Erik Kjær Pedersen

A Short Intro

  • Age: 60 (Probably the oldest contributor to KDE?)
  • Located in: Binghamton NY, USA
  • Occupation: Mathematics professor
  • Nickname on IRC: I do not use IRC
  • Homepage: http://www.math.binghamton.edu/erik/

The Interview

In what ways do you make a contribution to KDE?

I do Danish translations for KDE.

When did you first hear of KDE?

I was on sabbatical at Odense University in Denmark 1997/98. While I was there two students lived in my house and used my computer. It had Win 3.1 on one third of the hard disk and OS/2 on another third, but the last third was empty. They wrote and asked me whether they could install Linux on the empty part, and I said yes. When I came back I tried to log into Linux, and I could see the files in the OS/2 partition. Just for fun I used Latex on one of my Tex-files, and I was very surprised that it worked without any problems. That turned me on to Linux, and shortly thereafter I noticed KDE somehow, I am not completely sure how it happened, but I think Red Hat had KDE as an option then.

How and when did you get involved in KDE?

I discovered I could set the language to Danish, but that lots of strings were not translated. I then started translating them and send them to Juraj Bednar who put them into CVS. After a while he suggested I get a CVS account myself.

Are you being paid to work on KDE?

No, it is purely a hobby to me.

How much time do you usually spend on KDE?

I would say on average half an hour per day, more when I am behind, and less when I am caught up.

Which section of KDE is under-rated and could get more publicity?

I think the kio system is absolutely wonderful. On my daughter's machine in Copenhagen she has an icon on the desktop. When she clicks on that she gets a window where the left half is her home directory, and the right half is her home directory on the machine here in the US. She can now move files back and forth just by dragging and dropping, using the machine here as a backup, or to send pictures back and forth.

What do you think is still badly missing in KDE?

I use Skype a lot, and I think giving them some competition might help keep them honest.

Do you have any plans for KDE 4?

I hope to just keep up the Danish translations.

What motivates/keeps you motivated to work on KDE?

I find it relaxing to sit and translate a bit, and I don't like the way the world develops if we are totally dependent on software companies that sometimes have dubious moral values. So I try to help a bit.

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

Well I live in the US, I have lived close to four years in Germany and of course many years in Denmark. The chances are probably best in Germany. In the Maths Department where I work we run KDE on some 50 machines, so it certainly can be done, but except for the Maths Department and the Computer Science Department the university is very Microsoft oriented. I am not too impressed with the decisions that get made by our PHB's. So it will take time.

Which text editor do you use? Why?

I use vi. Many years ago I tried Emacs and learnt about Ctrl-S to search for something. Unfortunately Ctrl-S was also used to lock the screen or something like that, so I gave up on Emacs. I also use Kile to edit TeX-files, mainly to write them. For small corrections vi is more efficient.

Which distribution do you use? Why?

I use Fedora Core 5. We started using Red Hat 5.2 in the department to have a unified system rather than the mixture of Sun, Windows and Macs that was a lot of work to maintain. At the time I figured we should use a local distribution. I am sure I would have chosen SuSE had I been in Europe. We use KDE from Rex Dieter's KDE-Red Hat though, we basically do not upgrade before a new version of KDE has shown up at kde-redhat.

What is KDE's killer app? Why?

Well translation would be almost impossible without KBabel. I really like Akregator because it helps me keep up with the news without surfing around like crazy, and maybe Akregator is not so well known. I will have to say though, that Konqueror is the killer application. When I do the scheduling for the Maths Department I click on an icon and get a Konqueror window where I can edit a database in one pane, see the result in another pane, and compare to last year's schedule in the third pane. It is incredibly useful and makes me very efficient. I am a little afraid that the usability people are going to remove some of the features that makes Konqueror so useful to me, the ability to save a profile giving me an exact set of conditions to return to. I have heard profiles are supposed to be removed for usability reasons, but I really hope that is not true or that it gets replaced by something so I still can use it my way.

