In Glasgow

This year I decided to arrive one day earlier, to have some more time to rest from the long flight from Brazil. If you are still packing, remember to bring an umbrella 🙂 I also met Felipe Zimmerle by accident at the airport in Amsterdam,  and learned that he will give a talk just before our KDEGaming panel this Saturday. See you guys soon!

Jumping into the discussion

Sometimes people question why developers working in the kdegames module are “wasting” or “spending” time with silly games, as this time could be used “better” for other critical areas of KDE. While this seems a logical assumption, it appears to be flawed. Volunteers in a project like KDE work on what they want, so if these developers were not working on kde games the end result would simply be “no games”, with no difference whatsoever for the other kde modules.
I think the same applies here to the developers working on the Win and Mac versions, doesn’t it? They are working on something to scratch their itches, and respecting of course the license of the KDE project. So why this topic causes a lot of discussion, like the recent one going on in planet? Well, I know no one asked, but here is my take on this issue anyway. I will probably regret posting this in one week 🙂

To me it boils down to the attempt (sometimes unconscious) to “control” or “direct” other people’ s lives. Sorry for the quotes, but English is not my native language, so I know these are approximations of the idea I am trying to convey. Let me try to make this more clear.
Behind the discussion of this topic is the sometimes unconscious idea that people “should” switch to a free OS sometime down the road. If you examine the whole issue from the perspective of JUST KDE SOFTWARE you will see that expanding to other platforms looks like an obvious gain if it brings one single developer to the project. If you however examine the issue from the perspective of “trying to sway people away from MS and into a free software OS” then the issues are really more muddy, and I can not see clearly how expanding to the “hostile” OS will achieve this goal automatically without some clear planning of the process. It might help, it might not. Apple is betting their house on a similar strategy, porting some of the apps to Windows, while keeping the jewels on their OS. It would be interesting to see how it plays out for them.

So, to me, it is a question of making the intentions of the questioner more clear. If the goal is to spread adoption of KDE software, then it seems logical that any work in porting to other platforms is a step in the right direction. The only pitfall I can see is the possibility of “dumbing down” some of KDE key infrastructure in order to accommodate restrictions in this platform, which should not happen imo. This is a real danger, not something hypothetical, but I believe the core group of KDE developers is taking steps to prevent this from happening.

If however the goal is to make all of the world switch to free software OS then we are talking about a whole different issue. But as I see it, this should not be a goal of the KDE project (see * at the end.) Mind you that this is not because I disagree with it as an end result, but I think something like this (the switch) comes naturally after people are exposed to free software culture in its more “pure” form (to me at least), without strings or attachments, or hidden plans. Start by enjoying good quality free software one application at a time, and the rest will happen to the people that are prepared or willing to take this path.

There is a thin line here. It is a choice between
A) offering a gift to people freely so they can hopefully understand its value and adopt it if needed, and
B) secretly wanting in some corner of your mind to dominate the whole world by all means necessary, which tends to make portions of the free software community very  similar to MS in attitude. Different paths to world domination, but same end result 🙂

A triple disclaimer with sugar on top here: I am not judging Aarons’s and Christian’s opinions here, nor am I trying to put them on just one of the camps described above! Read this as an attempt to help with the discussion, which I find very interesting and needed for the future of the project!.

*There is this page. Maybe the goal of the KDE project had always included a switch to monopoly-free computing environment. The current work on porting seems contrary to the goals of the project as described on that page, doesn’t it? Should we update the page, or attempt to understand how the porting effort could really contribute to the goals stated here?

Freedom and parades

This is a slightly different blog entry. I live in São Paulo, Brazil, so quite used to large crowds. The metropolitan area houses around 11 million people. Yesterday the city hosted the largest parade in the world for celebration of sexual diversity. Amazingly, it gathered anywhere from 3 to 3.5 million people.
English articles about it can be found at this and this links, and photos  are available as well.
What does this have to do with free software? It is interesting to notice the absolute majority of people on the parade were not really part of the gay community. Most were families with children. The focus of the event was to celebrate the rights of people to exercise their freedom, to run their lives in the way that suits them most. And to most people here the right to exercise their freedom sexually is very important. Carnival anyone?
Contrast this with the recent visit of the Pope to Brazil, where crowds of millions were expected, but attendance was very low, and only about 30% of the expected audience was seen in most public events. This Pope’s message is basically about control and restriction, and it has not resonated at all here, even with the overwhelming catholic majority of the country, and massive media attention to the visit.
As I look at these events and others in the recent history of the country, I begin to see a pattern. Brazilians are apparently very found of freedom of expression. Yet in this country this usually manifests in a pattern of relative tolerance to others, which helps explain why the country has not been involved in any significant military conflict  in the continent since 1880.
I am sure the above can also be observed in the pattern of adoption of free software in Brazil Some people seem to believe that adoption of free software in developing countries is mostly dictated by monetary conditions (the “free” as in beer aspect.) But I disagree with this, at least in essence. Every free software advocate you run into in Brazil is always touting the freedom aspect first, and the monetary reward as a by product. People here are also very confortable with mixed solutions, where free software and proprietary components are used in the same solution (the tolerance aspect I mentioned before, perhaps?) Another interesting parallel between the recent parade and free software adoption is the gradual involvement of the government as partial sponsor of both movements. Some people seem to believe that adoption of free software (or celebration of diversity!) is dictated by government policies, but I can tell you that this is not how it works down here. Both movements started with smaller portions of the population at first, and then gained momentum. The government only joined the party at a much later stage, when it became apparent that freedom of expression is a desire of the population.
Just some random rambling while I wait for kdelibs to build, and prepare to re-tackle some work on KMines and KMahjongg 🙂