MAY
22
2005

Why I think Kopete is deadish

I feel sorry to restart blogging after a long time with a rant, but I'm still working on the translation and I also started working as Gentoo dev, so I haven't had time to work on KNetLoad/general KDE apps.

Well time to start the rant, but before I want to say that I really respect Kopete developers, they did a good work, an extremely good one, but I think the way it's managed now it's moving it to the death.

In the past days there were many users who complained about problems with MSN, dued to changes on the MSN server. I don't know the exact details about this, but that's not so important.

I started in those days to use as IM client the other machine, with AdiumX on it. AdiumX is a libgaim-based im client for MacOSX.. I'm still using it now that the MSN problem is fixed. Why that? Because I find AdiumX more useful as an IM client.

Let analyze the problem: coping with proprietary IM servers sometime requires to have to change the way the protocol is implemented to have it working with new changes done to avoid users of unofficial clients to use the service; new features of the IM protocols are released very often; IM clients are something users uses daily, they must be simple and light to use.

The way Kopete is managed now makes this harder and harder to do: the release schedules makes really difficult fix problems like MSN's one, because Kopete can't be released on its own and is up to the downstream mainteiners to fix those problems on the spot. This is not good, this is not good at all as relying on downstream is not something which an be considered a good programming practice.
New features can't be added until a new minor version is released, and this haoppens just one time a year.
Kopete isn't exactly "light", and its UI is, instead, a lot difficult to manage. Just as an example, take the tabbed view of Kopete and the one of Adium.. Adium's can be switched using command-number, there's no way to set this up on Kopete; Adium allows you to select to which medium of a metacontact send the message to when you first write a message, Kopete doesn't. Adium interface takes the minimum space possible on the screen without the need of having a toolbar to connect/disconnect quickly. I think this can go for a looong time.

Unfortunately, the better way to achieve an usable and light interface is via a prototyping development. Adium used to release a new version every week when it started, changing features and UI design. Kopete can't do something like that because very few people will try the CVS versions and is constrained by KDE's release schedules.

So what's the solution? Eh, there's no clean solution. One of the ones which can be done is probably the development of a new IM client for KDE, maybe just using libgaim which seems to support most of the current IM features and many more protocols. This would require very quick releases to find a good design for the UI and a good set of features to implement.
I'd like to do something like that, but as I said I have no time at all... hope someone can just read that and start thinking of doing something to provide a better IM client for KDE users.

Comments

Luckely you are better at translating :)

Please try to figure out what stable-branches are and how linux-distributions use them to continuesly provide updates for their users.


By Thomas Zander at Sun, 05/22/2005 - 12:29

Eh, my italian -> english is not so good, I'm better with the other way round, I swear :)

I know what a stable branch is and I see the backported fixes (sometime I go taking them myself).
But... stable branches have a limit: there are freezes, there is the fact that they are *stable* branches, which can't (shouldn't) allow refactoring for example.
A stable branch is good for a software which doesn't need big changes in short times, so for quite all the core apps in KDE, also, but it's not good for software which still needs a lot of feedback to evolve.

As I already expressed before, the pace of releases of KDE is good for mature software, but Kopete is still immature when you compare it with other IMs, like not only Adium but also Gaim.. I know more than a few KDE users who still uses Gaim because Kopete isn't enough for them.
Kopete is one of the apps which I see more often criticized, and I feel that way, too. It's not something which is complete enough for a stable branch, IMHO.

The Oscar rewrite just before 3.4.0 is an example of that: also with a complete rewrite there are still a lot of things which doesn't get right as they should, ICQ changed many things in his protocol, they aren't all updated on Kopete, it still doesn't support file transfer for ICQ, and also the ones working haven't a good UI to use with, also writing notification broke with latest version.

There are too many things which needs to be fixed before going in a stable branch, always IMHO. K3B is better suited for this for example, as all the base functions are there with a decent way to access them, and also if 0.12 took time to be released also in beta, 0.11 still does it works good without having users complaining about problems and without need for downstream (linux distributions but not only) to mess too much with it (ok transcode was a big problem, but has been fixed in the stable branch); that because it's not a moving target used on a daily basis as an IM client.