What makes you develop for KDE instead of the competition?

The choice is between Gnome and KDE largely, and Gnome emphasises the newbie experience, but I am no longer a newbie. I used to have a Mac, everything was very easy the first time, and then stayed that difficult forever. I was missing the possibility of become educated and do things more efficiently. KDE allows me to do that.

What does your desktop look like?

Rather empty except pictures that change once a minute. I do most things full screen, so it depends on what I am doing
Erik's Desktop

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

My desktop is an HP 220d that I am really happy about, it is called Denal after the street we live on. I have an HP nx5000 laptop that I use when I travel, called Lille which means little in Danish. My wife uses an LC2400 linuxcertified that also works very well. It is a little annoying that I have to compile a kernel on that every time I upgrade because of some HIGHMEM problem, but once I had learnt that I need to do that it is not so bad. That machine is called Laptop. At work we use Dell's and mine is called Odin.

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

Stephan Kulow, David Faure and Lauri Watts are the ones I have communicated most with over the years, so it would be fun to meet them some day, not necessarily on an island.

What is your most brilliant KDE hack?

Well hack I do not know, but it was actually my suggestion that led to the way we translate the docbooks. The actual hack was made by Stephan Kulow, and I helped debugging it. The way documents are translated is extremely efficient, and I am sure the system used by KDE could be used e.g. in the European Union to great advantage.

What is your most embarrassing KDE moment?

When I translated something that could be misread as "a behind" in the physical sense.

Are you going to Akademy in Ireland this year?

No, I do not have the time.

Personal Questions

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

I have been married 28 years to Inger, who is a high school teacher at Johnson City high school. She used to be a German teacher in Denmark, and now she teaches Special Education and one class of German language.

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

They survive. Here is a picture of the three children, Jesper, Anna and Emil at our summer house in Denmark. Anna is holding our youngest dog, Nellie.
Erik's Family

Do you have any pets?

Yes two Welsh corgis, Nellie 2 years old, mentioned above and Mikki who is 13 years old. Mikki runs away when the camera is turned on because of the sound. Here we succeeded getting a picture where he is sitting with Anna. We have always had corgis, Grith, Minni, and now Mikki and Nellie.
Erik's Dog with Daughter

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

In Denmark go to Skagen at the top of Jutland. There is a fantastic museum of the Danish impressionist painters, and it is altogether a remarkable place. When people visit us here in the US, they usually make a trip to Niagara falls and New York city, not too surprisingly.

Which book is on your bedside table?

Irgendwo in Deutschland by Stefanie Zweig. I really liked the movie, Nirgendwo in Afrika, and decided to read the book giving the continuation.

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

Hard to say, probably my mother whose ambitions on my behalf meant I left the village and got more than 7 years of education.

Richard Stallman or Linus Torvalds?

I appreciate both of them. Probably mostly Torvalds. I like Torvalds' pragmatism, I do have non-free software on my computer. But we should always listen to Stallman because it is easy to get trapped. I really do think the data formats are important, and that it is important that we can read what we write today in 20 years. I can not open my own old files written in T3 (heard of that?) and it really annoys me.

How would you describe yourself?

Mathematician. Some of the stereotypes about mathematicians are not totally false.

What do you get passionate about?

I guess I do get passionate about freedom in the sense of Stallman. Lots of people are trying to control us, and I do not like that.

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

I watch a movie on my laptop.

What is your favourite t-shirt?

I don't use T-shirts so much, but I have one from the day they opened the bridge between Fuenen and Sealand. My youngest son Emil and I walked across the bridge and back that day, 11 kilometers. He was 13 at the time and thought it was a bit much. I like these spectacular bridges they have been building in Denmark, and I hope we can soon persuade the Germans to get the last big one between Rdby and Puttgarten built.

What is your favourite place in the world?

I have many favourite places. In recent years I have spent the month of June every year in Münster in Germany. I really like that city, and having a local Pils. But I have travelled a lot, so there are many places I like.