Sprinting KDE Connect

What will happen?

KDE Connect is nowadays on a sweet moment where many things can happen. This is an interesting moment to sprint, because it will allow all of us to work together on interesting features that can then be merged at once with greater impact.

The things that are the most important to me are:

  • The Plasma Phone port. See more below.
  • Improvements on the Plasma Desktop integration. Currently it’s a bit weird. It mostly works, but then it’s currently lacking any interaction with the remote devices. We should review what it does and what can we do to offer what the user actually needs.
  • Using the phone (or any other device) to transparently provide data to the desktop system. We have many interesting listed ideas. Use the phone to provide location, the phone’s microphone and camera, etc.
  • File system synchronization

What will I do?

One of the things I’ve been working on lately is a new KDE Connect client. Initially with the Plasma Phone in mind, this new application opens a new window of opportunity also on other platforms. First of all, it should be right away usable on Jolla (when they adopt a saner set of dependencies) and the Ubuntu Phone.

From our point of view, one of the biggest problems of KDE Connect is that we have a hard time to pivot over to other deskop-based platforms, mostly because our desktop approach so far is a plasmoid, which isn’t very portable. Having a standalone application will help as well to reach such platforms as well.

Another thing I’d like to work on further is KDE software integration on Android. Things should be set by now, but we need work to shape the path further. Things like setting up the KDE Frameworks 5 CI for Android for example will be a huge step forward. Also building some other application for Android, will help us get a better overview of the current state.

Support us!

All of this will happen in the next KDE Connect sprint within the Randa Meetings. If you like KDE Connect and wish it to bloom into the tool we’re all looking forward to, consider donating!

Support KDE Sprints 2015!

Plasma Mobile SDK

Where are the giants?

When approaching this issue I had been thinking about the issue for a while. I had mainly 2 problems: I was rather frustrated with previous Linux-based systems so far and the one I liked didn’t really scale for us. One thing was clear: We had to stand on the shoulder of giants.

  • The first one to think about was the N9 SDK (and by extension N900). It used to have a scratchbox-based system that emulated the one on the phone. It was useful for testing the applications locally on the device (although I actually never used that), I think that this one had both cross-compilation toolchain and base system, as well as the host and it used QEmu if a host executable was run. It felt weird because it shoved you in a weird system and you had to pull your code in weird ways to fetch it. Otherwise it worked great. Afterwards, madde came. It’s what I was looking for really and played quite well with cmake, actually when I published the steps on how to develop for the N9 it’s what I used back then, but it probably was too late for it to become a thing I guess. Also many people weren’t too fond of it, as I learned after some time.
  • The Android NDK is the other I took into account. I don’t think it would be fair to compare anything we could do with the actual Android SDK, so I’ll limit myself to this one. This one ships the complete cross-compilation toolchain and runs native (similar to the BBX SDK, IIRC).

For the N9 approach, I would have had to concentrate on figuring out technologies that were long dead (and probably should remain). For the Android approach I found 2 big problems: We have to actually work on generating the actual binaries (which means, from any platform to a specific ubuntu-vivid-arm target) plus all the dependencies. This meant, creating a new distro, and we already had debian/ubuntu for that, let’s use debootstrap! Oh, wait…

Old school

For a start, I took what sebas already started, in fact. Using debootstrap to create a chroot jail that could cross-compile the projects into our platform. This started to prove feasible really soon, as 2 or 3 days after working on it (and after fixing some issues that kept arising, mostly on KF5 itself and packaging), I already started to output binaries that could be deployed on the device.

Problems:

  • My IDE is outside of the jail, so there isn’t much we can do to integrate at all (we can’t access the build directory, and most of the data in it isn’t too meaningful for the outside anyway). A solution would be to ship and run the IDE from within the SDK though.
  • You need to be root. Not only to generate the system, but also to run it.

