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KDE 4 is seen by many to be the next big step on the free software desktop, while others think releasing 4.0 in its current condition was misleading and a mistake. Either way, it's an innovative release and inline with Fedora's goal of providing the latest and greatest free software it is set to be the default KDE environment in the next major release of Fedora. We caught up with two members of the KDE SIG to talk about the work they're doing to get it ready for release, their own opinions on the software and what they think about the progress made by Fedora in getting over its GNOME centric reputation.

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Developer Interview

What more work is there to be done before you're content with the shape of things for Fedora 9?

Sebastian Vahl: (I will mainly speak for the live images here:) The live images for the KDE spin should be in a pretty good shape. With the inclusion of KDE 4.0, the package list had to be reworked. The main problem here was to include the KDE 4.0 desktop and also some packages from KDE 3.5 which aren't ported yet. This has increased the size and so some packages from KDE 3.5 had to go (I think some people will miss amarok but until it's ported there seems to be not enough space on the live images). But, if someone is missing an application on the live images: I'm always open to suggestions.

Rex Dieter: KDE 4.0 still has a lot of rough edges, which will require some work and feedback with upstream to iron out. Packaging polish will need to get better over time too.

Are you still comfortable with the decision to make KDE 4.0 the default for Fedora 9?

Sebastian Vahl: For the time being: yes. KDE 4.0 may lack some functionality in comparison to KDE 3.5. But on the other hand: The download count of the (inofficial) KDE 4.0.0 live image right after the release date shows that there is a great request for KDE4. Sure, some people will prefer to KDE 3.5 over KDE 4.0. But because Fedora supports the last two versions they could use Fedora 8 until KDE 4.1 will be released.

Rex Dieter: I have absolutely no doubt moving to KDE 4.0 was the right decision to make. KDE4 is all about innovation and new technologies, which aligns well with fedora's principles.

Fedora has a reputation for being a GNOME centric distribution, yet the KDE SIG is putting in a lot of work to change this perception. Do you feel the SIG is succeeding in its goals, and how do you see Fedora's KDE spin in comparison with distributions that put more emphasis behind KDE such as openSUSE?

Sebastian Vahl: It's up to the users. The majority of the KDE-SIG are not Red Hat employees (in comparison to the Novell/Suse employes). We've had a call for participation [1] some time ago on the developer mailing list to get some more people involved in the KDE-SIG with some success. Fedora is an open project and everyone could get involved in it. I for myself have no problems with GNOME as the main desktop. It's up to the KDE-SIG and every Fedora KDE user out there to provide a great KDE desktop. And everyone who is willing to help us is welcome.


Rex Dieter: Having been invited to be a member of the Fedora Board, and asked to help lead the KDE-SIG to produce a new spin was scary. It was make-or-break, being either a shining example of the Core/Extras merge and open distro spin tools or, well, you get the idea. The whole point was about building a community around producing an excellent kde product. I'm a little biased, but I think it all turned out pretty ok. :) Comparing fedora with other more kde-focused distro's, honestly, there's still a lot of things we (fedora) can learn. One thing I'd like to improve on most is coordination, of packaging and marketing technologies.

Kevin Kofler: I am personally doing my best to fight that reputation within the KDE community, and that, together with what we accomplished within Fedora to make KDE a first class citizen, is starting to pay off. There has always been lots of animosity against Fedora on, the KDE news site, mostly due to old gripes against Red Hat Linux 8.0 (and some of that will probably never go away, it's like the old "Qt is not Free" troll which is completely obsolete, yet still comes up from time to time), but lately there have been more and more positive echos. Doing such PR is not an easy task though, as even correcting obvious inaccuracies can be perceived as flamebait (and thus backfire). On the other front, within Fedora, we're all working on getting KDE recognized as much as possible, ensuring it gets the first class citizen treatment it deserves. All in all, I'm happy with where we're headed.

Packaging KDE 4 suggests that you must have used it for quite a while yourself already: what do you think of it so far?

Sebastian Vahl: KDE 4.0 surely lacks some features in comparison to KDE 3.5. But that was announced before. And it also has some great features included - not only plasma, also some minor things. It's a matter of what you've expected. I'm sure KDE 4.1 will become a great user experience - but there is a lot of work to to - in KDE itself and also in the Fedora integration.

Rex Dieter: Being a strong believer in eating my our own dog food, I made the leap to using rawhide since shortly after KDE 4.0 release. I was pleasantly surprised how well things work already... and it's only going to get better, fast.

Obviously a lot of distribution specific work goes into packaging a huge project like KDE, but how does your work link-up with upstream?

Kevin Kofler: Like the rest of Fedora, we are trying to work with upstream as much as possible, submitting our fixes upstream. That way everyone benefits, rather than duplicating work in each distribution. See also [1] .


Finally, if you'd like to tell us a little bit about yourself? What got you interested in free software originally? Why Fedora? And what do you like to do in your spare time when not at the computer?!

Sebastian Vahl: I'm a 27 years old student of Politics, Sociology and History at a University in Hannover, Germany. I'm also writing my final exams this year. My first experience was (AFAIR) Firefox on Microsoft Windows and a linux distribution as an attachment for a magazine in 1998 (?). My first real linux experience was Debian Woody back in 2003. After I got it working (as a mainly Windows user these days) I discovered Fedora Core 1 which I used as my main system after some time. At that time I've also discovered the german community at which I found very friendly and helpful. That was my main reason to stick with Fedora. Now I'm a moderator of the german forum, was involved in the founding of the german wiki and news portal, encouraged by a friend to also get involved in packaging and engaged by Rex Dieter to prepare the live images after a mail to fedora-devel-list (I've only want to share my experiences in testing this new shiny livecd-creator). In short: It was the user base and also the developer base of Fedora that has stuck me to it. And that's more than a compliment. :) Besides computers I'm also interested in the normal triple: books, movies music. And because of my studies I'm also interested in politics.

Rex Dieter: I'm a 36 year-old system administrator of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Nebraska Lincoln (USA). I remember first using KDE 1.0 on Red Hat 5.2, and haven't looked back since. In the meantime, I've held seats on the Fedora Project Board, FESCO, and am currently a member of the Fedora Packaging Committee. I'm still hoping to receive a Fedora ninja merit badge someday. My favorite past-times include hiking (preferably in mountains), baseball, golf, and bridge.

Kevin Kofler: I'm a 24 year old Italian citizen, but living in Austria since birth. I have a Mag.rer.nat (equivalent to a Master of Science) diploma in Mathematics and am now working on a PhD in Mathematics, and at the same time completing a Bachelor in Software and Information Engineering, at the University of Vienna. The first GNU/Linux distribution I tried was a stripped-down version of Red Hat Linux from a computer magazine CD in 1999. Later, I downloaded the 7.x versions directly from the mirrors, that was also the time when I decided on KDE as my desktop environment of choice. I stayed on 7.3 for a while, skipped Red Hat Linux 8 and 9 and went straight to Fedora Core 1. That was exactly what I was looking for: I was considering trying out Debian at that time because of their stronger stand towards Free Software, but then Fedora came out making this a moot point. Red Hat Linux was what I was used to, so Fedora was the obvious choice. And most importantly, it is always up to date. I haven't skipped a release since, instead opting to "stay on the edge". Around Fedora Core 4, I made Fedora my primary OS, and soon afterwards stopped using that other operating system entirely. As for my spare time, I spend essentially all of it in front of the computer these days. :-)


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Try KDE 4 on Fedora

There are two ways you can try KDE 4 on Fedora:

  • Download the Fedora 9 (Sulphur) Alpha live image
  • Some back-ported packages exist for Fedora 8, but be warned that these will remove your current KDE 3.x installation.