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The KDE Group Protests "GNOME-Only" Decision for UserLinux

The KDE Group Protests "GNOME-Only" Decision for UserLinux

$Revision: 1.26 $

We, the undersigned KDE and Debian developers, fans and users of both, present this strategic proposal for a closer collaboration between the UserLinux and KDE projects. It is our strong belief that we can provide the UserLinux effort with undeniable value and credibility through its endorsement and execution.

This proposal outlines our desktop strategy for UserLinux, including but not limited to:

  1. KDE Core Enterprise Enhancements
  2. UserLinux Installer and System Tools
  3. FreeDesktop.org and GNOME/GTK+ Integration
  4. OpenOffice.org and Mozilla Integration

UserLinux will be provided with a level of polish, refinement and suitability for enterprises, ISVs and IHVs that is beyond question. We will enhance KDE to a level that, while not currently practical with multiple targets and the endless variations of the Linux/Unix platform, are made feasible by a focus on leveraging core Debian technology.

KDE Core Enterprise Enhancements

We will leverage standard KDE core and upcoming features that are potentially crucial in an enterprise environment. A sample of these include:

  1. KDE Kiosk Mode, also known as lock-down mode, makes it possible to restrict the capabilities of the KDE3 environment in powerful and flexible ways including but not limited to the ability to:

    1. Restrict desktop, application, and printing actions.
    2. Restrict internet access on a URL basis at a desktop-wide level.
    3. Restrict desktop resource customizations.

    Such functionality is invaluable for unattended operation of UserLinux in a kiosk setting as well as for wide-scale enterprise deployment of a controlled environment.

  2. A new easy-to-use administration tool, yet in the stages of development, will build on top of the KDE Kiosk Mode and expand upon the features in an exciting direction. The tool will enable scalable management of users, their settings and IT privileges. The design goals include:

    1. Full scalability from medium to large organisations.
    2. Usable by both KDE and non-KDE applications.
    3. Seamless integration into existing IT infrastructure.
    4. Roaming support.

    Please expect more detail and an official announcement in 2004 Q1.

  3. An Integrated Terminal Server and Client employing a new and highly efficient X compression technology thereby enabling seamless desktop integration of applications based on a remote compute server. This feature will be in addition to KDE's existing remote desktop support (VNC and RDP) and is especially exciting in light of the fact that it enables a satisfying desktop experience on a thin client even with a low-bandwidth connection (e.g. dialup) to the application server. The technology will bring us on par with Citrix, Tarantella, SunRay and Windows Terminal Server offerings.

  4. KDE Print: Enterprise-grade technology for intimate management of printers and print jobs, adaptable to innumerable creative tasks.

  5. KDE Core Killer Apps: Whilst too numerous to list here, we expect to leverage core KDE applications where appropriate. In addition to the well-known applications several pertain directly to the enterprise including:

    1. The upcoming Kontact, an integrated personal information management suite, which in conjunction with the Kolab Server will provide a powerful standards-based groupware solution.
    2. The upcoming KERP, an Enterprise Resource Planner.
    3. A set of financial trading tools currently in development.

    ISVs in particular will be pleased to note that the KDE/Qt environment sports a rich body of development tools that leverage the elegant and powerful framework provided by KDE/Qt as well as tools enabling development in areas ranging from HTML production to UML modelling, CAD design and document publishing.

  6. KDE brings an impressive body of localization and internationalization effort to the table. With over 80 translation teams and KDE 3.2.x to be available in an estimated 50+ languages, KDE is a compelling choice for an enterprise desktop with an international audience.

Features 1 and 2 have been or are being developed by KDE core developer Waldo Bastian who, we note, while not one of the undersigned of this proposal in particular, is highly regarded in the KDE development community, having produced an impressive body of infrastructure and software. Feature 3 is being developed by respected KDE developer Aaron Seigo (and others) with the full support of NoMachine. We have enlisted the support of several KDE and Debian developers to assist us as necessary with the integration of all these features into UserLinux, in addition to the existing channels of KDE and Debian development support.

(Ben Burton, Chris Cheney, Christoph Cullmann, Thomas Diehl, Michael Goffioul, Wilco Greven, Charles Hill, Antonio Larrosa Jimenez, Hamish Rodda, Reinhold Kainhofer, Ralf Nolden, Carsten Pfeiffer, Kurt Pfeifle, Zack Rusin, Aaron Seigo, Daniel Stone)

UserLinux Installer and System Tools

We will leverage core Debian technology while providing a level of GUI polish expected by modern users. Our plans include:

  1. A UserLinux Installer Frontend.

    Currently under consideration is a port of the excellent and pre-existing Ark Linux installer frontend to underlying Debian technology such as debootstrap and debian-installer.

