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KDE Frameworks 5 Alpha Two Is Out

Mar, 03/04/2014 - 07:16

Frameworks 5 based apps on Wayland

Today KDE released the second alpha of Frameworks 5, part of a series of releases leading up to the final version planned for June 2014. This release includes progress since the previous alpha last month.

See the announcement on kde.org for more information and links to downloads. For information about Frameworks 5, see this earlier article on the dot.

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KDE PIM November Sprint

Lun, 03/03/2014 - 13:31

KDE PIM sprint Nov 2013

In early 2013, it was established that "Osnabrück is not a place". Meaning that the KDE PIM spring sprint, which traditionally takes place in Osnabrück, could happen at a different location and still be a continuation of the tradition.

KDE PIM's autumn sprint has traditionally been in Berlin, but since the team decided that "Berlin is not a place" applies as well, this year's installment of the sprint took place in Brno in the Czech Republic.

Even people without the exceptional skills of Sherlock Holmes have certainly deduced by now that KDE PIM sprints happen in cities that are not places but coincidentally contain the letters B, R and N.

Now, without further procrastination, the story about the KDE PIM autumn sprint, brought to you by KDE e.V., Red Hat and the letters B, R and N.

Early birds

Unlike with most other sprints, where all but some local people arrive on the first day of the sprint, there had already been a week of intense KDE hacking been going on.

Bob - you remember Bob? - and his merry henchmen from the KDE Barcelona Squad, had already arrived earlier that week and hacked on various pieces of KDE software and had beer delivered to them on trains. Yes, trains! That's the Czech Republic for you.

Notes

We're sorry to have to notify you of the fact that nobody worked on KNotes. There were plenty of old school sticky notes though. Because Kevin Ottens likes to draw rectangles on white boards and sticky notes are a natural choice for filling them.

There were also a lot of notes taken, notably on the outcome of the discussions which were scheduled by moving notes on the whiteboard.

This kind of structured handling of topics is a noteworthy improvement over some of the previous sprints and very necessary given the increased number of people who nowadays attend and take note of them.


Back row: Lukas Tinkl, John Layt, Michael Bohlender, David Edmundson, Ingo Klöcker, Daniel Vratil
Middle row: Kevin Krammer, Martin Klapetek, Mark Gaiser
Front row: Christian Mollekopf, Alex Fiestas, Vishesh Handa, Jan Grulich Bugs

As has become tradition, a significant portion of the meeting was dedicated to mercilessly squashing those nasty little buggers. David Faure, a man who certainly needs no further introduction, used the presence of several component maintainers to get issues fixed. "Getting fixed" meaning he did the actual fixing, being aided by the aforementioned component specialists with insight into inner workings and assumptions of the respective code.


Hackers' vitamins

The previous and current maintainers of Akonadi had fun with things so deep down in the guts of the system that not even the author of this article would be able to fully understand them. Those people are way smarter than him!

In addition to fixes in the sense of correcting erroneous behavior, this also included several improvements in the area of runtime performance. And a faster KDE PIM makes everybody happy.

Progress

One of the other fun aspects of a sprint, aside from the obvious awesomeness of hanging out with great people and doing interesting code work, is to ponder and prototype potential progressive programming pieces.


Big ass pizza!

Mark Gaiser, Michael Bohlender and Thomas Pfeiffer had a closer look at how to get beyond quaint, dare I say boring, user interfaces and enable QtQuick-based applications to tap into the power provided by KDE PIM libraries. Some example code was written, plans were drawn - but much is still to be done.

Secrets

Naturally the presence of the KDE Barcelona Squad made secrecy a paramount objective. Not only do we need to hide their identities, a job made easy by several Squad members disguising themselves with enormous fake beards, we are bound by oath—under threat of dragonian punishment—to not talk about rocket science like advances in PIM data search. Well, "rocket science" doesn't even cut it, more likely on the level of warp science!

Editor's note: recent leaks have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with our ability to keep things, you know, secret. Really!

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KDE Commit-Digest for 26th January 2014

Dom, 03/02/2014 - 14:58

In this week's KDE Commit-Digest:

  • KDevelop gets a new widget for the code assistant, which is more flexible in how it looks and behaves; adds a possibility to (de)serialize problems from/to disk; sees various optimizations
  • KDE-PIM adds support for interval refresh of Google calendars and contacts
  • In Skrooge, monthly report is now able to display reports on months, quarters, semesters and years
  • Baloo adds a plugin for Akonadi
  • libmm-qt implements OMA (Open Mobile Alliance) interface
  • Umbrello adds additional debug support
  • Ktexteditor adds a status bar.

Read the rest of the Digest here.

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KDE and Google Summer of Code 2014

Mar, 02/25/2014 - 12:47

KDE is happy to announce that it has been accepted as a mentoring organization for Google Summer of Code 2014. This will allow students from around the world to work with mentors on KDE software projects. Successful students will receive stipends from Google.

The Google Summer of Code program offers development funding as well as mentors to students who want to work on open source software projects. The program provides students the opportunity to learn more about coding, work within structured software development environments, and push bug fixes and new features into real-world, production software. For Google and the rest of the world, the program provides improvements to the software that millions of people use on a daily basis.

The ideas on what a student entering the GSoC program might work on are offered from developers and users alike. The KDE project has a list of potential projects for 2014 on the Community Wiki. Depending on what students choose to develop, this could mean it will be a big year for popular KDE software such as Amarok, digiKam, Marble, Krita and the PIM suite as well as more niche applications and libraries.

