How a “Welded-to KDE3.5 User” Began a Move to KDE4.4 Part IIII

Posted by Scott_Ruecker on Mar 9, 2011 3:00 PM EDT
LXer Linux News; By Dr. Tony Young and Stuart Jarvis
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LXer Feature: 09-Mar-2011

This is an addition to the series that was never at first envisaged. Indeed, within a recent thread (shown immediately below) and in my response to “hkwint”, I stated very clearly that I had absolutely no intention of writing further on KDE4, but this situation almost developed with a life of its own and I now think it needs to be brought out into the open for the LXer readers.

This is an addition to the series that was never at first envisaged. Indeed, within a recent thread (shown immediately below) and in my response to “hkwint”, I stated very clearly that I had absolutely no intention of writing further on KDE4, but this situation almost developed with a life of its own and I now think it needs to be brought out into the open for the LXer readers.

http://lxer.com/module/forums/t/31457/

As I noted elsewhere on LXer, I moved from KDE3.5 to KDE4 much later than many others (5 months or so ago), so all my problems/frustrations and successes have only just emerged, whereas most other players met them three years ago when KDE4 was first released and under much more difficult and demanding circumstances. Nevertheless, I began to ask serious questions about the structure, funding and objectives of the KDE development team, and again, I place the blame wholly on the shoulders of “hkwint” (with some laughter but also with a great deal of gratitude) in that he suggested on that same thread above that I should contact two people within KDE and see if some answers were forthcoming. This seemed an excellent idea to me, given that I now had two names of people involved in promoting KDE software; moreover, if you want the truth as to how people within KDE itself view those questions, that is where you must go.

As a result, an email containing the gist of what I wanted to know or understand was forwarded to Stuart Jarvis, and at least part of the email was taken directly from the above thread since it seemed to me that the thread encapsulated the main problem points as far as I was concerned. I wish to state at the outset that Stuart has been very courteous and generous with his response and he has taken the time to try to give reasonable and acceptable answers to what are still rather “inflammable positions” to some previous users of KDE. I cannot say I like all the answers, but then that is to be accepted because each of us has different perspectives. Nor do I pretend that his response provides all the answers to what for some may be a far more complex problem, but at least I obtained some needed answers to the questions I asked. It is important to recognise that while Stuart's response provides answers that may be useful for some readers, it also gives indications as to how readers can influence where KDE is headed and readers can even become part of the KDE community should that be desired.

One last point needs to be made, and that is the matter of choice ~ a matter of extreme importance in the world of FOSS and Linux. There are several aspects that employ crucial levels of choice in KDE4. You can choose to walk away completely from KDE4 and use other window managers and DE's, and many have (some with great bitterness). Nevertheless, many remain as keen supporters and my personal interpretation of Stuart's response is that the KDE team incline to the concept that if all past and present KDE users were piled together, then the present “satisfied and happy users” represent a large majority of that entire cohort. You can choose to modify KDE4 to resemble KDE3.5 as I did, and that is already seen by the KDE team as a fully acceptable user mode. You can choose to use or not use the bells and whistles, glitz, various desktops etc. that KDE4 now contains, or you can keep it as simple as you wish. Ultimately it is your choice to use, or “not to use” in whatever way suits you.

The email below is an almost exact copy of the email that was transmitted to me from Stuart Jarvis (the only changes are to include a few additional comments from Stuart and other members of KDE in subsequent discussions). Stuart has given full permission to publish it on the proviso that the material is attributed to him only ~ he explains why in the text and also his position within the KDE organisation. Using a normal convention, he has taken my original email and inserted pertinent remarks at the various points. To make this more readable for the user, the names of “Stuart” and “Tony” have been inserted at the beginning of each person's questions and answers/remarks. Occasionally, the text of my original email may not “flow” as nicely as desired. This is an artifact of the “question and answer” sequence and I would ask readers to ignore these slight difficulties since they do not, as far as I can see, prevent understanding of the points being made.



Stuart:

Dear Tony,

Sorry for getting your name wrong in my previous email. I have an old school friend called Toby Young so I suppose there was always a danger of that happening, but I should have been paying better attention. Anyway, below I reply to your points inline. Sorry this took a few days, but I wanted to try and make this as much as possible a KDE response rather than just my own. In fact a 'KDE response' is not possible, as we are a diverse group of people with our own discussions and differences and no overall leaders in technical matters who can speak for the community as a whole.

