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Editor's Note from the Road: On a Global SCALE

Feb 12, 2006, 02:30 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

I'll tell you one thing about the Southern California Linux Expo: there is certainly no shortage of enthusiasm amongst the attendees. And thank goodness for that, because otherwise I might have passed out sometime after getting here.

Flying from Indiana to LA in one hop is convenient, but it plays heck with your body's schedule. Though I left at 9 local time this morning, and got here at 11 local time, by the time I actually got to lunch it was 3:30 back in the Hoosier State, and I had not eaten much for breakfast.

During Aaron Seigo's talk this morning on the progress of the KDE 4 desktop, specifically the Plasma prject he is working with, I nearly fainted from lack of food. But the crowd enthusiasm and Aaron's patented KDE Dance (which involved a bet, beer, and Jono Bacon. That's all I know.) kept me alert while Aaron regaled the session with very cool looking and sounding information on the near future of the KDE interface.

To sum it up in a very small nutshell, this interface is going to be the first step towards a new paradigm (my word, not his) for interfaces. In Aaron's mind's eye, desktops will be "workspaces," with a separate workspace for each task or project the user may be working on. Workflows will be heuristically learned, so the workspace will eventually anticipate your next task. Widgets will be networked, and information shared transparently over any network with any user or usergroup.

That is just a taste of what's coming. Changes in KDE 4 will start to reflect this new direction, but don't worry, it won't be all at once. Aaron informed us that this new interface will be incrementally built on throught the KDE 4.x products, up to KDE 5.

After the session, I grabbed a much-needed lunch with Aaron and got his insights on a lot of current Linux events. The conversation bounced around a bit and his take on the globalization of open source really struck a chord with me.

We all tend to think as localization being the process of translating software into the local language. But often, he explained, it's more than that. Having just gotten back from a conference with 1,500 university students on Mexico, Aaron said that a big challange for open source is and will be trying to integrate the very notion of open source into a given culture.

Mexico, he elaborated, is culturally resistant to open source, because they have come to expect that unless it comes out of a proprietary vendor, the product is no good. Free means cheap, something they want no part of. Aaron said he was able to put it into more local terms. Imagine, he told them, if the rich cultural history of the Mayan Civilization became suddenly inaccessible. Ancient buildings would become invisible, intangible. Records would be illegible.

This imaginary tale equates to losing the ability to access data as technology moves forward with proprietary instead of open source formats, and he was able to reach them more with this example--one that tied into their heritage. The argument for open formats in the US, conversely, would be equated with loss of control--something that brings a lot more anxiety to a North American heart.

Different cultures require different ways of introducing and nuturing open source. That is why Aaron advocates the local advocacy wherever he goes. Only the people on the ground can know what the customer needs are and how best to respond to those needs.

More on the show tomorrow. Off to the evening festivities.