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KDE's Next Generation Semantic Search

Lun, 02/24/2014 - 11:57

For years, KDE software has included a semantic (relationship-based) searching infrastructure. KDE's Semantic Search was built around concepts previously developed in a European Union-funded research project NEPOMUK which explored the use of relationships between data to improve search results. Based on these ideas, KDE's implementation of Semantic Search made it possible to search for all pictures - taken in - a particular place. On top of that, it added text search and tagging.

Incremental improvements

Since its implementation, our developers received and digested a lot of feedback. Application developers requested and received easier to use APIs (Application Programming Interfaces, glue for integration) and widgets (such as the star rating and tagging user interface). For end users, stability and performance were crucial. Much work was put into improving the speed of indexing, keeping it out of the way of users and making Search more reliable.


Vishesh Handa talking about relationships* at conf.kde.in
(*the technical kind) What is coming

The upcoming release of KDE Applications (version 4.13) will introduce the next step in the effort to improve the performance and stability of search features in KDE software. The improved Semantic Search is lighter on resources and more reliable than it was previously, but, thanks to considerable reuse of existing code, it is mature and offers a complete feature set. Users will find that features such as search are exposed in the same, familiar manner - but searching in a variety of applications will be faster and more reliable.

To accomplish this, developers looked at how Search was being used in practice. The major use-cases they identified are:

  • Finding objects (like files) based on their content, requiring a full text index of files on a system
  • Storing and retrieving simple objects such as tags, ratings, activities etc.
  • Storing and searching through relationships like this file is related to this contact

With a better understanding of use-cases that developed during years of deployment and development, the improved Search technology was specifically designed to do these three things and do them well.

Advancements for end users

The improved Semantic Search brings our users a number of tangible benefits. Its design is more robust, delivering search results quicker and with less overhead. The simplicity of the design will not only reduce failures, but will also make it easier for current and new contributors to add and improve functionality.

Improvements that users will notice:

  • Faster searching and indexing
  • Searching is more accurate
  • More reliability
  • Faster software development

Applications like the Kontact Suite, Dolphin and Gwenview, as well as the Plasma Desktop itself, already benefit from the changes.

For developers

The changes are small enough to make it relatively easy for application developers to move their applications over to the improved Semantic Search, which many have already done for the 4.13 release of KDE Applications. Instead of having a single RDF-based database for all information, Semantic Search now provides separate data stores and search interfaces. This allows it to store and search each type of content in an optimal way. Under the hood, the Semantic Search infrastructure uses SQLite and Xapian to index and retrieve data. More information about the information retrieval architecture can be found on the Community Wiki.

As of today, Semantic Search offers developers:

  • An API for searching
  • A way of storing relations between entities
  • File indexing
  • Email and contact indexing
  • Timeline KIO slave

Developers can find more information on the Baloo wiki page.

KDE Platform 4 and KDE Frameworks 5

When upgrading to KDE Platform 4.13, existing tags, ratings and comments will be transparently migrated to the new storage system. Looking forward even further, Semantic Search is in the process of being ported to Frameworks 5. This Frameworks 5 version will use the same storage system as the version included in Platform 4.13 (and newer) and will be fully compatible with it.

Learn more about Frameworks 5 in the tech preview announcement.

Conclusion

The change to Semantic Search in KDE is a natural next step in the process of taking technology that came out of an academic research project and adapting it to real world use cases. KDE's Semantic Search is at a point where it has become a core part of our infrastructure. It is now well positioned to provide the required robustness and functionality.

Article contributed by Vishesh Handa (KDE Search project maintainer), Stuart Jarvis, Aaron Seigo and Jos Poortvliet

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KDE Commit-Digest for 19th January 2014

Dom, 02/23/2014 - 18:27

In this week's KDE Commit-Digest:

  • Kate gets new features in the vim mode
  • All built-in effects move into a library KWin links against
  • KTranscript module for dynamic translation moved from KJS to QtScript
  • KDE-PIM starts supporting gdrive and Box.com
  • KNavalbattle makes the ship red if it cannot be placed instead of hiding it
  • Umbrello makes Enable/Disable Undo option work
  • Bug fixes in Okular, Konsole, KDE-PIM, Calligra.

Read the rest of the Digest here.

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KDE Software Down Under

Mar, 02/18/2014 - 13:20

Today we proudly feature an interview with Bernard Gray from De Bortoli Wines, an Australian winemaking company.


Hot and Dry in Australia

We spoke with Bernard Gray who has worked for the company for over 10 years in an IT project management and development role. He is, in his own words: "a tertiary qualified programmer, and has been involved in either core development or supporting development with a few Open Source distros/projects over the years".

De Bortoli Wines is one of Australia's largest family-owned wine makers. Bernard: "The company started in 1928, and is now under the leadership of the third generation of the De Bortoli Family. Our approach as a company is innovative, forward thinking, and sustainable – this is inherent in all areas of our business, not least with our IT approach."

We started by asking him how long they have been using Linux.

"As a company, our first production Linux server was deployed in the mid-late 90s. Personally, I first used Linux in 1999 when I started University – I had very little idea of computing at the time, let alone Operating Systems and their differentiating qualities. It wasn't until 2003 that I really began to get my teeth into Linux when I started developing the Linux based Live CD environment that we've internally branded “GTs” (Graphical Terminals, originally designed to replace our thin-client telnet terminals)."

