The KDE Applications 4.13 announcement highlighted the delightful new capabilities of Palapeli, the KDE jigsaw puzzle application. What the announcement did not mention is that the Palapeli maintainer, Ian Wadham, is celebrating 50 years of software experience. He’s ready to hand off Palapeli and his other KDE software development responsibilities. Albert Astals Cid called attention to Ian’s achievements and suggested a Dot interview.
A Portrait of the Programmer as a Young Man
Ian Wadham's bio at a glance
- 1938 - Born in England
- 1959 - Graduated in Physics and Mathematics at the University of Cambridge
- 1960 - Migrated to Australia
- April 1964 - Became a computer programmer 50 years ago
- KDE Games developer for about 12 years
- Currently lives in Melbourne, Australia
What are your thoughts about cutting back on software development?
Regret, but I have had a long innings. I will still potter around on my own, but not following any schedules. If something turns out well, I might commit it.
This is my second retirement. My first, from the workforce, was in 1998. This time I am withdrawing from writing programs for public use. I will continue to present a Science course for seniors at the local U3A (University of the Third Age) .
I seem to be getting involved in moves to make KDE's portability work better on the Apple Mac OS X platform. And my grandchildren are always a joy.
How did you get started as a coder?
I prefer to call myself a programmer - and never a hacker. A hacker is someone who carves wood with an axe. I see programming as a craft. Sometimes I hack, to get a quick answer to a question, but when I have the result, I always like to go back and program it "properly". If I do not, I find I cannot understand my own code a few months later.
How I started was one of those accidents of fate. My Ph.D. studies were not working out and I was looking for a new career. My girl-friend at the time was a programmer and she told me no qualifications were required, only an aptitude test, and that the job was interesting and the pay excellent. This was 1964 and I was nearly 26.
So I put in some applications and accepted the offer of my first programming job the night before I was interviewed as a Physics Instructor in the Australian Navy. All next morning I was saying that I had already accepted another job, but the military has its own ways of doing things. I went through the full medical check, the eye test, the IQ test, the psychology interview... Finally I entered a room with a long table and wall-to-wall admirals and captains - gold braid everywhere - and was finally allowed to deliver my news. "Oh, thank you for telling us," they said.
At that time in Australia, very few physicists were using computers. Computer use was more common in the US, UK and Europe, especially in large, well-financed organizations such as NASA, the Atomic Energy Commission and the US Military.
Computers for individual physicists were an exotic and trendy means of avoiding lengthy and tedious calculations, if you could afford the time and money to acquire one and learn how to use it, but were not yet a routine tool as computers became within the following 10 years.
What major technology shifts have you been involved in?
You name it. It was good luck to join in when transistor hardware, assembly language and Fortran II were taking hold. Some people were still using valve machines and machine language. As a programmer I was involved in the beginnings of operating systems, real-time systems, on-line screens, minicomputers, structured programming, supercomputers, LANs, desktop systems (Xerox Star), relational database systems, C and multi-host commercial Unix systems.
The best company I ever worked for was Control Data Australia, 1965 to 1969. We have a website of memories, and we still keep in touch. On 17 May, we had a biennial reunion. I do not know of any other company group like it.
Control Data Corporation, our US parent company, made the largest and fastest computers in the world. Our chief designer was Seymour Cray and for decades he designed the world's largest and fastest computers: later in Cray Research, his own company. At Control Data he insisted on seclusion and freedom to work in his private laboratory in his home town, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. There were many legends about him. One of my favorites is that each morning he would walk down to the river near the Falls and an eagle that nested there would fly down and perch on his shoulder.
CDC-160A Personal Computer
My first computer was one of Seymour's lesser-known designs, a Control Data 160-A. The desk in the foreground is the entire machine. Some say it was the first minicomputer, even the first PC. It was significant too because essentially the same design, shaped as a 20cm cube, went into the ten peripheral processors on the CDC 6600 supercomputer. The 160-A was a wonderful first machine because it was possible for one person to learn everything about it - something that has been impossible with most machines since.
