Loud ramblings of a Software Artisan

Tuesday 27 January 2009

KDE 4.2 mis-step

One more time a Free Software project advocate using a closed and proprietary technology to view their announcement. See for yourself: http://www.kde.org/announcements/4.2/desktop.php. Apparently the KDE4 release party video fiasco was not enough (using the same technology).

<Nightrose> hub: yea - i can't change it now due to translations being done and so on - but we will keep it in mind for the next one - you are not the only one to complain :/

This come from the people that complain each time a website reject Konqueror (which is wrong too), and that said Konqueror is always ignored by the proprietary vendor.

Now I need a refill for b.s. my allergy meds.

At least Mozilla is pushing Ogg/Theora.

Update: I messed with the link, it has been fixed.

Thursday 1 November 2007

Desktop on server?

"GNOME is attractive to some seasoned Linux users because it one of the few complete desktop environments that is more lightweight than KDE, which makes GNOME more appropriate for use on servers." -- Nicholas Petreley, November 1st 2007

Mr Petreley, you are the reason why I did not renew my subscription to Linux Journal and stopped reading the only dead-tree magazine I considered worthwhile. Not that its content was less good, just that your rants as Editor in Chief were always missing the point.

That was last year.

The question today would be: What would a desktop environement, whether it is KDE, Gnome or any other, have to do on a server? Beside wasting resources. I think it is time for you to stop writing about Linux and start using it.

OK, now I put away the rotten tomatoes.

Wednesday 13 June 2007

Browser wars: a new hope

Nothing was lost in the browser and in the last years, Firefox has taken back some point in the browser market. So interestingly that after disbanding the team and not doing anything on IE for 5 years but plugging security holes, Microsoft decided to release IE 7, solely for XP SP2 and upward, in the hope to regain some market.

But this is not without counting on Safari.

Safari by itself made Microsoft not develop IE Mac anymore a by itself took a good chunk as the Mac market is somewhat growing a bit. The interesting part is that it is not based on Gecko, but on KHTML, turned into WebKit. Lars Knoll interview gives us a brief overview of the past and the future of KHTML and WebKit development, notably how Apple collaboration ended up working well and how KDE4 will have KHTML coming directly from Apple's repository[1]. Now the WebKit for Windows is about to disturb the source: Apple's Windows port did land in the repository, and that port has apparently no relation with the non contribution from Adobe for WebKit + Cairo on Windows[2]. I'm still unsure of the direct benefit of the port source code for Free Software, as it apparently use a mix between Windows native GDI and Apple own proprietary CoreGraphics (delivered as a non-free DLL[3]), but nonetheless.

Now how will that still matter for Free Software?

It brings a standard compliant Free Software web rendering engine a broader audience, on that it is different from Gecko. Competition is good, and diversity is good. This engine is at the heart of KDE4, and is being brought to Gtk by the work put in by various contributors, including Alp's port to Maemo (Alp, you rock dude) making it valuable for GMAE and Gnome in general. Nobody will argue, Gnome is in dire need to something better than Gecko for its HTML needs: DevHelp, Yelp, Liferea, Evolution, etc would all benefit from it. All the enhancements made to the main engine, including support for new standards will directly serve the purpose of any Free Software using it.

Even more, being the browser inside the iPhone (and actually Apple's blessed development platform for the iPhone[4]), this could leverage enough market share to make WebKit a major browser and have actually enough power to convince the Web 2.0 developers to ensure their development are compatible[5] with it. And that is something noticeable. Remember when IE was the only browser tested and that developer didn't care to fix their mistake or standard conformance because anything else was too small for them?


[1] no I didn't say developed by Apple

[2] they released the source of their version but didn't contribute it back to the main WebKit

[3] Update: I need to clarify: since the non-free DLL does not even come with the targeted platform said Free Software is rendered useless... until a Free Software replacement of the component comes.

[4] more on that later

[5] bonus point: the iPhone does not have Flash capabilities which is good for standard compliance

Friday 26 January 2007


I would like to thank the Maemo team for my enrollement in the N800 Developer Device Program. I'll try to do what I can to order it as it is currently not made easy. I still look forward to get a N800, and I'll be patient.

I also would like to thank Trolltech for sending me a free copy of the book C++ GUI Programming with Qt4 as promised when attending the presentation at aKademy last September.