"The beauty of these devices is that we could purchase commodity PC hardware, outsource hardware support, maintain a single image Live CD based operating system environment with its read-only root filesystem rendering it “unbreakable” so to speak. Combined with the fact that it runs out of a ramdisk and on generously spec'd desktop hardware, we finally managed to nail the trifecta of Cheap, Fast AND Good."

"We deployed our first "GT" in production in April 2004."

The Dot: Could you tell us a bit about the migration, both the reasons for it and the experiences you had with it?

"Our original GT shipped with an early 2.x Gnome release. This had more to do with my general lack of skills with package management and live image building than by design. Since the distro I was using at the time shipped Gnome by default – I went along with it. Since then, we've migrated to KDE 3.5, back to Gnome 2.8 and finally to KDE 4.9 which we've just completed the rollout for, and which now makes up approximately three quarters of our 250+ desktop fleet."

"The key to all smooth migrations we've found is Desktop Environment consistency. Keep the major applications cross-platform where we can (browsers, office suites, assorted tools). Keep the icons where people are expecting them (they're in the same spot on our Windows desktops too)."

"The KDE 4.x series keeps the consistent Desktop Environment paradigms that our users are familiar with (application menu, panels/toolbars, window management), while still bringing incremental features that enhance their productivity (compositing, more advanced window management like improved snapping, widgets etc). It also brings some neat and flexible customization options via Plasma and its javascript interface which makes my life so much easier when it comes to customizing the DE and getting consistent behavior across different setups."

"Still on the development side, the KDE techbase site has been an invaluable source of information for me, as has the KDE community–both users and developers. Often large technical communities struggle with a high amount of enthusiastic users but without a lot of knowledge, which make the skilled base hard to find/interact with for solving more difficult issues. With KDE I have had nothing but good experiences - it's worth a special mention for a particular Okular bug we were experiencing which was resolved in record time after I contacted the Okular developers mailing list."

"All these things combine to greatly reduce the development and training load requirement on our small team - which keeps us, and most importantly our users, happy and productive."

That is great to hear! Thank you Bernard for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish you and De Bortoli wines a great time with our software.

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KDE Frameworks 5 Alpha Is Out

Vie, 02/14/2014 - 14:15

Today KDE released the first alpha of Frameworks 5, part of a series of releases leading up to the final version planned for June 2014. This release includes progress since the Frameworks 5 Tech Preview in the beginning of this year.

See the announcement on kde.org for more information and links to downloads. For information about Frameworks 5, see this earlier article on the dot.

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KDE Commit-Digest for 12th January 2014

Dom, 02/09/2014 - 21:16

In this week's KDE Commit-Digest:

  • KDM has been removed
  • KDE-PIM improves the attachment editor; better ability to switch between inline and linked attachments, allows undo/redo archive mail
  • Skrooge adds options in "Income & Expenditure" dashboard widget
  • Nepomuk adds Baloo migrator
  • KGeography porting to KF5 in progress
  • Bug fixes in KDevelop and more.

Read the rest of the Digest here.

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KDE Ships February Updates to Applications and Platform

Mié, 02/05/2014 - 07:16

Today KDE released updates for its Applications and Development Platform, the second in a series of monthly stabilization updates to the 4.12 series. This release also includes an updated Plasma Workspaces 4.11.6. Both releases contain only bugfixes and translation updates; providing a safe and pleasant update for everyone.

More than 20 recorded bugfixes include improvements to Personal Information Management suite Kontact, Umbrello UML Modeller, document viewer Okular, web browser Konqueror, file manager Dolphin and others. A more complete list of changes can be found in KDE's issue tracker.

To find out more about the 4.12 versions of KDE Applications and Development Platform, please refer to the 4.12 release notes.

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Plasma Team Gathers in Barcelona

Vie, 01/24/2014 - 14:30

In the second week of January, KDE's Plasma team gathered in the Blue Systems office in Barcelona, Spain, to discuss and work on the next generation of KDE's popular workspace products. The meeting comes just at the right time, as the Plasma team has just finished a first technology preview, which puts the base technology in place and allows for an evaluation of the current progress. It also gives an opportunity for more refined plans for a first stable release.

In this article, we will give you an impression of some of the topics which have been discussed. Please note that discussions have by now moved to the various online communication channels, such as mailinglists and IRC. Not all results are set in stone, they rather serve as blueprints for ongoing discussions.

Naming and repository structure

One of the things that had been discussed online, but has not been concluded, is the naming of Plasma's next release. A proposal has been made to continue calling KDE's workspace products "Plasma", possibly extended as "Plasma by KDE". The term "workspace" will be on the way out, as it bears rather little meaning to most users. Plasma simply refers to all the workspace products, with the technology itself taking care of the distinguishing UI per device.

In line with this thinking, the repository structure will be changed. There is a number of interesting repositories, which are oriented towards likely deployment scenarios. The plasma-frameworks repository contains the library pieces needed to run a Plasma environment and build applications using Plasma technology. The kde-workspace repository will be split into a generic repository, which contains device-independent components. Then there will be repositories for different form-factor UIs. This means, that on a typical desktop system, one would install plasma-framework, plasma-generic and plasma-desktop. To add support for other devices, one can simply add another repository (such as a mediacenter or tablet user experience), and a specialized UI will be offered for this.

