Episode 28

Tuesday, May 22, 2012
  • Qt 5 Alpha release imminent
  • Update on Raspberry Pi

Mark Hatch and Jeff Tranter

Intro: Welcome to Integrated Computer Solution’s “This Week in Qt,” the podcast that keeps you informed of significant events that may impact your engineering projects. ICS is unleashing the power of modern devices with the best independent team of Qt developers in the world. Whether you are starting a new embedded or mobile multi-touch project, or need help solving a Qt development challenge, please contact us at sales@ics.com. To learn more about ICS, please visit our website at www.ics.com.

Mark: Good morning, this is Mark Hatch and I run the Qt business here at ICS. Today with me on this week in Qt is Jeff Tranter. Jeff runs the Qt consulting business out of our Ottawa office.

Good morning Jeff, what’s new this week in Qt?

Jeff: Well the big news this week is that the Qt 5 alpha release is imminent. It probably will be out by the time you hear this. This is actually the first step towards releasing Qt 5.0, which is going to be the first major release of Qt since Qt 4 which came out almost 7 years ago. So a lot of effort has been made over the last couple of weeks to get it in shape… making sure it builds on the different supported platforms, and documenting the new features and how to build it.

M: So why is Qt 5 important? What’s the key piece of that?

J: Well there is a number of new features. One part of it is the new open-governance model, where it’s being developed by a community and not just a commercial manufacturer. It’s also being modularized and broken down into individual components, so it’s no longer such a big monolithic release. And there are a number of technical improvements like a new implementation of Qt Quick which is going to improve performance. As we talked about in an earlier podcast, there’s a lot of really exciting new features, and it’s been in development for quite a while and people are looking forward to seeing it come out this summer as a final release.

M: That’s great. So what does it mean to be an alpha release? How many arrows are you going to get in your back if you try using it?

J: So essentially it means that all the major features of Qt 5 are there, and the software is going to build and install on at least the major Linux, Windows, and Mac desktop platforms, but it’s a source only release so you are going to have to build it yourself, and there are instructions up on the qtproject.org wiki. There will probably be some unofficial binaries for things like different Linux distributions published by the Qt community for different platforms. So it’s not bug free, but the major features are there and the focus now is moving towards stabilizing it and improving performance and completing the documentation, so it’s also the point where they are welcoming feedback on the greater community on how it works and welcoming any bug reports.

M: Besides the traditional desktop, are there any kind of embedded Linux platforms that people could try this on like son of BeagleBoard or anything like that?

J: Yes, it’s going to be a little rougher on the non-desktop platforms, but it’s actually a good opportunity to try it on just any platform you’ve got and start providing feedback. Because it’s got a new back-end for all of the different windowing systems, that’s something that definitely needs to be tested out well.

M: Yes, and OpenGL ES 2 on your hardware would make a big difference, right?

J: That’s right. In fact, OpenGL is required for any of the new graphics features. We were actually having an internal engineering discussion the other day and the thinking was really that pretty much any modern hardware will now have OpenGL support from the manufacturer. So it shouldn’t really be too big a limitation for any recent hardware. Even things like the $35 Raspberry Pi board have OpenGL support.

M: So it’s really the software… to what level is the software driver been pushed up the stack, right?

J: Right.

M: So when will Qt 5 be out? What’s your prediction?

J: Well, the hope is that once the alpha is out, there will be at least one beta, and at least one release candidate. They are hoping to have a beta next month in April, and the hope is to have a final release in June or towards the end of June, in time for the Qt Contributors Summit.

M: It’s interesting because traditionally the big release have been out in the Fall, haven’t they?

J: Right, I think they are trying to move to a six month release cycle, and move towards that model. But this is also kind of a special release, being the very first of the Qt 5 series.

M: So what of the Qt 4 series, is that dead or is that continuing? What’s happened recently there?

J: Ok well Qt 4 is still the stable production version of Qt, and I expect it’s going to be some time before Qt 5 is widely adopted, so the Qt 4.8 series continues to be supported. In fact, just today the Qt 4.8.1 bug release was announced and came out and it’s got something like 200 bug fixes included in it, so that continues to move forward. I think a lot of people will start thinking now about Qt 5 if they are thinking long term about how they want to do their applications. Incidentally, if you are using Qt Creator and the Qt SDK you’ll get updates like the Qt 4.8.1. automatically from within the updater tool in the Qt SDK. So that can be a big time-saver, particularly if you are doing mobile-or embedded development and you’ve got to build a lot of different versions of Qt and you’ll just pick these up automatically. So that’s a great way to pick up all of these updates.

M: Great. It’s certainly a lot easier now than having to go out and check to see if there is a new release, and then download it and build it and everything.

So what’s going on with Raspberry Pi, everybody’s favorite dessert? Have we heard anything more?

J: Right, I still haven’t seen any Raspberry Pi production boards “in the wild,” so to speak. So I have a theory that Raspberry Pi is going to be revealed as a huge hoax on April Fools’ Day, and they were able to convince people that you were able to buy a desktop computer system for $35. Seriously, they had a minor manufacturing hiccup with the first batch of boards having the wrong Ethernet jacks assembled on the boards. They had to rework those, but it looks like they should be getting shipping going by the end of March and into April, so we should start seeing some volume production there. I also read this week that they are moving ahead more quickly with what’s called “compliance testing,” where the boards are going to be certified to meet all of the different standards so they can be used in consumer products. Right now they are really just certified for engineering use as boards, but this will allow them to more quickly offer these things in cased and packaged products so they can move ahead with some of the educational versions that they want to do. Also of interest to people that do a bit of hardware hacking like I do; there was a video this week released about an input-output board designed for the Raspberry Pi by somebody named Gert Van Loo who designed his Gertboard which adds some analog and digital inputs and outputs to a Raspberry Pi board, and he showed a video this week of his revision 2 board which should be going into manufacturing in the next week or so. So that will let you do some of the hardware-type things that you might be able to do with something like an Arduino, but with a much more powerful processor and Linux-based operating system behind it.

M: That’s really cool. Now here’s the message for all of you out there that have been expecting Raspberry Pi’s that ICS promised to give out back at DevDays, or have signed up for the Qt Raspberry Pi sub-project there and are looking for the boards that were being provided for the people who have proposals… you haven’t seen them yet because we don’t have them yet! So as soon as we start getting them in our hands, we will be getting them out to you, and we are as excited about getting them and playing with them as you are. We are looking forward to it, so stay tuned.

So is there anything else going on the Qt world, Jeff?

J: There’s nothing else really to report. There will be another Qt Contributors Summit towards the end of June in Germany, but right now most of the focus is trying to get Qt 5 stable and start getting it into the hands of a lot of people so that it can get a lot wider use and people can start playing with it and providing feedback.

M: Great, so it sounds like an exciting period here. We are looking forward to getting Qt 5 out. I know that we have customers that we are talking to right now, and we are telling them that they should start looking at going that way, so it will be nice to get the alpha out.

Thank you very much Jeff, I appreciate your insights this week. This is Mark Hatch signing off for “This Week In Qt.”