Over at Practical Tech Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols suggests that it may be time for a fork of KDE, mostly because he doesn’t believe that KDE 4.1 is heading in the right direction. It’s obviously an interesting and emotional topic as the comments will attest. I’ll quote a small portion of one of the comments. A writer who goes by burpnrun said, “I can understand the emotional investment that Asiego has in Kde4. But the article writer is correct: the desktop should not get in the way of the mainstream user’s productive needs, and that is what KDE4 does.”
First of all, the Asiego (sic) in question is Aaron Seigo, a KDE luminary if ever there was one. The article writer is Stephen J. Vaughan-Nichols, a luminary in his own right — of the tech-journalist variety. Now, Stephen may have said a lot more about KDE 4 in earlier postings but in this article, he points to one feature of one icon in one application. Not much to go on really. However, he does, indirectly, remind us of an important aspect of Linux and the world of FOSS (free and open source software).
When we talk about Linux and open source software, we invariably bring up the whole notion (and glory and burden) of choice. You can choose to run GNOME, or KDE (3.x or 4.x) or WindowMaker, or EvilWM, or whatever turns your crank. Or to put it another way, whatever helps you get your work done in a way that works best for you. Freedom is great! It’s also damned inconvenient because you have to take a stand. Both Stephen and Aaron must be commended for their willingness to take a stand. Freedom reigns and we move forward.
Like SJVN, I have run numerous distributions and desktop environments and I move from one to the other with little fuss. I am one with pretty much all of this stuff. I run GNOME from time to time, but I prefer KDE. Heck, I still log into WindowMaker from time to time and nothing beats IceWM on some of the older machines I find myself using from time to time. However, I am one of the people who find KDE 4.1 so incredibly useful and so much more tuned to the way I want to work, that these days, I find myself longing for my KDE 4.1 desktop whenever I run anything else.
KDE 4.1 is a bold move; a fresh and exciting rethinking of the desktop. And frankly, it is (in my opinion) more than time the desktop was rethought. I honestly believe that the most exciting, innovative, and promising shift in the desktop has to be KDE 4.X (complete with all the new and sometimes seemingly odd changes) and I want to follow that excitement. That’s part of the reason I went through my distro crisis of faith lately (I switched back to Mandriva, by the way).
All this discussion, and yes, criticism, is also good. Evolution doesn’t just move forwards. It moves sideways, tries things here and there, abandons a few, then continues its move forwards. A few years from now, when we look back at the evolution of the computer desktop, I’m sure we’ll be pointing to these discussions, and KDE 4, as part of that evolutionary process. Sitting here in July 2008, it’s not all perfect and rosy, but things are not only a changin’, they are a improvin’, too.
And yes, that is my opinion.