Supporting Plasma

Plasma, being a central product for KDE, receives many bugreports. In order to provide good support, better prioritization and focus is needed. For this reason, the team plans to structure the different components in Bugzilla in a way that makes it easier to identify higher priority problems (for example in default components), and make a clearer distinction between "officially supported" and "community-supported" components. This should lead to improved stability and shorter reaction times for the core components of the desktop.

Launcher

One of the things that kept the Plasma developers busy during the sprint was the question what to do with the main application launcher. This seems to be a question which has a different answer for almost every user. Plasma's strategy has been to offer a well-tested default (Kickoff), with other options to choose from (traditional menu, Lancelot). For the next release, this flexibility will remain intact. The idea is to replace the traditional menu with one that works similarly, but sports an updated look and some interaction improvements. The current version of Kickoff, which has already been reimplemented in QML will get a visual update.

KRunner Plans

The future of KRunner, Plasma's mini-commandline was discussed. There is a replacement in the works, though at this early stage is it unclear when it is going to land. In order to allow an alternative to fully mature before it replaces a core component, the team decided to port the current version of KRunner, and adapt it for improvements in the desktop search area.

Logging in

The team also discussed the login procedure. While KDM has reached the end of its lifetime, being a fork of the ancient XDM, there are better alternatives on the horizon. The Plasma developers decided to improve and update the theming of LightDM and SDDM, although neither are currently perfect solutions. LightDM suffers from requirements around copyright assignment, which some developers refuse to sign; on the other hand, SDDM is not yet fully finished in terms of features needed.


Activity Switching (click for larger)
by Martin Klapetek (CC BY) Activity Switching

Plasma developer Ivan Čukić presented a redesign of Plasma Desktop's activity switcher. The new design has a vertical layout and presents a more visual way to manage activities, move and assign windows, and add and rename them. The design presented was well thought out, and apart from a few visual changes, Ivan's concept was received very positively.

Notication Area Improvements

The team discussed the current version of the systemtray, also known as notification area. The new approach to use one popup dialog for all, which reduces visual clutter, was welcomed. The team has identified a few issues with the current implementation, which will be addressed in the coming weeks. One of the things that was brought up is that applications or services should have a way to enable a Plasma widget in the system tray. This could be useful for Bluetooth, for example, where a widget would show up as soon as the Bluetooth hardware is found or enabled. On the other hand, some widgets which do not make sense in a given hardware environment could be entirely hidden (for example, the battery widget on non-laptop systems).


Wayland discussion (click for larger)
by Martin Klapetek (CC BY) Kwin/Wayland

KWin maintainer Martin Gräßlin presented the status of KWin and Wayland support in the window manager and compositor, and shared his plans for the future. Wayland support is well under way, although not everything is entirely clear from an architectural point of view. There is simply no example or reference implementation for many of the technical problems we face, so his work is, to no small degree, about covering new ground.

A new focus on design

One of the hot topics during the sprint was the visual and interaction design in Plasma. These things have been identified as needing a more structured approach. Thanks to the effort of Jens Reuterberg, an illustrator from Sweden who recently joined the Plasma team, work has commenced on forming a stronger design team. Another topic in this area was the creation of visual guidelines, which has already been started. The team hopes that these efforts will result in greater visual consistency and more elegance throughout the whole user experience.


Group photo: Left to right: (top) Martin Klapetek, Mitch Curtis, Ivan Čukić, Jens Reuterberg, David Edmundson, Martin Gräßlin, Aleix Pol, Giorgos Tsiapaliokas, Sebastian Kügler, Antonis Tsiapaliokas, (front) Marco Martin, Vishesh Handa, Àlex Fiestas (click for larger)
by Martin Klapetek (CC BY) Much hacking

Of course there is not sprint without hacking. Many ideas have been put into code already, various pieces have been cleaned up, missing features were implemented. Everyone attending enjoyed the sprint, especially the productive and friendly atmosphere. The whole team is excited and already working on the results of the sprint.

Special thanks go to the KDE e.V. and Blue Systems for supporting the sprint -- without their help it could not have happened.

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Open Hardware for KDE

Mié, 01/22/2014 - 13:08

From its beginning, KDE has been a leader in innovation in free (libre) and open source software (FLOSS), but there is a threat to that leadership in one of the fastest growing areas of technology. The advantages of free and open development and use are clear for software; now closed and proprietary strategies have become standard in other kinds of technology. The need for technology freedom has moved from software to other more corporate-controllable areas—notably hardware and the Internet.

As was the case when KDE started, community-developed, freedom-oriented technology is necessary to break the stranglehold of large companies that are more committed to managers and investors than to users. But this won’t be easy and it can’t be left to a few people. The entire KDE Community has a stake in the outcome. For that matter, this should be a concern to anyone who develops free and open software, anyone who uses it, anyone who benefits from it. And that includes just about everyone using technology today.

New hardware has been announced that addresses the need for openness beyond software. Community help is needed to support a generous, far-sighted open hardware project involving mostly KDE people and certainly following KDE principles. Please consider contributing financially to open hardware for KDE.

More of the story follows...

The threat of proprietary & closed

The Internet is under threat from companies that seek unfair leverage with their massive investments...investments, by the way, that are already well compensated. The nature of these companies is such that every possible means must be used to extract value.

The digital hegemony of several U.S. companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google) plus Samsung dominate technology. All of these companies depend to a great extent on free and open software. Microsoft tries (and fails) to stay in this league with such schemes as using its monopoly position to force conditioned users to adopt Windows 8—a mobile phone GUI blown up to a touch interface on a 19" monitor, positioned by clever marketers as "platform convergence".

