Derek Kite

A Short Intro

  • Age: 47
  • Located in: Nelson, BC, Canada
  • Occupation: Refrigeration mechanic
  • Nickname on IRC: derekkite

The Interview

In what ways do you make a contribution to KDE?

I publish the KDE Commit Digest each week.

The Digest is appreciated by a lot of people. Can you explain how the process of creating a digest is done? And how does it work now you have received help in this area?

There are two stages. First is reading and selecting notable commits from the kde-commits list. Watching what developers are working on, seeing work in progress allows you to select one or a few commits that describe what they are doing. These commits are sorted by type, ie. features, bugfixes, then by category ie. Multimedia, User Interface etc. Scripts are run that gather the statistics, a commentary and summary are written, and all the files are uploaded to the server. The server application then generates what people can read.

There is now a group of us working to produce the Digest. Jonathan Lee, Razmi Ferchichi and Sam Weber are helping with composition and writing.

When did you first hear of KDE?

My sister-in-law gave me a copy of Redhat 5.2. I had been running OS/2 which by that time was fading away. Linux was very different and somewhat confusing, so I looked for a graphical interface to allow the rest of the family to access the computer. The multitudes of environments were interesting, but KDE was the only one that seemed to work. It was downhill from there.

How and when did you get involved in KDE?

As the desktop matured, I watched many flamewars that seemed to center around why something wasn't finished yet. Other than the obvious need for developers, there was a lack of understanding of what is involved in putting together a working desktop. A seemingly straightforward feature is the result of one or a few developers working away for sometimes months. I wanted to see what was happening in KDE, what people were working on. So I started doing a report, which seems to have taken on a life of it's own. That was in the fall of 2003.

Are you being paid to work on KDE?

Hmm. Lets see. I've got use of a suite of free software that ranges from development tools to games, office suite, browser and it all works well. When I bought my first computer, a 286 with 40 meg hd, I purchased around $1000 worth of software to make it useful. No one writes me a check every two weeks, but I feel I'm amply compensated.

How much time do you usually spend on KDE?

Three hours a week to prepare the Digest, then a bit of time when available to maintain the scripts.

When I started developing, I was waiting for the digest to see if I made it to the Digest. Can you provide any tips to get into the Digest?

Write descriptive commit logs. This will make maintaining changelogs much easier. CC to the Digest email, or notify us of what you are working on. If your style is lots of small commits, every so often explain what you have done up to then.

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

kde-edu. The quality of offerings is outstanding.

What do you think is still badly missing in KDE?

A year ago I would have said a RAD environment, but with the ruby bindings, kjsembed and now the very interesting database tools that is no longer the case. I would say that fit and finish is still missing in many applications. Everything doesn't quite work as expected.

Can you explain a bit more about those things?

A little while ago I tried scripting some minor tasks using dcop. The application had the capabilities and features I wanted, and the dcop calls, but they didn't quite work as expected. Fit and finish. Something I learned a long time ago when programming is that other people will find flaws by doing things in a different way. Many applications in KDE are just getting to the point where they are really useful. With use these minor nits will get fixed. These situations present opportunities to start in KDE development. The fixes aren't complicated, the code is generally very easy to follow.

What are your future plans for KDE?

Keep cranking out the Digest. The current layout sucks and looks like a mud fence. Since I can't draw a picture to save my life, my goals are to enlist help in a layout redesign.

Do you have any specific goals for KDE 4?

Not really.

What motivates/keeps you motivated to work on KDE?

The pace of change. What I see as a perfect desktop is slowly coming to fruition. Faster, better looking, more powerful. It is hard not to be interested.

Which application in KDE do you think definitely needs some usability work?

Kontact. This is not a criticism by any means, just a recognition of the immense challenge involved in bringing everything together. Now that Kontact is matured enough to be a viable tool, we will see the fine tuning that comes only from usage.

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

Hmm. This is a tough one. I am the only KDE user that I know of in my area. I'm sure there are others, but Microsoft is well entrenched.

What is your favourite widget style?


Which text editor do you use? Why?

Kate, because it remembers what I was doing.