However, I have discussed your email and this response with some of the better known figures in KDE. If you would like to quote any of this response, please attribute it to me as an individual rather than to KDE as a whole. Also, a little about me... I'm not a software developer – I'm a part of KDE's promotion team which means that I respond to queries like this one and I prepare, edit and publish stories on our news site KDE.News (http://dot.kde.org). Like most contributors to KDE, I do this in my spare time and am not paid for this work (my day job is as a scientist).

Tony:

I'll begin by saying that I am currently running KDE4.4.4 in a mode that strongly resembles KDE3.5, or at least as close as possible.

Stuart:

We've heard from a few people doing just this and that's fine with us – one of the things we wanted to build into the Plasma workspaces was the flexibility to let users make the desktop look and behave exactly how they wanted, whether that be like KDE 3, Windows, Mac OSX or according to their own ideas.

Tony:

It is amazingly stable and just works and I like what I have managed to put in place, but the fight I had to get to this position was not fun, and I also uncovered some amazing decisions by the KDE4 team to increase complexity and decrease effectiveness of the software for the user. For instance the numbers of “clicks” needed to produce a result in KDE4 compared to KDE3.5, or the default screen of the Dolphin file manager.

Stuart:

You're probably expecting this response, but please file bug reports for faults and feature suggestions. Any other means of reporting issues gets lost in the internet – we need people willing to file reports and respond to queries about them.

Tony:

You can find the three articles I wrote on my fight to do so on LXer at the > following locations:

How a “Welded-to KDE 3.5 User” Began a Move to KDE 4.4 – Part I > http://lxer.com/module/newswire/lf/view/144200/

How a “Welded-to KDE 3.5 User” Began a Move to KDE 4.4 – Part II > http://lxer.com/module/newswire/lf/view/144900/

How a “Welded-to KDE3.5 User” Began a Move to KDE4.4 -- Part III > http://lxer.com/module/newswire/view/146439/



Stuart:

I won't go through all the issues individually, but it's worth pointing out (as you noted in your other email) that we just released versions 4.6 of our workspaces, apps and the KDE Platform so some of the problems you have come across were fixed in the past year. Regarding Dolphin, Konqueror is still has all its old file manager capabilities, so if it works better for you then you are welcome to keep using it. Some of the issues you raise are certainly things we recognise as problems in earlier versions of our software. There's a lot of relatively new stuff in there, such as the search interface in Dolphin (much improved in our recent 4.6 releases) and other areas that need - or needed - more polish.

Tony:

Naturally, there were considerable discussions on these articles in each case but a common thread that is emerging is that the KDE4 team is ignoring the previous user base that loved KDE3.5 and going its merry way to add complexity onto complexity.

Stuart:

However, many (I believe a large majority) of the current developers are the same people who made, used and loved KDE 3. The people most supportive of KDE 3 were hardly ignored when the new design was developed. So it would be wrong to say that we're ignoring those people. We are those people. We're still very proud of what we achieved with KDE 3. There were however a lot of issues we had to consider when moving on from KDE 3. To begin, Qt 3 was coming to the end of its life, so porting to Qt 4 was required.

Then there was a lot of quite old code in KDE 3 that had become very difficult to maintain, much of it relating to the desktop. The Plasma framework was the re-write of this that also tries to be suitable for emerging devices, such as netbooks and tablets. Like any big redesign, this of course brings some pain and it is true to say that when we released Software Compilation 4.0 there were some features missing compared to KDE 3.5 – there were also new features added, but if your favourite feature had disappeared, that was going to hurt. As we tried to communicate at the time, our 4.0 releases were not ready for everyone.

Tony:

Until I actually made the move from KDE3.5, I was more or less isolated from this “more or less angry and frustrated group”, but having been there and done that, and published on the results, I was sort of pushed off the board at the deep end and forced to swim. But now that I am right in the swim, I can see what is going on, and a recent thread on LXer brought matters to a head, because I asked some questions that are now very pertinent (and yes, I am Ridcully):



http://lxer.com/module/forums/t/31457/

The thread as a whole is well worth reading, but my questions were these and you can find my entire statement/post on the thread if you wish:

Stuart:

Thanks, I've had a look at the thread, but it is helpful to have these particular questions highlighted.

