KDE version in Lenny: KDE 3.5.9 vs KDE 4.1

Ana Guerrero ana at debian.org
Thu Jun 5 20:03:50 UTC 2008

Hi folks,

We have been delaying taking a decision about this for too much time now, 
the freeze is coming up [0], and we need to have it clear, for our users, 
the release team and the rest of Debian.

Basically we can ship either KDE 3.5.9 or KDE 4.1. For some people in the team
it seems clear we should ship KDE 4.1, for some other it is clear we should 
ship KDE 3.5.9. The latter is my opinion, so here you have a mail explaining 
why we should release with 3.5.9. Feel free to reply with a nice mail of why 
we should ship with KDE 4.1, detailing as well how much time *you* are planning 
to invest in this goal.
By the way, my proposal is shipping KDE 3.5.9 with the KDE 4.1 development 
platform: kde4libs, kdepimlibs and kdebase-runtime.

- No huge advantages in shipping KDE 4.1
Honestly, I do not see any advantage in shipping KDE 4.1 instead of KDE 3.5.9 
besides of coolness and bleeding-edge stuff. I do see this movement more like 
a change of desktop than an improved new version of KDE. The KDE 4 series 
clearly represent a big change in innovation and improvement over KDE 3, 
something that has just started. KDE 4 will have a lot of to tell in the 
future (4.2, 4.3..), you only have to see how much it has improved from 4.0 to 
4.1 beta 1. But I do not see KDE 4.1 still fully replacing all the necessities 
of our users. There is still a bunch of small details there and here, 
I will talk of some here further on this mail (for example, koffice), but 
what worries me here specially is that some are totally unknown for us, 
since we have a lot of users with very different use cases. 

- KDE 4.1 has not been released yet.
KDE 4.1 has not been released yet, looking at the release schedule [1], it is 
supposed to be released July 29th, this is already impossible with current 
Lenny's release, and we would need an exception from the release team that 
will be only granted if it is really worth it. Then, a delay in this schedule 
from KDE release team would be bad for us, since we are so tight in time.
The sooner we could upload something to unstable would be with the RC1 that 
will be released on the 15th of July, 2 weeks before the final version. 
Lenny is supposed to go into full freeze in the mid of July, this could be 
delayed, but what is sure libraries will be frozen in 3-4 weeks, and we need 
ship a huge amount of new libraries.
Besides, it is usually better ship an update of 4.1.x that contains fixes 
to the most important problems found in the 4.1.0 release.

-Build dependencies we need to take care of
And then, it is not only the KDE 4 desktop, there are a set of build 
dependencies we have to maintain and not all of them are already in unstable, 
those dependencies are: akonadi, automoc (already in unstable, but it is a
snapshot), decibel, soprano, tapioca-qt and telepathy-qt.
And we'll have soon phonon, but I do consider phonon part of KDE 4. We'll need 
to ship it anyway in order of upload the development platform to unstable.

-Some widely used apps of the KDE desktop are not ready
Even if they are not shipped with the core packages, some apps belong to the 
KDE desktop and to the KDE project. We have here Koffice, kdevelop or amarok.
I have not idea of the exact status of amarok, but I think it won't be ready. 
Amarok is one of a lot of widely used apps in the KDE desktop that won't have 
a substitute in KDE 4. There is a myriad of small apps in this situation.

Koffice 2 won't be ready so we are shipping with koffice 1 that needs some 
parts of KDE 3 to work properly (like kcontrol), so it will need some hacking 
because it is not currently fully installable in KDE 4... and it won't be 
properly integrated anyway. I'm not sure how well works kdevelop with KDE 4, 
but newer kdevelop (that needs now kdevplatform package) won't be ready.
Quanta needs as well kdevplatform, but quanta is shipped inside kdewebdev 
and it is one of the modules we have not packaged yet (together with 
accessibility and bindings).

Then you have that some interesting apps usually distributed in the core 
modules, are not yet ready, for example kpilot in kdepim. AFAIK, this is 
postponed for KDE 4.2.

-No positive feedback about shipping it
My blog post about how to install KDE 4.1 beta 1 had some feedback of other 
developers in planet and specially from users in several blogs and forums 
that linked my post. Most of the people seem to like it as in "it will be 
cool", but everybody seems to agree that it is not still a replacement 
for KDE 3 in their daily tasks.
Basically, I see 3 kinds of users: developers, power users and average 
users. KDE 4.1 could be ready for developers who are able to cope with 
the lack of some apps, mixing kde3 and kde4 without risks etc, and 
the same goes to power users. But I do not see it ready for final users, 
they won't like this (imposed) change.
We would be shipping the KDE 4.1 desktop just released, and usually in the 
community, average users wait until more advanced users are used to this new 
software then it is when they adopt it, because then, they have support and 
help from forum and mailing lists from this more advanced users.
With the current beta power users and developers still do not see it ready 
for daily use, so what you can expect for our average users.

-Some arches do not like KDE 4
Let's keep this short: KDE 4 needs to be built in all the release archs, 
and it actually does not. 

-You can have everybody happy
My proposal is release with "old" reliable KDE 3.5.9 not forcing anyone 
to update to KDE 4.1, and just provide 4.1.x "official" backports. So whose 
who want to use KDE 4.1 will just use the backports and besides, these users 
will have these backports updated through the KDE 4.1.x (x=1,2,3..) updates. 
I am willing to work on these backports.  
By the way, Backports infrastructure is only for stuff in testing, but I'm 
sure we can find a nice solution here.

I have been thinking this way since months ago, but I did not want to kill 
people's hope of shipping it in Lenny without looking at KDE 4.1 evolutions 
in development and really seeing whether it fits in our calendar with respect 
to Lenny. And with the current data, I think it is clearly a bad idea shipping 
KDE 4.1.


[0] http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2008/06/msg00000.html
[1] http://techbase.kde.org/index.php?title=Schedules/KDE4/4.1_Release_Schedule
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