This was your "personal" computer? Wow!
Er, no! I was a young, penniless guy and it cost US$60,000. I meant it was the first computer I worked on, not the first one I owned. It belonged to Australia's telephone research labs and I was programmer in charge, bureau manager and general dogsbody. If I stayed late at work, I could have a play...
KDE is my only official FOSS project, but I feel that, by avoiding the IBM and Microsoft worlds, I have been able to work on FOSS all along. Free because it came with the hardware and you could modify it or fix bugs (i.e. also free in the Stallman sense). In the 80s and 90s you could still obtain access to source code (UNIX) on minis and megaminis for a fee, but I never found the need.
How did you come to KDE? And how long have you been part of KDE?
Microsoft and its business practices had always turned me off. My first IBM compatible PC (1995) was mainly for work purposes. After retiring in 1998, I started programming again in 2000. My son gave me a set of SuSE CDs for Christmas and it included this new desktop system called KDE 1.
Among the source code, in the Alpha section, I found the first version of KGoldRunner, by Marco Krüger. I had always liked Loderunner's unique combination of action, strategy and puzzle solving and had always wanted to do something non-trivial in object-oriented programming, ever since Simula and Smalltalk days. So I set to work to learn C++ and Qt and with Marco's permission produced a new version of KGoldrunner, committed to kdenonbeta (a precursor of playground and review) in March 2002.
Akademy is being held this year in Brno, Czech Republic. Have you been to Akademy?
Yes, Akademy 2008 in Belgium. The talks were great and so were the BOF sessions on games. That Gouden Carolus beer on the river trip and on the dinner night at the brewery in Mechelen was something else again. I now know it to be one of the world's most powerful beers - and they were serving it in half-litre glasses! The high point of Akademy 2008 for me was to meet my fellow workers on KGoldrunner and take them to dinner in the main square at Mechelen.
You maintain several KDE applications, mostly games. What are they?
KGoldrunner, Kubrick, KJumpingCube, KSudoku and Palapeli. They are about 13% of the KDE Games, but 20-25% of the lines of code.
KGoldrunner is based on my all-time favorite game: Loderunner. One intriguing thing about it is the way bugs become features. One day I was sitting with my son (grown up) when he found out that it was possible for the hero to dig holes while falling through the air. Before I could fix the bug, he had made up a level that exploited it. Now that "feature" is an important part of many creative new games that people from around the world have contributed.
Kubrick was an effort to branch out into 3-D and OpenGL. It's fine, but I am no good at cubing and I wonder if others enjoy Kubrick.
KJumpingCube and KSudoku I rescued from unmaintained. In KJC I added features and AI to make it more intelligible and also more challenging. In KSudoku, there was a half-finished re-development which left it so that it would generate mainly easy puzzles - no good at all for a serious player like my wife. I found a Python puzzle-generation algorithm on the net and, with the author's permission, adapted it to C++ and KSudoku. I like KSudoku because it supports so many variations on the basic puzzle. I do not know of any other Sudoku game that does that.
My favorites games to play are KPat (solitaire card games), KSudoku (X and Aztec variations) and Palapeli.
You've gotten the applications into good shape, and are ready to hand them off. What type of person would you like to see take over? What will they get out of working on these applications?
I would like to see KDE set up a maintenance group and standards for "maintainability" of code. Programs that reach a reasonably good standard could then be maintained interchangeably by members of the group.
The group could be continually changing. Nobody can stay interested in such work for long. Also the group and its stock of programs would be a good source of Junior Jobs and a place for newbies to start. It would need to have some experienced members, or ready access to such people, because some bugs are too hard for trainees to solve.
This is not a new idea. It is roughly what has been happening everywhere I have worked since about 1967, when the burden of people quitting jobs and leaving behind unmaintainable, half-finished messes became intolerable for most organizations.
What was your experience in the various game transitions from early days to now? Did you play computer games when they were first available?
