries were then addressed. Ambiguities between libkdepim
and libkdenetwork are getting in the way of development, and so the developers
are now considering moving various sub-libraries around, and even into their own
proper libraries. Licensing issues for libraries were also considered, since
kdelibs tries to avoid the GPL to make it open to proprietary development, and
with KDE PIM attracting proprietary interest, as well as KDE PIM libraries
potentially moving into kdelibs, conflicts may arise. Any decisions were
deferred until they have had the opportunity to properly discuss this with the
rest of the KDE Project.

On the question of how the developers can get a 3.3.1 release quickly so that
Kolab2 support could be properly merged, one developer joked that they could
simply find and announce a security bug! (KDE release policy states that a
security bug should prompt an immediate minor release).

When coming out of meetings, in need of air and a little sun (or rain!), you
might be wondering what aKademy's surroundings look like. The most popular spot
for tired developers is the canopy shown in the picture above, with a few
benches populated by dazed hackers, impromptu meetings ("hey, what's going on
over there?") and wasps circling over lunches.

But no sooner has one meeting finished than another begins, and at times two run
at once. Having missed the meeting on KOffice, I caught up with David Faure to
find out what the future holds for KDE's lightweight offering. As with KDE PIM,
the KOffice crew are keen to get a release out within the next six months, and
are now aiming to release KOffice 1.4 in the first quarter of 2005. The major
change will be a full switch to the OASIS file formats used by OpenOffice,
making all KOffice applications fully compatible. Given the difference in design
philosophy between the two projects (KWord, for example, employs a frame model
more familiar to desktop publishing applications), this will require some major
redesigning that will probably occur in separate branches. Many technical
problems, ranging from changing KPresenter's handling of templates to
implementing WYSIWYG properly, were discussed.

In the afternoon, I lead a discussion on the Quality Team Project, which was scheduled to discuss media and promotional
work, but whose scope was quickly broadened. Coordination between developers,
Quality Teams, KDE Promo and the various KDE community web sites was discussed,
with semi-regular competitions proposed as a way of inviting more user
participation and helping developers find artwork, documentation and more exposure.

Whilst trying to come up with ways to get users who could contribute involved,
those participating came up with an innovative change to the "What'sThis?"
technology, which allows the user to click a question mark on the window
decoration, then click on a GUI element to find a short description. If no
WhatsThis text is found, a dialogue will appear asking for a proposed
description, which will send the entry off to a KDE server. Users looking to
contribute a little more without needing to commit considerable time, and
without needing specialist knowledge, could then monitor and edit these
submitted descriptions, putting them into CVS. The code for a pilot scheme is
now in development, and KDE applications not tied to the main KDE Project
release cycle will hopefully pick the idea up, to see if users will get involved.

By the evening, most scheduled meetings have finished; dazed developers wander
aimlessly looking for something to do or something to talk to; those with
larger stomachs grab a snack before dinner; and the more hardy hackers continue
working in the computer labs oblivious. But by the time it gets dark, the social
instinct kicks in. You might imagine that, being in the same building, or even
in the same room, hackers might make arrangements face-to-face. But shouting
"food!" in the aKademy IRC channel and attracting similarly hungry (or thirsty)
bodies seems to be de rigeur , with small
groups coalescing online before moving off in groups to roam the streets.

Anthropologists may want to attend the next conference to study the habits of
the lazier hackers, who make it as far as the bar next door, and the more
adventurous hackers -- who look like death the following day. Whilst this reporter
remains fairly certain that nobody will collapse, the state of those who
participate in the full ten days of the summit will give the clearest indication
of the kind of work going on here.  

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