  2. UserLinux System Tools.

    Enterprise users expect intuitive GUI tools for managing UserLinux configuration and deployment. We will implement interfaces that are tightly integrated into the KDE desktop while, of course, leveraging Debian technology such as DebConf when and where possible.

We expect that rapid development technology such as Python/KDE and Perl/KDE, the Qt Designer and KDevelop coupled with a fixed Debian target will make these feasible and practical achievements.

(Juanjo Alvarez, Mario Bensi, Mark Bucciarelli, Clarence Dang, Anonymous Developer, Ludovic Dupont, Alejandro Exojo, Adrien Lafont de Sentenac, Jonathan Riddell, Peter Rockai, Hamish Rodda, Kevin Ottens + Navindra Umanee)

FreeDesktop.org and GNOME/GTK+ Integration

While we are primarily a KDE effort, we acknowledge the existence and importance of other toolkits such as GTK+. As such, we consider the integration of GTK+ applications into the KDE desktop a top priority.

Existing technology enables superficial integration today. In addition, we have devised some exciting new plans to make further integration of GTK+ into KDE seamless to a point. Ultimately however, complete integration is incumbent upon the on-going efforts of the FreeDesktop.org organization.

The KDE project has taken a prominent role in the FreeDesktop.org effort and recognizes that the fruits of its initiatives extend beyond the KDE and GNOME projects themselves. We have enlisted the support and fully endorse the efforts of prominent KDE figures who are active and pro-active in this crucial project.

While ideally transparent to the desktop user, we believe that supporting the GNOME development platform in addition to the KDE platform is of prime importance to ISVs who will be presented with an interesting and relevant choice of technology on which to base free and proprietary solutions.

We are primarily a Free Software effort -- both Qt and GTK+ qualify as Free Software and both enable Free Software development. However, strategically it is in the best interests of UserLinux to support proprietary development in addition to Free Software development.

Qt does both. Licensed under the GPL, it supports and enables Free Software development. Licensed commercially, it allows proprietary development. The Free Software community is recompensed in both cases. In the first, by the creation of Free Software and in the second, by the funding of Free Software (Free Qt). Proprietary developers who do not wish to recompense the Free Software community in this manner are however welcome to use the GTK+ toolkit which is available under the LGPL, allowing for gratis proprietary software development.

In practice, Qt has been overwhelmingly adopted for proprietary development given factors such as quality, features and available support. A quick Google search reveals examples such as VariCAD, QCad, FlagShip, Riviera, products by theKompany, products by Scientific Computers Ltd, the Opera Web Browser, the Adobe Photoshop Album and many more, all of which are proprietary applications. It is harder to find proprietary products based on GTK+, although several do exist.

It is hence undeniably in the best interests of ISVs to be able to make a choice of technology by careful consideration of all factors involved. Regardless of choice, applications deployed by ISVs will be properly supported and integrated into the UserLinux desktop environment.

(Ludovic Dupont, Alexander Neundorf, Kevin Ottens, Lionel Petit, Aaron Seigo + Navindra Umanee)

OpenOffice.org and Mozilla Integration

The importance of OpenOffice.org as an enterprise office suite is also recognized. Technology currently exists and is being developed to make OpenOffice.org a much nicer citizen of the KDE desktop. We intend to track these projects with interest.

The presence of Konqueror, a first-class multi-purpose and integrated web browser for KDE alleviates the need for a customized Mozilla. We understand however that Mozilla has a loyal following and will do our utmost to ensure that it is not out of place on the UserLinux desktop.

(Alexander Neundorf, Navindra Umanee)

Everyone Wins

The successful endorsement and execution of this proposal will present UserLinux with undeniable value and credibility. At the same time we will achieve a level of polish and integration with the base OS previously not possible for the KDE project as a community effort -- simply by striving for an achievable goal.

ISVs stand to gain from a polished desktop environment and platform whilst retaining choice of underlying development tools.

Of the prospective members listed in the UserLinux white paper, a majority have adopted or use the KDE desktop and could significantly benefit from the adoption of this proposal: Conectiva, Skolelinux, Knoppix, Morphix, Xandros, Lindows and Libranet.

KDE Background

Like Debian, KDE is a project based on Free Software principles and is supported by a strong community of developers earnestly working out of passion for beautiful technology whilst remaining independent of commercial interests.

