KDE king Seigo talks life, free software and reinventing the desktop

Aaron J Seigo worries about client side software, thinks Plasma will challenge Flash, and Apple doesn't understand the open source development model.

With the recent release of version 4.0, the KDE open source project has garnered a lot of international attention. One of KDE's lead developers, and best known personality, Aaron J Seigo is in Australia to speak at this year's Linux.conf.au on his vision for better desktop computing. Computerworld spoke with Seigo, a native of Calgary, Canada, about his view of the world and how a little bit of innovation will permanently change how people interact with software.

What motivates you to work on free software and what do you like about KDE?

I love creating in general and I really enjoy software, and I'm fairly ethically motivated. It effects what I eat and how I live my life so it can be very difficult to find a way to feel good about practicing the art of software because it's a good way to make money, but that can be hollow.

With KDE the people that are involved in the project are phenomenal -- they are ridiculously intelligent, but nice. There is this great sense of belonging to a group of people. I started out doing mostly server-side stuff and as I got involved more and more I started to realize if client side software is not taken care of well we will lose the server. Everything is leveraged from what the end-user uses so it's a real challenge.

Look at GroupWare. It's the elephant in the room that no one talks about. It's an uncomfortable topic because it's a Microsoft Exchange world because of Outlook. It is the easiest to get, highest-quality client on Windows and only works to its full potential with Exchange. Because of that choice on the client side companies are forced to make a decision on the server side. So how do you start to dislodge this problem? If we have good client side software that worked as good or better, and as an added bonus cost less -- if we can start to promote those solutions we can start to break the lock between client and server.

We are re-imaging what a desktop should be, we are introducing social semantics to the desktop, and we are inventing something that looks nicer than what Apple has

Now Microsoft with SharePoint is taking that to the next level with Office. We need to have client side software that works well with it. I'm not sure that is appreciated by the Linux distributors, and if they did, they wouldn't waste time with things that don't work. I love Compiz Fusion and I think we need bling on the desktop, but let's be honest, that doesn't attract developers or get free software out to the world. People are stuck with things like file formats, proprietary protocols and hardware. We do need to address the online Web 2.0 world, but again, that keeps the client side relevant but it doesn't get more free software clients out there.

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