Games go back a very long way. Some of the earliest computers played music and a few played games. I remember a fellow-student in 1959 giving me a copy of a paper tape as a souvenir. It contained an EDSAC II program to determine if the king was in check.
Even the first supercomputer, the Control Data 6600, in 1966, had a game similar to KSpaceDuel (spaceships orbiting the Sun and shooting missiles). Only the elite and hardware engineers got time late at night to play games on those multi-megadollar machines.
Things became easier with minicomputers. In 1978 I was at a customer's DEC PDP-11 site presenting a new version of their application system and was asked to finish up early. Why? It was the night the users all got on the computer to play Adventure, the original adventure game. They had made a wall-chart mapping out all the caves.
On our first PC, an Apple IIC, my children and I played a lot of Loderunner and Zork ("You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all of them alike."). That was in 1983. We wore out several joysticks on Loderunner. We made up levels and challenged each other to solve them. Many of the current KGoldrunner levels come from that time. My Apple IIC still runs and can still play the Loderunner demo, but I used up the last gasp of the last joystick working out design details to be used in KGoldrunner. So I cannot play Loderunner now.
Later I had a Commodore Amiga 500 and became very hooked on Flood and Populous I and II. The Amiga had much better graphics and OS than the IBM PC and Windows, but sadly the Commodore company lost its way. My Amiga also is still in working order.
Later still, on Windows, I worked my way through Myst, Riven and Alpha Centauri. I never liked first person shooters, though.
You've added a lot to Palapeli, the jigsaw puzzle application. The new capabilities make it possible to do puzzles with a lot of pieces. It's fun and challenging. The manual is quite helpful, especially with a lot of pieces. What was the thought process to create the latest version?
Several of us in the KDE Games group had kicked around ideas in 2010. Johannes Löhnert wrote the puzzle Preview class then, but it did not get implemented.
The Book by Juan Gris in Palapeli; 320 pieces; main screen, right edge piece-holder, preview
It seemed necessary to resolve the issues with a practical test, so I bought a 1000 piece puzzle and tried to solve it on a small table, no larger than the completed puzzle, using only the table and the box to hold pieces. As I played, I noted difficulties that arose and how they could be overcome. At the same time, I was mentally trying out analogues of what might be feasible on a computer screen. And of course, I had already tried solving large puzzles with Palapeli 1 and had seen what physical difficulties arose there.
Most of the manual was already written by Johannes Löhnert and Stefan Majewsky. I just added the chapter on large puzzles.
When I was growing up, we often had a jigsaw puzzle on the dining room table. It was a social event. What about adding a capability for working with others on a puzzle with a lot of pieces?
That's a nice idea. I have never understood how networking is done in KDE Games. Maybe it is time I found out.
It's hard to beat the computer at KJumpingCube. Do you have any strategy tips?
Only what is in the Handbook. KJC is about to become harder. Inge Wallin has an AI library he would like to try out on it. You have met the AI players Kepler and Newton. Prepare to meet Einstein!
What would you recommend to young programmers?
Read as many of other people's programs as you can - even bad programs. Try and figure out what makes them good or bad, easy or hard to understand and maintain.
Can people learn to program when they are older?
Yes. My friend Glen, a retired airline pilot, taught himself on an IBM PC when he was fifty something. Within a year or two he became good enough to get work as an independent contractor.
Windows, Mac or Linux? Why?
Apple Macbook Pro, with OS X 10.7, Lion.
One day my Windows/Linux dual-boot system's hardware died suddenly. I bought a new machine and installed the latest OpenSuSE. When I booted up KDE, my carefully constructed four-part Plasma desktop had been long gone, and I found myself in some new, empty and quite alien-seeming version of KDE and Plasma. It took me two days just to find out how to get rid of the blue glow around active windows, which was hard on my tired old eyes.
Ian Wadham - older, wiser, still gaming
It was important for me to keep working rather than play with settings, so I turned to the MacBook I had been messing around with, which was also supporting my wife's iPhone and iPad (pre iCloud). I had some KDE and Qt software already installed, with MacPorts, and I was soon able to set up a KDE development environment. OS X really is quite a lot like Unix and Linux.
