LabPlot on Windows from the Microsoft Store
Jonathan Riddell: Can you tell us what LabPlot does?
Stefan Gerlach: LabPlot is a desktop application for interactive visualization and analysis of scientific data. We try to provide an alternative to commercial products like OriginLab Origin, SigmaPlot or IgorPro, but also use modern desktop features. There are some free applications with more or less overlapping goals like SciDAVis and kst and we collaborate with them.
LabPlot is a multi-platform KDE application. The current code base, named LabPlot2, started in 2006 when rewriting the old version LabPlot 1.6. Our main development platform is Linux, but most of our users are on Windows, so we are working hard to make everything work there too.
Jonathan: What about Cantor?
Stefan: Cantor is basically a frontend to several (mathematical) applications like Python, Octave, Sage or Julia with a nice worksheet interface.
Cantor-Worksheets can be used in LabPlot to do calculations and show the results. Two nice examples can be found at the Labplot gallery. I'm not a main developer of Cantor, but mainly work on porting it to Windows and macOS to make it available for LabPlot.
Jonathan: How was the Windows build of LabPlot made?
Stefan: We have been using the Binary Factory to build nightly and release builds for Windows for some time now. Before that we had a virtual machine running Windows with Craft installed to make our own packages. It was not easy to get everything built correctly on the Binary Factory, but, looking back, it was worth the effort.
Jonathan: What sort of QA have you done on the Windows build of LabPlot?
Stefan: Besides several unit tests that we have, most of the QA we do now is using new features on all platforms. We also get user responses from nightly builds when things are not working as expected. This helped a lot to find regressions and problems especially on Windows.
Jonathan: How easy was it to get access to the KDE account on the Microsoft Store?
Stefan: Very easy. I just had to open a sysadmin ticket :-)
I don't think that every application developer needs access to the KDE account. If a Windows package is well prepared and tested, the submit process can be easily done by any developer on the KDE Partner Center.
Jonathan: What sort of process did you have to go through to get it into the Microsoft Store?
Stefan: To get LabPlot in the Microsoft Store I used the excellent submission guide. Before that I followed the corresponding Phabricator ticket for requirements and prepared the Windows package on the Binary Factory. It took some time to do it the first time, but other application developers can surely find help if needed.
Jonathan: LabPlot is available at no cost, did you consider charging for it the same as Krita does?
Stefan: We are happy to provide a free software application for anyone to use. Any donation right now goes to KDE and we think this is well earned for providing such a great framework and infrastructure for developers.
We already talked internally about whether we should collect money for hiring developers but we decided that it probably won't pay off. We know that our target group is rather small and we don't have so many users as more popular KDE applications :-)
Jonathan: Do you have a process to keep the LabPlot version on the store up to date? Have you considered how you would handle security updates for example?
Stefan: Updating all packages is part of our release plan as far as we can support it. It normally takes a few days after the source is published but we are only a small team :-)
Security is normally not an issue for LabPlot. As far as i can remember there were never any security problems in our code. But in case there are any, we would fix it as soon as possible and update all packages.
Jonathan: Have you looked at other platforms and stores for LabPlot?
Stefan: Sure. Our third major platform is macOS, which is not as popular among our users, but it is gaining more and more popularity. Improving LabPlot on macOS with the help of our users is something we constantly work on.
With the latest release we started to look at more ways to make LabPlot available.
Besides for the Microsoft Store, we also created a flatpak with the help of the Binary Factory and added the latest release on Flathub.
There is also a FreeBSD build on build.kde.org so we can make sure that it at least compiles on other Unix-like platforms. Besides that, I'm not aware of anyone using LabPlot on anything else than Linux, Windows or macOS. But this should already be sufficient for most users :-)
We would be happy to use more stores and platforms like for ARM architectures, as well as AppImage or Apple Store when KDE has better support for it.
Jonathan: Thanks Stefan!
Since 2013, the KDE Student Programs has been running Season of KDE. Season of KDE is a program similar to, but not quite the same as, Google Summer of Code. It offers an opportunity for everyone (not just students) to participate in both coding and non-coding projects that benefit the KDE ecosystem. In the past few years, SoK participants have not only created new application features, but have also developed the KDE Continuous Integration System, statistical reports for developers, a web framework, ported KDE applications, created documentation, and contributed to KDE with lots and lots of other tasks.
