Linux Expo 2002

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Like every year, a Linux Expo is held in Paris. This year was at the CNIT (La Defense), from Wed, 30. january 2002 to Fri 01 Februray 2002. Last two years, I attended as a visitor. But this year, I wanted to be part of it: I would be at the KDE booth.

So I took a day off. It is a pain to still have to wake-up early despite the fact that you are on a day off :-). But, hey, KDE and the Linux Expo is certainly worth it!

I arrived on the first day around 10:30. There was already David Faure, Laurent Montel and the three members of the french translation team. Stephan Westerfield was there too. He was invited by the Linux Expo to present arts in the expensive conferences (150 euros for visitors). We had two computers freshly installed with a Mandrake, with KDE2 and KDE3 (beta1). The computers were lend by Mandrake, they had top cool LCD screens (which were lend by HP to Mandrake). Network was not working :-(. We also had a gigantic K poster, and some cool KDE T-shirts to sell (with the KDE3 splash screen), for 15 euros. The booth was given for free by the Linux Expo, like for every Free Software organisation.

Surprisingly, the booth was close to the FSF booth. But the guys there were cool (should I add "surprisingly" ?) and even KDE enthusiasts. In fact, it turned out that they were not from the FSF (I knew this was not natural :-) ). They only had put a product they had been developing in partnership with Lotus under GPL, as a last step before closing their self-funded company. According to them, the partnership with Lotus was the main reason for their failure and they were extremly happy to displease Lotus by putting their stuff under GPL. :-)

The other booth was the AFUL. AFUL, the French Association of Free software Users is a very important association for Linux in France. They are activly promoting Linux in the governement and administrations, with success. And they are fighting software patents with clever ideas. Last year, they patented a software for the "35 hours", (the week of 35 hours is one of the major reform of the our governement), to demonstrate the stupidity of the current patent system. I saw some top-AFUL members and well-known french linux advocates, like Bernard Lang, Roberto Di Cosmo or Stephane Fermigier.

I visited quickly the commercial booths. I found them even more commercial than the previous years, all with ties and professional presentation. Some companies their had nothing of the Free Software spirit, some even sold a software they was patented! Hopefully, the true companies were there too: O'Reilly, Mandrake, Alcove, ACT, some french magazines, and so on. However, there was no Suse booth, no Gnome booth and no Trolltech booth. A presentation of Qt was planned in the afternoon, in the expensive conferences.

The Village of Associations was by far the most interesting thing, with true hackers. I came back there, put my KDE uniform (the cool T-shirt) and started to answer to the endless flow of visitors. It was not too much crowded, unlike previous years.

  • My first Visitor: When is the KDE3 release planned ?
  • Me (thinking shit, I can't remember: uh, Laurent, do you know when the next released is planned exactly ?
  • Laurent: I think it is sometimes in march or february. Euh, David, do you know ? " :-))

Network was still not working but David knew, it was for end of march. And a beta2 was under the cover, for monday.

The most often asked question was undoubtly What's new in KDE3. I also didn't know (shit!). I had only tried KDE3 once or twice and was waiting for the beta2 to switch. I couldn't say what was definitely new. But Laurent and David confirmed that in fact, it was mostly background and little changes so there was not much new to show to visitors.

I have probably answered the question a thousand times but I reproduce it here, in case some people still don't know: KDE 3 is binary incompatible with KDE 2, hence the major version increment. All applications and libraries have to be recompiled. But apart from that, it could be labeled KDE 2.3. KDE 3 is quicker to launch, there is a new educational package, Konqueror Javascript's support has been greatly improved, support for right-to-left languages is better, there is some improvement in the printing architecure, many bug fixes and many small improvements that make your life easier.

