January 12, 2005
This article was first published on Linuxtimes.net.
I recently got a chance to interview George Staikos, the Official Representative for the KDE Project in North America. He addresses some questions on the current status of the KDE project, and about the problems they have faced.
AN: It has been eight years since the start of the KDE Project. At the very end of the project announcement, Matthais said that he is a “dreamer”. Has his dream become a reality or is KDE still someway off?
GS: I think it has. KDE is used by an incredible number of people worldwide. It has matured into a stable platform and even sets the standards in many areas. It’s truly something to be proud of.
AN: Gazing into your crystal ball, do you ever see a future where there is a single unified Linux graphical environment? Will this be a good thing, or is choice better?
GS: No, I don’t see that happening. One of the beautiful aspects of Linux is that anyone can modify the system or replace a component. There will always be someone working on a new graphical interface, and I suspect even more will appear over time. It is likely that at least one will become dominant at some point though.
AN: Do you have a high developer attrition rate? Or do your developers stay with the project for a long time?
GS: Many developers tend to stay for a long time, but there are some who just contribute a few patches to fix their own particular problems and then disappear forever. It’s not common for those people to even get CVS accounts though. Another typical developer we get is one who works just on his own application. These people don’t contribute to the KDE desktop often, but occasionally pass in a patch or two.
AN: KDE is one of the largest collaborative software developments, Have you had unique problems due to the extremely distributed nature of development?
GS: I don’t think so actually. I think our problems are roughly the same as any other project. Perhaps we have more infrastructure issues to deal with, though. We need to run our own CVS server instead of using sourceforge or another such system, and we need to have multiple machines for web servers, mail servers, etc. Our sysadmins really do have to work overtime.
AN: KDE, GNOME and OpenOffice are arguably the most visible programs for a first time *nix user. Do you feel a sense of responsibilty, in the sense that you are an ambassador for *nix and Open Source in general?
GS: Yes, partially. However, the real job is in the hands of the Linux distribution makers, I think. KDE, as an organization, only ships source packages. Very few end users actually use KDE as-is. They get KDE as a part of their Linux distribution, and in many cases, aren’t even aware of what it is and who makes it. On the other hand, there are only so many changes that will be made to KDE by the distribution makers, so KDE has a key role in presenting well written software to the end user.
AN: With the increasing popularity of Desktop Linux, there is a growing fear that malware writers may start to target Linux. Open Source advocates always say that community scrutiny can fix this. Has the KDE project ever been a target, say by someone trying to introduce backdoors in the code? What kind of safeguards are in place to prevent this or other kinds of malicious activity?
GS: We have had someone lose their CVS password to an acquaintance who thought it would be funny to commit a message into the source saying that he had access. This was very quickly detected and dealt with. However we have a very large number of code reviewers and I think it’s very hard for someone to sneak in a back door in code that would be so critical.
AN: Have you had any queries from major commercial software vendors ( Adobe, Macromedia, for e.g) about porting their products to *nix?
GS: Yes, but they mostly revolved around KHTML. I think most large companies are already competent in moving to Linux now. The tools are there and they’re easy to use – especially Qt.
AN: What is the one area of KDE that needs the most work, or, What is the first priority for the KDE project at the present moment?
GS: Actually due to the timing, KDE’s priority at the moment is KDE 4 – porting to Qt 4 and fixing architectural issues in KDE. This will be the main focus for 2005, and it should make a huge difference for KDE overall. Qt4 promises much better performance and the ability to take advantage of more advanced technologies and cleaner designs. As a part of this, there will be a focus on sharing more specifications and interoperating with other desktop software (GNOME, OpenOffice, Mozilla), and an effort to choose and integrate with a new multimedia framework.