Joint KDE/GNOME Conference and Eleven Myths about KDE 4

Jul 16, 2008

KDE e.V. and the GNOME Foundation will be holding their annual Akademy and GUADEC conferences jointly next year in Gran Canaria.

The two conferences will still be separate events, despite taking place at the same location. The idea is to promote an exchange of information. The conferences will take place July 3 through 11 2009 at the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium and the Congress Palace in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. For more information see the Wiki set up for this purpose.

Prior to this year's Akademy conference in Belgium the KDE 4 developers, represented by Sebastian Kügler from the KDE board have launched an offensive. After continued and in part severe criticism of the new KDE version, they have now posted detailed responses on Groklaw to some of the most frequent, and in their opinion incorrect, statements. This can be seen as an attempt to clear up misunderstandings such as "KDE 4 is finished" or "Plasma lacks functionality".

The developers see KDE 4.0 generally as a starting point for "future innovations with the free desktop”. The focus of the KDE 4.0 release was thus mainly on the base system, that is, on the technologies and libraries introduced with it. Application developers can now build on this stable basis. The lack of corresponding software makes the innovations difficult for users to perceive directly. However, the developers have reached the goals they set themselves and published before the KDE 4.0 release. In some cases user expectations went beyond this, a fact that the developers can understand considering the extended development period.

It had been impossible to release KDE 4.1 as KDE 4.0 for several reasons: for one thing, the developers had first kept to the free software development maxim of "Release early, release often". This was intended to encourage KDE users to contribute, and especially to give application developers an opportunity to update their programs to accommodate the new version.

On top of this, the distributors needed more time: as packaging in the new version followed a different procedure to the previous KDE, the developers had wanted to give distributors an opportunity to gain experience. Some errors or issues only occur in production use, and early releases generate feedback, which in turn benefits product quality. After all KDE is a large and complex system comprising hundreds of applications and libraries, and involving just as many people. It is thus impossible to tie up all of the loose ends at the same time.

The developers response to demands for a fork or the extension of Plasma was fairly contained: anybody wanting to try it should try, they said. The developers actually invite critics to participate and are prepared to give them access to code management. However, they do not give them much chance of success taking the complexity and size of the system into consideration.

Otherwise the KDE project is sticking very much to its guns and not revitalizing either the Kicker nor Kdesktop. The introduction of Plasma was a necessary step because the legacy KDE 3 technology was facing various (scalability) issues. The new development with Plasma could not cover all of KDE 3's functionality, however, applets give developers a fairly simple approach to changing this. On top of this, future releases would include some of the missing features.

In response to claims argument that it is impossible to drop files onto the desktop, the developers point to "Folderview" plasmoids in KDE 4.1, which can present complete directories on the desktop. The developers responded to the demand for the legacy “kick-off” style start menu: as of KDE 4.0.4 users have the option of going back to the classic view.

The KDE developers emphasize that they are taking the current criticism very seriously. They reject objections that they are not prepared to listen to users: mailing lists are open to suggestions, development progress can be monitored via the SVN system, and developers can be reached via mailing lists, IRC, or directly by email. This said, the KDE project needs accurate details. Vague descriptions such as "I don't like the new function” are difficult to deal with. Instead, the developers ask for detailed descriptions on current and expected behavior, supported by examples of application cases if possible.

Naming conventions have cause confusion in the past, said Kügler. He once again points out that the KDE developers refer to the whole product series and its technologies as KDE 4; in contrast to this, the individual KDE versions are referred to as KDE 4.0, KDE 4.1, etc.

Groklaw, a site that otherwise concerns itself mainly with legal issues, was chosen deliberately as a platform: previous posts in blogs had not reached their target groups. Many responses on the KDE and Groklaw pages demonstrated how effective this decision has been.

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