Home again

After a great Akademy, I’m home again and back in my office chair trying to build a new Krita package for CentOS 5.8. Would have succeeded, too, if Qt 4.8 could have worked with the built-in dbus. Recompiling Qt 4.7 now, that used to work.

But I’m still tired… Akademy was wonderful, but I got hit pretty badly by the dust in the bedroom of my apartment and now I’ve got little infections everywhere, as if my immune system has gone on vacation. So if you’ve seen me vegging out in the coffee shop in the Akademy venue, that wasn’t because I had a hangover, but because I was feeling horrible… And in fact, I’m still feeling rather grumpy.

Fortunately, the allergy tended to clear up in the afternoon. There have been plenty of blogs and posts on the dot about Akademy, but for me, highlights were the keynotes which were way more inspiring and awesome than usual. I blogged about a few already, but not about the keynote from Will Schoeder from Kitware. He talked about Open Science — and how lack of openness hurts a lot. His slide about mri scan interpretation differences was absolutely frightening. Not just because therapies are based on these wildly diverging results but also because pop science books like “Wij zijn ons brein” take these results inside the brain for absolute proof for lots of behaviour — and people are starting to make policy depend on that.

KDE-wise, the e.V. meeting took really long, but it was worth it. We got a lot of things done, and I’m particularly happy that Ingo, Tom and Ben’s proposal for creating a working group focussed on improving the tools and process used to enable developer-user interaction succeeded.

I had a very enjoyable afternoon hacking with Aurelien Gateau, implementing the first beginning of colormanagement into Gwenview.

The dealing-with-the-press session with Jake from LWN, Markus from Linux Magazin and Open Hatch’s Deb Nicholson. Lots of good tips, and now I need to implement those in Krita’s efforts to reach press and public.

And let’s not forget this: Camilla Boemann won the Akademy Award 2012 for Calligra Words! A huge compliment and boost for her and the whole Words and Calligra team!

[Once again, pictures no longer available.]

The last day, I went to do the tourist thing. The old town of Tallinn is a Unesco World Heritage. The damage done by the Soviet bombs in 1944 and by the decades of Soviet rule has been mostly cleared up — often by Polish restoration companies. Poland seems to have a lot of experience in that area, from Krakow to the University of Wroclaw, which I visited some years ago. The ensemble of buildings was very impressive. Less impressive is that apart from two bakeries and a hat shop at the very outskirts, the whole old town contains nothing but restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. Well, that, and a few museums and embassies. The city history museum had a quite good overview of history. Weirdest place of the old town: a tower called Kiek in Kök — that sounded so Dutch, and in fact, the name is low German, and I was right that I remembered to have seen the name before..

There was a kind of medieval re-enactment festival going on Thursday, which I enjoyed a lot. The Musica Ficta ensemble was singing, and I was really impressed and very happy to snag their CD.

It might be cheesy, but I didn’t care — the Olde Hansa restaurant’s spicy beer and wine served by dressed-up waitresses was plenty of fun.

There were a lot of rather pretty wooden houses around in our apartment’s neighbourhood. I saw a poster from the The Museum of Estonian Architecture about an exhibition on these houses, called “from Slum to Architecture — Tallinn’s Wooden Houses”, and I really wanted to see that, but couldn’t find the museum. In any case, awareness probably means that they won’t all be demolished.

Given the problems we currently have in our Parish in Deventer, I haven’t been to church for half a year, so I felt it would be a good idea to go to the morning Liturgy in the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. I’ve been Russian-Orthodox for over 18 years now, and I’d never been to a service that was fully in Church-Slavonic. I could follow most of it, but I couldn’t confess because the English-speaking priest was on vacation, so I couldn’t receive Communion. Despite that, it was an intensely moving experience.


How Open is KDE Actually?

Well, that was the question Mirko Boehm asked his captivated audience this morning. This is less of an open door question than you might assume. KDE is pretty open. If you measure KDE’s openness in the terms of that recent research paper, we’re 70-80 percent open.