Tony:

Okay.......the KDE4 developers, from what I am reading, seem to simply ignore the messages that I see spelt out on this thread.

Stuart:

Well, it's a thread titled “Why, why, will not the KDE 4 team listen”, something that is going to have more appeal to people who share that view – I would suggest the responses there are not necessarily a representative sample.

Tony:

In some ways, I am horribly ignorant of the Linux developer world, but I do understand that for the kernel, Linus is in overall charge and I suspect, listens to the masses via his developers. In that sense, Linus carries an enormous responsibility to the entire Linux community and he has their trust. You do see articles that indicate to and fro flows from the kernel group to the rest of us. So, I now ask the questions: Who are the KDE4 team responsible to ?

Stuart:

It's a good question. Who are the Linux kernel developers responsible to? We have responsibilities to one another, but if you mean who is in charge, who do we directly report to, the answer is no one. It is very hard to direct volunteers to do particular things – volunteers work on what they want to work on. Of course, we can – and do – convince one another to work on shared objectives.

Tony:

Who controls their project?

Stuart

Everyone. Each application or sub project works by consensus. There are some people who have a quasi-leadership role, but only due to respect they have gained for past contributions and the work they put in.

Tony:

Who funds them?

Stuart:

Everyone can. We have an individual and corporate supporting membership program, attract sponsorship for specific events and accept donations. Most of our contributors are volunteers so our costs are actually quite low. Our annual income, if we diverted all of it into paying employees, could only fund a handful of developers, rather than the hundreds of active contributors we actually have. Some developers are paid to work on KDE software (a few are sponsored by Nokia, some employed to do specific work, others just to work on KDE software). Many developers working on our groupware software (Kontact, Kmail etc) are employed by KDAB and other companies. You can support KDE as an individual supporting member by visiting jointhegame.kde.org

This is one of the big challenges for a community such as KDE: getting some of the less interesting but important final fixes applied to software. To some extent, this is something that may be best done by paid developers, such as those working for commercial downstream companies, for example the Linux distributions. Of course, it is also important that those fixes get contributed back upstream to us for everyone who uses KDE software to share.

Tony:

How do they obtain feedback apart from the usual bug reports?

Stuart:

Bug reports are the best way. There are also the KDE forums that some developers are active in, commenting on blog posts on Planet KDE, commenting on stories on dot.kde.org (relating to the topic of the article please...) and by joining the mailing lists. Anyone can join KDE. But if you want to make sure the relevant team hears about the problem and it doesn't get lost over time then a bug report is the best way.

Tony:

And quite candidly, my view is that the sorts of things that are being noted on this thread are not bug reports ~ they are fundamental problems in how the KDE4 package has been developed.

Stuart:

Yet the only way to tackle problems in a community in which there is no overall control and no big workforce of people who can be directed towards some grand plan is to break them down into individual solvable issues that one person or a small group of people can work on.

Tony:

Is there any evidence that the concerns expressed here ever reach the KDE4 team.........Lord knows, after 3 years (sensu Bob's time scale), “something” must have gotten through.

Stuart

There are complaints. Always. On all software. Sometimes the complaints conflict – you can change one thing in response to complaints and then find that a majority preferred it how it was (happy people do not complain). We also see a lot of positive reviews of our software and recent results such as the Linux Journal readers' choice awards seem to show increasing approval for the directions our software is taking. I do not expect you to agree with that, but it is what we see.

Tony:

So, what is the blockage? And why?

Stuart:

The blockage is that there is much positive reaction to the directions we have taken. Some big things have changed when experiments did not work. Take Plasma Activities for example – these were initially accessed via a zooming user interface, something that was dropped completely when we realised that it just didn't work for a majority of users.

Tony:

Surely the team must occasionally read these forums and thread if they wander through the web as I do and I am sure most of us do. Who or what is refusing to acknowledge that all does not smell of roses in the KDE4 garden?

Stuart:

There is (and always will be) plenty to improve. We see the idea sometimes in forum posts and the like that our efforts are in the wrong place, but if you tell a volunteer to stop working on one area it doesn't mean they will switch to another – more likely they will stop contributing or find another project where their skills and interests are better appreciated. Say you think the new compositing effects in our window manager, Kwin are a waste of time but you are really annoyed by some aspect of HTML 5 that is not supported in Konqueror. The Kwin developer who enjoys exploiting the latest capabilities of 3D hardware through OpenGL is probably not going to abandon that, learn about HTML 5, learn the Konqueror codebase and work on an issue that bothers you but has never caused a problem for him or her. If, however, someone appears who would like to work on a missing feature in Konqueror then they are likely to find themselves very welcome.

