Alexander Neundorf

A Short Intro

The Interview

In what ways do you make a contribution to KDE?

Being booth staff on events, writing code and recently working on the build system.

Back in the KDE 2 days I worked on the directory views of Konqueror, the first working samba ioslave (which has been replaced by a libsmb-based variant), a not-really-working nfs-ioslave (which needs a maintainer), LAN browsing (which will hopefully be replaced by the dnssd stuff) and bugfixing here and there. Recently I worked a bit on KDevelop and implemented a project file generator for KDevelop in cmake.

In the last four weeks I was very busy with setting up a cmake buildsystem for building kdelibs. After two weeks of work it was able to compile kdelibs on Linux, FreeBSD and OS X, and now it also works on Windows (msvc and mingw).

The biggest hurdles have been to find out how it actually should get built under windows and how to tune the configure checks so that they produce the correct results on windows.

With cmake you can generate Makefiles under Linux, FreeBSD, OS X and windows, but also project files for KDevelop, XCode and Visual Studio and use these to work on e.g. kdelibs.

When did you first hear of KDE?

Not sure, must have been late 1997 or 1998. I started using it when focus-follows-mouse was implemented in kwm. Until then I had used fvwm, which I had used since I installed Linux for the first time in winter 1996.

How and when did you get involved in KDE?

In summer 1997 I was looking for a GUI toolkit for Linux, when I read an article about Qt in the German c't magazine (it must have been the famous article by Matthias Kalle Dahlheimer, which inspired so many KDE developers). Right after that I downloaded Qt and started learning and working with it. Since then I consider Qt a fantastic piece of software.

In early 1998 I wrote a GUI for the samba command line tools which I called qnetmon and published it. Later that year Xris suggested to me to turn qnetmon into knetmon, so I replaced QApplication with KApplication and so it turned into my first KDE application (which never made it out of kdenonbeta for various reasons). So it seems I have an KDE cvs account since 1998. In early 2000, when KDE 2 was approaching, I complained about some issues in Konqueror, when David Faure pointed me to the source files and basically told me: "there are the files, do it yourself" :-)

Since then I'm actively working in KDE cvs/svn.

Are you being paid to work on KDE?


How much time do you usually spend on KDE?

This varies. When I still was at university (until 2002) it was significantly more.

Now it's usually maybe 3 or 4 days per week one to three hours per day. But in the last 4 weeks basically every free minute.

Which section of KDE is underrated and could get more publicity?

KDevelop. It's a very good IDE, but needs more users (...and since KDevelop users are developers, some of them will hopefully become KDevelop developers :-)

It is very plugin-friendly, and writing some plugins for special tasks like developing for embedded systems shouldn't be too hard.

What do you think is still badly missing in KDE?

More polishing. We have many applications with many and very cool features, but which need polishing: the first two apps which come to my mind are Konqueror and KDevelop. Konqueror stems from the KDE 2.0 days, when we were proud to show what we can do. E.g. we have three ways to open a terminal in Konqueror, each with its deficiencies, none of them works as good as the built-in shell in midnight commander. They should be merged into one really good working implementation. There are more things like this, polishing the profile support in Konqueror and other things. This may involve removing some of the more esoteric features which some people might miss, but I think it should be done nevertheless. E.g. loading a different profile within a running Konqueror, or "chaining" and "locking" views, these concepts are probably only to understand by developers.

One thing which needs to be improved is multimedia. IMO this means getting rid of arts for KDE4 and maybe even ship a good video player by default with KDE. But the actual problem here is not KDE, but the patent situation.

With Phonon getting in shape things are looking good for KDE 4 and beyond.

Do you have any plans for KDE 4?

Getting a buildsystem which is better than autotools, be it scons or cmake. Since almost exactly four weeks I'm working on compiling kdelibs with cmake.

Besides that I'd like to work on Konqueror and KDevelop, but I'm not sure I'll find the time.

What motivates/keeps you motivated to work on KDE?

I'm working on it for so long that I simply feel bad if I don't care for it. The community is great. It's always nice to meet with the other KDE guys. It is very motivating that you know you are working on something which will be used by many people all over the world. From time to time there are emails coming in where the sender just wanted to say "thank you" for our work and that he likes what we are doing, this always makes you feel good.

Only a few years ago basically all information was stored on paper. Everybody can write on paper and everybody can read it. But in the last maybe 20 years things have changed and now a big part of the existing information can only be accessed using computers. We are developing software which makes this information again freely accessable for everybody, without having to pay money for the tools required to read the information and without having to rely on some company.

