Olivier, Simon and Tobias

Slint

February 2022

Olivier Goffart, Simon Hausmann and Tobias Hunger make FOSS and take our Twitter mic from February 21 to 28. Thank you, folks!

Please tell us about yourself

We’re three software developers who all started our careers in open source UI technologies in the late 1990s. We got to know each other when contributing to KDE, but we all have worked on a range of projects over the years. Later we met again, working for a company developing the UI technology driving KDE.

Today, we work together in a small Berlin/Germany based company called SixtyFPS, founded by Olivier and Simon. We develop Slint, a new UI toolkit.

What are you working on right now?

We’re working full-time on Slint, our new toolkit to make smooth user interfaces for desktop apps and embedded devices. Slint supports multiple programming languages, such as Rust, C++, or JavaScript, and has its own declarative markup language that describes the UI and compiles to native code.

Recently, we began porting the toolkit to micro-controllers, starting with the Open Source Raspberry Pico board.

What is most interesting about that?

It’s really fun to solve challenges around these little computers with their constraints, such as very little RAM and compute power. And it’s also great fun to participate in the thriving Rust ecosystem.

How did you first discover FOSS?

Olivier: I discovered free software in 1999, I got a SuSE Linux 6.1 box and installed it on my desktop computer and enjoyed it.

Tobias: I discovered a Linux box containing 20+ floppy disks in a book store. It took a couple of years to go from being introduced to the idea of free software to actually contribute.

Simon: I discovered FOSS through an article in the German c’t magazine about KDE, written by Kalle Dalheimer. Pretty screenshots attracted my attention, thanks to the lovely community I contributed for many years in the project.

What prompted you to start contributing to FOSS?

Olivier: I liked the philosophy and enjoyed the fact that I can myself fix bugs in the program I used, and that these would be fixed for everyone.

Tobias: I looked for a cool project to contribute to to learn how to programm at university. I am still convinced that writing code and getting feedback on it is the best way to learn any programming language.

Simon: I started writing an application to view electronic demo scene magazines, which used khtml. Something wasn’t working quite the way that I wanted, so I scratched the itch and tried to fix it.

Why should others get involved with FOSS?

FOSS combines communities with learning and cool technology. These are three magnets that are not worth resisting :-)

How should they get started?

The best way to get started is to use a piece of software that is open source. Surely there’s something that could be improved, so go ahead and find out how it works, join the community, ask questions, and give it a try to contribute. Don’t be afraid of making your changes public and ask for feedback.

There are amazing communities out there – and some not so welcoming ones. Give them a chance to get to know you and to get to know the community, but don’t hesitate to move on if it doesn’t click. Chalk it all up to learning :-)

What difficulties and limitations do you see with FOSS?

Funding around FOSS projects and allowing contributors and maintainers to make a living off of FOSS work is particularly difficult nowadays.

How can they be solved?

Educational facilities such as schools and universities have a big influence on addressing these in future. They can teach young software developers to work with open source projects and help them acquire the skills to get hired by companies that support FOSS.

Where do you see difficulties in contributing?

Time has become a very scarce resource in this fast-paced world, where everything needs to be instant. However, joining an open source project, getting to know the community, learning the technology takes time.

What does a perfect day off look like?

A perfect day off is having fun while knowing that in the meantime the community has worked together and solved interesting problems, in our absence.

Do you want to tell us something else we didn’t ask?

Not really. We appreciate your insightful questions and the opportunity to particiate in @imakefoss.