What these companies are doing is not wrong; it’s the way most things work these days.

KDE’s leadership is an opportunity to extend free and open technology, providing creative minds unlimited room to innovate. Mainstream tech companies try to do this without disrupting their profits or stock prices. We are fortunate to have such freedom.

Plasma Active

Nine years ago, KDE started planning for a shared technology base for all types of computers. In September 2011, Plasma Active was released. It shared almost all the underlying code base of the other Plasma Workspaces, along with an innovative user interface specifically designed for tablets and the way they are used. KDE quietly offered platform convergence well before Microsoft or Canonical jumped on the bandwagon.

Plasma Active fits well with KDE’s original goal. As Matthias Ettrich wrote in the announcement of KDE:

"The idea is to create a GUI for an ENDUSER" and "IMHO a GUI should offer a complete, graphical environment. It should allow users to do everyday tasks with it, like starting applications, reading mail, configuring the desktop, editing some files, delete some files, look at some pictures, etc. All parts must fit together and work together."

Plasma Active is free and open software, readily available to install on any tablet. But it has been installed on only a few types of tablets, and requires higher than average technical know-how to install and maintain.

Why?

Virtually all tablets on the market have either Google’s Android operating system or Apple’s iOS. Neither is truly free and open. Apple technology is closed and proprietary...Apple’s business model. Android is 23% open according to VisionMobile. Installing a different operating system and user interface means violating warranty terms. In addition, there is no standard version of the Android operating system even with the same version number. These operating systems and user interface designs are controlled by Apple, Google and Samsung (which sells approximately 40% of all Android devices). These companies have no interest in making their hardware run KDE software. In fact, doing so would be contrary to the fundamental purpose of such enterprises.

The environment for Plasma Active is far different (and more restricted) than that for other KDE software. With any commercially available desktop or laptop, it is simple to install and run KDE and other free and open software. While there may be some occasional hassles with wireless or graphics, those are easily overcome. Plasma Active comes standard on the open hardware platform called Improv.

Software can’t be free and open if its hardware is closed and proprietary. Improv is as open and free as possible.

The tablet market

In October 2013, Gartner reported that global tablet sales would grow 53.4% for the year, and PC shipments would be down over 11% from the previous year. By 2015, tablets and PCs will sell about the same level.

Users will continue to want the kind of software KDE provides for traditional PCs, for several reasons. (Jos Poortvliet’s presentation at Akademy 2013 has some background.) KDE is viable for the foreseeable future...in the desktop and laptop space. But not for tablets, the fastest growing and highly visible personal computing segment.

Several free and open projects have been started to address the need for alternatives to the Android/iOS market dominance in tablets and other devices. Those projects have faced difficulties that point to the daunting nature of challenges to the Google, Samsung and Apple mobile oligopoly. Other projects such as CyanogenMod have chosen the venture capital route to try and compete. The fundraising goals are substantial:

  • Jolla – €200 million
  • CyanogenMod - $30 million
  • Ubuntu Edge – projected a requirement for $32 million
  • Tizen – multimillion dollar project sponsored by the Linux Foundation and supported by Intel and Samsung

Where do these projects stand?

Jolla began offering a smartphone in Finland at the beginning of December 2013. Their tablet operating system has been exhibited but is not commercially available. A mainstream journalist reports that the Jolla smartphone is a "work in progress" that still has some rough edges, and refers to the 'beta' nature of the handset and software.

Prominent venture capitalists have made substantial investments in CyanogenMod. So at least for the moment CyanogenMod is doing fine. They will have to capture major market share to satisfy venture capital investors...time will tell. This professional investment establishes a substantial value for CyanogenMod as a company and hints at the attractiveness of the device market. A market in which there's a danger of KDE being irrelevant.

Canonical tried to crowdfund a smartphone to round out their converged computing initiative. Against a goal of $32 million, there were commitments of about $12 million. Canonical hinted at backing from major hardware suppliers, but this news was light on detail.

Samsung was expected to launch a Tizen phone at Mobile World Congress in February. Now it appears that Tizen will not challenge Android and iOS this year after all. A Samsung switch to Tizen would be a blow to Android, but it would be good for Samsung’s already rich bottom line. And would further entrench the oligopoly.

According to the tech news site Gigaom, both Tizen and Ubuntu Touch have been set back. However with its substantial, prestigious backing, Tizen is almost certain of being successful.

All of these projects are associated to some degree with free and open software; their funding experiences—successful or not—indicate the potential value of the device industry. None of the organizations promise the degree of freedom and openness typical of KDE.

"The KDE Tablet"

Several years ago, KDE developers confronted 2 questions:

  • How can we ensure that KDE software is relevant to computer users today and tomorrow? KDE development teams are addressing this in various ways.
  • However, without proper hardware, some kinds of software development are not possible (for example, Qt on Android). What hackable ARM-based hardware exists that supports KDE software out of the box?

The answer was "NONE".

So in early 2012, Aaron Seigo announced the Spark (later renamed "Vivaldi") tablet, which would be produced by the Make Play Live (MPL) project (comprised mostly of people and companies associated with KDE). It would make the necessary hardware available.

Many readers will be familiar with the background. Plucky Aaron and his MPL team have faced significant challenges. One of the most difficult things to overcome has been the nonchalance of hardware suppliers about open source licensing. In addition, suppliers changed components without notice or consultation. In short, it has been an ongoing battle to produce hardware that would run Plasma Active out of the box.