New school

An idea I wanted to approach was docker. Everyone on the web world is shit-crazy about it and it’s deeply based on traditional Linux, so there’s quite in common already. Doing something similar to the deboostrap there was a piece of cake, and I managed to re-use the set up code I already had for the previous version.

Problems:

  • Also everything is inaccessible from the IDE
  • I’m less aware of the limitations I’ll find.

Still, this second approach feels lighter and it’s quite fun to investigate something new like that.

Tooling

It seems that the jailed systems are the way to go, at least for now, so the tools I’ve created so far assume that they live in the jail as well. So, what do we have?

  • createpkg: Makes it possible to create a deb package that can be sent to the device for testing. It’s much simpler than the simplest deb package ever, but it works. Much better than sending executables over, much better than learning how to package for Debian.
  • deploypkg: sends the deb file, installs it and starts the application.
  • click-get: Downloads a click file from the Ubuntu Store, it’s harder than you’d think.
  • kdev-debdeploy: Does it all, inside your good ol’ IDE.

To be done

  • Workflow: Figure out a way to deploy KDevelop within either jail, but then we’ll also be able to use kde-debdeploy, that does mostly the same as these tools, integrated on the IDE.
  • Emulation: Testing: QEmu + docker anyone?

KDevelop: Concentration as a feature

One of the things I’ve heard on every KDevelop sprint is: we should be light, like Kate but with our added value.

We’ve addressed this in many ways so far: we’ve optimized the code for performance so it’s more responsive and starts reasonably fast, we’ve made sure most done is accessible using the keyboard so we don’t feel clumsy and overwhelmed by all the options.

Today, I wanted to reflect on 2 things:

  • What do we miss to be that ideal light editor?
  • What’s a good lightness inspiration?

Otherwise, TLDR, there’s a video below.

What do we miss?

The avid Planet KDE reader will know that being light is a complex concept, there’s many ways to perceive lightness: Is Kate light? Is KWrite light?

When we talk about lightness, we generally refer to different metrics. If something is worth waiting for, we wait, and that’s fine. We don’t want to feel we’re wasting our time. A good example there I’d say it’s Chromium. It’s probably one of the heaviest beasts we run on our systems. Nevertheless, it doesn’t feel as such (at least until you run out of memory).

There’s another point of view: We bomb users with features. In fact, it’s awesome to have features and it shouldn’t be a trade-off. On the other hand we’re never using all features at the same time, optimizing that would be awesome. We should work on it: identifying the different workflows and creating user interfaces that enable them.

What’s the role model?

One of the developments that have struck me the most during last years is Kate. Instead of focusing on the editor, it went the KDevelop route: it has started to offer all of the information at once (especially odd, given that there’s quite some feature overlapping).

More generally, if I look at what others are doing, I see two major groups:

On one hand, there’s atom.io and sublime that seem to be doing something very similar. Most of the components they have we have as well, but then the focus is rather different: they have very few visual interaction components, mostly just the menu, so you can just play with the text and you know where to go look for stuff. UI’s are usually embedded in the source code view.

On the other hand, there’s Eclipse or Visual Studio that do something quite similar to what we do: present everything in the traditional desktop application way with docks and a couple of smart tricks, because they try to tackle the whole workflow problem.

I understand how we got to where we are, but I also really understand why people can prefer something like atom. My feeling is that “It doesn’t make me feel like I should be debugging while I’m coding”, even though they oversimplify on some areas.

What do I propose?

I decided that I wanted to feel what’s to work without all the clutter, so I implemented a Concentration Mode for KDevelop. I stripped most of the visual stress, so usually we’re left with the good ol’ katepart editor, with all KDevelop‘s features. I’ll become my own guinea pig: now that I have it clean, how do I use the tools? Can I still do the same things? As discussed on the mailing list, this has had some fruits already.

I think it’s really cool: code, code, code, quick open and shortcuts.

The Video!

Now, a bit of a video implementing what I discussed here.

