Matthias Kretz

A Short Intro

  • Age: 26
  • Located in: Heidelberg, Germany
  • Occupation: Student of Physics and Computer Science
  • Nickname on IRC: Vir
  • Claim to Fame: Phonon. Before that I worked on KView, aRts and some kdelibs classes to help with plugins and configuration dialogs for plugin/KPart based applications.
  • Fav. KDE applications: My Phonon test apps. :) No, seriously, the five apps that I always have running are Kontact, Konqueror, Konversation, Konsole and Yakuake. All of them very useful and powerful applications, leaving little to ask for.
  • Hardware: Samsung R65, dual core laptop with a nice 1400x1050 screen.
  • Homepage: Not very useful: http://vir.homelinux.org/
  • Blog: http://vir.homelinux.org/blog/

The Interview

In what ways do you make a contribution to KDE?

These days I'm working 50% on kdelibs and 45% on Phonon backends. The remaining 5% I use for working on bugfixing or porting other code.

When did you first hear of KDE?

I heard of Linux at around '97 but didn't see it until '98 when I was in Sylva, NC (USA) for 10 months, where I was able to download a Red Hat 5 or so. Germany at that time did not have any flat rates... Anyway, so starting with Red Hat, I got to look at GNOME and Enlightenment. My first real KDE use was back in school in Germany where some computers got a SuSE system with KDE 1.something on them. I didn't like KDE too much at that time but that changed...

How and when did you get involved in KDE?

...when I tried to develop using GNOME/GTK/glib. That was at the start of 2000 and I was reading all those talks about freedom and Qt not being Free enough which I couldn't quite follow. But when I started the Qt (version 1.4 then) tutorial I was immediately set on the libs I wanted to use. Also the KDE2 alphas were just being released and I managed to compile and run it. Now KDE looked better than the alternatives for certain and I began to look at aRts.

Because that's what I wanted to program for: music/multimedia on Linux. aRts was a bit over my head at that time though and instead I got involved with KView, which had just lost its maintainer and had enough bugs that I was able to fix.

What was your most recent commit to KDE?

My latest big commit: Making the buildsystem faster and more flexible with regard to Qt's moc.

My last commit: I added a specialized KLibFactory subclass to help creating KCModules using scripting languages easier (i.e. without having to implement a C++ DSO that provides the KLibFactory).

Are you being paid to work on KDE?

Not yet, I'm still waiting for something to happen there.

How much time do you usually spend on KDE?

Too much, if I look at my studies. Often I want to study, instead I have to check whether any email of mine got answered or I got this new idea how to improve something while sleeping.

That makes it really hard to concentrate on anything else and so it often happens that I start with KDE stuff in the morning and don't do anything else anymore.

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

The scripts and tools that are created by KDE developers to improve productivity. Let me just name one that probably only ~3 people have seen yet: kdesdk/scripts/vimdiff-svn.

What do you think is still badly missing in KDE?

Everything that I'm working on. ;-) Seriously, I'm mostly thinking about how to make it just work for the user. How, when you start KDE (or a specialized application) the software tries to figure out the environment all by itself and only asks a question when really necessary. I want my wife to be able to go to Spain and not worry about how she's going to connect to the internet.

Many of these issues are problems that we have always said the distributions have to solve, but I'm beginning to have a different opinion: We should provide the user interfaces and probably a lot of logic and ways for the distributions to customize it. Now if only I had 20 clones of myself...

Do you have any plans for KDE 4?

Too many ideas. But of some of them I've made plans. The biggest plan is becoming a reality in Phonon. I'm not fully happy with the xine backend yet and am planning to do some more research there on the best backend strategy. Also my next plans for the frontend API for Phonon (post-4.0) are to add low-level audio I/O and look into an abstraction for the hardware mixer.

What motivates/keeps you motivated to work on KDE?

Hard problems. Easy problems are boring. :-)

Most important for me are the feelings of success. It's very rewarding when you've been working on a hard problem, discarding shortcut-solutions that become hard to maintain, and finally have it working.

Often I'm just envisioning the system how it'll work once it's done and that can easily motivate me enough to skip everything else and start hacking right away.

