Tom Albers

A Short Intro

  • Age: Early thirties
  • Located in: Culemborg, that's just south of Utrecht, which is in the middle of The Netherlands.
  • Occupation: I co-own a company which helps small companies with their IT and websites.
  • Nickname on IRC: toma
  • Claim to Fame: Mailody, RSIBreak
  • Fav. KDE applications: Besides the obvious I guess? KVirc, an IRC client which is able to display multiple channels at the same time. KScope.
  • Hardware: No laptop, Athlon 2800+ with 1GB and some disks. Monitor on a long cord and wireless keyboard and mouse. So I place the monitor near the couch.
  • Homepage: http://www.omat.nl/
  • Blog: http://www.omat.nl/

The Interview

In what ways do you make a contribution to KDE?

Currently I'm developing Mailody, an alternate mail client for KDE. It only supports online IMAP and I want to bring a new way of reading and handling email. I can't tell what things I have in mind, because there is competition with other mail clients, some of which can implement things much faster than we can ;-).

Before working on Mailody I wrote RSIBreak together with Bram Schoenmakers. Development is now stalled because we both don't have time. I would love to port it to Qt4/KDE4 of course, because I use it day in, day out.

Besides that I have special interests in localisation issues and I am part of the Release Team. As part of the Release Team I wrote the first draft of the KDE 4 roadmap.

I'm also part of the Kubuntu Community Council where I try to help others by explaining KDE technologies and plans and I try to liaison with KDE developers on serious issues that come up. I also try to do that for the Debian KDE Extras team. Over the past few months, there was little to do for me, because both teams consist of experienced, eager people.

My company also hosts several sites and related email addresses, like kipi-plugins.org, digikam.org, kde.nl, rsibreak.org and, of course, mailody.net.

When did you first hear of KDE?

Can't remember exactly. I remember installing it once and could not work with it - too many problems for daily usage. So I removed it again. A year later I retried and I could manage to do the daily things I needed. I think that was around KDE 3.0.

How and when did you get involved in KDE?

At the beginning of 2004, I started as a translator, where I translated documentation, when ~45% of the Dutch documentation was completely translated, I gave up because my hands were complaining. At that time I was co-ordinating the documentation translations in Dutch, which I stopped doing when KDE 3.4 came out and now I'm doing the technical side of that job again.

I started to learn C++ and Qt. After that and worked a lot on digiKam, especially the digiKam database and the advanced search. I also worked on the kipi-plugins for a while on my own, now that has been taken over by a fresh crew. After the digiKam development group fell apart (I really enjoyed that time and miss it), I started to work on RSIBreak. When that was working in the way I wanted, I started to work on Mailody. At that time, KMail and online IMAP had some nasty problems which made it impossible for me to use it anymore.

What was your most recent commit to KDE?

I implemented SMTP AUTH PLAIN for Mailody. Which didn't not work ;-). I looked around and found the mailtransport library in KDE-PIM, so I implemented that for Mailody. Which really looks cool. It's great to share the settings with KMail, KNode and a couple others in KDE-PIM. But before I commit I must move the library to libkdepim. Which I can only do when all authors agree to the GPL -> LGPL switch. So in this case the not-committed part is more interesting ;-)

Are you being paid to work on KDE?

No. But I'm my own boss, so on slow weeks I can do some KDE things at work, which is a great thing.

How much time do you usually spend on KDE?

Oh, I'm a bit ashamed to say so. Can I pass? <whispers>When I don't have social things, each evening after work and the weekends almost full-time (except sleep).</whispers>

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

I recently discovered some libraries in KDE-PIM which are great. There is a mime-library for parsing email messages, mailtransport for selecting and configuring transports and sending messages so that all KDE apps can use those settings, pimidenties for sharing identities between all PIM applications, etc. Every time I have a problem there seems to be a library which can do the trick. I think libraries deserve more credit than they get. They are not as visible as Dolphin or Oxygen. With more publicity for them we can convince more people to develop applications using them.

What do you think is still badly missing in KDE?

People actually coding in KDE-PIM. These are very prominent applications which are vital for daily usage for a lot of people. A lot of the people who developed the applications are now busy with their real life and we need new people to take over. I think a structure for guiding people around and getting them involved in the right areas, with the right tools, is also missing. I think new contributors could be mentored by an experienced developer so the new contributor can quickly pick up development speed and is not scared off by the initial start. Renchi Raju and Jörn Ahrens helped me to become a developer and I helped Frode M. Døving, who is now a main developer of Mailody.

Do you have any plans for KDE 4?

I would like to release Mailody at the same time as the KDE4 betas and final. Not sure if I'm going to make it. I prefer to have some stuff in the right place now. Decisions made now will have great impact during the complete KDE 4 series, so it is better to spend some time to get things in libraries. Also I would like Mailody to be in the extragear module and I want RSIBreak ported. I don't think I can reach those goals before the KDE 4.0 release, which is pretty weird for someone who came up with the first draft of the release plan *sigh*.

What motivates/keeps you motivated to work on KDE?

I have the power to make a mail application as I want it. Which works as I want, reacts as I want and without the bugs I don't want. That's really motivating. I also really like the KDE community, KDE-PIM people are really friendly and helpful.

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

I'm not in the Marketing or Promotion team, but I did write a column for OSES (the Programme for Open Standards and Open Source Software in government in The Netherlands - /me waves to Fabrice Mous) about the possibility to ship notebooks with Linux pre-installed. In the column I explained the difficulties of getting a notebook without Microsoft Windows from our suppliers. I think such basic things need attention and publicity so things can change. When that's done then I can get rich with selling laptops with Kubuntu. ;-).

