APR
14
2014

Calling all Testers

Candidate images for Kubuntu 14.04LTS are up and need you to test them. Go to the ISO tracking site to download and mark your testing status. Check out the milestoned bugs for issues we are aware of and do report any we are not.

APR
7
2014

Stirling Chat

Lydia brought a load of friends over from Germany to visit the sights of Stirling. Paul threw a party for her friends. I canoed up the Firth of Forth to visit and drank lashings of ginger beer.

photo

MAR
16
2014

Konsole new features 2.13

With the KDE SC 4.13 release soon, a few new features made it into Konsole.

MAR
11
2014

KDE Frameworks 5 Alpha 2 is Green

Scarlett has been working hard on packaging KDE Frameworks 5 Alpha 2 and the build status page shows a sea of green (the only yellow is when a framework is asking for a package which doesn't exist yet). Just in time for Plasma Next to get its Alpha release this week coming :) Grab the KF5 packages from the experimental PPA for Kubuntu Trusty.

MAR
5
2014

New Blue Systems Office Edinburgh

The Blue Systems office in Edinburgh has moved across The Meadows to the Grassmarket to a larger office which is also surrounded on two sides by curious artist collectives and the occasional hipster café. Hosted in Edinburgh's new technology incubator Codebase we are in another building which is nicer on the inside looking out, this time with a view of our local volcano Arthur's Seat.

FEB
17
2014

A Yakuake update: Frameworks 5, Wayland, More

Things have been rather quiet in Yakuake land for a while. 2014 is going to shake things up, though, so it's time for a brief look at what's been going on and where things are headed next.


Frameworks 5

Not long ago I pushed an initial port of Yakuake to Frameworks 5, the next generation of KDE's platform libraries, to Yakuake's git repository. The new code lives on a branch called frameworks for now.

Yakuake on Frameworks 5 is functional and free of the use of any deprecated APIs. The port is mostly complete, too, missing just a few more touches to the first run dialog and skin handling. Here's a screenshot:

Yakuake on Frameworks 5
Ah yup: Looks no different.


Wayland

One of the broader initatives the community is engaged in this year is enabling our workspaces and applications to use Wayland. Yakuake may just have a small role to play in that.

Historically, Yakuake's relationship with window managers has been plenty interesting. It's managed to crash several of the popular ones at one point or another; it's an unusual application with unusual behavior that exercises window manager code differently from more typical apps. More recently, it was perhaps the first non-workspace process to communicate and collaborate tightly with the compositor, asking KWin to perform the slide-in/out animations on its behalf if available.

The latter is a model for things to come. In Wayland, application windows know intentionally little about the environment they exist in, and instead have to petition and rely on the window manager for things like positioning with no recourse. Yakuake on X11 does this legwork by itself; on Wayland, the comm protocol to the window manager will have to be rich enough to allow for equivalent results.

Having Yakuake ported and ready will allow for it to serve as a useful testcase there.


General feature plans

Yakuake's theming system has been showing its age for a while, so I'm looking to implement a replacement for it. The new system will be based on QML, taking some inspiration from KWin's Aurorae decoration engine. The result should allow themes to support anti-aliased edges and shadows, along with much more flexible control over the placement of Yakuake's UI elements. Existing themes will continue to be supported however (by way of new-format theme that knows how to load and display the old ones -- the config UI will list both types transparently in the same list, though).

The other major feature that's been a long time coming is proper support for session restore. This has mostly been held back by missing functionality in the API of the Konsole component that provides Yakuake with terminal emulation. Unfortunately that situation remains unchanged for now, but I'm still hoping to eventually get around to some Konsole hacking to satisfy Yakuake's needs there.


Schedule thoughts

Frameworks 5 uptake in distributions has been very promising so far, with several distros (I'm aware of Fedora and Kubuntu, but there are no doubt others) packaging the preview releases soon after they were announced. It's still pre-release software, though, and APIs might still change until the stable release this summer. Until it's out, the repo's master branch will therefore continue to contain the KDE 4 codebase, and there will be another maintenance release cut from it sometime soon.

Development of the new theming system will be targeted at Qt 5 and Frameworks 5, however, due to significant API changes in the new Qt Quick and QML generation. As with the next KDE 4-based release there's currently no firm date for this - Aaron makes a good case for not rushing things - except to say it will be some time this year.

FEB
14
2014

No Licence Needed for Kubuntu Derivative Distributions

Early last year the Linux Mint developer told me he had been contacted by Canonical's community manager to tell him he needed to licence his use of the packages he used from Ubuntu. Now Ubuntu is free software and as an archive admin, I spend a lot of time reviewing everything that goes into Ubuntu to ensure it has freedom in its copyright. So I advised him to ignore the issue as being FUD.

FEB
10
2014

Talk and Interview at FOSDEM

Hacker Public Radio FOSDEM edition is up now for those wanting a podcast packaged full of geek interviews. My interview is 27 minutes in and talks of KDE, Kubuntu and how Baloo will make the KDE world slicker. MP3 file.

FEB
9
2014

KDE Plasma at the movies

For several years, I used to maintain a collection of clippings showing the KDE workspaces in use in interesting settings - popping up on TV shows, on public terminals in odd locations, in articles on leading scientific endeavours. All sorts of cool cases. More recently I haven't been collecting as diligently anymore, though, for perhaps the best possible reason: It's happening so frequently now that individual examples have lost much of their novelty.

But from time to time it still provides me with a (pleasant) shock to the system to see our software help others push the envelope and create amazing things. The latest example occurred just the other day, while I was watching the making-of documentary for Alfonso Cuarón's impressive film Gravity:

KDE workstation at Framestore

KDE workstation at Framestore

Framestore worked for several years to provide the majority of the film's effects shots, and their London-based offices appear filled to the brim with workstations running KDE Plasma. I think I may have even spotted Yakuake on a panel in there.

Interestingly, Framestore isn't the only London-based VFX house using KDE software. I previously collected a snapshot of Doctor Who VFX provider The Mill using Plasma Desktop in their work as well.

One factor driving this adoption is perhaps the synergy between our and the industry's extensive use of and familiarity with Qt - many high-end 3D modelling and video editing/compositing packages now use Qt for their UI, and often provide PyQt as convenient extensibility solution for in-house dev teams at the studios. The same is true of KDE. But I'd like to think providing a damn nice desktop experience also has something to do with it :).

In the thick of competition, or looking purely at market share data, it's sometimes easy to forget just how much real and compelling use the stuff we make is seeing in absolute terms. And the degree to which our software permeates the foundations that big chunks of our culture get built on top of.

It's nice to reflect on that now and then.

Gravity has been nominated for ten Academy Awards recently, including the Best Visual Effects category. I loved it, and have a feeling it has a pretty good chance.

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