Episode 25 - Special Qt Developer Days Recap

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
  • Keynotes
  • Interesting Sessions
  • Demos

Mark Hatch (MH):  Hello this is Mark Hatch from ICS.  This week in Qt we are broadcasting from Dev Days in Munich and were going to give you a preview for what to expect at Dev Days in California by recapping what’s happened today. Now, I know all of you are listening here because you’re hoping to hear the answers to “Fact or Crap” so that you can win those phones or whatever else Nokia gives away for the winners out in California.  So if you want to know the answers, you’re going to have to wait until the end of the session. So let’s start talking about that.  With me today is Justin Noel, our lead engineer from the Boston area and Roland Krause which comes from California and runs the ICS office for us in California.  So Justin, let’s start off; what was the first keynote here?

Justin Noel (JN): Well the first keynote was by Nokia senior VP, Marco Argenti and he emphasized Nokia’s focus on the next billion devices to reach out with computing power to the masses, and Qt is going to lead that charge.

MH:  I wonder what he means there because we all know that the smartphone is going to be Windows, so ‘next billion’ what?

JN: Well, they’ve always been careful to say that Windows will power their next ‘high end flagship smartphones’, which seams a little overqualified for me.  They’re also focusing on just devices in general.  They’re working on making Qt run much faster and better on smaller, cheaper hardware so they can embed Qt and GUI touch devices on almost anything.

MH:  So next billion, at first glance ‘cause Nokia is a phone company, it’s likely to be some type of phone, but you can’t make that assumption at this point.

JN: Yes, and there were no announcements in that regard from the keynotes.  There was an emphasis that Qt was important to Nokia; they’re moving forward with it, they are heavily investing in Qt 5.  They see it as an asset that they plan to develop.

MH:  OK, so Roland, what was the second keynote there?

Roland Krause (RK): Well in addition to what was said before, Rick Spencer who is the director of engineering for Canonical announced Canonical’s plan to support Qt in the next and all the next versions of the upcoming versions of Ubuntu.  We see that in Ubuntu, Qt is playing an ever-larger role.  Right now, Ubuntu has decided to put Qt in the center of their desktop by writing a desktop manager named Unity that they have now made the default in the upcoming Ubuntu release.

MH:  So we buried GDK finally.

RK:  We did, we finally did.

MH:  Great.

JN: The King is dead!  Long live the king!

MH:  That’s Right!  That’s exciting news to see that change finally happen.

RK:  Well, the strong technology advantage that Qt has, and the much shortened development times have really started to show off.  Especially with a company that has the commercial focus that Canonical has and of course they would see the light at some point in time.

MH:  That’s really great news.  There is no question that Linux is going to be part of that next step, building devices in some form or another so getting Ubuntu supporting that is great.

So I guess the 3rd keynote was really large right?

RK:  There was a keynote from CNN, they showed how they built a very compelling application using Qt for the phone and they clearly demonstrated the capability of the Qt libraries for development on the mobile phones.  They showed the advantages of making a native application.  They outlined all the advantages that the tool kit has like the extremely short time to market that they reached with that.  They discussed the different add-on modules, and the different commercialization models that they had.  They discussed how Qt and the offerings that Qt brings changed their model of thinking about mobile applications.

MH: Well that’s pretty exciting.  I think last year we had Dreamworks deliver the ‘end-user’ keynote, if you will, and this year we have a fairly well recognized news service, CNN, which has used it for pushing out information to their customers. That sounds exciting!  So now the final one, which is what I think everyone is looking forward too, which is the Qt 5 roadmap. 

JN:  Yes, Lars Noel laid out the Qt 5 roadmap; the types of changes that we’re going to expect.  The good news, for those that were around for the (Qt version) 3 to 4 change, is we will not see the same type of pain that we saw with 3 to 4.  What we’re going to find is that it is largely source-compatible and it’s mostly an adventure in removing some dead code that has been deprecated slowly over the years and introducing some new features like Qt Quick 2 and the scene graph.

RK: Yes, this is the most noticeable new feature and the focus of the Qt 5 release will be the possibility of taking advantage of accelerated hardware, mainly OpenGL accelerated hardware and Lars showed us some figures of the early implementations that they have, and showed us that on low-powered hardware the speedups are a factor of 4 or 5 and more when using the new QML Scene Graph and running Qt Quick that is based on the new Scene Graph implementation.

JN:  Yeah, we were lucky enough to get our hands on the Raspberry Pi that we’ve been working on, and it just goes to show you that for a $25 piece of hardware, how fast you can run OpenGL.

