Konversation, Quassel and Kubuntu 9.10

Jonathan Thomas echidnaman at gmail.com
Thu Jul 23 02:01:40 BST 2009

Hello all,

This is my petition to get Konversation back into the default Kubuntu install 
for Kubuntu 9.10. Of course, the ultimate decision lies in the hand of the 
Kubuntu council. The democratic hand, of course. (I image we'll assess the 
situation of both clients around 9.10 beta and then vote?)

Quassel served us in a unique time of need; at the start of 2009 we had a need 
for a Qt4-based IRC client to fill the gap that kicking KDE3/Qt3 would leave. 
Quassel was deemed to be the closest solution to our problem. We cooperated in 
an excellent manner with upstream who brought Quassel out of the realm of 
advanced IRC clients, shaping it into a suitable solution for our problem.

Fast forward six months. The GNU/Linux landscape has changed so much. The 
Intel drivers don't suck quite so much, KPackageKit doesn't do that little 
backend timeout thing it liked to do, and Konversation has been making pre-
releases of Konversation 1.2, fully ported to KDE 4. Things are starting to 
really come together.

Konversation was replaced with Quassel in Kubuntu 9.04, but the king is now 
back. Don't let the alpha label fool you; upstream labels it as such just 
because they still have two features that they would like to include before 
releasing Konversation 1.2. These two features are a reworked configuration 
dialog and a new ircview component. Currently, Konversation 1.2 alpha 4 is in 
much better shape than even the latest stable Konversation release. The only 
known regressions in the KDE4 version are bidi support and the marker line 
feature, which will be fixed with the previously-aforementioned ircview 
component. The Koversation team has also assured me personally that 
Konversation 1.2 will be ready by the time we need it to be. Even if for some 
reason the ircview component cannot be completed in time Konversation 1.2 
would still be in a very releasable state.

I have compiled a feature comparison of the latest development version of 
Konversation against the latest development version of Quassel (or at least a 
git snapshot from the 19th): https://wiki.kubuntu.org/Kubuntu/QuasselvsKonvi
Feel free to add to this, correct this, and discuss it here. I'm undoubtedly 
biased towards Konversation, but I do believe that all of the statements 
currently on the wiki portray a factual picture. Konversation currently has 
more features applicable to the average end user than Quassel.

It has more features geared towards the advanced user, too; and while Quassel 
does offer a server-client IRC experience in a convenient single application, 
(Can't say single package since you need two packages technically, heh) it is 
currently quite possible for Konversation to offer the same experience through 
IRC bouncers. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BNC_%28software%29#IRC ) These 
"BNC"s aren't even restricted to one particular IRC application. For the IRC 
elite, Konversation also integrates the Konsole KPart, supports Blowfish 
encryption and supports DH1080 key exchange-- all without getting in the way 
of the user, of course. ;-) (I had not even noticed Konsole integration until 
a few months ago, and I've been using it since '07)

Since Konversation is by default a KDE application, it naturally has better 
integration with our desktop offering than Quassel does. Consistency is an 
important quality, and one of KDE's defining features. While Quassel does have 
some KDE integration, it is partial. It would take a *ton* of working 
resolving a lot of interface differences for total integration. We could wait 
until Quassel has had time to implement a good deal of kdelibs features in Qt, 
or we could use Konversation which most definitely offers KDE4 integration 
now. (Help menus, standard configuration dialogs, KDE icons in all the right 
places, standard file menus, integration with some form of help/documentation 
system, Konsole integration, integration with the KDE bookmark system, etc) As 
a KDE distribution aiming to provide a human KDE experience, we should choose 
KDE applications whenever possible, especially when the offer more 
functionality to meet our target demographic than other IRC clients.

In summary, our target audience neither needs nor receives Quassel's killer 
feature, and Konversation is a much more mature and feature-rich IRC client, 
as it has had many years to accumulate many features and conveniences Quassel 
doesn't offer. This is not to rail on Quassel. It is a young cross-platform 
IRC application developed by an energetic team who loves what they do. Both 
parties benefitted from its inclusion in Kubuntu 9.04. Quassel served an 
important role (and did so admirably well) in a time that was critical for a 
pure Qt4/KDE4 desktop. Yet now we can and should go beyond what Quassel can do 
in providing a good default IRC experience. In my opinion, Konversation is the 
obvious choice for default IRC client for Kubuntu 9.10.

Jonathan "JontheEchidna" Thomas
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