I like working on the Macbook. The desktop is quiet, unobtrusive and easy on the eyes. I can work for hours without getting tired or being distracted. Also the battery is long-lived, Time Machine does regular backups and the Spotlight indexer collects everything (even my source code) with no perceptible overhead. I feel I am more productive with Mac OS X than I ever was with Windows or KDE because I do not have to think about what the desktop is doing.
I feel as if I have come home.
The traditional KDE interview question—Richard Stallman or Linus Torvalds?
Thank you for the many years of work you've dedicated to the advancement of FOSS, and the KDE games in particular. Thanks also for sharing some of your experiences on the front lines of computer development over the fifty years of your active career.
Many thanks to Albert for the idea of interviewing Ian, and to Bob Potter for bringing in technical perspectives.Dot Categories:
In this week's KDE Commit-Digest you can find an interview with Aaron Seigo about KF 5 and a look into KDE SC on devices. And of course, the overview of the development effort is there as every week and includes:
- Ktexteditor adds keyword-based completion model
- Smb4k changes the implementation of notifications correctly, as a side-effect the notifications can be edited via system settings
- libtmdbqt adds basic tv show support.
Las grandes posibilidades de personalizar nuestro KDE es una de las bazas con las que contamos a la hora de defender nuestro escritorio libre favorito. Hoy os presento Ardis, otro pack de iconos redondeados original, coloreado y eleganante, una alternativa a Flamini, del cual ya hablé en el blog hace unos meses- En KDE todo [&hellip
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- Exponential zoom in/out feature in "Solar System Viewer" of KStars
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- Fixes to placement of KRunner on multi-screen setups
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- Speedups in item synchronization in Akonadi
- Notification support removed from KGlobalAccel
- Further progress in ktp-text-ui and libqgit2
- Dolphin starts to support being compiled with KF5.
Es asombroso ver como la Comunidad KDE es una comunidad abierta a todo tipo de experiencias y es capaz de acoger a todo tipo de personas interesadas en ella, acogerlas y hacer que se sientan bien. Veamos como puede ser pasar 10 días en Blue Systems colaborando con KDE. Lo cierto es que una la [&hellip
Empiezas haciendo unas pruebas de colores y acabas haciendo un modesto tema de emoticonos. Eso es lo que me pasó esta noche. Independientemente de lo que opine del resultado, lo cierto es que ya está completo, y no iba a quedar en mi discoduro acumulando polvo. Lo mejor es que al menos alguien interesado lo pueda disfrutar.
Por desgracia, de momento algo ocurre con DeviantArt que no me deja etiquetar la sección de este material, y por tanto no me deja subirlo al público. Pero por suerte y para más comodidad de los usuarios de KDE, sí que lo he podido subir a KDE-Look (nos volvemos a ver, según parece…).
Podéis descargarlo directamente desde ahí o usar el asistente del Systemsettings (preferencias del sistema). Sea de una manera u otra, os tenéis que dirigir hacia Apariencia de las aplicaciones > Emoticonos, y allí hacer clic en “Obtener temas…” para descargarlo e instalarlo directamente desde KDE-Look, o bien con “Instalar archivo…” podéis seleccionar el paquete tar.gz. De ambas maneras el tema se instalará y podréis usarlo tras seleccionarlo y aplicar los cambios.
Y nada más. A ¿disfrutarlo?.
KDE es un acérrimo colaborador con los proyectos sobre Software Libre que suele organizar Google. Normalmente participa en el Google Code-In,y en Google Summer of Code, y aplicaciones como Plasma Media Center o digiKam salen muy beneficiadas. Pero no son las únicas y el famoso proyecto de mensajería instantánea libre, Telegram, no es una excepción. Telegram [&hellip
Un año más Randa se perfila como una ciudad básica en el desarrollo de KDE ya que por quinta ocasión va a organizar una serie de Sprints para dar un impulso a diferentes grupos que forman la Comunidad KDE. ¿Qué es un Sprint? Los sprints de KDE son pequeñas reuniones que se organizan en cualquier [&hellip
It's the time of the year again when the Randa Meetings plan starts to get quite concrete. After a break last year, the 5th edition of the Randa Meetings will happen in the middle of the Swiss Alps in August 2014. So once again more then 50 KDE contributors will meet in Randa to hack, discuss, decide and work for a full week.
