Sunday, May 27, 2001

A Tribute to KDE

During freshman year of college (1999) I was frustrated with my current Linux AIM client and decided to write a better one myself. You can read the entire story at kaim.sourceforge.net if you wish. Suffice it to say I did just that. But at what cost? I have worked countless hours on a project that if AOL really wanted to could be killed in a moment notice. So why did I do it in the first place? Because I wanted to be all Linux and zero windows. That meant that for each Linux thing I wanted to do I had to go out and find that application. For outlook I have Kmail, for AIM I have Kaim, for IE I have Konqueror. But there are many left. From Gnome to KDE to just having a wm (and then you get E, BlackBox, ....) , KWord to StarOffice, Corel Office and a dozen others, Kaim to Gaim to Kit, to EveryBody to... There seems to be a duplication of work everywhere in the Linux set. My editorial on the Linux installer talked all about this without even realizing it. How work was being done a number of times and every time it was less then the best. Why does this happen? Looking at myself, even I committed this sin. I started Kaim when Kit was under development. I should have tried to merge our two projects once I found out about Kit. Linux and open source is all about random people getting together and working on applications. Through the work of many people turning out fantastic pieces of software. But it is not because there are so many people, but because so much time and effort is put into it? I remember when SourceForge first started and how I thought it was just this sort of project, but I couldn't have been more wrong, there is no group of people making sure that the applications on SourceForge are any good.

The only exception to the rule that I have encountered is the KDE group. If you would like to be in the KDE distribution then you have to move your code onto the KDE CVS server. To even get to that point it has to be good and it has to have comments. From there you have everyone who uses KDE pointing at your application and telling you where you are not the same as everyone else and not conforming to the rules. I never appreciated it for what it was worth until just now. For this small fact that I probably fell in love with KDE without even knowing it. How in KDE everything works together and everything looks the same and behaves the same way. How could that be bad? I have often thought of starting a group of developers who would simply go around and work on projects. We would descend upon one project and clean it up, doing all the dirty work so to say and adding icons, comments in the code, correctly laid out dialog boxes etc. but as I write this I realized what I was doing. I was doing just what the KDE group does. For a developer who is making a KDE application there is nothing like thinking that your application will get put in with the KDE distribution. And what is wrong with that? You get your work put in just about every Linux distribution CD out there. Because of this you polish your application and add all the extra little pieces to maybe get it into KDE. This creates a better application all around. Once the application is in the main distribution it takes on a life of its own. Its user base skyrockets and people who would have never known or used the application are getting involved. Pretty soon that application is better and better as more people are getting involved. General users find that they already have program kfoo and that it is doing a pretty good job and so they don't try to make another clone of foo, but work on something else or even help make kfoo even better. This has to be the strongest thing going for the KDE team. So I salute the KDE group for what they have done. They have done what no other open source (non - commercial) group has done*.

*That I can think of, and yes you can probably think of some other one, but lets face it the number of groups who are doing it substantially outnumber the groups who aren't so credit goes where credit is due.

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