RK: Yes, fully accelerated with an open GL driver, we were able to provide an EGLFS port to that hardware.  We were also able to provide keyboard driver implementation, mouse implementation in time for the show, so that we had a very compelling demo that raised a lot of eyebrows and brought a lot of people to ask questions about Qt for embedded devices and low powered hardware.

JN: Yes, I’d like to send a shout out to Donald Carr who worked on getting the GL working on it initially which was a great head start for what we wanted to do with it.

MH: And it was a great opportunity that we were able to work with Nokia to get a much fuller implementation of Qt 5 for this board.  Its almost like this board was built for Qt.

RK: yes, and Rajeev, who did a lot of this initial work, provided us with a linux distribution that boots in 6 seconds

MH: 6 seconds for Linux?  Wow

RK:  Yes, all the way up and a very good working environment provided us with the tool kits so it was very easy to ask and accelerated our development time by a large factor.

MH:  We have another podcast on Raspberry Pi that you ought to listen to if you’re interested.  But be sure to stop by our booth at Dev Days in California and talk to Roland and Justin about Raspberry Pi.  So let’s wrap up day 1.  So day 1, what we heard first was Marco talking about how Nokia is committed to making Qt on the next billion and were going to have to have to leave it you out there in the community to decide what that next billion was because it’s still ambiguous on what it is.  Were going to have to wait a little bit longer.  We have Rick Spencer from Canonical saying Qt is the winner on the desktop toolkit wars in linux as far as he is concerned and they are investing heavily.  We heard from CNN, which was great, talking about how Qt and what they did, changed the way they even did some of the design in their applications, which was fantastic.  Finally we heard Lars from the road back which we all wanted to hear. 

So let’s talk a few minutes about sessions that we thought were kind of interesting.  We already talked about the Qt contribution process which was day one and there’s another podcast on that, which we invite you to listen to.  Why don’t you guys pick a couple of things from what you heard that you found interesting and people should attend.

RK: well something that’s been missing in the puzzle for quite some time is that someone thinks of database implementation for low powered devices again, especially in the phone spectrum.  There was a very interesting contribution regarding something called JSon DB by Jamie Hicks.

MH: Hes from Nokia research in Cambridge, down the street from ICS.

RK: indeed!  Jamie outlined his current implementation of a database that works with a JSon interface.  It’s very attractive for building applications that feed off of web services because we are constantly at this point still reinventing the wheel by writing responses to (Inaudible) in custom JSon code, in custom code that (Inaudible) JSon and this will take that headache away and centralize storage of this, make applications easy and capable of working off line.  It’s so very attractive for being implemented on the phone and low powered hardware embedded devices. 

JN: Yeah, I was impressed by how far QPA came along which used to be called the Lighthouse Project.  It started off as a project a couple of years ago to exercise QWS from the embedded space so you could run embedded either on open GL or Frame Buff or Direct FB without QWS and has since then expanded in scope into becoming a generic platform architecture where you could implement even like an XEB or an Xlive implementation and just plug it in kind of at run time even to Qt to tell me where the graphics go, how keyboard input and mouse and touch input happens.  So it’s an encapsulation to a plug in all the information about the physical platform.

RK: Yeah, and it’s really great.  We’ve seen quite a few stable implementation of QPA at this point.  Namely to Linux wayland, Linux XCB, which is the replacement of the old XLib protocol and then our own contribution to EGLFS plays a role, there is Windows implementation for Microsoft Windows is there and of course MAC OS.  So the abstraction model works very well but to quickly bring online additional platforms.

JN:  and that’s something available in 4.8.  You don’t have to wait for 5.0 to get that huge piece of nice functionality.

MH: Speaking of which, when is 4.8 expected to be delivered? I mean, we’ve traditionally been spoiled by next major releases always at the Dev Days session.  Did they talk about delivery? 

RK:  We will be seeing a 4.8 release really soon now, although a definite release date has not been announced.

JN:  For now, you can get along checking out the Betas.

RK: (Inaudible)

MH: Anything else that was interesting?

JN: Well it was interesting to see all the N9s floating around the conference.  There was a whole N9 app clinic that happened upstairs.  So if you were interested in studying an app or getting your app worked on, you could actually talk to some of the developers and support staff that work on that project and get your app running fantastically on that flashy new N9.

MH: The other thing that I found the funniest was when a competitor of ICS came up to me and showed me the mapping application and started it up and the default screen (of course cause there is no GPS signal in this building) happened to be the ICS headquarters at 54B Middlesex Turnpike.

JN: Yeah it turns out our access point got registered into one of these WiFi location databases so anybody near our access point looked like they were at our home office in Bedford, MA.

MH: that’s right because we had our own routers and stuff there didn’t we?  So that was a lot of fun, it was a little shock to see that.  So that was it for all the sessions and what about the party, what went on there?  

