Reaching Out In Friendship

by Archie Arevalo (Archie)

It seemed like just any ordinary day when I would visit bookmarked sites like free (Code), SourceForge, KDE-Apps, Qt-Apps, etc., and was making my usual selections of reading about new and updated apps. It just happened that I read and downloaded an image viewer app called Photo. The reviews were encouraging but it was such a new app that rpm.pbone doesn't even list an RPM-based distro that had packaged it.

It was easy enough to write a spec file for it, and it built flawlessly - no errors and exit 0s at all!

So, I began testing it. The first thing I noticed was it's small file size. At 136.6 KB, I thought it would be another app that I'd redirect to trash://.

It was a minimalistic app, 1 point. On launch, it opened the File Open window, which was the next sensible action for using the app, 2 points. It displayed my selected image and it didn't take long to generate thumbnails of the couple of hundred images I had in that particular folder. It was fast! 3-pointer!

The next thing I did was I posted a comment to the app's page on Qt-Apps, stating I have packaged the app and would send it upstream to our head developer for consideration and inclusion on the official PCLinuxOS repository. I also asked about the icons.

What icons? A reply was almost immediate.

And this is how I met Lukas Spies, the lone developer of Photo.

Lukas was originally from the southern city of Karlruhe in Germany who is now studying Mathematical Science at the National University of Ireland in Galway.

I asked him if he would like to be interviewed for the PCLinuxOS Magazine. This is his first ever and he thought it would be pretty cool.

What got you started with Photo?

"I saw some friends using Google’s Picasa and I really liked the way the images are presented. I looked around and tried all different types of image viewers to find one, that does not only do its job properly but that also looks nice and neat. There are a lot of good image viewers out there, that can do a lot of things but most of them aren't necessarily first choice for presenting images.

"Last December, 2011, I played a bit around with C++ and Qt, more as a proof of concept to myself; to show that it's possible to do something like Photo. I originally didn't even intend to publish the app in any way, but eventually decided to upload it at and see what happens. Within a few days, I got some really good feedback from people who really liked it.

"Looking back at my surprise, the first version really was very, very basic. The interest motivated me to continue developing it. Every new release since then I got more feedback and encouragement. It really is somewhat satisfying to see people liking and using something you created.”

What are your goals for it?

"I just hope to continuously work on it and improve it, until - well, I don't know until when or what. I didn't start developing it with some final idea in mind. Of course, there are some things I want to achieve and features I want to implement. And it would be really cool, to see it some day becoming maybe the standard image viewer. Well, I think, that pretty much everybody that does some programming hopes one day to have programmed a "standard application". But, I actually do see potential for that, but that's not what I'm primarily working for. The main thing for myself is to enjoy the programming I do ... not feeling stressed out or stretched by it.”

What do you do when you're not working on your app? Tell me a bit more about yourself ... social life, relationships, favorite music and film, etc.

"I'm sharing a small house with four other friends in the west of Galway. It's maybe not the nicest area, but I do like it here (mainly because of the people I live with). Besides working on my app and university, I'm leading a small Christian youth group called "Ambassador Youth", a bit more than half an hour outside of Galway, in the town of Tuam. The youth group is part of a church called Corner Church. I started volunteer work in September last year, and I really love it!

"Together with some others, I'm also trying to get some youth work started here in Galway, where I live. In the university, I'm also part of a leadership committee for the Christian Union Society, taking care of technical stuff and finances. That's where I spent almost every Wednesday evening. And we do a lot of stuff also during the rest of the week (movie evenings, bible studies, just hanging out, etc.), which are always great fun.

"A big (although fairly new) hobby of mine is trekking. I just love to go out there for a week or two with a tent and just walk and see amazing things. Every summer, I plan and hope to get at least once out there for a good while.

"And last, but not least, I enjoy making music. My primary instrument is the accordion although I sadly don't have one over here in Ireland. Besides the accordion I play a little bit of panpipe and also a bit didgeridoo. I obviously like slightly more exotic instruments. My favourite band is called "Kutless", an American rock band. I really like their style and the type of songs they sing. I'm not that big into watching films or movies, but I do like the actor Terence Hill and his films a lot.”

What OS are you using? Have you tried PCLinuxOS? What are your computer specs?

