Monday, December 8, 2014

Institutions in KDE?

The Randa Meetings are becoming an institution in KDE. Really? And is that a good thing, or not. When I complimented Mario Fux on the excellent on-going work he is doing on the Randa Meetings, he was surprised and maybe offended that I called it an institution.

I've been thinking about this since reading The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama. The basis of my comment is that in some ways, our KDE community is like a state.
Modern political order ...consists of ...[first] a modern state, with competent and honest officials, not prone to nepotism, corruption, and clientelism. Second is the rule of law, or binding constraints upon the rulers as well as the ruled. Third is accountability, usually via elections but also via a sense of responsibility towards the people, a sense of ruling for the common good.
 - from, a review of the book.

What supports and keeps a state alive are institutions. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia, social institutions are ... sets of rules and norms that organise human activities within a society. These rules and norms aren't just written law, such as our Code of Conduct and Manifesto, but also the unwritten "way we do things here." We have our habit of collaboration, our e.V., Akademy, our infrastructure, our coding style, APIs, documentation, and so forth.

And what is cool is to see that we continue to adapt to a changing world. I see the Frameworks effort as leap forward in our ability to adapt. The Plasma 5 work has flexibility written into it from the beginning, especially important as new form factors come onto the market. And we seem to be doing this within our community as well as in our code.

Fukuyama spoke not only about the development of the major institutions: the state, the rule of law, and accountability, but also of political decay, which happens when institutions grow rigid, and don't change with the times. I see the opposite with KDE.

Randa Meetings are a beautiful example of how one great idea has grown into something people look forward to, plan for, and support in many ways. We've had sprints for a long time, but now the year's calendar feels empty if there is no Randa meeting planned. The teams there not only do a sprint as usual, but also feed on the energy of the other teams around them, and collaborate on the fly. The Randa Meetings, like Akademy, have become indispensable; a norm. And that's a good thing.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Community Working Group needs you?

Hi folks,

Our Community Working Group has dwindled a bit, and some of our members have work that keeps them away from doing CWG work. So it is time to put out another call for volunteers.

The KDE community is growing, which is wonderful. In spite of that growth, we have less "police" type work to do these days. This leaves us more time to make positive efforts to keep the community healthy, and foster dialog and creativity within our teams.

One thing I've noticed is that listowners, IRC channel operators and forum moderators are doing an excellent job of keeping our communication channels friendly, welcoming and all-around helpful. Each of these leadership roles is crucial to keeping the community healthy.

Also, the effort to create the KDE Manifesto has adjusted KDE infrastructure to be directly and consciously supporting community values. The commitments section is particularly helpful.

Please write us at if you would like to become a part of our community gardening work.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ubuntu Community Appreciation Day - Thank you!

See for more about this lovely initiative.

Thank you maco/Mackenzie Morgan for getting me involved in Ubuntu Women and onto freenode.

Thank you akk/Akkana Peck, Pleia2/Lyz Joseph, Pendulum/Penelope Stow, belkinsa/Svetlana Belkin and so many more of the Ubuntu Women for being calm and competent, and energizing the effort to keep Ubuntu welcoming to all.

Thank you to my Kubuntu team, Riddell/Jonathan Riddell, apachelogger/Harald Sitter, shadeslayer/Rohan Garg, yofel/Philip Muscovak, ScottK/Scott Kitterman and sgclark/Scarlett Clark for your energy, intelligence and wonderful work. Your packaging and tooling makes it all happen. The great people who help users on the ML and in IRC and on the forums keep us going as well. And the folks who test, who are willing to break their systems so the rest of us don't have to: thank you!

There are so many people (some of the same ones!) to thank in KDE, but that's a separate blogpost. Your software keeps me working and online.

What a great community working together for the betterment of humanity.

Ubuntu: human kindness.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Science, facts, values and morality

Just finished a very good book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris. It is quite meaty, as Harris is a neuroscientist, but this book is not about the brain, but about the basis of morality.

He says, science can help us ... understand what we should do, and should want ... in order to live the best lives possible. [28] He continues, there are right and wrong answers to moral questions, just as there are right an wrong answers to questions of physics, and such answers may someday fall within reach of the maturing sciences of mind.

Harris argues that the split between facts and values--and therefore between science and morality--is an illusion.[179]

And he claims that morality and values relate to facts about the well-being of conscious creatures .... and that consciousness is the only intelligible domain of value. He asks, what is the alternative? I invite you to try to think of a source of value that has absolutely nothing to do with the ... experience of conscious beings. [32]

An enjoyable, thoughtful book. Part of it is a spirited urging of his fellow scientists to stop ceeding the realm of morality to religion, as so often happens. Those sections were the most enjoyable. Most world religions have done a terrible job of describing morality, much less modeling it. If world religious leaders want to continue to speak of morality, they will need to step up their game.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Google Code-In Application Deadline soon - Get your tasks in now!

Hi folks, if you have been thinking about participating in Google Code-In, which is held from December through mid-January for teens not yet in college or university, now is the time to describe your tasks and get them onto the spreadsheet.

Ten to twelve organizations will be chosen to participate, and the more high-quality tasks we have available for the students, the more likely it is that we (that is, KDE) will be chosen to participate.

It is a lot of work for mentors who have lots of tasks, but each task is not much work. It would be excellent to have many mentors, each with a few tasks. By the way, many tasks can be "re-used," such as testing a certain number of bug reports.

Keep in mind that application teams and KDE distributions are welcome to bring in tasks too, as long as they are KDE-related.

For more about how to structure the tasks, see We need each task tagged as coding, documentation/training, UI, outreach/research or quality assurance.

The form for entering your tasks is here:

Our deadline for application is Monday, November 10th at 19:00 UTC.

Holidays are coming - give big!

Most of us don't need more 'stuff'. In fact, we often have too much!

The same can't be said for most charities and non-profits. The world-wide economic downturn has hurt them, along with many public services. The same is true for our beloved KDE e.V., which is why we've had separate fund-raisers for specific events such as the Randa Meetings the past couple of years.

This year, we are trying to get a bit of breathing room before the spring sprint season hits, and already have over 12000€ and 400 donors! So the word is getting out.

If you use and love the KDE community and our software, please give. If not, please pass along the appeal to those who may not have heard about our end-of-year fundraiser.

Thank you.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Filing bug reports for fun and profit

Profit? Well, I didn't make money from filing a bug about redshift, but I did get the lovely little application running on my computer again.

Since jumping to an testing install of Plasma 5 in my upgraded Kubuntu, I've been filing bugs as I find things not working. It took me a few days to notice that redshift no longer worked, because I didn't always use it. But when I had my eyes dilated for my annual eye exam, I needed it! And it crashed.

I love filing bugs using ubuntu-bug from the commandline. I would love to see KDE build this capability as well, because the little application gathers useful information automatically, and uploads it to the bug tracker. Man ubuntu-bug says it reports problems  to your distribution's bug tracking system, using Apport to collect a lot of local information about your system to help the developers to fix the problem and avoid unnecessary question/answer turnarounds. Dr. Konqui does this sometimes, but a little cli app would be nice as well.

You can read my bug report here if you like, but to make a long story short: there is still no working Plasma 5 widget, but redshift is a commandline application. The kindly person who answered my bug report sent me to the website, where I found that I could create my own config file, which might be a workaround to the lack of a widget, but it works. The gtk widget did not work, by the way.

Writing a config file sounds daunting, but I just copy/pasted the working config on the website, changed it to fit my system, and saved it as ~/.config/redshift.conf

In the commandline, when I typed redshift & - my screen pinked up a bit. Lovely!