By Diego Elio Pettenò at Sun, 05/22/2005 - 13:31

I've been using both Kopete and GAIM for a long time and it seems to me that the only thing that has changed in Kopete since the first time I ever touched it was adding a spell checker in. I thought in KDE 3.4 Kopete was going to have support for rich text on AIM (since on their site they show it has support for buddy icons and rich text on MSN). Also I'm a bit surprised that they are going to start implementing support for voice and video chat when Jabber and AIM still can't use rich text.


By sirtalon at Sun, 05/22/2005 - 20:44

subject of the comment says it all. get svn trunk, or wait until KDE 3.4.2 since i plan on backporting it once i can give it more testing to verify that the output is correct for most of the clients out there (this requires my testing of at least gaim, trillian, and two versions of the official AOL client).

Jabber and rich text is a whole different story which i'm not qualified to comment on.


By mattr at Mon, 05/23/2005 - 13:31

I had checked out trunk and stable svn (last night), though couldn't get trunk to compile (error with yahoo files) and didn't see it in stable, I'll try again to get trunk to compile later. I've been looking at the source of Kopete, though its taking some time to understand the whole thing. If I can figure out enough of it I'll probably start working on it to see if I can do anything.

If I get trunk to compile I'll test with gaim and download the free version of trillian on windows to see how it works with that.


By sirtalon at Mon, 05/23/2005 - 22:03

If you need help, don't hesitate to contact me (mattr at kde dot org). I'm very willing to provide guidance wherever needed.


By mattr at Thu, 05/26/2005 - 13:46

i rewrote oscar so it would be easier for me to add new features to it later, because the old code was a mess and not only was it getting hard to add new features to, it was getting hard to fix bugs in! I consciously left out features that were in previous releases because the stuff that was there worked so much better than in previous releases that i felt it justified the loss.

ICQ file transfer: if you figure it out, let me know. it's the _SINGLE_ most difficult thing for one person to implement. (and has a lot of prerequisites)

typing notifications: fixed for KDE 3.4.1

other things: i'm either working on them, or somebody else is. I just need a lot more time. I'm the only one who's even willing to touch that code on a more than just "oh, i need to fix a bug" type basis. I need help, and so far, nobody's stepped up. (not complaining, just stating facts)


By mattr at Mon, 05/23/2005 - 13:27

> Adium allows you to select to which medium of a metacontact send the message to when you first write a message, Kopete doesn’t.

Just click on the smaller account icons in the metacontact, and you'll start chat through that account.

> Adium interface takes the minimum space possible on the screen without the need of having a toolbar to connect/disconnect quickly. I think this can go for a looong time.

We care about using minimum space, that's why we've implemented a solution to make it possible to use the contactlist even without scrollbars, which means largest possible space available. See the screenshot: http://img73.echo.cx/img73/6295/kopete0zo.png

Also, connecting/disconnecting is also possible via context menu of systray icon for a particular account or for all accounts.


By engin at Mon, 05/23/2005 - 09:00

> Just click on the smaller account icons in the metacontact, and you’ll start chat through that account.
I know but is a bit more complex than on adium, especially on little monitors with high resolutions.
Anyway I don't know how it works when you have more than one account of a single type on Kopete, never tried.

> Also, connecting/disconnecting is also possible via context menu of systray icon for a particular account or for all accounts.
That requires you to go in two submenus. And when you're doing something and are disconnected by a lost connection or other reasons, it's annoying... also, kopete complain about the lost connection with a message box instead of trying to reconnect on its own.


By Diego Elio Pettenò at Mon, 05/23/2005 - 09:31

> Anyway I don’t know how it works when you have more than one account of a single type on Kopete, never tried.

Why critisizing if you don't know about it ;)

> That requires you to go in two submenus.

Connecting/Disconnecting operations are rarely used, for me, almost I've never use them, so they would be definetely a waste of space if they were on the main window.

> kopete complain about the lost connection with a message box instead of trying to reconnect on its own.

True, kopete's auto-(re)connect feature is broken for a long time, but no one has motivation to fix it afai can see.


By engin at Mon, 05/23/2005 - 09:46

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