What to look for:

  • We get to hide the navigation handle, leaving only the toolbar, the document title and the central view.
  • The toolviews are still accessible.
  • The menu is still accessible
  • For now, I can decide to just see what I’m working on. Now.

Happy hacking!

Suggesting new ways: Kamoso 3.0 Technology Preview

The world changes, and with it, we change too. For this new version of Kamoso we wanted to iterate what we’re presenting.

The Camera

Since we’re using GStreamer, we could take advantage of newer technology available there. Now we’re using camerabin for the video capture (in contrast to using v4l2src directly).
This will offer a better experience, with less tweaks on our side, that will definitely improve the end-user experience.

User Interaction

The whole application wasn’t rewritten, but all the UI was. We have a re-designed interface that integrates some really lean and meaningful animations and sorts the components so that we can get a simple, dialog-free UI.

Sharing

Sharing is probably the most important feature in Kamoso besides video capture, and we took special care of it. We adopted the new Purpose technology that is seeing its light for the first time with this Technology Preview. We want to make sure that we can offer the best solution by making sure it integrates properly on our UI and it can also be integrated on other parts of KDE. This way we’ll be able to come up with an adequate set of plugins and enjoy them all in community. For now, we have: KDE Connect, Imgur for images and YouTube for videos.

Where to find it?

I put together this little list, so everyone can find the tarballs and packages (on the distributions that managed to package it):
https://userbase.kde.org/Kamoso/3.0#Alpha

We need you!

We need special help with:

  • Testing, on more cameras, more hardware.
  • Artwork, especially icons.
  • Coding, especially Purpose sharing plugins (Facebook? Twitter? ownCloud?)

But anything else is welcome, as always. Please get in touch!

Identities, I usually don’t stop being myself

One of the most interesting developments I’ve seen recently inside KDE is KAccounts (or Web Accounts, as it used to be called). It’s not even a KDE project, but a project Nokia started some years ago, I’m guessing that on MeeGo days.

Why do I care?

As a developer it’s always very important to know what resources you have available. The more you have, the richer the users’ experience will be. Resources are not only hardware but often just semantically-structured information. For example, KPeople helps us tell apart the contact list and offers us people instead or Solid, that turns the different ways of exposing the hardware information into something easily consumable by front-end applications.

Now we’re talking about identities. We don’t exclusively rely on local data anymore, I think that’s a fact nowadays (and even 5 years ago). Our disks are just another place where we store some of our data. KDE projects must be prepared to easily offer such workflows. One of the important parts to do it properly is authentication:

  • We need a list of available services we can use.
  • We don’t want our users requested identity authentication all the time.
  • We don’t want each application to implement the N authentications algorithms of the N different providers our users will eventually have.

Why do you care? (as a KDE software user)

First of all, you want your developers to have the best tools (GOTO: “Why do I care?”).

There’s a more important issue to figure out, more ideological than technical: We ask service and software providers to use standard specifications to improve interoperability, but then in practice we are seldom leveraging it. The case-by-case set up burden makes it hard for users to have everything configured properly. An example for this is ownCloud integration. I know a couple of people running an instance, but they seldom integrate it in Dolphin, but even if they did they’d still need to integrate the rest of provided services, such as calendar, contacts, etc.
We want to tell our software what providers we have available, those providers will provide different services. The software should integrate as much as possible with those services.

How can I help?

  • Testing: There’s a lot going on, thorough testing and ideas is important. Both when it comes to making sure everything works as expected as well as what software should adopt KAccounts. It will already be available with KDE Applications 15.04.
  • Developing: Make sure your application of choice uses KAccounts to figure out the configured services. Here’s a good place to find documentation: API, and an example use-case.
  • Promotion: It’s important to reach out to service providers, make sure they know there’s such possibility and hopefully they can help us work better with their services (hey! by the book example of a win-win situation!).

Nowadays our computation experience is spread among different services and we need to be smart enough to understand how our users will adopt them and make it as transparent as possible.
AccountsSSO and KAccounts are a solid step forward in this direction, let’s get back in control of our data!

A Purpose for everything

When we were porting Kamoso to Qt5/KF5, at some point I realized that it was about time we came up with whatever we’d want to do with sharing. Kipi is definitely an interesting technology, but no matter how I looked at it I found that it missed an iteration in the concept. In some aspects it’s very specific, in some others very broad. In fact, I already tried to improve it, back in 2009.
My conclusion was that I wanted to take a step back and re-think what I wanted because I don’t think it’s just about images and it’s not even just about Importing and Exporting.

  • Is Import/Export really special?
  • What do we want to integrate?
  • How can we simplify the implementation as much as possible? Having as many plug-ins as possible is a must.
  • What are other platforms doing?

This took me a while to figure out and it’s probably not ready yet, but since I needed something anyway I decided to just go for it.

What?

The idea is that at some point when developing an application you’ll need to fulfill different purposes (or desires, as some like calling it). At this point we’ll want to integrate the possibility of providing an action with all the information needed to fulfill it.

This purpose will have different fulfillment propositions, which we’ll need to provide a list with the alternatives and then be able to go for the one the user prefers.

Example 1

In Gwenview we want to be able to share the currently displayed image. To do so, we’ll get a toolbar button that on click we’ll get the 2 more likely alternatives and a “More…” option that will open a dialog that lists all the possibilities.

With all the provided information, we should be able to perform the export with minimal and integrated configuration. The different alternatives could be exporting to imgur, saving the file locally, upload to my ownCloud or my Facebook. For this, note that any configuration will seldom be needed.

Example 2

We’re reviewing code in KDevelop and we want to tell on someone we messed up. KDevelop can integrate the “Call” purpose that will propose us all the different ways to get in touch of the disaster perpetrator.

Example 3

The QuickShare plasmoid has a patch file dropped on. We receive the alternatives which can have any mime type: text files, binary files and any specific format (such as text/x-patch or text/markdown).

Example 4

An application wants to show us a location in a map. Instead forcing into some implementation, it will request Purpose to show a latitude and longitude and the user will decide where to check it. Alternatives could be OpenStreet Map, Google Maps and Marble.

How?

I came up with a small proof of concept to be able to start getting things working and I even adopted it on a couple of projects. It’s working well but I’m still a bit afraid of committing to an API. As a first step, I’m here explaining it for you all.

At the moment the API is really simple, it consists of 3 C++ classes:

  • AlternativesModel, the interface for clients.
  • PluginBase to be implemented by each plugin.
  • Job which will be re-implemented by the plugin and tracked by the client

Then there’s some QtQuick components built on top that simplify the integration on QML applications. We should get some QtWidgets components as well, as soon as we have to integrate it on a QtWidgets-based application.

The AlternativesModel will receive a PluginType string which defines what kind of plugin will be used and the input data. The plugin type will define what information needs to be provided and what output will be received. Then the model will be populated with all the plugins with the said PluginType. The plugins will be able to specify a set of constraints, so the model can filter them out in case they’re not a good fit, and a set of configuration variables. These configuration variables are required to run the plugin and if they’re not provided, the application will need to show the user interface provided by the plugin, which is implemented through a QtQuick file, for now.

For some more precise information, here’s

TextField { id: url }

Purpose.AlternativesView
{
  pluginType: "Export"
  inputData: {
    mimeType: 'text/plain',
    urls: [url.text]
  }

  onFinished: {
    console.log("Done", output.url)
    if (error!=0) {
      console.log("error:", errorString)
    }
  }
}

Where are we?

It can be used now. It’s already integrated in the QuickShare plasmoid in kdeplasma-addons and in Kamoso which should be released eventually. Still, I’d like to see other use-cases being implemented and developed. The biggest void I see is plugins: getting Google+, Twitter, Facebook, ownCloud should be easy but needs to be done. If somebody is knowledgeable about such API’s and is interested in KDE applications integrating them, please step forward!

Additionally, if you think your application could use some purposes or that you have an idea of a new purpose that will change humanity, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’ll change it together! \o/

Now here’s a screencast of the work in progress (especially the UI, eh..)

PS: Video uploaded using Purpose as well!

Hacking Free Software, a different point of view

I joined KDE to hack. I wanted to create new thriving technologies for the world, to create tools, to learn, and, in general, to add some pragmatics into my perception of technology.

The one thing I didn’t really expect to do is all the rest.

I starting actively contributing to KDE in 2007 and I started contributing to both KDE Edu and KDevelop almost at the same time, I’ve talked largely about this aspect already so I won’t expand. I want to explain the rest.

The Community

My first Akademy, in Glasgow. felt spectacular to me, I made good friends and I remember having very deep experiences. With Albert, Anne-Marie, Rafael, Alexander, I loved the feeling that working together we could do great things and also that I could learn a lot over here. Those who know me know that despite being quite an introvert I tend to start talking a lot when I get engaged, and I remember talking a lot over there.

Foreign country, people, language, nothing mattered, the only important thing was to learn and to hack. I remember partying lots and hacking lots just as well over there. I’m explaining this because there needs to be an explanation, why someone who just wanted to hack ended up founding KDE Spain or joining the KDE eV board?

KDE Spain

Later in 2007 we organized the Akademy-es in Zaragoza. Different setting, different people and different perspective. There you did’t talk to people who want to work with you, they wanted to be convinced about KDE, about Free Softwre. I enjoyed it, it was healthy to put in perspective everything I was doing. Thinking about how to motivate others helps a lot to redirect oneself, to keep with the feet on the ground.

Later on, we decided to start KDE Spain, which was basically the intention to keep doing that in the future. Reaching out to local people, those who you won’t find on our mailing lists, at least not before you get there. KDE Spain has been to the day one of the projects I’ve invested myself the most.

KDE eV

I joined the KDE eV late in 2008. I was by then convinced that without infrastructure all good to be done in the project is in vain. We’ve all had this feeling when you see another project offering something that you have had for years unnoticed. It requires work, many pieces coming together.

Community software development (or any development for that matter) is much more complex than one would want. It needs organization and expertise in crafts one wouldn’t think before. That is one of the main reasons to push for KDE to me: having people from different fields coming together to make wonderful things happen. (Community as a Service, CaaS. Have we coined that yet?)

Barcelona Free Software

Life is all about balance. From generic to specific, from big to flexible. Life artifices made it so that my city, Barcelona, has become a focus of the KDE development and we had to take advantage of the opportunity. This time we went full local, we started to gather many people knowledgeable about KDE around and instead of creating yet another KDE thing, we created a group concerning Free Software in Barcelona.

With the huge help of Martín, we’ve built an open group to meet and discuss about Free Software in a nice and relaxed setting. It was a piece I always missed in the puzzle.

Barcelona Free Software logo, thanks to Jens Reuterberg

  • How to make the world use Free Software?
  • For example, people around me. Are we offering what they need? What do they use?
  • How come I don’t even know them? What do they create?

Work with us, become the KDE e.V. Executive Director

Haven’t you made your mind up yet? KDE e.V. is looking for a new Executive Director and we want you on board!

As Lydia described, KDE has many things to offer and many goals to achieve. We are looking for a talented professional who will push the organization, alongside the rest of the Community, and help create the useful technologies of today and tomorrow.

If you like freedom, challenges, getting to know people from all over the world and new technologies that make people thrive, don’t hesitate to look here and send us your CV.

Communicating from Plasma 5

Porting KDE Telepathy to Qt 5 and Plasma 5

I started working on that port back in the last KDE Telepathy sprint in Barcelona last April. Back then, I started to work on it because I have been doing heavy usage of the KTp plasmoids back when using the KDE 4 Plasma series and I didn’t want to live without them. Back then, I only ported the minimum parts of ktp-common-internals so it would work with KF5, as well as the plasmoids. It was quite some work, but definitely worth it since I’ve been using them ever since, and it’s worked wonderfully.

