Developer Interview: Tor Lillqvist

Programming is about people: so please ! tell us a bit about yourself:

Tor Lillqvist enjoying a beer

I am Tor Lillqvist. On LibreOffice IRC I am known as tml_ . I live in Helsinki, Finland, with my wife and our 10-year daughter. My son has already grown up and moved out. Some of my passions are trains (modern and recent electric and diesel technology, I am not that much into steam nostalgia), reading good books, listening to challenging and/or good music, the visual arts, architecture, and travels.

Most recently I have read “The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore” by Benjamin Hale, “Hitch-22” by Christopher Hitchens and “Homage to Catalonia” by George Orwell. Among art museums that have impressed me are the Guggenheim Bilbao and ICA Boston. I love the music of for instance David Sylvian, Nico, Steve Reich, Sigur Rós, Erik Satie, rechenzentrum, Emilie Simon, Carnatic and Gamelan music.

What was your very first program ?

Some silly assignment at University, presumably. I had not used computers before University. Or actually, I did have a programmable TI calculator and did some programming on that in my teens.

What do you do when you’re not hacking on LibreOffice ?

Read, sleep, eat, etc.

When do you usually spend time on the project ?

What I do as my work, mostly normal working hours. Hacking for fun during evenings and weekends when I have the inspiration and nothing more important to do.

Which is your preferred text editor? And why?

XEmacs, because it is so intuitive. (That is a joke. No software is intuitive.) I have used various versions of Emacs for 30 years and don’t see any reason to change.

Did you work on Free Software projects before LibreOffice ?

Yes, and Open Source in general, before that term was invented even. I always seemed to work on “non-mainstream” platforms, like HP-UX when “everybody” else doing what became known as Open Source was using BSD or SunOS. As an example of early and obscure Open Source hacking I did I can mention porting TeX and Metafont to the HP1000 A-Series (a 16 bit minicomputer running an obscure not-at-all-Unixish OS,  ).

More recently, since the late 1990s until last year or so, I ported GTK+ to Windows, initially to get GIMP, and then took part in maintaining the port. At one point, in 2005, I even was paid to work on related stuff, in the effort to make Evolution run on Windows. Alas, in recent years I had less and less inspiration to hack on the GTK+ stack on Windows, and finally then this year I admitted/announced publicly that I was not really doing it any more. I hate saying this, but I guess I have kinda lost faith in quality cross-platform GUI toolkits. At least volunteer-maintained ones.

What Operating System do you use mainly ?

Windows Server 2008 R2 (server version of Windows 7) on my main desktop, and then Mac OS X, iOS and openSUSE.

What do you think was your most important contribution to LibreOffice so far ?

I can’t point to anything particular. Perhaps, from a future point of view, my spare time hacking on cross-compilation to iOS and Android.

How will that improve things for users ?

By hopefully making possible apps on those platforms that use LibreOffice code to for instance support rare old document formats not supported in other apps. (To end-users the freedom aspect of such an application presumably being FLOSS is of zero importance. Sorry.)

What is your vision for the future and/or what would you most like to see improved ?

I would love to see the codebase cleaned up even more. I would like us to have the courage to jettison from the main codebase unloved functionality that nobody seems to step up to maintain. (I am looking at you, Base.)

Anything else interesting you get up to when not hacking ?

I enjoying doing photography. But I don’t really do as much photography as I would like. I would love to have the inspiration and time to attempt making music (mainly odd beeps and noises, no doubt).

 Can you tell us a bit about your cross-compiling work, and why it is important ?

I don’t know if it is important. It is fun, that is why I do it.

I am working on making it possible to cross-compile LibreOffice (to various degrees) for iOS (from (Intel) MacOSX), Android (from Linux or MacOSX), Windows (from any Unix with a suitable cross-compiler tool-chain) and PowerPC MacOSX (from Intel MacOSX).

The basic cross-compilation changes in the LibreOffice configure and build machinery should be more or less done now. Very little actual new code (as needed to at least some degree for iOS and Android) has been written. No planning has been done regarding what this work really tries to achieve for the new platforms, etc…

For the new, mobile, touch-based platforms, iOS and Android, it might make most sense to use non-GUI LibreOffice code as a library, and write applications in a totally native way from scratch that then use the LibreOffice libraries.

But maybe just to get the interest up it would make sense to also have some early toy application on either platform that would use some amount of LibreOffice GUI code, thus needing a port of the GUI toolkit in LibreOffice.

For Windows, LibreOffice obviously already has code for full functionality on Windows. The task is just to make it build using a cross-compiling MinGW tool-chain instead of Microsoft’s tool-chain. That is not trivial.

The Intel to PowerPC MacOSX case should be the easiest.

Finally: Yes, I am aware of the potential license incompatibilty between the LGPL and DRM-enforcing distribution mechanisms like the iTunes App Store (and maybe the Android Market). But I find such discussion boring. And perhaps the Apache thing will affect this somehow. Anyway, I am doing this for the hacking pleasure.

What is your estimate of the proportion of bugs that are specific to Windows ?

Maybe ten percent?

What other question would you like to answer (with answer) ?

“Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”


Thanks a lot for your answers, and contribution !


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