Saturday 13 January 2007


pcolijn: it is possible to get your LJ friends page as a RSS feed. But it is not easy. LJ does not work with HTTP authentication (or I missed something), but with Firefox, for example, if you log in, you can get it. Maybe that is the trick. Log in, get the cookie and use it to request the feed.

James: there is a KDE control panel option for that. It is buried in "Keyboard and Mouse" -> "Mouse" and in the "General" tab there is an option to configure that. Confusing, huh? Yeah it took me two or 3 guesses to find it this time, and I have already been there, done that. This settings influence Konqueror, digiKam, etc. And my opinion is that this setting should be double click by default.

Monday 2 October 2006

aKademy 2006

Back from aKademy 2006. The return trip was almost fine. We got delayed 3 hours in Shannon due to 2 mechanical problems, but then everything was smooth. I still don't get the reason why we have to do DUB -> SHN -> YYZ, but so be it.

There was a truckload of KDE developers. Lot of beer has been consumed, lot of fun have been had, and lot of interesting topics discussed.

I was there, sponsored by OSDL, to attend the ODF Day on behalf of AbiWord. I also attended various sessions for KDE even if I missed the core of the conference by arriving late on the Sunday. Qt4 is very interresting and Trolltech seems to have addressed most of the issues I considered needed fixing: separation of the base library with the UI to be able to use Qt without depending on X11 if you don't need UI, and MVC programming.

Thanks to everybody !

Wednesday 27 September 2006

Free Imaging libraries

Boudewin, of Krita fame, Investigate Imaging Libraries for free software. Some interesting reading.

Monday 25 September 2006

aKademy - day 2

I started directly with day 2 as I arrived Sunday in Dublin.

London-Heathrow aiport is definitely an airport to be avoided: very long lines to get you connection, going through security, etc. I envisionned much worse than it was, like being required to check-in my backpack (that contains only camera and laptop).

Trinity College is still like it was back in 2003 when I was at Guadec.

I attended the presentation by Kitware about CMake and Dart. CMake is a replacement to Automake that KDE now use for KDE4. I must say that I'm somewhat impressed: from scratch it took me 30 minutes to make a CMake build system for libopenraw (don't look for it yet, it is in my local bzr branch). Dart is a system that provide a view of the state of your project: how it builds (tinderbox), how it runs its tests, etc. I think both would make sense for AbiWord: we need to have one cross-platform build system (we currently have 3: automake, plain make for win32, xcode-based for Mac[1]), and we need to have a better vision of the current state of the code (we used to have a tinderbox running at one point).


[1] and that is a big mistake

Thursday 21 September 2006

aKademy 2006

I'll be at aKademy 2006 in Dublin, Ireland, starting Sunday, until Thursday. Thanks to the generous conference sponsors to allow me to attend ODF Day.

If you want to meet me, let me know.

Monday 18 September 2006

KMail was promissing as a mail reader...

... until it deleted my INBOX.

Too bad, it had a real bunch of promissing features, including a working filtering system, but in 13 years, this is the first client the irrevocably delete all my email. I should have suspected that its IMAP implementation was broken by design.

Back to Thunderbird which still suck less than Outl^wEvolution.

Bug filed

Sunday 30 July 2006

Cross Desktop Application Scripting @ DDC2006

I have posted the slides for my talk at Desktop Developer Conference 2006 last week.

I have also posted older stuff like a presentation in French I did at the Club Linux Outaouais in Gatineau in April 2006.

Saturday 29 July 2006

Cairo and Qt3

I was wondering if I could use Cairo from Qt3. Given that Cairo allows creating surfaces from X11 visuals and that Qt allow accessing them, I thought it was simple. As a proof, here is the interesting bit (using Qt3 and Cairomm, the C++ "bindings" for Cairo):

QSize size = QWidget::size();
RefPtr<Surface> surface = Cairo::XlibSurface::create(

That code is from a member method of a QWidget subclass.

Get the code: main.cpp. To build, use the following command:

gcc main.cpp -o main -I/usr/include/qt3 -I/usr/include/cairo -I/usr/include/cairomm-1.0 \
 -lqt-mt -lcairo -lcairomm-1.0

Now lets think how to make that API clean, and how QPainter will conflict with it :-)

Update (July 30th): I got pointed to qcairo in the cairo-demo. I must admit I didn't really look for one as I liked the educational part of figuring things out (easy).

Friday 21 July 2006

Desktop Developer Conference and OLS

Since Monday, I have been attending Desktop Developer Conference and Ottawa Linux Symposium, in Ottawa as you have guessed.

