Frans Englich

A Short Intro

  • Age: Early twenties
  • Located in: Sweden and Denmark
  • Nickname on IRC: FransE (although I'm not that often on IRC)

The Interview

In what ways do you make a contribution to KDE?

As with most other KDE developers I do a little bit of each. I try to help the KDE-artists with technical issues, have been involved with Free Desktop's icon naming spec (seconded by the Tango project), and written parts of kdelibs' KUtils library, for example. Occasionally, I stir the water with an article or two.

Most recently I have, together with the other members of the KDOM team, been working on various XML technologies for KDE 4.0.

How and when did you get involved in KDE?

Likely as many others, by reading documents on developer.kde.org and lurking on the various mailing lists. My first contribution, if memory serves me correctly, was a syntax highlightning script for Kate that handles the scripting language found in games built upon Id Software's Quake engine. It shipped with KDE 3.0, and is probably a nice example of classic itch-scratching.

Are you being paid to work on KDE?

Many people have commented on the drawbacks of being paid for exercising your passion. Their points are to me fair, but I think nevertheless I would be able to handle it, as well as enjoy it.

Do you have any plans for KDE 4?

MS Internet Explorer, the Mozilla family, Safari, and Opera supports XSL-T 1.0. Konqueror does not, and is really lagging behind in this area. My plan for KDE 4 is to add XSL-T 2.0 support to Konqueror, and by that hopefully making it the most attractive browser on this planet in this aspect. But I'm developing on an Open Source basis, so what actually happens is unsure.

XSL-T support is on the other hand only one piece of the power pack of XML technologies maturing in kdenonbeta which at some point is planned to move to kdelibs, becoming the new backend in KHTML and available for use in applications. XQuery 1.0 will also be available (developed simultaneously with XSL-T), of course XPath 2.0, XInclude support in Konqueror (a mechanism similar to #include instructions, but for XML), and OASIS XML Catalogs, among other things. Apart from XQuery/XSL-T which is currently under development, it is all complete and essentially awaiting integration.

However, what I find the most interesting overall is the KDOM platform which everything is built around. Apart from what I've mentioned above, KDOM brings an efficient DOM implementation, DOM Core level 3, DOM Load And Save (the ability to open and save files from ECMAScript), of course the DOM XPath module, XPointer, and SVG support of the heavy kind. Much of this is still in development by the KDOM folks so it will be interesting to see how much that will reach a level of solid, full conformance.

And once I've finished my work in the XML area... I would like to write a "KDE Development Book" with a community approach by turning developer.kde.org into a Docbook source.

But all of that is really wrong. I think we all should let go what we have in our hands and improve usability instead. That's the area which need improvement the most, not fancy features and technical backends.

What motivates/keeps you motivated to work on KDE?

I am not that determined on that. I would for example find it to be great fun to work more with the GNOME people, partly because of how excellent usability engineers they are.

I like Open Source in general, no particular which camp. The ability to give technology to those who need it the most but have the smallest opportunity for acquiring it, is great. Also, the absence of the problems commercialism has, makes it invaluable for the IT community.

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

I think Sweden and Denmark have an KDE/Open Source adoption approach similar to other western countries. That is, not that much home users, but educational institutions, technical areas, back office and so forth.

However, it wouldn't surprise me if Open Source has peaked in terms of importance. I think the IT landscape looked vastly different a half decade ago; none of the large companies blogged and it was more monolithic and closed up than it is today. Open Source has done wonders by providing competition and balance. But of course, Open Source must stay in order to make that healthiness persistent.

Which text editor do you use? Why?

Vim, although I don't get religious about it. Emacs seem fine, and it is one of many things I would like to look closer at. However, Vim & friends are to me indescribable time savers. I can't imagine serious coding with the text edit widgets you find in the mainstream IDEs.

Nevertheless, when sitting there with 10-12 konsole tabs and my Vim instances, I can't help to think it has a stone age feel over it. I have promised myself to at somepoint switch to a graphical IDE such as KDevelop, because I believe they are productivity boosters, especially when it comes to large projects. But, as many others also thinks, they are still insufficient. Alexander Dymo discussed it on kde-core-devel. KDevelop will likely improve over time – I am crossing my thumbs!

What makes you develop for KDE instead of the competition?

You mean why I work on KDE instead of Microsoft Windows? Because that's the only competitor KDE has, due to Microsoft's market dominance. I probably have no strong reason to pick KDE in front of for example GNOME. I think that KDE at the moment has a better technical foundation, but GNOME has the advantage of better usability. I am quite sure we can find different opinions on that.

What does your desktop look like?

Broken. An old Slackware installation with layers of installed software, behaves and looks there after. It's one of those machines you need to type furiously at to get started.

Sometimes I browse KDE-Look and glare at how pretty a Linux desktop could look. It looks like we developers don't enjoy great software. We enjoy the state of chasing great software.

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

My machines are named by characters in the Phantom comics. My switch is named Guran (he's the head of all the pygmys), and isn't Eden a nice place to answer an interview on.

What is your most brilliant KDE hack?

I'm not that impressed by brilliant hacks. Anyone, after having sweeped a half can of coffee, can code straight through a day delivering a "cool" proof-of-concept. What impresses me is the stable, well-documented, regression-tested, and usability tested software. That's something a user can use. One doesn't get very far with a piece of software that was created for showing off the programmer's ego.

Coding something cool is not hard work and therefore not difficult. Implementing boring parts, writing documentation, creating test cases requires actual effort. I also thinks that KDE needs that: we get feature frenzy and forget to fully complete things or consider what is actually needed.

What is your most embarrassing KDE moment?

I am probably blocking that out... but I remember at least one.
A year or two ago, I attempted to "explain" why a commit broke KDE's licensing policy. It ended with Waldo Bastian replying to my "correction" suggesting that I should read KDE's licensing policy (because I was dead wrong). Ups! I found that quite embarassing.

However, my feeling of embarassingness shouldn't have been justified. There's nothing wrong with being wrong. The only case where feeling embarassed is justified, is when being wrong with a harsh attitude. But then the mistake was already done: the harsh tone. And that was why one was embarassed, not because of being wrong, but because of being a smartass.

Did you go to Akademy? What did you see/What did you miss?

No, I have unfortunately not been to any Akademy, due to financial reasons. It would be fun to meet KDE developers and the Apple folks face to face.

Personal Questions

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

Sweden has lots of forest. I think the deep, dark forest has a wonderful calm to it. Perhaps one must grow up with it.

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


Richard Stallman or Linus Torvalds?

I try not to camp. Anyone who questions his craft receives my attention, and Linus does that. He seems to be a good engineer.

I think Richard receives, relative to Linus, a large amount of critism. I don't think it is justified. It seems people fail to understand how effective the GNU GPL license is at promoting Free Software/Open Source, and that these radical, principal and stubborn ideas are essential for Open Source's survival.


What is your favourite place in the world?

The shower, no question. Considering the cuddly feeling one gets, it must be some kind of a womb simulator. I solve many problems while being massaged by the hot, sparkling water.
Have you noticed that quite a few KDE developers have a passion for showering? I think there is a demand for a KDE Showering Club!