"I started out my Linux experience more than six years ago with openSuse, that a friend gave to me in school. About three years later, I switched over to Arch Linux (64-bit), which I'm still using today. My WM is KDE, but for a good while I also used LXDE. But KDE definitely is my first choice today.

"I have to say, that I haven't tried PCLinuxOS myself yet, but I did hear some good stuff about it from others using it. I certainly would recommend it to other (new) users.

"I have an Acer TimelineX 4820TG laptop. Some specs for it are:

-Intel i5 480M

-AMD Radeon HD 6550M

-14'' screen

-4 GB DD3

-750 GB harddrive

-long battery life”

How far would you take Photo? What are you future plans for it? Are you involved in any other projects?

Well, I certainly hope to take Photo as far as I can and keep on improving it. I really want it to be something nice, simple and good looking - easy to use. But at the same time I want to keep it highly configurable and adjustable to personal needs. I want Photo to be perfectly usable "out of the box" without having to adjust a lot of annoying settings. But it certainly is worth having a look at the settings and especially the many shortcuts that are available.

"There is indeed another project I'm involved in. It's not a desktop app: a javascript unit converter, that aims on being fast, being usable without having to click or reload the page, and to look nice at the same time. You can find it here: It's working pretty good, but it wasn't tested in that many browsers yet. But I'm also continuously working on improving it.”

You are now programming in Qt, are there any specific reasons why you chose Qt?

"After I started learning C++, I wanted to do "cool stuff", graphical programming. Qt was the first graphical framework I found through Google. I read some stuff about it and it looked pretty promising, so I started to learn it from a book from our local library. It took me a long while, but I slowly learned more and more. I really like it today, cause it's a pretty neat and working framework for graphical programming. That's also why I used it for Photo. And last but not least, that's the only graphical framework I know how to use for programming. I never did anything with Gtk or something else, cause I never needed to. Until now, Qt always worked perfectly for me, that's why I used it also for Photo.”

Do you use any other computer programming language?

"I started my programming adventure more than six years ago with Php and HTML, and soon after Javascript. Some of my friends in school were learning it, and I thought that was pretty cool and wanted to do it as well. So I went to our local library and got a big book about Php and started learning. It wasn't always easy and I had some longer breaks in it where I had lost my motivation, but I kept coming back and trying again. And eventually I got a hang of it, I set up a little website where I was trying out all different things. After about two and a half years I started learning C++, shortly after followed by Qt. Since then I've learned more and more about it, tried different stuff, programmed smaller things for myself, and I really got to like it a lot.

"Most of the programming I did was just playing around, trying different stuff, seeing how this or that works, trying to write little apps that didn't really work or that were "meant to be senseless." I tried myself on a Qt interface for Streamripper, extended by Phonon and Mplayer functions, but I stopped doing stuff for it about half a year ago (although I think, the sourceforge page of it still exists). Maybe I will "resurrect" the project at some stage in the future again.

"One and a half years ago I learned a bit of Python at the university. It's a fairly simple programming language (at least compared with C++), but I somehow don't really like it. I probably would have never started with it, if I didn't have to for my course. And I do know some basics of bash programming, just the amount you need for daily use.”

Often projects involve a group of developers collaborating on the different components. You seem to be working on Photo all by yourself (with the exception of the translators listed on the app's info window). Do you have any plans on collaborating with other developers either on the Photo app or another?

"Well, Photo started as "playing around with code," without the real intention to do some proper app. That's why I'm currently developing it on my own. Although I'm open to help, I'm not (at least currently not) actively looking for help, cause it's not yet that complicated, and I do have more than enough time for it. I really like it for getting my maths out of my mind for a while and focusing on something else.

"If I'll ever be starting or helping with another project, I don't know. I'm not too sure if I'll be able to do more than the two projects I'm working on right now, simply because I probably wouldn't have the time, I have enough other things going on. The main purpose of programming for me, is to have fun in doing it.”

What do you think is the most important thing when starting a project?

"I think the most important thing when starting a project is definitely not to get discouraged! The start usually is very slow, and it takes time until people find out about your project. It's easy to give up after a couple weeks, because nobody seems to use it, and because you didn't get feedback back. I think it's really important to stand through these times, because when people notice that you are continuously working on something, they are more likely to have a look at it.

“Another important thing is to have a rather short release cycles with each rather few changes than only once in a while a big release. Showing that a project is alive is vital for it to become something long-term.