In fact, Aaron and his small hardware development team were forced to engineer hardware from scratch. According to Aaron, there will be an open hardware tablet; it’s a question of when it will be available.

Improv

In the mean time, the efforts to produce an open hardware tablet revealed a need for general hardware development expertise for free and open projects. The Vivaldi lessons could be applied more broadly to all manner of hardware development.

Out of this realization, the MPL hardware development team created Improv.

Improv has two parts:

  1. An interchangeable card with a dual core 1 GHz ARM processor, 1 GB memory, 4GB NAND flash storage, Micro SD card reader,
  2. The standard connector on this card plugs into a feature board that provides access to I/O functions, including USB, HDMI, SATA, VGA, and a 44 pin DIL with a range of I/O possibilities.

Improv hardware drawings are open and readily available, software is covered by free and open source licenses, and interfaces are well-documented. In other words, Improv is open hardware, as open as it can be given that all graphics processing units (GPU) are closed and proprietary.

More information and detailed specifications are available at the MakePlayLive website. Improv comes with the Mer operating system, the lean Core Linux distribution that is a direct descendent of MeeGo. Additional software configurations are available, in fact encouraged.

Improv has been designed, prototyped, tested and retested. It can’t be bricked by installing other software or experimenting with configurations; there's no need to root the device. Concepts prototyped on Improv can be turned into complete, custom products using the same hardware.


Improv & Plasma Media Center

Improv is done. It’s ready. In typical KDE fashion, Improv was accomplished while others were saying what they were gonna do.

Aaron said this about the Improv:

Improv is hardware produced *for* free software rather than hardware that *happens to run* free software. It supports a range of software from a standard modern Linux user space all the way up to a full featured desktop. Openness for hardware and software is the goal rather than an accident or a market result.

For the KDE Community—KDE software on the device is just part of the picture. The device itself is a gift to KDE. We made Improv so we could have such a device for KDE.

Improv is a hardware template, a starting point for new products without requiring the resources of a large company with an in-house hardware team. Use it at home for a personal server or other project. It’s perfect in a school setting for education. But it can also be used to create entirely new products, experiment and prototype, and manufacture if there is demand. Improv is designed to grow from idea to finished product, all on the same hardware/software platform.

The know-how and manufacturing chain that has been assembled for Improv is available to anyone who wishes to build upon it. Rather than starting from scratch, Improv is a ready-made starting point for product development and creation.

Improv is a product that can open the doors to the world of ubiquitous, device-centric computing for KDE and other free and open projects. No more waiting for a big vendor to be kind and take our needs into consideration. No more trying to shoehorn KDE software into devices with proprietary lock-in.


Improv & Konqueror I understand...how do I contribute?

That’s the pressing dilemma. With software, it’s easy for developers to contribute. A lot of people make their first contribution to free and open software with a single patch. Anyone can download the code and work with it. Start small. There's room for many contributors.

Hardware development is different; it involves physical pieces and is done in chunks. For example, board layout with multiple components and complicated routing is a one-person job.

Aaron and the small team have succeeded at creating the hardware. No further contributions are necessary towards its development. Improv works and works well.

However, there is another big difference between hardware and software—cost. Creating software has no out-of-pocket expense beyond the initial investment in a computer. Distributing one more copy of a KDE application has virtually no associated cost. On the other hand, hardware has a direct cost. Designing a printed circuit board is mostly done in software. But there is a cost to prototype and produce each copy of that physical board.

Aaron and a few others have personally paid these development costs. As can be inferred from the budgets mentioned above, Improv hardware development has not come cheap. There are no venture capitalists handing out money on this project. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It is a many year project, involving considerable personal sacrifice on behalf of KDE and free/open technology. Improv is based on generosity, not greed.

The team had high expectations that Improv pre-production sales would be enough to cover these expenses. They will eventually, but people want to get their hands on Improvs now. Delivery delays harm the project.

Please lend a hand

Funding is needed for the direct costs associated with manufacturing: electronic parts, feature board assembly and CPU cards.

Hundreds of people have already supported the project by buying an Improv.

You can help...
Consider buying an Improv, even if you don’t plan to play with it. Give it to a student who has just started learning about technology.

Company engineers might use Improv as a platform for building a custom product. It serves well for prototyping, and can mature gracefully to market readiness. Most importantly, Improv can reduce a hardware development schedule by many months with substantial cost savings.

Please consider donating to the project. Donations will only be used for direct manufacturing costs. Any money contributed beyond the goal of $125,000 will be used to produce Improvs for education.

Improv works. Please help push it from proven-design-ready-for-manufacturing to full production.

Take a stand for digital choice. A stand for what KDE has proven to be successful—free and open wins.

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KDE Commit-Digest for 5th January 2014

Lun, 01/20/2014 - 07:24

In this week's KDE Commit-Digest:

  • Clicking a Geo URI link will now open Marble; Stars plug-in (Moon and Sun) rendering sees improvements
  • Okular sees improvements in Find and Undo/Redo actions
  • Kate makes AltGr enabled keyboards work in vim mode
  • Choqok implements Pump.io APIs
  • Naval Battle shows enemies' ships after the game ends
  • KDE Frameworks 5 work includes splitting the katession.h/.cpp files and unit tests.

Read the rest of the Digest here.