  • Met Aaron J Seigo from KDE fame. Lot of fun, very cool guy. And he has great karaoke skills[1]. Too bad I had to drive[2]; that's the drawback to be local and not being within walking distance to the partying locations. His proposal to recycle the kernel developers really make sense. And he shortly demoed a few UI concepts about plasma.
  • Dave Airlie talk "Open Source Graphic Drivers - They Don't Kill Kittens" was very funny and interesting: it is like a state of the union for the graphics drivers development. I learned that latest ATI 2D support for the R5xx is 600LOC[3] and after a few month, ATI still haven't acknowledged the code they received from him for review, to be released as Open Source. It appears that the only chipset with good 3D open source support is still the Intel one. Too bad AMD, it does not work with your CPUs. Looks like AMD user will have to either go with onboard VIA or an old Radeon R3xx supported by the almost complete Free driver. Unless you want to relinquish your freedom. Nvidia, ATI and Matrox are definitely not to be consider. VIA as its own set of problem but there are decent Open Source drivers beside being of inequal quality.
  • Intel is committed to official provide day 0 Open Source Linux support by providing Open Source drivers AND documentation for their chipsets, wifi and graphics. It is something that is now part of the engineering process: that sounds like very good news. Now, one can wonder why there are rumors about AMD merging with ATI. AMD is in a situation where they don't have a real Open Source solution due to lack of graphics chipset (beside the Geode-chipset that is 2D only).
  • AIGLX seems to have a better future than Xgl, just because of the design. Du to missing features in the drivers AIGLX works only with the open source 3D drivers that have been fixed to provide the needed feature, which makes the choice very thin at the moment. Again, get an Intel. Nvidia said they would do it, and ATI didn't say anything.
  • I won a BlackDog in the IBM give away. Another nice tool for playing. I also collected several T-Shirts, enough for almost a week. I'll post more about the BlackDog and I should really experiment more with embedded devices.
  • Statistically, Gnome seems to be the most common desktop on the attendees' laptop. It is a purely empirical count, and there are still a lot of people running more simple environment like Blackbox, WindowMaker, etc. Ubuntu and Fedora seems to be the most common distro, but it is hard to say really as the branding is not always obvious.
  • Lot of people from RedHat, SuSE and Novell, Intel, AMD, IBM, HP, Google.

Tomorrow there will be a huge drinking BOF at the Black Thorne.


[1] I'l post compromising pictures soon

[2] don't drink and drive

[3] lines of code

Sunday 16 July 2006

Desktop Developer Conference

Tomorrow will be the Desktop Developer Conference in Ottawa. I'll be talking about Ideas for cross-desktop application scripting infrastructure.

Then I'll attend OLS.

See you there!

Wednesday 31 May 2006

"I believe in D-Bus!"

Ronald, as you say, KDE seems to be miles ahead. It is somewhat true if you think about the architecture. They have a mature toolkit, Qt, that is licensed under a Free Software license[1], and that runs on 3 major platforms, 1 free (X11), 2 non-free, allowing to capitalize on a truely Free Software experience will providing freedom of choice: develop for a Free Software operating system (Linux, BSD, or whatever else) and seemlessly port to non-free operating systems: MS-Windows and MacOS X. The other things KDE have are technologies like DCOP, KPart, a web browser component (KHTML) and even imaging (look at KImageEffect). And even if some of this have similar counterpart in Gnome, the developers find them easier in KDE[2]. But I have always had issues with KDE UI which unlike Gnome is much less polished and much more "provide everything you can"[3].

But let's go back to DCOP. DCOP has been around for over 6 years and provided a simple to use structured IPC mechanism for KDE, on top of X11. I would have had implemented a scripting architecture for KDE, I would have used DCOP as the IPC subsystem. But DCOP is now deprecated for KDE4 in favor of D-BUS. See thiago's post. Guys, you did the right thing. We need to share this infrastructure middleware amongst the free desktops. Why? Because it leverage the ability to provide other high level layer to integrate between Gnome and KDE. I'm thinking about my ideas on scripting. Maybe Gnome should just do like KDE: ditch Corba.


[1] yes, re-read the licence, it is all about protecting that Free Software nature while trying to streamline revenue for continued development and maintenance

[2] unless you hate C++ which seems to often be the justification for Gnome

[3] The list is actually very long