August 24, 2004

Report from the KDE World Summit: Day two

Author: Tom Chance

The second day of aKademy, KDE's World Summit
2004, opened the two-day developers' conference, involving a series of
presentations and discussions both on ground-breaking topics like KJSEmbed and
other subjects important to KDE. When not attending the two parallel tracks of
presentations, KDE developers took the opportunity to socialise and hack in the
comfortable surroundings of Ludwidgsburg's Filmakademie.Saturday began with a keynote from Eirik Chambe-Eng, co-founder of
Trolltech and Qt. Eirik described what motivated himself and Haavard Nord to
develop the first cross-platform GUI toolkit and development platform
(principally that most existing tools "made Motif programming look like good
fun"). Eirik then talked through Trolltech and Qt's history, where key points
included Matthias Ettrich's announcement of KDE, and the creation of the KDE
Free Qt Foundation, both of which, he indicated, are extremely important to
Trolltech's business plan. Eirik discussed Trolltech's market in some depth,
revealing that Windows is the largest, but they expect it to decline with the
growth of GNU/Linux; the USA, Germany and UK account for 31%, 23% and 7%
respectively. One third of license holders have participated in Free Software
projects, and he described KDE as a flagship product. Trolltech now has
approximately 4,400 customers and 90 employees, and offices in Norway, the USA and
Australia, and is profitable. In all, his presentation was encouraging for
those who worry about KDE's releationship with Trolltech and Qt.

By the end of the talk, most hackers had emerged from the Youth Hostel, and they
settled down in either the gallery or the cinema to listen to a series of
presentations focused on on development and tools issues. In the development
track, Scott Wheeler, developeor of Juk, discussed using meta-data and
searching as the fundamental interface elements to replace heirachies through
KDE. From file dialogues to KDE's Control Center, Scott suggested that KDE
should develop an underlying meta-data platform that would require crawling
files to extract non-obvious meta data (to save users having to enter it all
manually), indexing and then ranking the files in a clear and consistent way so
that a user would understand the results. Other talks focused on how KDE hackers
can develop faster, better designed code that can itself be written more easily
and quickly.

Two new KDE technologies in particular show considerable promise. NX, a
thin-client solution built on top of X by NoMachine, can now be used thanks to FreeNX,
a GPLed version that works with a KDE client to provide a reliable remote
connection, even with interrupts. First demonstrated at LinuxTag, and now released on
Knoppix 3.6 -- aKademy Edition -- FreeNX will allow development communities to
set-up one server and have contributors connect to work on it. This is ideal for
those who don't have necessary development facilities at home or at work -- for
example, documentation and testing teams who cannot keep regular checkouts of
CVS -- but who need to be able to use current versions of programs. Later Ian
Reinhardt presented KJSEmbed, a wrapper around
the KDE JavaScript interpreter (KJS). Tying in with KDE technologies like Kparts
and DCOP, it allows programmers to embed JavaScript in C++ code, providing a
relatively powerful scripting interface that is free of problems with
compilation, binary (in)compatability and platform porting. Ideal for plugins,
KJSEmbed may provide an interesting new tool for projects that want to open
themselves to wider participation in non-core features.

In between two gruelling three hour sessions, we broke off for a lunch, kindly
paid for again by IBM and the local cafe. Many of the more
nocturnal hackers were starting to wake up, so lunch became more of a space to
discuss the morning's talks, raising the eyebrows of locals more used to film
students.

Late afternoon saw two talks that were less technical in their content, but
nonetheless of interest to developers. I began with a talk on the future and
promise of Quality Teams, an initiative I helped
develop within the KDE Project this year. Developers received the promise of
help with artwork and documentation well, and the ensuing discussion gave
insight into how connected developers are to each other and to the "userland"
KDE web sites such as dot and KDE-Look. (Almost all developers visited them.)

Finally Daniel Stone of freedesktop.org brought KDE
developers up-to-date with recent important developments in the project, and
encouraged KDE developers to become more involved. With the release of x.org
(X11R6.8) coming soon, Daniel described the success of the fork (bringing long,
opaque release cycles down to almost bi-annual releases in an open, transparent
community) and some of the prospects in X11R7, including complete modularisation
and moving files to /usr from /usr/X11R6 (a pet hate of Daniel's). There was
some friction when Daniel spoke about DBUS, HAL and other technologies that
would require considerable work and adaption of KDE technologies, with some
developers worrying about the way in which decisions are made within
freedesktop.org, but Daniel and Aaron Seigo (a KDE developer) both argued that
if KDE developers aren't sure, they should become involved to they can better
shape the project. According to Daniel, freedesktop.org needs KDE so that it
will be taken seriously, and KDE needs freedesktop.org to solve platform issues
that are beyond the influence of the KDE Project itself.

After a lengthy coffee break, hackers converged for a social event, held by the
City of Ludwigsburg, in which we enjoyed yet more free food, and heard local
officials describe the importance of KDE and free software to the economy of the
Stuttgart region. A change of pace, but an inspiring end to the first day.

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