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KDE Commit-Digest for 29th December 2013

Lun, 01/20/2014 - 07:13

In this week's KDE Commit-Digest:

  • Umbrello offers more intelligent context menus: when multiple widgets are selected, a context menu is shown containing only the actions that work on the whole selection; better undo support and visual properties improvements
  • Marble supports nautical miles as a measurement system
  • Digikam improves detection of new images on the camera and sees a bug in face detection fixed
  • Krita improves usability of Shade Selector
  • Multiple bug fixes in Krita, digikam, KMyMoney and more.

Read the rest of the Digest here.

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First Talks for conf.kde.in, Registration Open

Mié, 01/15/2014 - 10:58

conf.kde.in was announced in November, to take place February 21 – 23, 2014 in Gandhinagar, India. This three-day conference, the biggest KDE event in India, will bring together Qt developers, KDE contributors, open source enthusiasts and users from all across the nation. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn, share, contribute, innovate and create around Qt and KDE technology.

conf.kde.in is an excellent platform for you to learn about FOSS and start contributing to it. You will learn about KDE technology and community and how to participate, paving the way for future participation in programs like Google Summer of Code (GSoC) and Season of KDE. Last year, KDE was the largest participating organization in GSoC with 60 students selected. The conference sessions will range from beginner to advanced level, to facilitate all kinds of participants.

Talks

There will be a vibrant gamut of talks at the event; with a variety of technical as well as non technical talks covered by members of the KDE community from the extremes of India as well as the world. Be a witness to this cultural and intellectual infusion of ideas and experiences, of knowledge and guidance; by people from different walks of life, all with a common passion - open source and KDE; ready to ignite the same passion in you through their words and their minds.

Here are some of the talks currently scheduled for this event:

  • How I got involved in KDE and How to attack a problem - Sujith H
  • Hacking on KStars: Progress and challenges - Rishab Arora
  • One app to rule all your media - Sinny Kumari
  • KDE unlike a coconut - Smit Shah
  • Plasma Workspace 2: Little introduction - Bhushan Shah
  • Baloo - Metadata and Search - Vishesh Handa
  • Cute (Qt) C++ idioms - Nikhil Marathe
  • Qt Project - Frederik Gladhorn
  • Language learning with KDE - Samikshan Bairagya
  • Effective Open-Source Speech Recognition in Your Application - Peter Grasch
  • Where KDE is and where it is going - Jos Poortvliet
  • C++11: A Language Renaissance - Kévin Ottens

The above is the incomplete list of talks, we are adding more talks as we get confirmation from the speakers. The updated list of talks can be found at this page.

Every speaker at conf.kde.in is a bona fide contributor to KDE, some of them contributing already for over a decade. Attending the conference will give you the opportunity to meet seasoned open source contributors, discuss with them, exchange ideas with them, learn from them and also teach them something new.

Many of these contributors work for great companies (which themselves are involved in various open source projects) inluding Mozilla, SUSE, Red Hat, Blue Systems, ThoughtWorks, KDAB, Digia. Also you will find that many of these contributors were students until recently.

Wondering what KDE/Qt is?

KDE is one of the largest international free software communities. It has an integrated set of cross-platform applications designed to run on GNU/Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, Microsoft Windows, and Apple OS X systems. KDE is known for its Plasma Workspace, an environment provided as the default working environment on many Linux distributions, such as Kubuntu, Pardus, and openSUSE.

To find more information about KDE, please visit kde.org.

Qt is a cross-platform application framework that is widely used for developing application software with a graphical user interface (GUI) and also used for developing non-GUI programs such as command-line tools and consoles for servers. Qt is used in Adobe Photoshop Elements, Skype, VLC media player, VirtualBox, Dassault DraftSight and Mathematica, and by the European Space Agency, DreamWorks, Google, HP, KDE, Lucasfilm, Autodesk Maya, The Foundry's Nuke, Panasonic, Philips, Blackberry applications, Samsung, Siemens, Volvo, Walt Disney, Animation Studios and Research In Motion. Qt runs on multiple platforms which include Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, Embedded Linux, Blackberry 10, Android, Sailfish and Ubuntu Phone OS.

To find more information about Qt, please visit qt-project.org.

Details about conf.kde.in

Venue: Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Gandhinagar
Date: 21st - 23rd Feb, 2014
Time: 9:00 AM - 6:30 PM

Registration for the conference is now open. Please register yourself here and grab the “Early Bird” discount until the 15th of January. There are limited seats so hurry up! You will find accommodation options at this page.

We are working very hard to make conf.kde.in 2014 a huge success. And it will happen with the help of your participation. Looking forward to meet you all. Stay tuned for regular updates about this event on our Facebook and Twitter page.

For any queries, feel free to reach us at conf@kde.in.

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KDE Ships January Updates to Applications and Platform 4.12

Mié, 01/15/2014 - 08:24

Today KDE released updates for its Applications and Development Platform, the first in a series of monthly stabilization updates to the 4.12 series. Starting with the next Applications and Development Platform release, 4.12.2, there will also be a maintenance release of Workspaces 4.11.6. This release contains only bugfixes and translation updates; it will be a safe and pleasant update for everyone.

There were more than 45 improvements to the Personal Information Management suite Kontact, the UML tool Umbrello, the document viewer Okular, the web browser Konqueror, the file manager Dolphin and others. Umbrello standardizes the global, diagram and widget settings and adds a clone diagram function. Dolphin received a fix to a bug that slowed down PDF preview under certain circumstances. In Kontact, several bugs and regressions were fixed in the KOrganizer, Akregator and KMail components.