KDE is based on the elegant Qt toolkit by Trolltech and sports many elegant technologies of its own such as the famous Desktop Communications Protocol which has provided new levels of application automation and scriptability, KDE Parts and XML GUI component technology, KDE I/O technology providing transparent desktop-level access to everything from HTTP to SSH, application extensibility through scripting languages such as ECMAScript or Python, a widely-acclaimed and adopted HTML component, premiere development environments such as KDevelop and Quanta and much more. The fruits of such a solid technological foundation are innumerable and do not cease to improve and impress.

KDE has been deployed in significant numbers by enterprises and is supported by many if not all of the major Linux distributions.

Who We Are

We are a group of KDE and/or Debian developers with a dedication to and interest in both projects. We are committed towards seeing the fruitful collaboration of KDE and UserLinux and only expect our numbers to grow. For further information, press inquiries, or if you wish to sponsor or endorse this project, please contact us at [email protected].

We are, lexicographically:

Juanjo Alvarez
Mario Bensi
Achim Bohnet
Eva Brucherseifer
Mark Bucciarelli
Ben Burton
Chris Cheney
Christoph Cullmann
Clarence Dang
Dominique Devriese
Thomas Diehl
Ludovic Dupont
Frans Englich
Philippe Fremy (ISV)
Michael Goffioul
Wilco Greven
Charles Hill
Antonio Larrosa Jimenez
Reinhold Kainhofer
Adrien Lafont de Sentenac
Alexander Neundorf
Ralf Nolden
Kevin Ottens
Lionel Petit
Carsten Pfeiffer
Kurt Pfeifle
Jonathan Riddell
Peter Rockai
Hamish Rodda
Zack Rusin
Aaron Seigo
Daniel Stone
Nathaniel Turner
Adam Treat
Navindra Umanee

Sponsored By

LinuxMagic Inc
NoMachine
OpenSides
produktivIT
SourceXtreme, Inc

Copyright 2003 by the authors. You may translate, excerpt, and reformat to fit your presentation, and you may republish the result, but you may not edit the material to change our opinions or take our statements out of context.

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SYS-CON's Linux News Desk gathers stories, analysis, and information from around the Linux world and synthesizes them into an easy to digest format for IT/IS managers and other business decision-makers.

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Most Recent Comments
Andrew 12/21/03 01:50:57 PM EST

"Licensed under the GPL, it supports and enables Free Software development. Licensed commercially, it allows proprietary development." --- KDE Apologists

One can't help but think that these poor souls have somewhat missed the point.

"It is possible for us to make our system entirely royalty-free for solution developers, both Free and proprietary." -- Bruce Perens.

Kevin 12/21/03 01:45:34 PM EST

I have used both Gnome and KDE, and I have to say that KDE is my favorite. I think it's (okay start the fireballs), because it's more like windows than gnome is.

CD 12/21/03 01:02:41 PM EST

Since when does installing Gnome preclude one from using QT components? I run several QT based applications under Gnome with no problem.

And KDE can still offer itself as a replacement windowing system just as they do now. UserLinux had to make a decision on what they would support -- and supporting one windowing system is easier than supporting two.

I would imagine the support requirements at your large insurance business with mixed platforms of Win2000, WinXP, Win 2003 would give you some insight into this. Why developers haven't embraced the intranet and writing web apps rather than platform dependent apps really is quite astonishing.

If you had a web app rather than a QT/GTK app, you could run on virtually any machine with little dependence on a particular platform -- as long as it ran a web browser.

LP 12/21/03 12:22:53 PM EST

If UserLinux goes ahead with it's plans, I won't bother with it. I work for a large insurance company in Canada, and have a fair amount of input into software acquisition and we have mixed QT/GTK requirements. If any distribution does not include the QT components (or at least the ability to install at setup), they're immediately scratched off of our list.

I hope that UserLinux seriously considers that this move will hinder their progress and make them rather insignificant in comparison to the broader user base and appeal they would have if they offered both libraries like most other distributions.

david porowski 12/21/03 11:36:05 AM EST

No KDE in UserLinux? Only Gnome? WTF!
Since when is GNU/Linux a closed environment? If the "mainstream" Linux distributions insist
abandoning KDE in their distributions, they will NOT (IMHO) remain mainstream for very long.
One of the reasons why RedHat's desktop systems have been abandoned. (And why Sun
will have problems with any private linux distribution. Gnome sucks!) Has Microsoft invaded
linux-land? One of the benefits of linux (and of unix more generally) is the ability to fine tune the deployed platform by application, daemon, AND gui. There is much more of a need to be able to
interoperate between GUI distributions, I will grant, but not the exclusion of any GUI choices.
Limitations and restrictions in UserLinux will guarantee it's ultimate failure because linux is,
by definition, about choices.

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