This year the following groups and projects will come together in Randa:
- Amarok/Multimedia/Phonon: to work on the next edition of Amarok and Phonon and some exciting new KDE multimedia applications
- KDE Books: to renew our great KDE development booklet and focus on KDE Frameworks 5
- KDE Edu and GCompris: to work on KDE language learning and math applications, and finish the port of GCompris to Qt
- KDE Frameworks 5 porting: to bring application developers together with KF5 specialists to port their applications
- KDE SDK: to create a simple KDE SDK
- Kdenlive: to reinforce one of the best video editing applications on Linux, and start a port to KF5
- Gluon: to put new energy in this KDE gaming framework
Even if you are not participating yourself, you can help make Randa Meetings happen. More about this below. Here is what former Randa Meetings participants think about this event:
Kévin Ottens: "It's important for sprints to be extremely focused for a few days. Randa is perfect for that, it is the ideal place to be away from our hectic lives and only work on what's needed for your sprint. At the same time the atmosphere and the nature around is relaxing a nice bonus which makes such sprints all the more efficient."
Aleix Pol: "I've been to Randa 3 times already, with 2 different teams. It's always been a really productive and intense week of working non-stop. Pure KDE hacking for everyone, it's how projects move forward."
Albert Astals Cid: "The Randa Meetings is the most amazing place to do a KDE Sprint. As a KDE contributor, attending the Randa Meetings gives you an amazing venue: a dedicated local team that lets you focus on the Sprinting, an amazing environment to air up your thoughts and the co-location of various sprints that creates great synergies between the various participants."
The Randa Meetings really bring KDE and its software forward. But as most of the participants are young people, students (and we try to bring new people to every KDE sprint), parents or just can't afford the travel costs, we need some help.
Here are some more concrete examples of what you can do with your money:
- With EUR 20 you can pay the accommodation for a Kdenlive developer for one night.
- With EUR 40 you can pay the Swiss train tickets (ticket from the airport to Randa) for a Marble hacker.
- With EUR 200 you can bring a KDE Edu hacker from somewhere in Europe to the meetings.
- And with EUR 1000 you can bring a great documentation writer from the US to our small village in the Swiss Alps.
With some additional costs for the house rental, we need a total amount of EUR 20,000 to cover the costs of the Randa Meetings.
More about the plans the developers have for Randa will be shared in additional stories in the coming weeks. So be prepared to learn more about GCompris, Kdenlive, KDE Frameworks 5 and other projects at Randa this August! And if you think that what we're doing is important please support us. Every bit means a lot! Also, help us spread the word and tell others what we're doing and why financial help directly benefits KDE software. The Randa Meetings are a quantum jump for KDE.Dot Categories:
El concurso fondos de pantalla KVDG está en marcha, es hora de ver los primeros diseños y ese es el cometido de KDE Visual Design Group, el equipo de diseño del próximo Plasma Next, el cual trabaja codo a codo con la Comunidad KDE y que se caracteriza por ser transparente. Por ello Jens nos [&hellip
En ocasiones algunas noticias te llegan al alma: el gran blog 308 de de yoyo308 nos abandonará pronto. Y lo hace por un enfado importante de su creador ya que opina (y con razón) que a la Comunidad Linux le ha faltado sensibilidad a la hora de agradecer el lanzamiento de Octopi. Creo que el [&hellip
Durante el fin de semana del 16 al 18 de de mayo se celebró el mayor evento KDE en España: Akademy-es 2014 de Málaga. Y, lamentablemente, el que escribe estas líneas no estuvo presente. Pero eso no significa que el blog no estuviera informado ya que tenía infiltrados en el evento que son capaces de [&hellip
Una de las distribuciones que más fuerte pegó en años anteriores y que parecía pasar por una mala racha ha vuelto con su nueva versión. Me refiero a Chakra y al lanzamiento de su versión “Descartes”, es decir, 2014.05. ¿Qué nos ofrece? El equipo de Chakra ha anunciado el primer lanzamiento de su serie [&hellip
- Plasma screen locker gains password checking
- Krita adds Background Color feature to KisImage
- Plasma MediaCenter fetches and stores genre metadata in media library
- Ktorrent implements a magnet manager; sees multiple optimizations
- Pykde5 adds Sonnet support.