Which is good, but begs the question: why not 100%? The big bug-bear here is KDE e.V. KDE e.V. is a non-profit organization that has a large number of members from the KDE community. It has a yearly meeting, which is closed. It has an active mailing list, which is closed. Yet, KDE e.V. makes a lot of important decisions for KDE as a project, decisions that affect everyone who uses KDE and everyone who works on KDE. Decisions like sprint budgets, Akademy location. And the mailing list sometimes happens to be used for general direction discussion for KDE.

Oops… Maybe I shouldn’t have said that last bit. I’m not sure the rules allow me to.

Which does support Mirko’s point, of course.

Then, Mirko went on: there are other problems in KDE that come through a lack of openness. KDE as a project, as a community is not open to contributions, ideas and suggestions that come from companies. Or, more properly, coming from people who represent a company. That sucks, because, as Mirko very properly argued, it’s a kind of discrimnation. And yes, from experience I can say that this happens.

Yes, KDE is open. We could be more open, and more importantly, being more open would be good for KDE. I support Mirko when he calls for all of us to improve KDE, year after year, not just the code, but our community, our organization and our reach.

The discussion, for now, will probably continue on the KDE e.V. mailing list.


The Akademy 2012 keynote by Matthias Klang was really great. Here are some quotes:

We’re living an audience livestyle. And the tools that I use to reach my audience control me.

We are data cows: we get milked to produce the data. We’re not valuable as the cow, we’re valuable by what we produce

Should we be teaching facebook to kids

If you take away walls, what comes is not freedom. What comes is pornography

We teach use, not code

“Digital natives” — everyone under 15 “knows stuff” and everyone over “35” doesn’t. What’s up with that notion?

We have to hack society for openness. We have to make sure our infrastructure stays open. Stallmann was right

Why are we being manipulated in this way by our gadgets

Your karma is leaking: what does your code do?

Really, the best keynote in ages!

Read the slides here on slideshare

Agent 327

I don’t think there’s much doubt that the Agent327 comics by Martin Lodewijk are among the best, or even the best Dutch comics; and they shine even among Belgian or French comics. There are currently 18 volumes, with two more expected, and I count myself very fortunate to possess all 18. True, in various states of dilapidation, because these are comics to read, re-read and re-read again.

There are three series — the short stories rendered with wavy lines, first drawn for the Dutch comic weekly Pep, longer stories rendered with clear lines and gorgeous backgrounds for Pep’s successor weekly Eppo, and the new series drawn with fairly fat black lines and not as much precision (but a lot of graphical inventiveness, e.g. in De wet van alles) for the Rotterdam newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. Martin Lodewijk is being remarkably productive nowdays; this last series counts 8 albums published in four years.

There’s also one so-called mini-album, the smallest comic in the world —  Dossier Minimum Bug, in which Olga Lawina (a reference to Dutch yodel singer Olga Lowina), manages to enlarge her already impressive breasts even more; a change that doesn’t particularly appeal to me.

And recently it happened that I found myself re-reading all of them, and I was struck with how accurately and surprisingly these comics document the world as it was when they were drawn. Agent 327 is quintessentially Dutch, even though it started as a spoof of James Bond; and much of the scenery, many details and even plot points center around what’s considered typically Dutch, even though the stories branch out around the world.

If you re-read the first few albums, filled mostly with short stories, some things immediately are apparent: how empty Holland was, how ubiquitous smoking was (although Hendrik IJzerbroot, Agent 327 has never smoked). The stories are filled with little details that deserve, analogous with the Annotated Pratchett File, an Annotated Agent 327 File. For instance, while I do get the references to Victor Baarn (the alias HRH Prince Bernhard, the husband of Queen Juliana, used to cash his cheques from Lockheed), I am very hazy on modern popular culture, so I must be missing a lot in the second series of albums. For instance, who’s that particular young man Olga Lawina guards so closely? He must be a “Bekende Nederlander”…

Early next year a book titled “The Making of Agent 327” will apparently be published; perhaps it will fill this lacuna.