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

I think it's a matter of productivity. If you switch your desktop platform, will that increase productivity? And I think for many people, switching the desktop also means switching many applications. Now for me as a person using LaTeX, gnuplot, vim, gcc, gdb, sed and so on KDE is the platform I can be most productive on, but for people that have been working with "custom applications" built on top of MS Office you'll kill productivity with a switch away from Office.

If decisions were made for technical reasons, KDE would dominate the desktops in short time. But decisions are often not made for other reasons...

Which text editor do you use? Why?

vim. I'm almost unable to use any other editor now. The feeling might be compared to when you're restricted to typing with one finger only. And I wrote a few convenience functions for vim (that you can find in kdesdk/scripts/kde-devel-vim.vim) that increase my productivity a lot.

Which distribution do you use? Why?

My laptop runs on Kubuntu Feisty and my "server laptop" uses Kubuntu Dapper (for its long term support). The laptop of my wife is still on Kubuntu Edgy - didn't come around to update it yet, and Feisty has been rather unstable for me and other people I've talked to. I once tried OpenSUSE but gave up because I couldn't find a package for Ardour.

What is KDE's killer app? Why?

This killer app thing is not a concept that means anything to me. But I think the killer feature of KDE (besides its APIs) is it's feature richness without making the interfaces too crowded (I know we can improve, but I think we're already very good).

What does your desktop look like?

Every task has its own virtual desktop. And I have Yakuake running as I work on the console all the time.

Matthias' Desktop

What makes you contribute to KDE instead of the competition?

Easy: APIs and the community.

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

Not sure, since all encounters I've had with fellow gearheads were at events like LinuxTag, aKademy/Kastle or developer sprints (except for Scott who lived a few blocks away from me for about two years). But I have to choose one now... Simon Hausmann!

If you could be any part of the KDE platform, what would you be? Why?

Neither Phonon nor KHTML or so - I'd get to see/hear too many things I wouldn't want to see/hear. Solid looks like a better fit for me: translating complicated facts about computers into easy understandable terms for others.

What is your most brilliant KDE hack?

Ah, I thought I had to name the most evil hack here. :-) Good. It'll remain undetected then. :-P I guess Phonon is the obvious answer then.

What is your most embarrassing KDE moment?

Don't recall anything right now...

Will you be going to Akademy in Glasgow this year?

I really would have liked to go. But I'm a student for too long already and I need to shift my priorities back to my studies. And going to Akademy normally results in a big motivation boost (for KDE work) that I really can't use. :'(

When I heard that I received an Akademy award I felt very honored and happy while at the same time I couldn't help but regret staying at home.

Next year hopefully will work again for me.

Personal Questions

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

Married to the best woman in the world! My lovely flower...

Do you have any children or pets?

Not yet.

Which book is on your bedside table?

Books tend to pile up there without them getting read. Lemme look (ignoring my wife's books) there are:

  • A Bible
  • Introduction to the Physics and Psychophysics of Music, Juan G. Roederer
  • Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien (started to read it again a few months ago)
  • Ordering Your Private World, Gordon MacDonald

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

Surely my parents, but most importantly: Jesus.

Is your best friend from the physical or online world?

Physical. I cannot build as much of a friendship over the internet as I can when meeting physically. But if I had the chance I'd try to build up relationships with some of the people I mostly "know online".

What is the best birthday present you could receive?

Finished exams!

Richard Stallman or Linus Torvalds?

I like pragmatism and I'm full of idealism sometimes, so I don't take sides.

How would you describe yourself?

Calm, handsome (my wife made me include this), open for different views/opinions on life, contemplative.

What would you do more of if you had the time?

Read many books, make music, learn more instruments, study (mostly Physics but also other subjects like Theology, Music (if I could), Computer Science, Electrical Engineering), Audio Engineering stuff, cook, sport, play games (not necessarily on the computer), work on many other things in KDE.

What do you see from your window?

On one side of the house I can see the company of our landlord. On the other side I have a nice view on the hills of Heidelberg.

Matthias' View

What do you get passionate about?

Difficult problems, be it in real-life, Math, Physics, Computer Science or more specifically the design of an API.

What does "success" mean to you?

To me...

  • success means to live such that I can look back on my day and say it was a good day.
  • success means to make people around me happy (especially my wife).
  • success means to have a purpose in life.

What do you do in your spare time?

I like to meet with friends to play games and/or spend time with my wife. I like to make music, or read a book.

What is your favourite place in the world?