Which text editor do you use? Why?

For hacking I use KScope, as I cannot get the hang of KDevelop at all. It uses the Kate part for editing. All command-line things in vi, I could not get the hang of Emacs either.

Which distribution do you use? Why?

For my desktop, Kubuntu. For all the servers we maintain at work we use Debian Stable. We can not afford to update the whole system everytime we need to install a small package and Debian Stable is ... stable, and has all the security fixes. As the desktop is moving at a much faster rate, I needed something moving faster, Kubuntu fits that profile perfectly.

What is KDE's killer app? Why?

I'll again skip the obvious here. When I build websites in the past I was in love with the addons, KMag for zooming in on particular areas to spot color differences or place elements to the pixel on the right place. KRuler, not to measure length, but to see if stuff is lined up exactly right and the kolourpicker to quickly copy a certain color to Photoshop (sorry, but that's the app I know (and paid money for)). I modified the source of kolourpicker to always use the HEX format. That was one of my first hacks I did.

What does your desktop look like?

My desktop contains a few documents which I currently work on/need. I never run apps maximized and I don't use virtual desktops, everything is reachable with a single click and while typing I can keep an eye on the other windows.

What makes you contribute to KDE instead of the competition?

I only want to contribute to something I use.

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

When I was in Osnabrück earlier this year, we had a walk to the lunch, which lasted five times longer then it should be, but I did not mind because I was talking to Till Adam about the amazing speed KMail has for displaying headers in the header list. He taught me some tricks and explained into detail and from memory how KMail deals with it. I was very impressed and wished we could have talked more. But sitting with Till on an island is only useful if you assume you can leave that island after! Any of the KDE-PIM people I've met in real life would be ok though.

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

I'll pick LinkLocator from kdepimlibs. It's a very tiny class which has a lot of power. It converts plain mail messages to HTML messages, which is needed so you can click on the links, convert ;-) to smileys. It silently does its work for Mailody, KMail and KNode on every mail or message you see without complaining and without errors. That's something I can learn from.

What is your most brilliant KDE hack?

I'm still very proud on the work on digiKam I did, I wrote the part where all image info in the library path got added to the database, which increased the browsing speed in digiKam enormously. Also the advanced search in digiKam was written by me and I'm proud I managed to build it, with help.

What is your most embarrassing KDE moment?

Driving around with Mark Kretschmann (Amarok) and two others and not being able to find Annahoeve for the Multimedia meeting. Calling Adriaan de Groot to pick us up. *sigh* real life...

Will you be going to Akademy in Glasgow this year?

I'm not going to Glasgow. I don't like to be away from home and after flying back from Singapore in a packed airplane, without enough leg room (i'm pretty tall and have long legs), and a passenger in front of me which lowered the back of his seat from minute 1 to landing-1 and same happening from flying back from Porto, Portugal, I decided I won't fly again, except business class which I can not afford (at least yet). But Glasgow could be reached by Train, so that's not really valid.

Personal Questions

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

Error parsing question. I'm up for adoption if someone insists, but prefer to stay single for now. I live my life my way and am happy with that.

Do you have any children or pets?

Pets! Here you go, meet Taxi, which means Taxi/Cab in Dutch as well. Which is really funny when I step out of the door late at night and calling for 'Taxi' a couple of times. People walking their dogs really look strange at me then ;-)


And meet Zoë:

Which book is on your bedside table?

Books, that's like a bunch of emails bundled together right? Currently none, there are some magazines though. Recently I read a book about AHold. Which is a Dutch Company. The book describes how the company expanded in record time, and how an accounting scandal almost brought the company to its knees. It's amazing to see how little things have big consequences. Interesting reading when you own a company.

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


Is your best friend from the physical or online world?

Real world. I've learned that friends from the online world can see friendship differently, so I tend to keep my distance now. Like Renchi Raju who I considered a friend, but disappeared from one day to the other. It can happen in real life too of course, but you might see it coming or something. So real world is my answer. And quality counts, not quantity.

What is the best birthday present you could receive?

I'm not so material, but any kind of electric toy (with open source software!) is cool ;-)

Richard Stallman or Linus Torvalds?

I've not met them and I don't have an opinion. Both are important for the world we live in.

How would you describe yourself?

I do not need to describe myself. If you want to do that, fine.

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

I have plenty of time in general for the things I want to do.

What do you see from your window?

This is my view, there are always ducks around...

What do you get passionate about?

About mail clients which store the replies to mails in the Send folder. Whoever thought about that concept initially was so wrong. It is so much more convenient to have the mail you have sent stored close to the message you replied to. When you want to re-read a thread, you need to constantly switch between the archive mailbox and the Send folder. It really makes no sense to me at all.

What does "success" mean to you?

Being able to live the life I want and taking care of my friends and generate enough cashflow into the company to pay the salaries of the people who work for us. I'll be miserable if any of those fails. Being able to make a perfect mail client in my free time which contains elements which will become standard in the mail reading world would be great as well (that's not arrogance, that's ambition!).

What do you do in your spare time?

KDE, photography and car racing. I like to go to the tracks (Zandvoort) a couple of times a year (although I skipped last year) and follow Formula 1 and A1. Now the Dutch Spijker team has joined the Formula 1, I'm following that team. I like natural drivers like Kubica and Hamilton, I don't like the ones with an attitude.

What is your favourite place in the world?

I'm happy at home and at work. For the question purists: both are located in Culemborg.