When I was too tired, I would answer differently:

  • What's new in KDE 3 ?
  • Nothing!

or

  • What's new in KDE 3 ?
  • Well, we rewrote everything in Gtk. In fact, Gtk is not that bad, you just have to like macros and struct.

and even

  • Some people believe we are increasing KDE version number because Gnome is finally reaching its version 2. They are absolutely right! :-)


We had the usual deal of clueless users, but not too much. My best quotes:

  • Do you sell Linux ?
  • My USB Palm Pilot is not working, do you know why ?
  • I installed the rpm of Brahms but it is not working!. It turned out that the guy had installed a Suse rpm of Brahms for KDE 1.2 on his Mandrake 8.1. :-))) But he still pretended he hadn't use --force.


Random remarks

  • Many visitors expressed their support to the KDE project.
  • Many many users use Konqueror as their browser of choice, even with other desktop.
  • All of the home users were using Mandrake, not even aware that there are some other distribution (You know I am using a 8.1). Mandrake is really very popular in France.
  • All the manager having a team developing with KDE (usually not very familiar with Free Software) were using Redhat and KDevelop.
  • I met three different people that were responsible to deploy Free Software inside their company and were investigating the existing solutions. Of course, I have pointed them to KDE Enterprise.
  • I saw at least three people willing to join the translation team. Some other were considering it.
  • I sold something like 8 KDE T-shirts. This is probably the booth top score :-)
  • Many people still believed Qt is not free! This is really a shame. I had to explain that it was in fact freeer that Gnome and Gtk and stuff like that.
  • I taught some 16 year old kids about the history of Linux, Gnu, the KDE / Gnome war.
  • I converted at least 3 people from Gtk to Qt. Mostly people starting development under Linux, thinking Gtk was the way to go. They even believed that it would work with C++. One of them had just bought a Gtk book but returned to the Eyrolles book store to change it :-)) Remember, a Gtk program is bigger that the Qt equivalent.
  • Lot of coder are really using Gtk by default, finding it quite hard to use. They think Qt is not free or think Gtk is easier. What a pity!
  • I evangelised KDE and Qt a lot. Some told me I should work for Trolltech.  :-) But Qt is simply better, cleaner, smoother than everything, perfectly documented, multi-platform and well-written. And KDE is just well organised, cleanly written, technically superior, professionally managed and developing at a faster pace than Gnome.
  • A guy from GnuStep came to discuss. Also of course, he finds KDE too much windows-like, he likes the project and the way it was handled. Gnome is really very messy and unorganised to him. I am glad not to be the only one to think that.

Discussing with David Faure, I told him about some complaints I had about Konqueror : the profile setting should be in the settings menu and the URL bar should accept URL drop by replacing the current URL. Then I saw this magic thing: A live coding session by a true talented KDE core developer : David took his laptop and started coding under my eyes. In five minutes, it was done: the "URL" label would accept url and just open them. Really great! He did that again on the next day, when a visitor asked for the domtree plugin to support copy/paste of every branch. Really great.

In the afternoon, Bruno Bellamy was on the AFUL booth, which was thus overcrowded. Bruno Bellamy is a well known french drawer that makes drawing for probably every french computer-related magazine. He draws mainly cute girls with very few clothes and some penguins. The Demolinux penguin is from him for example. If you don't know his work, you must absolutely check his website, www.bellaminettes.com (french linke).

He was dedicating the Demolinux 3.0 CD and his drawings. If you don't know Demolinux, you must absolutely discover it. This is a bootable CDRom that will put you in a complete Linux environment, with KDE, StarOffice, everything, without touching the hard disk. Demolinux is perfect for people who want to have a look at linux but are afraid of partionning or installing it. It is also very handy when you find yourself in a windows-only place and you need some linux program. Check the website : www.demolinux.org

The end of the day came before I realised it was over. It's been great for me to be able to share my passion for Free Software and KDE with the many visitors and developers. I'll be there the next year for sure.

I work 20 minutes away from the CNIT, so I came back between 12 and 14 on thursday and friday (my boss didn't complain too much). I met Laurent Rathle who is doing an incredible job on kde-france.org (now dead)

I found it very difficult to leave the booth to get back to office. KDE and Free Software guys are really nice.