Open-Source Tools Fuel Web, Desktop Development

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-07-31

Open-Source Tools Fuel Web, Desktop Development

Open-source community developers have been awash in news this summer, particularly the past few weeks surrounding the O'Reilly Open Source Convention, July 21-25 in Portland, Ore.

Sun Microsystems on July 23 announced the availability of the Sun Web Stack, an integrated enterprise-quality AMP (Apache/MySQL/Perl or PHP) stack for Solaris and Linux operating systems. The Web Stack software includes the software most commonly used for Web-tier application development and services.  The Web Stack is available for download at

Sun also announced that it is open-sourcing the core components of the Sun Java System Web Server 7.0 and Sun Java System Web Proxy technologies under a BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) license in the Web Stack subproject of the OpenSolaris community. The Web and Proxy source code will be available in the third quarter of this year.

"By open-sourcing the core technology in our Web and Proxy server, Sun's goal is to give developers more flexibility, choice and help them achieve faster time to market," said Karen Tegan Padir, vice president of engineering for Software Infrastructure at Sun. 

Meanwhile, Sun and Joyent announced a collaboration aimed at accelerating the development and deployment of social applications for Facebook and OpenSocial environments. The program lets developers deploy their social applications on an open infrastructure at no initial cost, by providing up to 12 months free Web hosting on Joyent's Cloud, a flexible first-class infrastructure powered by OpenSolaris on Sun's servers, as well as training on Web-scale application development,

In conjunction with this offering, Sun and Joyent are organizing a multi-city Social App Tour to offer training on developing Web-scale social applications on the Cloud. The tour will travel to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Vancouver, British Columbia, Chicago, Boston, New York, Dallas and Austin, Texas, between September and December.

New Java Apps and Features

The Java and systems company announced the availability of Sun OpenSSO Express, a new offering that provides enterprise support and indemnification for the technologies available in the OpenSSO project. OpenSSO is an open-source, identity management project, providing scalable, high-performance single sign-on, access management, federation, and secure Web services capabilities.

Meanwhile, on the open-source desktop front, on July 29, the KDE Community released KDE 4.1, the second feature release of the KDE 4 series.

The new release delivers new applications and features on top of the "Pillars" of KDE 4. For instance, KDE 4.1 is the first KDE 4 release to contain the PIM (personal information manager) suite KDE-PIM with its e-mail client KMail; the planner KOrganizer; Akregator, the RSS feed reader; KNode, the newsgroup reader; and many more components integrated into the Kontact shell.

The new desktop shell Plasma, introduced in KDE 4.0, has matured to the point where it can replace the KDE 3 shell for most casual users. As with the previous release, much time has been devoted to improving the framework and underlying libraries on which KDE is built.

Wade Olson, a member of the KDE Marketing Working Group, said in general, there are several significant accomplishments with the 4.1 release to consider, such as the release date itself: "After an extended development cycle for KDE 4.0, it's important to get back to a predictable release schedule for -distros,' businesses, schools and users that depend on KDE," Olson said. "We announced at our 4.0 release event our schedule for smaller point releases and this first larger release, and we've delivered on time." Also, regarding the pace of development, "There has been no slowdown in activity after the 4.0 release," he said. "New contributors are joining faster than ever and code changes [commits] are occurring as fast as ever."

Dirk Muller, one of KDE's release managers, said: "There have been 20,803 commits made from KDE 4.0 to KDE 4.1 along with 15,432 translation check-ins. Almost 35,000 commits have been done in work branches, some of them also being merged into KDE 4.1, so those were not even counted."

The key improvements in KDE 4.1 are: The KDE-PIM suite is back; the KDE Plasma desktop shell matures; and there are many new applications and frameworks, KDE e.V. officials said.

"Even though the pace of code change is very rapid, the quality of the code changes can be attributed to the work done on our KDE libraries and 'Pillars of KDE'-Phonon for audio, Oxygen for Look and Feel, Akonadi for Personal Data storage, Plasma for the desktop, etc.," Olson said. "User expectations for modern desktops like compositing window managers are being met with rapid improvements in stability, performance and sensible implementation with KWin," KDE's window manager, he said.

For developers, the Akonadi PIM storage framework provides an efficient way of storing and retrieving e-mail and contact data across applications, KDE officials said. Also, KDE applications can be written using Python and Ruby. Libksane provides easy access to image-scanning applications such as the new Skanlite, as well as a shared emoticons system that is used by the KMail and Kopete e-mail client and instant messaging system, respectively.

"The improvement and overall stability of KDE 4.1 is due to the release of KDE 4.0, not despite KDE 4.0," Olson said. "By getting KDE 4.0 finalized and in the hands of community members and developers, we've given the tools to port and improve all of KDE's applications.  KDE 4.1 has a significant number of improvements over 4.0 in only six months' time."

Added Olson: "In general, with KDE 4.0 we targeted developers.  With KDE 4.1 we're now targeting early adopters.  This release should give these users the confidence and reassurance that KDE has the foundation in place to make some great strides with software.  This KDE 4 platform will be around for years, and the next couple of releases will really start to show the benefits of our preparation."

Meanwhile, KDE e.V. officials said KDE 4.2 can be expected in January 2009.


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