A more complete list of changes can be found in KDE's issue tracker.

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KDE Commit-Digest for 22nd December 2013

Sáb, 01/11/2014 - 16:55

In this week's KDE Commit-Digest:

  • KStars adds support to online plate solving using astrometry.net web services API, optimizes memory usage
  • Umbrello adds duplication of diagrams
  • KWin adds an option in oxygenrc to disable window background
  • Krita adds thumbnail support for kra and ora files
  • Numerous bug fixes in KMix.

Read the rest of the Digest here.

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KDE Ships January Updates to Plasma Workspaces, Applications and Platform

Mar, 01/07/2014 - 20:35

Today KDE released updates for its Workspaces, Applications and Development Platform. These updates are the fifth in a series of monthly stabilization updates to the 4.11 series. Plasma Workspaces and the KDE Platform are frozen and receiving only long term support. Workspace development efforts are focused on Plasma 2; current generation Plasma Workspaces will continue to receive updates until August 2015. KDE Platform is in transition to Frameworks 5. So this release is focused on KDE Applications. The release contains only bugfixes and translation updates, and will be a safe and pleasant update for everyone.

Several recorded bugfixes include improvements to the personal information management suite Kontact, the UML tool Umbrello, the document viewer Okular, the web browser Konqueror, the file manager Dolphin, and others.The Plasma calculator can handle Greek letters now, and Okular can print pages with long titles. A bugfix brought Konqueror better web fonts support.

A more complete list of changes can be found in KDE's issue tracker. Browse the Git logs for a detailed list of changes.

To find out more about the 4.11 versions of KDE Workspaces, Applications and Development Platform, please refer to the 4.11 release notes.

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Frameworks 5 Tech Preview

Mar, 01/07/2014 - 11:00

The KDE Community is proud to announce a Tech Preview of KDE Frameworks 5. Frameworks 5 is the result of almost three years of work to modularize, review and port the set of libraries previously known as KDElibs or KDE Platform 4 into a set of Qt Addons, separate libraries with well-defined dependencies and abilities, ready for Qt 5. This gives the Qt ecosystem a powerful set of drop-in libraries providing additional functionality for a wide variety of tasks and platforms, based on over 15 years of KDE experience in building applications. Today, all the Frameworks are available in Tech Preview mode; a final release is planned for the first half of 2014. Some Tech Preview addons (notably KArchive and Threadweaver) are more mature than others at this time.

What is Frameworks 5?

The KDE libraries are currently the common code base for (almost) all KDE applications. They provide high-level functionality such as toolbars and menus, spell checking and file access. Currently, 'kdelibs' is distributed as a single set of interconnected libraries. Through KDE Frameworks efforts, these libraries have been methodically reworked into a set of independent, cross platform classes that will be readily available to all Qt developers.

The KDE Frameworks—designed as drop-in Qt Addon libraries—will enrich Qt as a development environment with functions that simplify, accelerate and reduce the cost of Qt development. Frameworks eliminate the need to reinvent key functions.

The transition from Platform to Frameworks has been underway for almost three years and is being implemented by a team of about 20 (paid and volunteer) developers and actively supported by four companies. Frameworks 5 consists of 57 libraries: 19 independent Qt addons not requiring any dependencies; 9 that require libraries which themselves are independent; and 29 with more significant dependency chains. Frameworks are developed following the Frameworks Policies, in a vendor neutral, open process.

This KDE News article has more background on Frameworks 5.

Available today

The tech preview made available today contains all 57 libraries that are part of Frameworks 5. Of these, two have a maturity level that shows the direction of Frameworks: ThreadWeaver and KArchive. Developers are invited to take all of the libraries for a spin and provide feedback (and patches) to help bring them to the same level of maturity.

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 while satisfying these dependencies, greatly simplifying the use of multiple threads. These are available for production use now.


The KDE Frameworks and their dependencies (overview is a work in progress)

There is a full list of the Frameworks; tarballs with the current code can be downloaded. Binaries are available as well.

The team is currently working on providing a detailed listing of all Frameworks and third party libraries at inqlude.org, the curated archive of Qt libraries. Each entry includes a dependency tree view. Dependency diagrams can also be found here.

Working towards a final release

The team will do monthly releases with a beta planned for the first week of April and a final release in the beginning of June.

Plans for this period include tidying up the infrastructure, integration with QMake and pkg-config for non-CMake users, getting CMake contributions upstream, and a final round of API cleanups and reviews. Frameworks 5 will be open for API changes until the beta in April.

Those interested in following progress can check out the git repositories, follow the discussions on the KDE Frameworks Development mailing list and contribute patches through review board. Policies and the current state of the project and plans are available at the Frameworks wiki. Real-time discussions take place on the #kde-devel IRC channel on freenode.net.

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KDE at FOSDEM 2014

Lun, 01/06/2014 - 21:29

KDE will be at FOSDEM in Brussels on 1&2 February this year. We will have a stall both days showing off the latest builds of Frameworks 5 and Plasma 2. Saturday will see our Desktop devroom which is shared with GNOME, LXDE and Unity. There will be a a panel discussion with the governing bodies of the GNOME Foundation and KDE e.V. (the association that supports KDE), a presentation about KDE Frameworks 5, and a personal account of challenges and triumphs—"Do you have to be brain damaged to care about desktop Linux?.

If you want to help out in the KDE stall or in the desktop devroom, please sign up on the KDE at FOSDEM wiki page.

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