Matthias Ettrich

A Short Intro

  • Located in: Oslo, Norway
  • Occupation: Software Engineer
  • Nickname on IRC: ettrich

The Interview

In what ways do you make a contribution to KDE?

Qt development, some financial support (sponsoring people and events), some development resources (letting my engineers work on KDE), talking, bringing people together, initiating events like Trysil and NoveHrady.

Any exciting changes in your personal life since the last time we spoke?

Oh yes, I became uncle three times: A Jakub, a Dominik and a little girl named Vasso. On the material side we replaced an old Toyota with an almost new Saab 9.3. Since the new car can pull a trailer, my fiancee is now looking for a horse that would fit. As part of my ongoing efforts to integrate into Norwegian culture, I became co-owner of a small and rather old wooden boat ("snekke"). The plan is to learn about wood, 50-year old engines, how to fix both, and then - after all the work - to enjoy a long fjord-season with white wine and shrimps.

What about your professional life?

As Director of Software Development I was also given the formal responsibility for Qt and its development team.

How did KDE progress in your opinion and for which part have you been responsible?

During the past years we managed to turn GNU/Linux into a serious contender on the desktop, and we managed to maintain a strong and growing developer and user community. Both are extraordinary achievements all of us are responsible for.

What is still missing badly in KDE?

There is always things that can and should be added to the development platform. In terms of the desktop itself, Mac-like expose would be high on my wishlist. To do this properly, one needs Keith's new X-Server, though.

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

I'm all in favour and I'm glad work is being done. We must think of applications as being GNU/Linux applications rather than splitting the communities. If someone releases KFoo, I want the community to enjoy the new software rather than screaming for somebody to make a conceptual fork and call it GFoo. And vice versa. Technically, there is no reason why e.g. the Gimp couldn't be used as a component in a KDE applications like KOffice.

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

The obvious ones: OpenOffice.org, Mozilla and Gtk-/WxWindows-based applications. Work is done in those areas, and it's really not that hard technically. Java applications are another technical option, although I don't see the big need yet. In addition there is all the Qt-based applications. Thousands of ISVs provide Qt-based solutions, although relatively few applications are visible in the general marketplace. Many develop on GNU/Linux and many do target GNU/Linux as platform. Making it easy for them to benefit from KDE's infrastructure has been on the agenda for some time, but as always, it's a matter of time and resources.

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

It takes a certain personality to start and run your own company. Not having this personality, and not knowing what such a company would have done to the KDE community, I don't regret it at all. While I'm getting familiar running my department, writing code is still what keeps me going and makes me happy.

What are your future plans for KDE?

Short term this is about finishing Qt 4 and helping to move KDE to this new wonderful world once it is released. Combined with the new freedesktop X-server we will be very well equipped to take any bull by its horns, no matter how long those might be. I do have plans for the longer term as well, but those are still too vaporware to be disclosed.

What motivates/keeps you motivated to work on KDE?

The amazing community that keeps attracting fantastic people from all over the world.

What is your favorite widget style?

While I think Plastik is alright, I still fancy Keramik. I like that it's Aqua-inspired but still something new. I also enjoy the size of the controls. Larger widgets like combo-boxes make it easier to think in terms of simpler user interface design. What does not quite work is the gray background. It should have something like stripes. Unfortunately this is rather difficult to do properly in Qt3. Who knows, maybe Keramik becomes fashionable again with Qt4.

What does your desktop look like?

A rather large panel at the bottom, a large konsole window and a huge Emacs window, KMail and Konqueror on their own other virtual desktops and a few smaller tools, typically kscd and ksirc.

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

kxkb. I have to switch between so many different physical keyboard layouts (US, German, Norwegian), that it would be really handy to simply know them all by heart. kxkb does, and switches between them in less than a second.

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

I haven't done any enduser interfaces for long time, meaning I usually envivion developers using my APIs. Having said this I don't think users are that different, ultimately. Nobody likes to deal with more complexity than necessary, no matter how technically skilled you are. And I haven't yet heared any newbies complaining about the existence of powerful shortcuts in applications like KMail. Satisfying the occasional user and the power user does not have to be mutual exclusive.

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

Two of my brothers - one is a lawyer the other one becoming a physician - do mainly word processing and play games. They never really understood why they should bother about what system they use. They are totally system-agnostic late-majority mainstream computer users. As long as they don't advocate something else, and as long as they are better laywers and doctors than computer users, I'm not trying to persuade them.

What are personal feelings about shift selection behavior in qlistview?

I'm glad I delegated maintenance of the class.

Do you socialize with any other KDE contributors?

Oh yes, for instance with my fellow Troll Lars Knoll, Simon Hausmann who visited us lately, and my good friend Kalle right next to us in Sweden.

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

Someone I haven't met yet, maybe. If it was Julian Seward, I would gladly use the opportunity to learn more about the man behind the biggest single contribution to software development on x86 processor in the past years, and his future plans.

What was/is your most embarrassing KDE moment?

I'm blessed by the gift of forgetting embarrassing moments rather quickly. But one got to be in Nove Hrady. We were a group of maybe ten KDE'rs drinking beer in the park at night. Fantastic Czech beer, nice weather, great atmosphere. An elderly lady approached us and asked in excellent English what KDE meant. We - under the influence of alcohol - didn't treat her with the respect that we would have shown otherwise ("Czech word...", "computer software...", "mumble..."). You may now imagine our embarrassment when the very same lady opened our conference the next day as president of the Czech academy of science. At present I am also embarrased by my lack of active contribution to D-BUS. I'm very glad Zack jumped in.

Personal Questions

Which book is on your bedside table?

Currently that's Yann Martel's "Life of Pi", in the German translation "Schiffbruch mit Tiger".

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

That's got to be GNU/Linux. Without GNU/Linux there would be no KDE, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing, I wouldn't be living where I'm living and I wouldn't socialise with many people I'm socialising now.

Who do you admire? Why?

People that follow their passion. Life is too short not to.

How would you describe yourself?

Following norwegian newspaper standards I'm male, tall, have dark blond hair, am of foreign origin and speak Norwegian with an accent.

What do you get passionate about?

Good software, good teams, good music and making music.

What are three positive things your friends would say about you?

No idea, you really have to ask them.

What does "success" mean to you?

Financial independence and the freedom to do the things I enjoy.

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

Those questions don't get easier, Tink. Professionally, GPL'ing Qt felt really rewarding, because it was possible against many people's expectations. Personally, playing Beethoven's Appassionata gave me a lot of satisfaction, simply because it was a lot of hard work and I didn't believe I could make it.

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

Since I can neither read nor write on a bus without becoming sick, I have the option between enjoying the landscape, making conversation, sleeping or thinking. It depends entirely on the landscape, the people around me, the time of day and the state of my mind.

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

World Idol. I can't sing, I can't dance and I'm German. I'm sure the judges would have enjoyed making nasty comments about me.

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

I'm nerd enough to not mind wearing slogan T-shirts, although mostly for sports and underneath sweaters. Anything positive with KDE will do.

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

Again, you better ask them.

Your favorite place to be is: ...?


What's your favorite web site at the moment? (not ./)

kde.org, because so many positive things are happening currently.

What is the most difficult question you could be asked?

You are fishing for the next interview!

What's your signature at the moment?

I still haven't felt the need to get one.