The Season of KDE 2021 timeline is now online and the season starts now and you have until January 4 to find a project that interests you. This year the coding period will be longer, as we found that the 3 weeks full-time coding period from earlier editions was too stressful for the students and for the mentors. Season of KDE is meant to be a fun event to participate in, so this year, you will have more time to complete your task and you can have a more flexible timeline.
There is already a list of proposed projects available in the wiki. You have little less than a month to find a project that interests you and your mentor. Your goal is to get noticed by the mentors by, for example, sending Merge Requests to their projects, sending high-quality bug reports, or simply by starting to interact with them. Remember that many KDE developers have a life beyond KDE and won't respond immediately. Also, it is recommended you contact the mentors in the public channel so that if they can't respond, someone else can.
Once you find a project and a mentor, you can submit a proposal for a project at the Season of KDE site. Note that you will need a KDE Identity account to register. We have some guidelines for proposals on the wiki. Your mentor will review your idea and, if nothing goes wrong, your proposal will be accepted on the 11th of January.
If you have any questions, you can ask in the #kde-soc channel.
GCompris is a popular collection of educational and fun activities for children from 2 to 10 years old. GCompris has become popular with teachers, parents, and, most importantly, kids from around the world and offers an ever-growing list of activities -- more than 150 at the last count. These activities have been translated to over 20 languages and cover a wide range of topics, from basic numeracy and literacy, to history, art, geography and technology.
The newest version of GCompris also incorporates a feature that teachers and parents alike will find useful: GCompris 1.0 lets educators select the level of the activities according to the proficiency of each child. For example, in an activity that lets children practice numbers, you can select what numbers they can learn, leaving higher and more difficult numbers for a later stage. An activity for practicing the time lets you choose whether the child will practice full hours, half hours, quarters of an hour, minutes, and so on. And in an activity where the aim is to figure out the change when buying things for Tux, the penguin, you can choose the maximum amount of money the child will play with.
We have built the activities to follow the principles of "nothing succeeds like success" and that children, when learning, should be challenged, but not made to feel threatened. Thus, GCompris congratulates, but does not reprimand; all the characters the child interacts with are friendly and supportive; activities are brightly colored, contain encouraging voices and play upbeat, but soothing music.
The hardware requirements for running GCompris are extremely low and it will run fine on older computers or low-powered machines, like the Raspberry Pi. This saves you and your school from having to invest in new and expensive equipment and it is also eco-friendly, as it reduces the amount of technological waste that is produced when you have to renew computers to adapt to more and more power-hungry software. GCompris works on Windows, Android and GNU/Linux computers, and on desktop machines, laptops, tablets and phones.
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Practicing additions and substractions with GCompris.
GCompris is built, maintained and regularly updated by the KDE Community and is Free and Open Source Software. It is distributed free of charge and requires neither subscriptions nor asks for personal details. GCompris displays no advertising and the creators have no commercial interest whatsoever. Any donations are pooled back into the development of the software.
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Learning about electrical circuits with GCompris.
Seeking to engage more professional educators and parents, we are working on several projects parallel to our software and have recently opened a forum for teachers and parents and a chat room where users and creators can talk live to each other, suggest changes, share tips on how to use GCompris in the classroom or at home, and find out upcoming features and activities being added to GCompris.
Apart from increasing the number and variety of activities, for example, an upcoming feature is a complete dashboard that will provide teachers with better control of how pupils interact with GCompris. We are also working with teachers and contributors from different countries to compile a "Cookbook" of GCompris recipes that will help you use GCompris in different contexts. Another area where we are working with contributors is on translations: if you can help us translate GCompris into your language (with your voice!), we want to hear from you! Your help and ideas are all welcome.
KDE is a community of volunteers that creates a wide range of software products, like the Plasma desktop, the Krita painting program, the Kdenlive video editor, the GCompris educational suite of activities and games, as well as dozens of other high-quality applications and utilities. Among them, KDE develops and maintains several educational programs for children and young adults.
All KDE's products are Free and Open Source Software and can be downloaded, used and shared without charge or limitations.