One perennial problem with free software is that, because they give it away, developers have no real reason to pursue a user base. This enables them to develop what they want in the way they want to develop it.
He goes on to discuss how KDE serves as a primary example. The new 4.x series gets lots of hobby user hype, with all the gee-whiz eye candy, but does so at the cost of any usefulness to the vast majority of ordinary computer users, folks for whom a computer could never be a hobby. Dare I say it comes close to a cult of self-congratulatory devotees who castigate anyone daring to suggest things might be a little better? The tight circle of developers and fans get all the attention, but anyone who doesn’t kneel in tearful awe is marginalized, at best. Such is the nature of far too many Open Source projects.
I recall one brief moment when KDE was truly useful within the parameters of things Open Source in general, and that was the 3.1.5 release. Though it benefited from the increasing automation and integration of the software, it still worked quite beautifully on FreeBSD 4, where it simply ran on top of the system. The handy user-friendly features like auto-mounting removable media didn’t work, but there was no real hassle in creating a desktop icon which would try to mount if you clicked it. I wrote for others instructions on how to make that work. Meanwhile, KDE at that staged managed to gather and solve a host of usability issues which had once plagued those of us who actually wanted Linux and BSD to serve as a daily work system.
That was the pinnacle of my experience with KDE, because while many parts of it continued to progress nicely, breakage kept popping up here and there, and too often it was something which simply needed to work or it was not worth the trouble to use it at all. Thus, while SUSE managed to integrate it really nicely into the system, the underlying flaws of SUSE bloat took it all away. Other distros simply didn’t bother to take advantage of that same potential (among distros I was willing to try) and FreeBSD zig-zagged on several issues, so I gave up when the home desktop thing became too low a priority for its developers.
Like Powell, I was thrilled to discover the willingness of Timothy Pearson to carry the fire for the one best hope to keep KDE 3 viable for Ubuntu base. I followed the instructions, added his repository, and installed. It’s functional, but I’m afraid I found a few parts not too well integrated where it really has to be. I won’t take Pearson to task over them, since he managed a monumental task just getting the packages built and functional on any level without much assistance. Rather, I commend him heartily for doing something so very rare among Open Source developers: He wants to serve the user.
That in itself is something to celebrate.
It seemed endless, a pattern repeated hour after hour. The truck lumbered across some valley floor, through hamlets, villages and towns. Then their path would struggle up some ribbed ridge, serpentine roads cut into the face of the mountains. Once the initial crest was made, the truck would alternate for a while between laboring up steep climbs and rolling madly down declines. Then a long snaking descent into a another wide valley.
The truck was a military castoff, the bed too high for comfortable passenger use. But then, at least it was intrinsically bottom heavy. The men with their baggage, which they used to cushion their ride, was a light load, so only the mechanical limitations of the beast kept it from moving faster. Still, the suspension was painfully stiff, and they could have counted every single stone larger than the thickness of a thumb which passed under the tires.
Krumm always sat where he could see out the front opening in the tarp. They all had sunglasses, mostly the trendy aviator type. His were sturdy full wrap-around safety glasses, so the dust hardly affected his vision. He also wore a wide-brimmed straw hat which somehow stayed put despite gusting winds, and seemed to keep far more dust from drifting onto his face than their baseball caps did for them.
Six men and baggage, with supplies, made for fairly cramped riding. Yet, for all the close quarters, Krumm was never quite in the same world as the other five.
“Why did you sign a contract with the military if you are so much a pacifist? Did you get hungry enough to compromise your principles?” It was gentle mocking.
Krumm remained typically unruffled. With a gentle smile, he answered, “You’ll save yourself a lot wondering if you simply write me off as insane. Logic is hardly a high priority in my calculations.”
Another broke in. “Crazy like a fox. At this rate we’ll be long dead while you rise from the ashes of whatever disaster. Yet it’s obvious you aren’t afraid of dying.”
Krumm’s smile broadened. “I look forward to death.”
“But you don’t use logic, so suicide is out?”
“I don’t get to choose.” Krumm braced himself and they followed his lead. A sudden jolt as they crossed a small crater in the road, the vehicle rocking heavily. The usual swearing could be heard from some of the men.
“Your philosophy sounds a lot like the local stuff.”
Krumm turned with eyebrows just visibly arched above his shades. “Perceptive! But I don’t share their philosophy so much as the underlying mystical approach.”
The first one said, “A mystic! That explains a lot. You act like you’re on a different planet half the time.”
The truck entered one of the long winding declines as the vista opened onto yet another broad valley. The HTS himself was driving, since his cadging with the chieftain in that last village got them a replacement guard, but hardly a teenager. The HTS had promised in exchange to teach the boy to drive, but apparently it was lie. The HTS was quite poor at it himself, so hardly stood to teach anyone else, but regulations forbid anyone without the proper driving credentials. Those came from a prolonged bureaucratic tangle few would endure, and the men in the back had only just arrived in country a few days ago.
The long downslope meant a change in the engine pitch, one which actually made conversation easier.
Krumm shifted to get a better view. “I consider myself under command from God, and there is no way to explain how He communicates his orders to me. I struggle myself to understand, much less implement them. I’d rather starve than work for the government, particularly the military, but I have orders from On High to be here.”
The other man cocked his head to one side. “I’ll bite. Any idea why?”
Krumm shook his head. “Not yet.”