Category Archives: FLOSS

The KDE Randa 2014 meeting, in easy-digestible video format!

In case you were wondering what was going on in Randa, here are some first hand impressions. The video was produced by Fran├žoise Wybrecht (alias Morgane Marquis) and Lucie Robin, and the people in it are the actual participants of the event. It was also created using KDenlive, one of the awesome Free Software tools a team has been working on at the Randa meeting itself. The video introduces the faces and personalities of the contributors and their different backgrounds and origins. Many thanks to our brand new ad-hoc media team for producing this video!

(In case the embedded video does not show up, see here:

How to contribute to the KDE Frameworks Cookbook

The annual KDE Randa Meeting, in itself already shock-ful of awesome, this year hosted the KDE Frameworks Cookbook sprint. Valorie, Cornelius and I already wrote a lot about it. Plenty of attention went into finding the place for the cookbook between the getting-started HOWTOs on KDE Techbase and the full-blown API documentation. Not surprisingly, there is a space and a good purpose for the book. Frameworks developers and maintainer have had to deal with the question of where to put introductions that segue newcomers into how to use the modules many times, and so far, the answer have been unsatisfactory. Newcomers only find the API documentation when they already know about a framework, and TechBase is a great resource for developers, but not necessarily a good introduction. What is missing is a good way to help and learn about what KDE Frameworks have to offer. So there is the purpose of the KDE Frameworks Cookbook – to help developers find and learn about the right tools for the problems they need to solve (and also, consumable on a e-book reader by the pool). For developers and maintainers, this means they need to know how to add sections to the book that cover this information about their frameworks. These tools and workflows will be explained in this post. Continue reading

The KDE Randa Meeting 2014 in retrospective

Leaving Randa after spending a week there at the KDE Randa Meeting 2014 raises mixed feelings. I am really looking forward to coming home and seeing my family, but at the same time the week was so full of action, great collaboration and awesome people that it passed by in an instant and was over so soon. Carving a work week out of the schedule for a hackfest is not an easy feat, especially during summer school break, so the expectations were high. And they have been exceeded in all aspects. A lot of the credit for that goes to the organizer, Mario Fux, and his team of local supporters. The rest goes to the awesome family of KDE contributors that make spending a week on contributing to Free Software so much fun. And of course to the sponsors of the event.

Randa is a place that grows on you. As a big city dweller, I take pride in organizing my time like clockwork, and in fitting a gazillion things into one day. I sometimes pause when crossing the bridge to Friedrichstrasse station to enjoy the view, but only for a couple of seconds. Because I got stuff to do. As soon as I boarded the Glacier Express train from Visp to Randa, the last leg of the long journey from Berlin by rail, it became obvious that I was in a different place. The train travels slowly, so slowly that sometimes wanderers keep up next to it. Later I learned that it is known as the slowest fast train of the world. It makes up for the relaxed pace with the absolutely magnificent view of the Matter valley. The view of the mountains was so breathtaking it almost made me miss the Randa stop. I arrived at the guest house, boarded a small spartanic room and then joined the group of KDE folks that already had arrived. At first, there was still this nagging feeling that whenever I was idle for 5 minutes, it meant a lack of efficiency, and something had to be done about it. And then everything changed.

The Randa panorama

One day provided enough immersion into the monastery like setting to make the feeling of time ticking and the conveyor belt constantly advancing go away. That is the moment when I was made aware again of the amazing group of people that had gathered around me to work on KDE. Not just the fact that fifty people travelled halfway around the world to create software that is free, but also what kind of wonderful kind of people they are. The attendees were a mirror image of the KDE community at large – young and old, women and men, from dozens of different countries, with all sorts of beliefs, and a unifying passion to contribute to a common good. At a time when not a day passes without news about atrocities in the name of mundane details like the whose prophet is more prophet-like, imagine such a diverse group not just spending a week together without a minute of conflict, but devoting that time to build something, and then to give it away freely without discriminating by use or user. That is the spirit of Free Software for me, and it may explain why it means more than getting stuff for free.

Two year old news
2 year old news

So we went to work. The air was fresh, and there was no distraction (not even the internet, because it broke :-) ), and we spent our days alternating between coding, talking, eating, taking walks and sleeping. A number of “special interest groups” formed rather organically, to work on educational software, the KDE SDK, porting to KDE Frameworks 5, Gluon, KDEnlive, Amarok and the KDE Frameworks Cookbook. Every day at lunch, the groups reported on their progress. As it turnes out, the velocity of the team was quite impressive, even though there were no managers. Or because, who knows. There are plenty of blog posts and details about how the work progressed on the sprint page.