Es un verdadero placer ver como la Comunidad KDE de nuestro país no para de menearse para promocionar todo lo que se pueda el proyecto KDE. Hace justo una semana que se lecebró Akademy-es 2014 de Málaga y ahora algunos miembros de KDE España anuncian que se ha montado en Barcelona un grupo de Software [&hellip
Los eventos libres son un momento de encuentro, y Akademy-es no es ninguna excepción. Es por ello que salen cosas como lo que hoy os presento: un artículo aparecido en el Diario Sur.es, escrito por Princesa Sánchez (@PrincesaOnAir), sobre KDE Connect que me limito a transcribir, enlazar y decorar con unas imágenes. Presentan en Málaga [&hellip
Esta nueva ISO está recién salida del horno. Tras un leve retraso debido a algunas complicaciones sin mucha importancia, por fin está aquí la nueva imagen de prueba e instalación de Chakra. Dicha ISO hacía mucha falta por el reciente cambio de servidores, asi como actualizaciones del software y mucho más.
Tal y como se dice en el anuncio oficial, este nuevo lanzamiento cuenta con bastantes novedades importantes para tratarse de una distro de filosofía rolling (half-rolling, concretamente):
- KDE 4.13.1 con Baloo sustituyendo a Nepomuk
- ¡Las herramientas oficiales del proyecto ya están en más de 30 idiomas!
- Nuevo logo/branding
- Nuevo set artístico, “Sirius”, que ya presenté hace unas semanas :D
- Una gran cantidad de drivers gráficos actualizados
- Kernel 3.12.15
- Xorg-server 1.14.5
- Systemd 212
- Octopi sustituyendo a Oktopi con el fin de quitar trabajo al equipo de cara a Akabei y contribuír al upstream de Pacman
- kcm-pacman-repoeditor, un excelente editor gráfico de los repositorios para el Systemsettings
- kcm-about-distro, el famoso “Acerca del sistema”, con información sobre el mismo, el equipo que estamos usando y el branding de la distro
- Kup, un nuevo programa de copias de seguridad
- Kcalc, aplicación de calculadora, un buen detalle por parte del equipo, ya que aunque KRunner puede hacer operaciones matemáticas, se agradece una aplicación dedicada de este estilo (frecuentemente ya olvidada por las distros KDE)
Cabe recordar que Tribe no tiene soporte oficial para UEFI, RAID, LVM y GPT, debido a que usa el particionador oficial de KDE, y éste carece de estas funciones (si no estoy equivocado, integrantes del equipo como Lisa Vittolo intentaron reportar al proyecto Solid de KDE las funcionalidades).
Como nota personal, decir que ha sido un buen trabajo por parte de todos. Desde la salida de Manuel Tortosa del equipo, éste parecía un poco perdido debido al gran cambio que sufrió, y con toda honestidad no he visto a las ediciones “Fritz” ni “Curie” tanto encanto. Pero este “Descartes” está cargado de novedades y mejoras por todos los lados, sobre todo teniendo en cuenta la nueva era que se avecina: nuevo artwork y branding, nuevos retos acerca de la usabilidad, y por supuesto Akabei y Plasma Next, que están a la vuelta de la esquina. Sin duda una edición muy buena e interesante, me atrevería a decir que prácticamente a la par de para mí aquella mítica “Benz”. :D