Tony:

I stress that I am serious about those questions. I really do not have any answers to them and I would very much like to know. If there are KDE4 meetings, can others from outside attend them?

Stuart:

The main KDE meeting, Akademy (akademy.kde.org) is indeed open to anyone and accepts proposals for talks and workshops from anyone, just as anyone can join KDE by contributing. We also have regional events such as Camp KDE (North America), Akademy-Br (South America) and, this year, conf.kde.in taking place in India. Many of these events are free.

Tony:

Can the “unwashed masses” contact the KDE4 team directly and spell out their concerns?

Stuart:

Yes, in fact the unwashed masses can even join KDE – they should fit in rather well with the rest of us. We are all just people like you. Please see http://www.kde.org/community/getinvolved/ for a few ways to become part of KDE.

Tony:

If it is single voices that are being ignored, is there any way to combine all the “unhappy voices”?

Stuart:

There are two issues here:

• First, the unhappy voices really do not seem to be a majority. There is a lot of positive response to KDE software. • Second, the way to influence a volunteer and non-hierarchical community such as KDE is to join it.

Anyone is welcome to develop an alternative KDE file browser or to make an alternative KDE workspace not using the Plasma libraries (even a clone of the KDE 3.5 workspace). We welcome innovation and different opinions – so we have several different media players from people who have different visions, different photo managers and so on. If unhappy users lack the technical knowledge to develop software themselves they are welcome to employ developers to do just that (that may sound harsh, but volunteers work on what they want to work on in the way they want to work on it – you can change that by paying them to work on things you want them to work on).

Tony:

One of the posters to that thread suggested I contact you........or Justin. Sorry about this Stuart, but you were the first name I pulled out of the box (however I have cc'd Justin as well)

Stuart

That's fine. As I mentioned, Justin and I are among the listed marketing contacts for KDE so it is not a bad place to start.

Tony:

It is a huge email, but I had to start somewhere.

Stuart:

Sure. I appreciate your detailed questions and your even-handed approach, both in the articles and the emails. It is clear that we have quite different opinions about the software, but also that you are open to argument and that you try to be fair in your comments.

Tony:

If you can give some serious answers and have no objection, I should like to put them back into LXer because I think there are a lot of people out there who would like the answers as well.

Stuart:

Yes that is fine. I hope you will see these as serious answers – I have tried to be direct and honest about the situation. Please feel free to ask further questions. We would also urge anyone who tried our software a year, two years or three years ago to take another look. We have major new releases every six months, each of which brings more stability and fixes mistakes we made, resolving reported bugs. As you said, things are quite stable now (even in SC 4.4, released a year ago) and of course we hope that you will continue to use KDE software.

However, the diversity available in free software is one of its great strengths as no single solution tends to work for everyone. If it did then we probably would not have KDE software, XFCE and GNOME. And to those who think there is a better way of doing things – please join us, develop the software, demonstrate it, come to Akademy and talk about it. If you are right and the majority of users prefer the ways of KDE 3 then any such project would be destined for success – and, as free software, that would be good for everyone.

--

References

How a “Welded-to KDE 3.5 User” Began a Move to KDE 4.4 - Part 1

http://lxer.com/module/newswire/lf/view/144200/

How a “Welded-to KDE 3.5 User” Began a Move to KDE 4.4 - Part 2

http://lxer.com/module/newswire/lf/view/144900/ How a “Welded-to KDE3.5 User” Began a Move to KDE4.4 - Part 3 “Konquering the Dolphin”

http://lxer.com/module/newswire/view/146439/index.html

Acknowledgments

I should also like to express my sincere thanks to “Hkwint” for giving me the idea of going directly to KDE. I especially thank Stuart Jarvis for the incredible and detailed response he produced together with the additional work he undertook to ensure that the response accurately reflected current KDE philosophy on its KDE4 software package. In addition, Stuart provided considerable help in editing and correcting the draft , Finally, as always, my sincere thanks to Scott Ruecker who encouraged and assisted in the production of this final section of what is now a four part sequence.

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Huge thanks! hkwint 7 1,346 Mar 17, 2011 7:16 AM

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