Swiss slow food. Delicious.
2 year old news 2 year old news

Speaking of lunch and food in general – a small band of local supporters catered to our every whim like coffee 24 hours a day and a fridge full of FreeBeer. With an incredible supportiveness and delicious swiss cuisine they helped to make this meeting possible. While they received multiple rounds of applause, I do not think we can thank them enough. Just like the work that Mario Fux does to organize these meetings is priceless. Personally, I am hugely grateful for their commitment, which made this meeting and the previous ones possible. And I very much hope that it will for the next one, and I will do my best to be there again. See you in Randa next year!

KDE Frameworks Book Sprint at the Randa Meeting 2014

A couple of weeks before the KDE Randa Meeting of 2014, the meeting’s organizer Mario Fux suggested to have a book sprint to help developers adopt the newly released KDE 5 Frameworks. In the Open Source spirit, the idea was not to start from scratch, but rather to collect the various bits and pieces of documentation that exist in different places in one location that offers itself more to a developer than before. Valorie Zimmermann stepped up to organize it (many thanks!), and a number of people volunteered to take part. After a week the project completely changed its orientation and struggled and found and also newly defined its place as a part of KDE’s documentation efforts. And it produced an initial version of the book, which is currently circulated on people’s ebook readers around here. Continue reading

Defensive Publications: Shedding Light on Innovation


The patent system is broken. The point of patents is to encourage innovation and inventiveness. Instead of promoting innovation, patent offices have awarded overly broad, vague, and unoriginal patents that draw unclear lines allowing bad actors to profit and threaten costly lawsuits. Patent examiners have a strong sense of the technology that is patented, but they’re missing an understanding of what has been and is currently being developed in the open source world. As shocking as it may seem, the result is the examiner formulating an inaccurate sense of what is innovative. As the final arbiter of a very significant monopoly grant, they are often grossly uninformed in terms of what lies beyond their narrowly scoped search. This is not wholly their fault as they have limited resources and time. However, it is a strong indication of a faulty system that is so entrenched in the archaic methods under which patent offices have been operating.

We have faced and continue to cope with the effects of bad patents on multiple fronts. The most widely known are being displayed on the large stage where huge companies battle in the courts, resulting in large money settlements or high stakes jury verdicts (i.e. Apple v. Samsung). This leads to higher costs to consumers and users, uncertainty amongst innovators about what is patented, a veritable arms race to secure patents to corner the market, and limited competition. These ‘wars’ cost companies money and that cost trickles down to the consumer.

On another stage, we also see the threat of trolls exponentially increase as more patents are acquired and used against small companies, nonprofits, and independent developers. The fear of costly litigation forces licensing agreements with the result of stifling innovation by suffocating independent inventors. On all fronts, more money is being spent on co-existing with undeserving patents rather than developing new ideas. We are losing out on breakthroughs and advancement in technology because of the environment of fear and uncertainty that has been created.

The answer has to be more than abolition of the patent system, as from a pragmatic point of view, it won’t happen. It does us little service to ignore patents and abandon the system. Rather, we need to address and combat the threats to innovation so that we can begin to bring an end to the age of fear and litigation. We can continue to deal with patents as they are issued, identify those that abuse the system, then spend the money and invest time to work to invalidate these. Taking this one step further, we can also proactively prevent these obstacles to innovation from even existing by directly communicating to the examiner what is being and has been developed. The tools to do so are available through the use of defensive publications.

A defensive publication essentially describes what is known or currently being developed. For those who are developing software, these documents are regularly created in the form of blog posts, community updates or releases. However, examiner constraints prevent these sources from being found. The last step is formalizing this and ensuring that the patent examiner has access to an open source database of these documents.

With increasing amounts of low quality patents being issued worldwide and a lack of clear boundaries, patent examiners are losing a sense of what is indeed inventive. Those who patent are getting a voice. Every free software release, solved issue or innovative development process can be turned into a defensive publication. References to current or older releases can also be demonstrated to help illustrate how the community of developers resolves obstacles. By writing these disclosures, free software can demonstrate how to be proactive. In turn, a patent application is rejected and a potential lawsuit is avoided.

Through the Linux Defenders program, Open Invention Network works  with open source developer communities to create defensive publications. We will be working closely with Linux kernel and Qt  developers, because we think that these represent major driving innovative forces in the Open Source spectrum. Important innovations in Linux and Qt should be documented in defensive publications following the releases of the software. We invite interested individuals and companies to contribute to this, and will support the authors in getting their publications out. If you are interested in writing Qt related defensive publications, or will be able to help identifying topics that should be documented, consider joining the mailing list to follow the discussion:

[Image by Nick Kocharhook, thanks: