MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — With version 4.0 of the popular KDE Linux desktop released, the KDE team has set a roadmap for future releases of the technology.
Aaron Seigo, vice president of KDE e.V., the governing body for the KDE technology, said that at the end of January, the KDE team plans to release KDE 4.0.1, “and we’ll be doing a minor release every month.”
Seigo also said the KDE team will not leave its 3.5 users in the lurch, delivering an upgrade to that release, known as KDE 3.5.9, in February.
“We haven’t forgotten about [KDE] 3.5, because we have a lot of users with large installations and they don’t change their installations very often,” he said. “[KDE 3.5.9] will come with an enterprise version of Kontact,” the KDE PIM (personal information manager).
The KDE team will continue to support KDE 3.5 because the move to KDE 4.0 is a big jump for organizations that prefer to migrate slowly, KDE officials said. KDE 4.1 is expected to ship in July.
In the KDE hierarchy, there are two types of people: dudes and contributors. And dudes have a bit more clout in the otherwise flat hierarchy.
At the KDE 4.0 release event here at Google headquarters Jan. 18, Troy Unrau, a KDE marketing dude, told eWEEK that, “technologically, this is equivalent to the jump between [Mac] OS 9 and OS X. A lot of things have been redesigned and a lot of things are going to have to get worked out. But it introduced a bunch of new things. That’s the sort of technology jump that we have here and that’s what we’re celebrating.”
KDE 4.0 brings significant improvements in the way of libraries and frameworks to support the platform, Seigo said. For instance, the Phonon multimedia framework provides platform independent multimedia support to all KDE applications, the Solid hardware integration framework makes interacting with devices easier and provides tools for better power management, KDE officials said
In addition, the KDE 4 Desktop gained some major new capabilities. The Plasma desktop shell offers a new desktop interface, including panel, menu and widgets on the desktop as well as a dashboard function. KWin, the KDE Window manager, now supports advanced graphical effects to ease interaction with your windows, Seigo said.
Dolphin is the new file manager and Okular is a new document viewer for KDE 4, and both applications leverage the new underlying components in KDE 4. Oxygen is the KDE 4 artwork. The new desktop shell is called Plasma, which unifies the panels and taskbars with widgets on the desktop, he said.
“It provides us with a resolution-independent default interface,” Seigo said. “What this means is we can take these same items and put them on very small systems or larger systems to make it part of a media center or a handheld device like the [Asus] EEE PC.”
Jeff Mitchell, a KDE desktop dude and lead for the KDE-based Amarok music player for Linux and Unix, said that, “one thing that device manufacturers have now is they have these smaller screens and the Plasma desktop allows you to scale up and down.
Jesse Zbikowski, author of the Linux Is Fun blog and member of BALOG (Bay Area Linux User Group), said he likes “the little desktop applets they have now. They’re part of Plasma. It’s just like what Apple’s got on Mac OS X where you have the little window on your desktop and you run whatever you want inside it.”
Meanwhile, as the Solid framework gives the system easy access to hardware events, the Phonon system addresses a sore spot in multimedia support, he said.
“Another sore spot we noticed was multimedia; multimedia support in the free software world is sketchy,” Seigo said. Doing cross-platform multimedia support was even more difficult. Phonon comes to fill that gap.
“Phonon does for multimedia what Solid does for hardware,” he said. “It gives developers a future-proof, cross-platform, clear and consistent way to add multimedia features very quickly to their applications.”
Seigo said that with about five lines of code, a developer could add an entire video player. “This is going to bring multimedia to the free software world,” Seigo said.
Meanwhile, VOIP (voice over IP) and instant messaging have become a large part of people’s day-to-day use of their computers, he said. The Decibel project is a KDE effort to deliver a communications framework for KDE 4.0. It is still in development but it aims to integrate all communication protocols into the desktop.
KDE’s Akonadi is a PIM storage service. The Akonadi project is an effort to deliver an extensible cross-desktop storage service for PIM data and meta data providing concurrent read, write and query access.
“We decided people should be able to access their calendaring and mail and contacts wherever, so smart people in our PIM group said let’s start with a storage solution,” Seigo said.
Nepomuk, another element of KDE, is an effort to deliver a “social semantic desktop,” Seigo said. The project is funded by the European Commission at 11.5 million Euros, said Paul Adams, vice president of research and development at Sirius Corp.
“It’s a future project to take desktop search and make it useful for everyone,” Seigo said.
KDE 4.0 also features the ThreadWeaver library, which provides a high-level interface to make better use of multi-core systems, he said.