Interview with Kubuntu developer Jonathan Thomas

Once again interviewed a developer. This time we talked with Jonathan (JontheEchidna) Thomas. The Kubuntu developer and Ninja reported about the development cycle of Kubuntu "Jaunty Jackalope", which has been released today. Further he gave a little insight on "Karmic Koala", the future release of Kubuntu, which is announced for this year's october. Hi Jonathan, you are quite new in the team of kubuntu-devs. Tell us a little bit about yourself?

Jonathan: Hi, I am a 17 year-old student living in New Hampshire, which is a state in the northeastern part of the United States of America. (Quite close to Canada) As a student, I am busy a lot of the time with school. But, in my spare time, I like to contribute to various open-source projects such as Kubuntu (foremost) and KDE. (I am currently developing a Plasma wallpaper plugin that sets a wallpaper based on the weather at your specified location) I started contributing to Kubuntu right after Hardy was released, and have been steadily contributing to Kubuntu from the Intrepid release cycle to the present. We'll come back to becoming a MOTU later, now it is time to talk about Kubuntu 9.04 the "Jaunty Jackalope". How was the release cycle? Have there been special problems?

Jonathan: I'd describe this release cycle as intense. We've been able to include a lot of great, updated software this cycle that include some neat features and polishes existing features at the same time. Unfortunately, this cycle the graphics drivers for Intel video cards have been a bit more problematic in the past. This is about the biggest problem I've seen with Kubuntu 9.04 so far, and I'd recommend that users who have Intel cards testdrive the live cd for a bit before deciding whether to upgrade or not. Fortunately, the nVidia drivers have gotten better, with performance being far more acceptable in KDE4 and Firefox. There was a plan to get a KDE 3 free installation CD. Was this goal met?

Jonathan: Not quite. :( Unfortunately OpenOffice hasn't been able to deliver working KDE4 integration in the latest releases. K3b also isn't at a point where the KDE 4 port is mature enough to replace the KDE3 version. But otherwise it is very much KDE 3-free. The average user should not encounter any out-of-place-looking KDE3 components other than OpenOffice and K3b. So, whats new in Jaunty? Intrepid has KDE 4.2 packages in backports, why should I upgrade?

Jonathan: Hehe, good question. Aside from the general package updates, Kubuntu 9.04 also offers some nice new features. If speed's your thing, then Kubuntu 9.04 will deliver in this area. The Ubuntu dudes have done a great job reducing startup time. In addition, Qt 4.5 (The underlying framework of KDE) has received some major speedups which should make the entire experience feel snappier. We have a new default package manager, KpackageKit, which has better search functionality than Adept. Restricted package notification also returns in this release.

If you do not have the proper multimedia codecs installed when you try to play an MP3 for instance, the restricted component notifier will present you with the option of installing the packages so that you're MP3's will work. This may not be too compelling of a feature if you already have a Kubuntu 8.10 installation with all of that stuff already set up, but for new installations it is very handy. Speaking of new installations, the Kubuntu installer has been given a makeover, receiving a new timezone map and nifty bars in the partitioner that give a visualization of how your disk will be cut up. I think that a lot of the improvements to Kubuntu will be noticeable only for fresh installations, but I also think that the other improvements will make the overall Kubuntu experience smoother. We realized that you are a plasma hacker now. That weather wallpaper thing is really cool. Not busy enough?

Jonathan: Eheh, I guess impulsively deciding to just go and code a weather wallpaper plugin during the final weeks of Kubuntu 9.04 development might be just a little bit crazy. It's now become a part of KDE and will be available for installation in KDE 4.3, which is really cool. I guess this gives me an excuse to advertise a bit, so I guess I'll have to link to the project's page: It has packages for Kubuntu 9.04, so I guess that's another reason to upgrade. :P How would you describe the relationship between upstream and the Kubuntu devs. We are thinking about Quassel, there seems to be great feedback?

Jonathan: Oh yeah, I am confident that both parties believe that the relations between Kubuntu and Quassel have been mutually beneficial. I can't speak for the Quassel guys, but I find it rather impressive that the feedback Celeste gave the Quassel team resulted directly in making Quassel very easy to use for the average user. It transformed a somewhat-obscure, advanced IRC client with a somewhat steep learning curve into an equally powerful IRC client that is also appropriate for the average user and his or her needs. We can't wait to get Jaunty released, but the next release is also planned and it will be called "Karmic Koala". Is the K in there a special incentive for you?

Jonathan: I think I'd give it the same amount of work even if it was named “Giggling Gnome”, but I think that the K in there is pretty neat. Are there any plans to make koffice 2 the default office-suite in karmic?

Jonathan: I know that replacing OpenOffice with Koffice would make a lot of us happy. I t's hard to know whether we will be able to, though. The Koffice developers themselves say that Koffice 2.0 will not be able to replace OpenOffice in terms of functionality. I can say that it will be considered, since OpenOffice is somewhat huge and replacing it with Koffice would free up more room on the CD for other cool software. I wouldn't be too optimistic though. So you are planning to take part in karmic's release cycle?

Jonathan: Yes, definitely. You are a Kubuntu Ninja. Can you tell us about being a Kubuntu Ninja?

Jonathan: I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you, as the saying goes. Being a Kubuntu Ninja really just means that you are crazier than the average Kubuntu dev, and that each month you participate in a packaging spree to update the KDE packages to the latest released version. Harald “apachelogger” Sitter has done great work making the process as automated as possible. Give him a hug the next time you see him. We're looking forward to it. Give us some tips to get in touch with kubuntu development. How to become a MOTU or a Ninja, where is help needed:

Jonathan: The best places to get in touch with a Kubuntu person would be in the #kubuntu-devel channel on Freenode IRC. The kubuntu-devel mailing list is also a great way to get in touch with us. If becoming a MOTU is what you want to do, then I'd recommend reading this page: The fine folks in #kubuntu-devel and #ubuntu-motu would be happy to help you with any questions you may have.

If packaging's not your thing, we also always need help triaging the bug reports we receive. Kubuntu advocacy in your community is also always a good way to help. Even jumping on IRC to help users who come in having problems is a great way to help. (It's how I started, actually) Thank you for this interview and your work on Kubuntu.

Jonathan: No problem. I just hope my writing style translates well to German. ;-)