My thoughts on KDE4

With autumn approaching, many people start wondering whether KDE4 will be released on time and if it will be usable. Although I didn’t follow the development that closely, I heard enough to get an idea about it, that the current “gamma proposal” simply seem to confirm: even if KDE4 will be released, it will not be in an usable state.

This is not to say that the KDE developers aren’t doing a very hard job. They are doing an heck of a job, and I’m sure that on the long term it will produce a fantastic desktop environment. But the current development method is unlikely to easily produce results on short terms.

What I think is still a big problem is the size of the base packages: having to sync all the release cycle for the packages with the rest of KDE makes difficult the incremental evolution of the software. It’s quite easy to see that a lot of the software that brought users to KDE 3 came from extragear or outside, rather than from the base packages: Amarok, K3B, Kile, TorK, Konversation, … You don’t see people saying they love Kopete (we all had our hopes up after the 0.12 series was split out, but then it was static again); SuperKaramba and Akregator also suffered from bitrot and featurerot since they got into the base packages.

The other problem is that a lot of features got added to the list for KDE4; while this is good, they take time to develop, test and polish. This is why people at KDE are thinking about releasing a ‘gamma’, that is neither a beta nor a release.. Well, of course even if the code is released as 4.0 the quality of the code won’t change magically with the name. Whatever you call it, before next year, KDE 4 won’t be ready for prime time. Even KDE 3 was unusable for me till 3.2.

Another problem seems to be the scarse consideration for distributions; well, for non-SUSE, non-KUbuntu distributions, or probably for no-money distributions. Beside CMake being far from trivial for many distributions, there seems to be little idea about usage of shared libraries: Amarok will use an inline modified copy of libplasma. Let’s add to that some debatale dependency, like packages that were altready removed from Gentoo.

Bottomline, I’m sure that KDE4 will be, in the future, a terrific desktop environment, but I’ll probably continue using KDE3 for a long time.