Ivan is the creator of Lancelot the application launcher which is used in a majority of GNU-Linux distributions. We spoke to Ivan to understand the development going on within the KDE community, about software patents, he opinion about Mono and .NET being a developer himself and much more. Read more…
Swapnil: Ivan, can you please tell us more about yourself?
Ivan: I’m a PhD student by day, and a Free/Libre Software enthusiast at night. I’ve got a background in math and computer science, but I’ve always been more interested in writing code than in pure theory. Currently, I’m trying to combine these two into my studies.
Swapnil: How and when did you get involved with the Free Software?
Ivan: I’ve started using GNU/Linux sometime around ’98. just for fun at first, but I soon discovered that it is a pure heaven for programmers, and never looked back.
At first, I was only involved in the local communities that tried to popularize Free Software, and after a couple of years of writing articles, and giving talks I decided my time can be better spent by making the software rather than talking about it.
|Personally, I never cared much about .NET (and thus Mono) for one simple reason – it wasn’t created due to a market demand, it wasn’t born because it was really needed.|
Swapnil: Can you tell us more about the major projects you have worked, or working, on?
Ivan: I’m currently working on the semantic stuff in KDE SC – Plasma, Nepomuk and Contour projects – mainly the things related to user’s activities. Stuff like predicting user’s actions, or to be more technical, decision support based on the recorded user behavior.
The reason I find this interesting is that I was always spending a lot of time to keep my things organized, and they could never be as tidy as I wanted them to be. So, I want to make the computer understand what is important to be able to show me only the stuff I need at a specific moment.
Swapnil: What is Lancelot? How different is it from other application launcher menu? What was the need of creating Lancelot — a bit of history please?
Ivan: Lancelot is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of an application launcher. It was designed to be a single point of entry for the most common tasks a user might have, while providing me with a ground to do some UI experiments like the no-click interface.
Apart from starting applications, it provides access to unread mails and online IM contacts, to hard disks, removable drives and documents. It can also be used as a calculator, task switcher etc. thanks to a very powerful search mechanism based on KRunner.
Swapnil: As I can see from the project page, you are leading the project. What kind of community is working behind Lancelot?
Ivan: If you look only at the Lancelot’s code, then you might get an impression that there is not much collaboration going on. I’d guess that if you took a glimpse at the commit logs, you’d find that 99% of those were mine.
But the real stuff is happening below – in plasma, telepathy, etc. Since Lancelot covers a lot of areas, I’ve been working with a few different teams to be able to provide the best integration possible with other parts of KDE SC.
While there weren’t many outside code contributions, I’ve been constantly receiving feature requests and awesome ideas from users. A lot of those ended up in Lancelot, while some are still waiting to be implemented.
Swapnil: Can you name some popular distros which are using Lancelot?
Ivan: Since it is a part of KDE Workspaces, it is available in all major distributions, either pre-installed, or available via the package manager.
Swapnil: There was some misunderstanding between Lancelot and Linux Mint project, how are the things between the two projects.
Ivan: Mint maintainers wanted to make Lancelot the default menu in its KDE edition, but they decided not to do it because of a few show-stopper bugs. While that was completely ok, the problem was that nobody reported those bugs to me. And, I didn’t even know that they wanted to make it a default.
After I blogged about it, and probably sounded more harsh than I really intended to, I’ve had quite a pleasant chat with Clement Lefebvre (the founder of Linux Mint) and everything was settled.
|Patents in general are quite badly implemented. At first, the purpose was to protect the inventors (aka the “little people”) from theft and exploitation by the big companies, and they quickly turned out tho be the exact opposite – protect the companies by hurting the “little people”.|
Swapnil: Being a KDE developer what future do you see for Qt post Nokia’s departure from the FOSS world as they enter into a deal with Microsoft?
Ivan: Qt is still being actively developed. For me, its future seems even brighter then before for a number of reasons – Nokia still invests a lot in it, and is not the only big company that does; Qt is going towards open governance which means more open development in which KDE will play a big role; and the last is that Qt doesn’t focus primarily on one form-factor but on a wide-spectrum of devices like it used to.
Swapnil: How do you see KDE’s growth post 4.x? What is the user-base – is it increasing or shrinking?
Ivan: I would just say that it is changing, like the environment itself. We lost some users that didn’t like or didn’t understand KDE Software Compilation’s new philosophy, but we gained a lot of both normal and corporate users that found KDE SC to be just their cup of tea.
Swapnil: What are the plans to post KDE/Qt apps on Android, are you involved in any such projects?
Ivan: Qt port for Android is still in its very early stages. When it becomes more mature, it is going to be a viable target for us. For the time being, we are focusing on more standard-compliant mobile Linux distributions like MeeGo which is still being invested in by a lot of industry-vendors.
Swapnil: What is your opinion about software patents. Apple and Microsoft seems to have turned the mobile development into a very hostile environment for developers, what do you say given Qt has plans for mobile?
Ivan: Patents in general are quite badly implemented. At first, the purpose was to protect the inventors (aka the “little people”) from theft and exploitation by the big companies, and they quickly turned out tho be the exact opposite – protect the companies by hurting the “little people”.
Software patents are even worse because IT is being developed at a much quicker pace than other sciences. So, in a relative sense, patents in IT last much longer.
Fortunately, those are still invalid in Europe, although that could change any day.
Swapnil: What is your opinion about Mono, post Novells’ end? What are the good FOSS alternates of .NET?
Ivan: Personally, I never cared much about .NET (and thus Mono) for one simple reason – it wasn’t created due to a market demand, it wasn’t born because it was really needed. .NET was created only as a competitor to existing solutions, namely Java.
In the Free world, we have a huge variety of programming languages, enough to never get a desire to even look at Mono. My preferred choice is always C++, and sometimes Scala if I want to feel peculiar. Apart from those two, I find C, Python and Java to be rather popular choices.