Gunnar Schmi Dt

A Short Intro

  • Located in: Paderborn, Germany
  • Occupation: Graduate student of Computer Science
  • Nickname on IRC: Schmi-Dt (although I am not often on IRC)

The Interview

In what ways do you make a contribution to KDE?

I am mostly active in the KDE Accessibility Project.

When did you first hear of KDE?

When I started my studies back in 1997 I bought a computer and installed Linux on it. If I remember correctly KDE was not yet part of that distribution, but it was part of the first upgrade I bought for my Linux distribution.

How and when did you get involved in KDE?

That was years later. In summer 2002 I started to write KMouth, an application that allows the user to type in sentences that will then become spoken by the computer. (I wrote that application because my mother had an illness in her last years that caused her to be able to do fewer and fewer things. In 2002 she slowly lost the control of her tongue and as a result of that she lost her voice.) As KDE was my favorite desktop I naturally wrote the application for KDE. (Although that was my first C++ application -- until then I had written software in Pascal and Java).

Are you being paid to work on KDE?

No, although I am considering to apply for a job where I am being paid for working on KDE or accessibility when I have finished my studies.

How much time do you usually spend on KDE?

Well, that differs. There are times when I spend up to twelve hours per day for working on KDE and there are times when I spend the same time for my studies.

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

The Accessibility project could live with many more people. Some jobs that can increase the accessibility of KDE without requiring much knowledge about programming are to test all applications in order to find accessibility issues and to read bug reports and decide whether they are accessibility related or not.

What do you think is still missing badly in KDE?

The support for AT-SPI (Assistive Technology Service Provider Interface), although that is currently worked on. AT-SPI is a protocol which enables assistive technologies like screen readers or on-screen-keyboards to both query and control the user interface of other applications.

If that does not count we could live with some additional assistive technologies. More important than copying GOK or Gnopernicus (which are great assistive technologies, written with libraries from the wrong desktop ;-), but which will perfectly interoperate once we have AT-SPI support in KDE) are assistive technologies for persons with yet uncovered needs.

What are your future plans for KDE?

I will keep an eye on the accessibility of KDE. While the support for AT-SPI is a big step, it is not all that can be done for improving the accessibility for KDE. The widget styles need to become configurable in their sizes and need to work well with the White-on-Black color scheme, for example.

What motivates/keeps you motivated to work on KDE?

Writing software is my hobby (With my studies I have the chance to make my hobby to my profession). As I use KDE on my desktop it is natural that I write for KDE.

A hot item at the moment is software integration, what's your opinion about that subject with regard to KDE?

Integrating non-KDE software into KDE is an important step for making the desktop consistent. However, it seems that KDE has to do a lot in order to tell people that a given software is integrated, as the level of integration and consistency in KDE is very high.

We need at least a basic integration in order to support a good accessibility of the whole desktop (with all of its applications).

Which application would you like to see integrated in KDE and how would you achieve that?

Gnopernicus and GOK need to be well integrated. A good starting point for that is the support for AT-SPI (which is currently worked on by Trolltech).

Novell acquired Ximian in August for about 20 million. Do you regret not starting your own KDE company? If so what's stopping you?

No, I do not regret not starting my own KDE company. For me having the pleassure to see an application grow is more important than earning a lot of money.

Even if I wanted to earn a lot of money, then I would not start KDE company but a company that sells assistive technologies to people with disabilities. The health insurance in Germany only pays for equipment that are approved by the government, and those devices are really expensive, so I imagine that you can earn a lot in that area.

What is your favorite widget style?

I don't really have a favorite widget style. Currently I use the Keramik widget style, but that is mainly because Keramik is the default style.

What does your desktop look like?

The desktop on the screen is surrounded with two panels at the bottom and at the right. On the right I have several applets running. The bottom panel is reserved for icons for starting applications, the task bar and two clocks (a digital one and a fuzzy one), a third (analog) clock is at the top of the right panel. On the background of the desktop you can see the accessibility trio (Tux in a wheelchair, Beastie with a bandage around its head and Konqi who takes care of the two).

The real desktop is cluttered with books and concept papers for both KDE and for assignments for my studies.

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

That is difficult to answer. It might be either KMouth, KMag or KMouseTool as these are the accessibility aids of KDE (and I am aware of the need of accessibility needs). It may as well be KDevelop as I love to see an application grow or even KCalc as I am interested in mathematics.

Which of your family members do not use KDE and why not?

Both my father and my twin brother use KDE. Only my sister does not use KDE because she does not have Linux on her computer. This is due to the fact that she bought a very cheap computer and that Linux did not support the winmodem when I tried to install Linux (my sister uses that modem for connecting to the internet).