Which distribution do you use? Why?

Kubuntu. Haven't figured out why, and probably will explore something else.

What is KDE's killer app? Why?

Konqueror. Because Linux users are first class citizens for this browser.

People complain a lot and a lot of people have Mozilla Firefox installed. If you have five minutes to convince them to deinstall Firefox, what would you say? What are the unique points of Konqueror for you?

Applications have a life cycle starting with the initial idea and implementation, then a long and seemingly tedious maturation process where progress is slow, and at one point improvements are dramatic and noticable. Konqueror has hit the point where the final few annoyances are being stomped out. Try out the latest version. It will be better than the last (barring any regressions). The strengths of the initial vision are becoming obvious. A fast, correct rendering engine.

There is another reason. I have been using computers since the late 80's. I started with MS-DOS, and it seemed that if my needs and desires were satisfied by the software it was purely incidental. Other more important issues drove development, issues usually dictated by some marketing department, or desire to dominate the industry. These zero sum games always seemed to leave me out.

How does that relate to Konqueror? Consider the difference between purchasing vegetables from a supermarket as opposed to a market farmer next door. If the supermarket satisfies my needs it is purely incidental in their pursuit of market share and dominance. I have the privilege of getting to know and trust the developers of Konqueror. I can see what goes in. My satisfaction is not incidental, but I am one of the people that the developers are trying to satisfy because I am in the majority; I use Linux, I depend on one of the many packaging and distribution systems for Linux, I depend on the security mechanisms that characterize free software.

What makes you develop for KDE instead of the competition?

KDE welcomed a commit digest. Others request money.

What does your desktop look like?

Desktop Derek
(click on image)

What type is your laptop/desktop? What is it named?

Whitebox AMD XP2400 with 512mb ram, 200 gigs hd.

If you were a KDE app, which one would you be? Why?

Control Center. Full of things, a bit disorganized, frustrating with moments of brilliance. Many try to improve with little success, and every time you look for something it has changed.

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

Stephan Binner. Having someone practical would increase the chance of finding something to eat.

What users do you have in mind when you're developing for KDE?

Technical. A particularly satisfying moment happened a week ago. I was on irc when WildFox, who spends his free time with the intricacies of svg mentioned how much he appreciated the Digest.

What is your most brilliant KDE hack?

I don't know about brilliant, but massaging cvs to produce commit lists was a challenge.

What is your most embarrassing KDE moment?

Probably in the first few weeks where I spelled people's names wrong.

If we were to start a TV campaign could you think of a nice slogan for KDE?

Be surprised.

Are you coming to akademy 2005 this year?


Personal Questions

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

Married with one daughter that has left home. We just celebrated our 25th anniversary.

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


Do you have any pets?

Just lost our dog, a mixed breed we got from the SPCA. His name was Chase.

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

A real special spot is the old cemetery behind Ainsworth, BC. If you go to the hot springs, take the lane behind the resort and keep going. There is a flat bench of land with large trees, a cliff overlooking Kootenay Lake.

Old Cemetery
(click on image)

Which book is on your bedside table?

At the moment, the novel Brass Wall, and a printout of the Ruby on Rails manual.

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

My parents who gave me love, taught me faith. My mom still figures that I was a perfect teenager.

Richard Stallman or Linus Torvals?

Linus. Pragmatic, and finds a way to bring the best out of others.

How would you describe yourself?

Stubborn, grouchy and opinionated. Other than that pretty easy to get along with.

What do you get passionate about?

How many things? My family, my faith, hockey, computer programming and KDE, my job, keeping in shape. Pretty well what I'm doing at the moment.

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

Read or think through a complex technical problem.

Which T.V. show world would you fit right into?

Apprentice. I'd be fired the first week for insubordination.

What is your favourite t-shirt?

The one with a pocket for my pocket protector.

Among your friends, what are you are best known for?

Tripping them when they have a breakaway.

What is your favourite place in the world?

Not really a physical place. I like to be with family or anywhere I am challenged to learn.

What's your favourite web site at the moment?

The Canadian political scene is rather interesting at the moment.

Two blogs;

What's your signature at the moment?