Friday, December 22, 2006

10 most important events of the year

In no particular order, here are some highlights from the year. Absolutely selfish and from my perspective.

Danny Allen started producing the Commit Digest, with the first issue on April 9th. Scroll through, and you will see a week to week report of the development effort. This is an enormous effort, and Danny deserves kudos and intoxicating liquids (except on the weekends. Send something healthy like, umm, celery. Otherwise he won't be able to produce the report). The uninformed who talk of what they know not have obviously not been keeping up. Thanks Danny.

DBus and HAL have become ubiquitous parts of the desktop infrastructure. Even though KDE 3x doesn't use DBUS as inter process communication, it is used for device detection handling. KDE4 has replaced DCOP with DBUS. The UDEV -> HAL -> DBUS stack measurably improves the user experience, and has become the standard.

Successful integration of usability people into the KDE development process. There isn't one event that would make this obvious. Maybe it is the lack of resistance to the idea. The beginnings of the HIG is a valuable addition.

Focus on KDE 4. The magnitude of this endeavor is not to be understated. It is not a simple port to Qt4, but entails redesign of many of the fundamental libraries that make up KDE. I built and ran KDE4 a week ago and was pleasantly surprised, first that kdelibs and kdebase built without error. It is definitely not a working desktop yet, but I suspect that will change over the while. For the uninitiated, this is an opportunity to see a complex system come together, where the core libraries (Qt), the base KDE libaries, the specialty libaries such as Phonon and other new technologies are in flux, and on top of that the apps are being ported, all the while new functionality is being added. To an outsider it looks like a huge mess, a quagmire. But whenever something gets finished, that allows another level to start progress, and so on.

Coming as a surprise to me, the advancements and improvements to KDE3 are outstanding. KDE3 will be around for a long time. I am in awe seeing the two parallel development efforts.

The Novell-Microsoft pact. There are many opinions on this, some quite strong. Lug Radio Season 4 Episode 8 has an interview with Nat Friedman giving one point of view. On the other hand Jeremy Allison quit Novell because of it. There are many parts to this story. First is patents, and the danger they present to free software. Novell did something they thought would help. They maybe forgot that other than their contributions, they don't own the software that they distribute. The multitudes of very opinionated developers, some who work for Novell competitors, most with a deep distrust of the software behemoths that have arguably ruined more than built, own the software. We are going to see many more of these controversies. This community reminds me in some ways to the Bullet Ant. They have relatively primitive social organisations, but are characterized by their nasty sting, compared to being shot. They sting only when provoked, effectively protecting themselves and their nests with a nasty sting that forces large mammals to stay clear. Their nests are small and could easily be destroyed inadvertently by a large mammal, so they sting to remind everyone of their existence. So effective are they that other insects imitate them. This community tends to sting from time to time to remind the behemoths to stay clear. I suspect that next time Novell wants to do something like this they will tread a little more carefully.

More legal stuff, but in SCO vs IBM, IBM was able to limit SCO's claims. SCO has said lots of things over the last few years, but proof has been hard to come by. The judge seemed to agree, and many of the allegations have been struck from the case. This is a major victory for IBM, and probably the first of many serious reverses that SCO suffers while being smeared on the highway by a fast moving IBM. It is worthwhile to remember that as a community we would be hard pressed to come up with the defenses to fight this sort of battle, and we have IBM to thank.

Strigi. If you haven't, try it out. We will see more in KDE4, but it has the feel of a very solid solution. A fast, well maintained storage and indexing libary, CLucene. A stream design that is showing up in other contexts. Developers that are intent on making it easy to use and implement. I predict that this will be one of the jewels of KDE in a year or two.

10th anniversary of KDE. We are seeing a maturity of process all the while maintaining the openness that has characterized KDE. There are some developers that have been here all along, but we are seeing maintenance of applications being passed on the third or fourth time. KDE is doing something right.

And finally, having run out of ideas, I would like to thank everyone for their work. Every year I look back and am amazed, and wonder what more could be done. Not this year though. It seems the closer we get to the destination, the clearer the focus becomes on what remains to be done.

"Having run out of ideas"... what's up with Java? If that isn't one of the most important events of this year in Free Software (or even _the_ most important one), then I don't know what is. On the other hand, your events are also well-chosen and make for good alternatives :]
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