Kévin Ottens

A Short Intro

  • Age: 25
  • Located in: Toulouse, France
  • Occupation: PhD student
  • Nickname on IRC: ervin

The Interview

In what ways do you make a contribution to KDE?

I'm working on most of the newer ioslaves in KDE, namely : system:/, media:/, remote:/, and trash:/ (only helped a bit). I've developed their kicker applets counterparts. Moreover, I'm planning to be involved into Plasma, even if I'm not really active currently. And finally, I try to help with Tenor on the academic side, digging for relevant academic references.

When did you first hear of KDE?

Well, if I remember correctly I downloaded KDE beta1 using my old 33.6K modem. As far as I know it was one of the first public releases of KDE followed by more beta versions and finally the 1.0 release. It should have been around the end of 1997.

Still on that modem?

Hehe, no I'm using a DSL modem. Now I can update my KDE subversion work copy as much as I want. What an improvement!

How and when did you get involved in KDE?

Far later... I don't know why I waited so long before jumping in. It's surely because I was too shy back then and I always thought what I write was crap... So I stayed passive for a while being more and more respectful for the accomplished work, the community, etc...

Finally, some weeks before Kastle I felt so ashamed for doing nothing that I looked around, found an itch to scratch and wrote the devices applet for Kicker. It was well received and during the Kastle conference, it has been integrated into kdebase with the help of Joseph Wenninger and became available in KDE 3.2.

Last year at Akademy 2004 in Ludwingsburg you were interviewed about Kalyxo. What has happened with Kalyxo?

These days it is renamed to Ekhis. Currently I'm not actively part of that project anymore as I want to concentrate on KDE itself. I am still following the development of Ekhis as a sponsor through the IPSquad (a french not for profit organization I created with some friends).I hope it'll grow even if I can't find time to contribute more to it.

Sponsor? In what way do you sponsor the Ekhis project?

I sponsor the domain name and the webspace currently.

Are you being paid to work on KDE?

Unfortunately not, I'd really love to be paid to work on it at least half-time. Maybe one day it'll happen, who knows.

How much time do you usually spend on KDE?

Usually not enough! :-)
Must be around 8 hours a week. But sometimes it can be much more, currently it's really tied to my PhD agenda.

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

In my opinion, the integration with the underlying system needs more publicity. I tried to address it with media:/, but that's not an easy topic. Most people think that using HAL will solve all the issues related to the underlying system, but that's far from the truth. For example, HAL is Linux specific but KDE works across several UNIX-like operating systems. Moreover, the underlying system is not simply about listing hardware but also about configuring it, or configuring some system software services.

I'm pretty sure that sooner or later a team addressing this kind of issue will emerge, surely with several subgroups working on specific platforms. We currently have more or less the subgroups, and some of the work is done by packagers. They would surely benefit of some more cooperation/visibility among those subgroups.

What do you think is still badly missing in KDE?

On the software front I don't think that we are really missing something. Currently you can do almost anything when using KDE based software. Of course some applications will surely need some polishing and improvements, but at least they exist.

On the social front, we badly miss some more PR, although that's already improving. Some people are doing a wonderful job, but we need more I don't want them to be exhausted! :-)

What are your future plans for KDE?

Improve system:/ and friends of course! Now that I have them in place, I have to make them more widely available and to work more on the Konqueror side to give them some specialized view (in particular system:/ would benefit of a specific KPart for listing it).

Do you have any specific goals for KDE 4?

I will surely implement the mentioned system:/ KPart, since it won't make it for KDE 3.5. And I plan to contribute to Plasma in order to improve user notifications for media:/ events, and ensure that we have replacements for the current kicker applets that make use of the new Plasma abilities wisely.

What motivates/keeps you motivated to work on KDE?

Obviously the community, we have a lot of talented and interesting persons to work with! Moreover it's really fun to work on a such high quality framework. I don't see a reason why I should not be motivated.

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

Although it's changing, I think that Konqueror still needs improvements in this area. Its schizophrenic nature is a great thing as it is able to do so many things, but UI wise it's not so great when it doesn't know if it must look like a web browser or a file manager.

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

Well, it's difficult to say... in France it seems that we have a "top-management" culture. So desktop platforms are not chosen for their technical merits but more because of hype. Hence why we need more and more PR to show how cool KDE is to use and how it improves your productivity.

What is your favorite widget style?

Lipstik looks nice, I really like it even if I'm using Plastik right now. =)

Which text editor do you use? Why?

I regularly use Kate and Vim for coding, but I'm more and more lurking to Emacs for those tasks. =)
I'll surely keep Vim for quick file editing though.

Which distribution do you use? Why?

I'm currently having SUSE 10.0 Beta2 and Kubuntu Hoary installed on my system. I use Kubuntu because of its Debian roots, which gives a strong basis, and its up to date KDE packages. It's currently more my backup system. SUSE 10.0 Beta2 is my primary system currently, because it has a really nice amd64 support and a really up to date underlying system (useful when hacking with DBus and HAL related parts)... it'll surely be a very interesting distro now that it's switching to a more community driven development.

What is KDE's killer app? Why?

Konqueror of course! It's the most used application by a user, and it's able to do almost anything!

So could it make coffee?

Sssh, that's a secret! But a dragon is really nice for roasting coffee beans.

What makes you develop for KDE instead of the competition?

Well, I don't see myself developing for a non-free software desktop environment, that's my first criteria. Then I looked at free software.