Last week I started working on those ports again, this time trying to start get all of them ready for end-users, first step being starting to port the rest of modules. It’s worth mentioning how good the response has been, given that many people chipped in and gave some modules a go. It’s a bit weird to do this kind of porting in KTp, because there’s tons of little repositories to port rather than a big one, but I guess it’s kind of part of it’s beauty anyway… 😉

KPeople as a KDE Framework

KPeople is a Framework for fetching contacts from different sources (Telepathy, Akonadi, Facebook, etc) and unifying them into a same model,

An important part of making sure all of KTp works is ensuring that its dependencies are up to speed and this time the one I’d like to bring some light to is KPeople. The port is ready really, only depending on having some of its own dependencies from kdepimlibs in a releasable state, but it’s also quite in shape too. It’s a framework I’d really like to see shining in the next months.

Furthermore, I finally managed to find some time and get the automatic contact merging back on. This I started more than a year back and then Franck Arrecot worked to make some GUI interface for it, I think it’s quite interesting. Take a look into it if you think it’s interesting. :)

We need you!

Last but not least, there’s still lots to be done. I’d like to aim for a nice and clean release of KTp by the end of the year, ready to be shipped with Plasma 5.3 and the applications, if the maintainers allow so.

So if you’d like to help, you can take a look at this Kanban board we created and take the tasks you’d like.

Porting Muon Discover to KF5

Muon has been a project that I’ve been very eager to port and iterate for a longtime. I’m happy with the 2.0 series, lots of changes were made and it has served us well. More importantly though, we have a solid technology to keep pushing our work on.

Porting

Now the first change has been the port to Qt5 and KF5 and adoption of QtQuick 2. This has been one of the few projects that have suffered from it, especially because we did a couple of hacks so that Muon Discover would integrate with the rest of applications’ look and feel. In any case, it’s sorted out now, we adopted the new QtQuick Controls and it works quite good, only problem being the usage of QQuickWidget, but that will be solved eventually, when we have everything we need in place to take the next step towards better integration between KXmlGui and QtQuick.

What to expect?

The most important news is that it will be as good and fresh as it used to be, integrated with the newer look and feel themes, capable of offering different sorts of data, such as applications, wallpapers and plasmoids.

Furthermore, some new features will be introduced with the forthcoming Muon 3.0 that will change how we integrate Muon on our systems. First of all, Appstream is being adopted for good. Now it will be possible to get a useful PackageKit backend, which has been adopted recently.

  • Additionally, for the ArchLinux fans, I did some fixing on the PackageKit libalpm backend so now it can be used again. 😀 Still, work on the Appstream set up is needed and help is very welcome.
  • Since I wanted to use a good PackageKit reference implementation, I looked into Fedora. I’ve been trying to get it working, but haven’t succeeded that much yet. I expected Appstream to be a first class citizen there, and things keep falling apart. We’ll have to work more in this area.
  • Kubuntu will remain using QApt for now. It seems to be working properly and there’s no intentions to change. Debian has also been ported to use use the same backend, we are pending though on some decisions to be taken with regards of metadata sources, that is, Appstream again.

**shrug** Looks like we’ll have to give a good push to Appstream!

Future

I would like to see different Plasma-oriented distributions embracing Muon as a resource management front-end. So far, resource management hasn’t been part of our user experience, with the exception of KNewStuff.

Additionally, there’s a forum thread where a new graphical design is being worked on so it doesn’t look all that clunky (especially managing to make QtQuick Controls applications look good).

All this is already available on our Git repositories. A final version will be released early 2015 together with Plasma 5.2, although I’d like to roll a stable version first, so distributions can start adopting it.

FreeSoftware to the fullest!