I have arrived safely in Dublin’s fair city, and have found it harder than expected to find decent lodgings, due to the huge crowds drawn to some sporting event taking place outside of town. But I’ve found a modest hostel dorm bed, and are now waiting for the registration to begin for the aKademy conference – the annual gathering of developers, designers and other contributors working on the K Desktop Environment.
KDE was the first open source desktop environment, hoping to contain a complete desktop use experience with web surfing, email, word processing and more. Announced in 1996, the name is a typically hackish joke on the then popular proprietary Unix desktop environment named CDE (the Common Desktop Environment).
KDE is based on the Qt toolkit which at first was not entirely free software which caused a fair few flamewars, and eventually the creation of the rival GNOME project in 1997. Since then Trolltech, the Norwegian company behind the toolkit, has made their work available under a fully acceptable Free Software license, and that issue has ceased to be a concern, and instead the main issue is ensuring peaceful collaboration and co-existence between the two development communities – something that can be more difficult than you might expect.
Not only are there deep differences in the way the two communities approach the basic aspects of the development having chosen differing programming languages for the basic architecture and differing design philosophies for the user configurations. But even simple considerations on the look and feel of the desktop itself can easily reach almost religious levels.
Currently, KDE development is focusing on the release of the KDE4 which seeks to refine KDE even further based on the experiences of the past years Open Source desktop work – not only with regards to technical infrastructure but also with regards to graphical design, look and feel and usability.
I’ll be here in Dublin for the conference, hoping to learn more about the role of Kubuntu, the KDE version of Ubuntu, within the KDE community, and how the relationship between the distribution and the upstream developers is working. Oh, and maybe drink a few pints of Guinness, as well.