Initially KDE was the right choice because of the framework, the use of C++, etc... KDE looked as the closest to my software quality criteria. Now, it's also for the community.

What does your desktop look like?

Desktop Kevin
(click on image)

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

It's a desktop computer I bought a few months ago. It's an Athlon 64 3500+ with 1GB of RAM, etc. Brand new hardware... Now I can compile KDE _really_ fast!

Since I'm a Gibson fan, I named it "wintermute".

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

Surely Konqueror because of its schizophrenic nature. I'm just like it, I've hard time to know if I'm really a PhD student, or should become a fulltime paid KDE developer (well, I've not found the way to become one anyway).

But your usability would need some more attention?

Of course, I don't want to see myself changing with the moon phase, or some other parameter! On the other hand, I tend to forget to shave... so sometimes I don't recognize myself in the mirror.

You tend to forget to shave? Does that affect your usability?

Auto-shaving would be a nice usability improvement in my opinion. It's maybe easier to accomplish than the "focus follow mind" we would like to see implemented in kwin.

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

Wow, it's hard to chooses only _one_ contributor... I'd prefer to give a list and let the destiny choose for me. =)

  • David Faure, because he's one of the most patient persons I know (sorry for abusing sometimes), moreover I'd be able to speak French which is easier because of my English is lame ;-)
  • Aaron Seigo, because it would be fun and entertaining.
  • Scott Wheeler, because of his wide knowledge... I'm sure he can discuss about anything.
But, in any case I know I could have interesting and clever discussions with any of those persons... I would be more concerned by the fact that they'll surely find me annoying on a daily basis. :-)

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

First my girlfriend (reasonably skilled with a computer), then my parents (less skilled with a computer), then my lab mates (using a computer all day long), then fellow hackers and myself (for obvious reasons).

What is your most brilliant KDE hack?

Wow! This one is tough... I don't remember considering anything I've done as "brilliant". Maybe the "best" thing I've done is introducing the "forwarding ioslave" concept used in media:/ for example.

What is your most embarrassing KDE moment?

Surely when I asked some information about an issue I had during the CVS->Subversion transition directly to coolo on IRC. Of course being the release dude he had lot of much more important things to do. Sorry for that, it was my stupidest idea ever. =)

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

KDE - A dragon is rising!

Are you coming to aKademy 2005 this year?

Of course!!! I won't miss this! Last year aKademy was so cool and interesting, I'm now addicted. ;-)

Personal Questions

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

I'm committed with a lovely woman called Virginie for more than 6 years now.

Virginie wearing a KDE shirt...

She is wearing a KDE-shirt. How did you persuade her to wear one?

I simply asked while she was doing something else. Taking her by surprise was the right strategy. =)

I plan to buy her one KDE t-shirt during next aKademy, I'm not sure she will wear it though.

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

With lot of patience? :-)

We're generally establishing "protocols" to ensure that she sees me at least a bit, I tend to stay in front of the computer otherwise. I'd easily spend all my spare time on it.

Do you have any pets?

I have only one pet, it's called Konqi and is a stuffed dragon! The nice thing with a stuffed dragon is that it never needs to be fed.

Konqi as a pet
Konqi the loveable and easy pet to have?

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

The Carcassonne Medieval City is definitely a must-see. It's surely one of the most beautiful French walled medieval city I know.

Which book is on your bedside table?

Currently it's David Eddings' Pawn Of Prophecy (hello Ludo! ;-p).
But it could be an academic paper, a PhD thesis, a Sci-Fi novel (Gibson, Philip K. Dick, etc. I tend to prefer cyberpunk though), a Fantasy novel (Eddings, Tolkien, Pratchett).

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

Hmm... the class preparing to engineering schools is surely what influenced the most my life. It's because of its results and some of the people (professors and students) I met there that I am what I am today.

Richard Stallman or Linus Torvalds?

Both! (ok I'm cheating a bit)
Freedom is very important, but when you design software you sometime need some pragmatism. Maybe I should choose Matthias Ettrich! ;-)

Or perhaps Aaron Seigo?

Ahahah, don't you think he is megalomaniac enough as is?

How would you describe yourself?

Generally spending too much time behind a computer! But I'm addicted, I can't even imagine my life without a computer now...

What do you get passionate about?

Politics definitely, I realized some years ago how important it is. But I still feel that my views on this topic are not mature enough, so I tend to avoid discussing it too much. It's definitely fascinating though.

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

I would read a book, but if I have none available I start use my imagination, design something in my head, etc.

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

I'm not fond of T.V., and I guess I would look out of place in any current show...

Ah okay. Then what radio show would you fit right into?

It's surely too late now, but I would have loved to be in Orson Wells' War of the Worlds.

What is your favorite t-shirt?

My KDE t-shirt of course!

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

Speaking too much about KDE. =)

What is your favorite place in the world?

Definitely my home! I really love to stay at home, discussing with my girl-friend, hacking on something or simply reading.

What's your favorite web site at the moment?

My favorite is surely Planet KDE that's a nice way to know more about the members of our nice community and about what they are working on.

What's your signature at the moment?

I use the same signature for a while now:
"Ni le maître sans disciple, Ni le disciple sans maître, Ne font reculer l'ignorance."

It's old Chinese philosophy, it could be translated like this using my approximative English:
"Neither the master without disciple, Nor the disciple without master, Make ignorance move back."