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

Users with disabilities, of course. However, making a software accessible for persons with a given need often improves its usability for other persons as well.

Do you socialize with any other KDE contributors?

In Paderborn I only know of one other KDE contributor. I regularly meet other KDE contributors at events such as conferences or fairs (if it comes that I travel to these events).

If you had to be stuck in a lift/elevator with a KDE contributor who would it be?

I think it does not really matter who that is as long as it is possible to discuss the implementation of some accessibility related topics on KDE.

What was/is your most embarrassing KDE moment?

I don't remember.

What the latest gadget you bought?

I do not buy many gadgets, and if I buy one, I plan in advance how I want to use it. The last gadget I bought was a USB memory stick. I bought that one in order to be able to use the mailbox both on my laptop and on my desktop and in order to keep my pgp keys etc. away from the hard disk of my laptop.

Personal Questions

First things first. Are you married/do you have a partner? Or are you up for adoption?

I am single.

Do you have children?


Do you have pets? Names? URL to photos?

Only if stuffed animals count as pets. I currently have 30 penguins, 5 puffins, one dragon and one daemon. (The dragon, the daemon and one of the penguins together build the KDE Accessibility logo.) You don't really want to read 37 names, do you? You can see pictures on

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

Well Germany is a large country and a lot of KDE developers live there, so let me narrow the area in question a little bit, ok?

A must-be spot in the near of Paderborn... That depends on your interests. If you like nature and rocks I recommend visiting the Externsteine. If you like historical buildings and riddles I recommend looking at the Dreihasenfenster of the cathedral of Paderborn. (It shows three bunnies which each have two ears, but altogether there are only three ears!)

Which book is on your bedside table?

I only have books on my bedside table that I read in the evening hours. One of the last books I read was "Smert' postoronnego" from Andrej Kurkow (I read the German translation "Picknick auf dem Eis"). One of its main characters is a penguin.

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

Three things: my parents, the studies abroad in Canada, and the illness of my mother.

Who do you admire? Why?

I do not really admire anyone. In order to admire someone this someone needs to be free of flaws. But then, not having flaws isn't really natural, isn't it?

How would you describe yourself?

In a short list of small aspects I would say:

  • I like making music
  • I like working with my computer (especially writing programs)
  • I like reading good books
If you ask my friends they would perhaps tell you that if I do something then I do it well.

What do you get passionate about?

I would not say that I get passionate about it, but maybe making music and writing software fits best.

What does "success" mean to you?

Success is difficult to describe as it may be used in multiple situations with different meanings.

If you think of writing software, then success might mean that you have just managed to write an algorithm for a difficult problem, or it might mean that the program that you have written gets used by thousands of people, or (in the field of accessibility) that a few persons use it for a purpose which they otherwise could not cope with.

What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?

Often an accomplishment raises wishes for later implementation, so you cannot really say how much satisfaction an accomplishment has (it is affected by the anticipation or dissatisfaction of the new wishes.

If nethertheless I had to pick one accomplishment, then I would choose the situation when I heard that Trolltech is actually writing the AT-SPI bridge, because that gave me the feeling that my previous work on documenting both AT-SPI and the Qt Accessibility Framework and my ideas about possible designs for such a bridge have not been in vain.

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

If I have a book in my luggage, I read it (even if I have already read it). Or I try to make a conversation with other travelers. If that is not possible I look out of the window and enjoy the landscape.

Which TV show world would you fit right into?

Real TV shows do have changing candidates and only one (or few) entertainers. I do not think that I fit into the role of an entertainer, and the role of a candidate is too small.

If you think of TV series then I have to say that on most TV series the characters are shown too shallow. I do not think that any real person fits into such a series.

Which's slogan T-shirt' would you most likely wear -if you HAD to wear one that is?

I do not often wear T-shirts. In the few situations when I wear a T-shirts it is almost always a KDE-T-shirt or some other T-shirt connected to free and open source programming.

Your favorite place to be is: ......?

Either at home, in a place where I can hear (classical) music or in a place where I have an internet connection with my laptop.

What's your favorite web site at the moment?

Well, I do not have such a thing as a single favorite web site. However, I often visit the following sites:

What is the most difficult question you could be asked?

I think the most difficult question is probably "What is the most difficult question you could be asked?" as I cannot really say how difficult each single question is. How should I then say that one given question is the most difficult question?

But if I think of it, the question "What is the second-most difficult question you could be asked?" is probably even more difficult to answer...

What's your signature at the moment?

Co-maintainer of the KDE Accessibility Project
Maintainer of the kdeaccessibility package