I didn't really care about this issue that much when I still was at university, but since I go to work everyday this has changed. Basically everybody uses a PC which runs Windows and writes documents using Word, be it in the industry, educational system, medical system or in the public authorities. IMO this is quite problematic, basically everything depends on the products of one company. Computers have become so common, that the tools and knowledge required to work with them should be freely available to the public. That's why I am convinced that open source software will succeed, especially for common computing tasks (operating system, office stuff, web,...).

What chances do you see in your country for KDE as a desktop platform?

Quite good, but they were better when KDE was the only default desktop on SUSE.

Which text editor do you use? Why?

For small editing tasks I use joe (killer feature: ctrl-k h). Recently it even features syntax highlighting. I guess I'm one of very few KDE developers who can use neither vi nor emacs.

For developing I used xfte exclusively until maybe two years ago. Since then I use also kate (mainly for ruby and cmake) and KDevelop (C++).

Which distribution do you use? Why?

Slackware. It's KISS. It requires that you know what you do, but if you do know, you know how your system really works, and nothing gets in the way. It's fast. The booting system is much faster and much simpler than in other distros. The package system doesn't get in your way. It's completely stable.

On the negative side: it's not always bleeding edge, and automatic updates are not really supported.

On my laptop I have SUSE, Kubuntu and a FreeBSD installed, to play around with them.

What is KDE's killer app? Why?

Although not a real app, I'd say the ioslaves. They really add value to the KDE applications. Without them KDE applications would also be nice and consistent and feature-rich etc., but ioslaves add possibilities you simple don't have with any other applications. But you asked for applications, well, Konqueror as the most prominent user of ioslaves, kate as a really nice texteditor, KDevelop for being very light-weight compared to Eclipse, Konsole for multi-tabbing and k3b and amarok for being just really good applications.

What makes you develop for KDE instead of the competition?

See above, why I'm motivated. Also I think that C++ is a better language than C. Everything you can do in C you can do also in C++, but you have a lot of additional features which make the language more safe and more expressive.

What does your desktop look like?

Desktop screenshot

Note: I'm still using focus-follows-mouse until focus-follows-mind will be finally implemented ;-)

If you were shipwrecked and had to share an island with a KDE contributor who would it be?

Carsten Niehaus, it's always fun to be with him.

What is your most brilliant KDE hack?

I can't think of any.

What is your most embarrassing KDE moment?

As above.

Personal Questions

First things first. Married, partner or up for adoption?

Together with Antje since 1998, see photo above.

If you have a partner or children, how do they cope with a KDE addict?

Well, she uses KDE exclusively at home since we live together without major problems. She finds it cool that I'm working on KDE, but she still prefers if I spend the time with her instead of hacking on KDE ;-)Tina and Toto

Do you have any pets?

Two budgies, Tina (the green one) and Toto (the gray-blue one)

If someone visits your country, which spot is a must-see?

Since Germany is so big, I'll concentrate on Thuringia, where I come from. So a must-see (or better must-eat) is a barbecue with original "Thüringer Roster"

Which book is on your bedside table?

Currently it is "Grenzenlose Weite" by Axel Brümmer and Peter Glöckner, a report of their trip across the Australian continent only with their bikes. Before that it read "Kreuzfahrer von heute" ("The crusaders") by Stefan Heym, a very good book. He is a German, but served in the US army during the second world war. This inspired him for this book.

Who or what in your life would you say influenced you most?

Besides of course my family and friends I think it was the "peaceful revolution" in the GDR in 1989. Although I was only 12 years at this time I experienced it very intensivly. People demonstrated without violence on the streets for democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the freedom to travel (in the GDR it was almost impossible for the average citizen to visit one of the western countries). "Normal" people took responsibility for their country and politics and succeeded with this. Everything changed at this time.

Equal rights for everybody, no unjustified privileges e.g. for politicians and an open information policy in political issues, these are topics which are also today still important.

Additionally it was the victory of Olaf Ludwig in 1986 when he won the cycling race called Friedensfahrt, and David Faure as a KDE developer.

Richard Stallman or Linus Torvalds?

Not sure. Maybe Stallman, without the GPL Linux probably wouldn't be what it is today. He is the one with the vision, Linus is the pragmatic one.

How would you describe yourself?

I like riding my racing bike, reading and obviously working on software. For me the most valuable thing you have in life is time. No money in the world can buy you just one second of time which has passed.

What do you get passionate about?

Besides the things already mentioned, the Tour de France. Go Ulle ! :-)

You're stuck on a train for 6 hours and are bored out of your skull. What do you do to amuse yourself?

Nothing exciting: reading, looking out the window.

What is your favourite place in the world?

The place where my friends and my familiy are.