RK: Great party!  As always.

JN: I think I will let people who go to San Francisco be truly surprised, it was fantastic.

MH: It was a great party.  It was a little bit different than what it is.

RK: It was different than in previous years and the surprise effect was clearly there and it was really fun.

MH:  Well that’s great.  Well we promised them at the beginning for the answers to fact of crap, what were the answers.

JN:  Fact or Crap was truly unsolvable this year.

RK:  It was completely unsolvable, there was no solution.  

MH:  OK, so one final clue, mystery we will talk about.  What about the red and the blue and the missing dots?

RK: Well I recommend that everybody bring a bag of small little red dots and small little red/blue dots to the show.

MH: Yeah these look like about a ¼” dots, maybe 3/16th inch, about the size of a hole punch.

JN:  Be on the lookout for Nokia giveaways, that’s all we can say.

MH:  That’s all we can say.  They will probably be yellow and green, you probably want a mixer of dots.  It will be well worth the $5 you spend at office depot.

Oh, one final thing we forgot to talk about was the demo situation.  So who had some of the great demos there?

JN:  Well the largest selection had to be the Nokia booth.  They had Qt running on at least a dozen different platforms (Inaudible), ARM, OMap, different phones and devices.  They had some of their major users like HP and Cisco had equipment there.  It was really a showcase of how cross platformed Qt really is. 

MH:  There must have been at least a dozen of those set top boxes on that one wall.

RK: There were set top boxes, there were phones; there were all sorts of other hardware, embedded hardware, an additional set of Raspberry Pis on display with the multi-haired configuration, many good devices.

JN: Yeah, (Inaudible) had the KDE plasma active on some tablets.  That was interesting to see; what KD has been doing in the tablet space now that it seems that MeeGo is ramping down, KDE is looking to ramp up in that space. 

MH: That’s pretty cool.  The booths are generally very small so it’s hard to have many demos in there.  That was the toughest part.

JN: Well we certainly packed ours.

MH: Oh my goodness. What did we have in our booth?

RK: We showed the Raspberry Pi and we showed the hardware accelerated Qt 5 QML C graph on the big screen.  We had a medical demo showing QNX hardware and how we imported QT to QNX real time operating system.  We had hooked up a pulse oxymeter at the show; we could measure your blood pressure at the show, on the show floor.  That was two of the highlights that we had.

JN: We had a new round of IVI demos.  This one we did in conjunction with Intel with their (Inaudible) hardware that is stuffed into a dash board so if you want to come and see what a MeeGo IVI system might look like when it’s attached to a car, it becomes a little more realistic.

MH:  But you didn’t bring your (Inaudible) this time right?

JN:  No there will be no giant intake; I am weary of carrying 45 lbs around the airport.

MH:  The other thing we had in the booth was TV to Go which was a vision of our president.  Trying to solve the problems that DVRs are great but you never get the videos where you want them.  If you want to sync them to your pad, its not there, it’s all in the server.  So this software provided a way where not only can you remotely control the servers and what you want recorded, but you can also vector out the videos to the clients that you want so that you can automatically sync it as the stuff is recorded.  We also had our Near Field stuff right?

RK: Yes, the Near Field stuff was also there, we showed our demo that does the business cards based on NF technology.  That was very popular, it’s always very interesting.  And finally, last but not least, we are always ready to yank out our phones and show you all the great applications that we’ve done on our phones.  We all carry Nokia phones around and are ready to show off those apps at any time. 

MH: People who have Nokia phones should download Northway Trails or Northway Snows.  Great apps!  If youre into hiking or into skiing, those are the two apps that you should not be without; they’re just fantastic apps.  The frustrating thing was that we had more demos that we couldn’t put out because parts of them were stuck in customs.  We had a treadmill head which is basically a tablet in a piece of plastic that has been tempered to deal with people sweating over it quite frankly and the power supply was stuck in customs.  Then there was the Dance Dance QML Revolution right Justin?

JN:  Yeah, we basically had a reimplementation, as I call it, of Dance, Dance Revolution.  Unfortunately that also got stuck in customs and I’m not sure it is ever coming out.

MH: I’m not sure Justin was unhappy about that since he was going to have had to dance out in front of a couple of hundred people.  The game (Inaudible) presentation, so make sure you go see that. 

So I think were just about done for the week here, it was a great and exciting conference as Dev Days always are and if you’re not registered for California…..

RK: go ahead and do so.            

MH: go ahead and do so, so thank you Roland and thank you Justin.

JN: There was even more… there would never be enough time in this show to talk about all the stuff that happened there..

MH:  you guys would be bored if we kept talking and talking.  Thank you very much, this is Mark, Justin and Roland!

RK: Good bye!