The end of Chromium Notes

Alas, Evan Martin’s excellent series of blog posts from the Chrome-on-Linux salt mines has come to an end. His sabbatical apparently didn’t relieve his general malaise, which he explains thusly:

Before we’d jokingly say “year of Linux on the desktop!” and laugh about how it would never happen, but my smiles had become bitter. A short way to put it is that writing high-quality software is not really a goal of the platform; stuff that doesn’t matter like continuously rewriting atop ever-changing platforms is. The scrappiness and free software spirit is what makes me love Linux as a hacker but I recognize now a deeper doom, that it will only ever broadly succeed by removing that spirit (e.g. Android).

I disagree that “writing high-quality software is not really a goal of the platform”, but there is an argument to be made that incrementally developing a high-quality platform (to enable writing high-quality software) makes life harder for third-party developers. It’s easy for free desktop developers—myself included—to underestimate the impact that tweaking the platform has on others, even if the changes make the platform more coherent in the long term. A common justification for churn is “the work is done by volunteers who wouldn’t necessarily spend their time on other things instead of this”, but that tends to ignore the other volunteers, caught up in dealing with unrelated changes, who would rather spend their time on other things.

This is not to say that platform-wide changes should be avoided at all cost: one of the great merits of the free software ecosystem is that it’s possible to make such changes. Nor am I claiming that volunteers cleaning up stagnant code bases is to be discouraged—quite the opposite. Nor is this an anti-GNOME 3 post, lest I be misinterpreted as thinking that Gtk+ 3, GObject Introspection and other leaps forward were a mistake. But taking advantage of this excellent new technology in applications does carry a cost in the short term.

Bustle 0.4.0: push button, receive D-Bus traffic

Breaking with the “every six months or so maybe” release tradition, here’s the second Bustle release of the month. What’s the new hotness this time? You can record D-Bus traffic by just clicking File → New, and watch the diagram being drawn before your very eyes. After years of on-off development, Bustle can finally liberate you from needing to open a terminal to monitor D-Bus traffic1. Here’s a super-brief video tour.

Bustle 0.4.0 screenshot

Grab it for x86_64 or i486 today! Unlike the previous release, these work on both Debian and Fedora and have a strong change of working on pretty much anything with a modern-ish Glib and Gtk+22. (Thanks to my fellow Collaboran Guillaume for testing these tarballs, and to Scott Tsai for his suggestion.) Source and so on at the usual location.

Today’s surprising Bustle-assisted observation is that switching to and from the Shell overview causes the Shell to retrieve /desktop/gnome/shell/windows/button_layout from GConf 29 times. (Presumably that number is proportional to the number of windows I have open?) This was extremely useful for testing the live-logging feature, but is perhaps not ideal in many other ways.

  1. “Occupy dbus-monitor” is arguably an unexciting slogan. []
  2. …inasmuch as any version of Gtk+2 can be called “modern”, that is. []

Bustle 0.3.1 provides 50% of your daily allowance of D-Bus message bodies

It’s a cold evening here in Cambridge, but I’m being kept warm at Collabora Towers, sipping a revitalizing mug of fresh applicative functor soup.

A mere five months after I demoed its features at the Desktop Summit in Berlin, here’s Bustle 0.3.1. Whereas previous versions of Bustle only recorded and showed you the names, senders and destinations of D-Bus messages, this version also records and shows you the contents of the messages.

Screenshot of Bustle 0.3.1

The statistics page also takes advantage of this new information: you can now get statistics about the sizes of messages in the log. Grab your copy today from the usual location. Beside the source, I’ve also uploaded a 64-bit binary tarball to save you some compilation time. Give me a shout if you have trouble with it. 32-bit version to follow when I get my chroots straightened out.

I have good news and bad news. Good news: here’s a 32-bit binary tarball. Bad news: seems like Debian and Fedora have differently-sonamed libpcaps. Why is distributing software so tedious?

Yesod web application dependencies

I have been experimenting with using Yesod to throw together a web application or two. My experience so far has been broadly positive—if you like computers to check things for you, I recommend it.1 That said, watching the full chain of dependencies fly past was moderately entertaining:2

parsec-3.1.2

An excellent parser-combinator library, widely imitated. This wouldn’t be funny, except…

attoparsec-0.10.1.0

Another excellent parser-combinator library, inspired by parsec.

base-unicode-symbols-0.2.2.3

This defines a bunch of Unicode aliases for standard functions with boring ASCII names. Why write:

x `elem` xs

when you could write:

x ∈ xs

Invaluable!

utf8-light-0.4.0.1 and utf8-string-0.3.7

Two UTF-8 encoding libraries!

semigroups-0.8

“In mathematics, a semigroup is an algebraic structure consisting of a set together with an associative binary operation. A semigroup generalizes a monoid in that there might not exist an identity element. It also (originally) generalized a group (a monoid with all inverses) to a type where every element did not have to have an inverse, thus the name semigroup.”

  1. assuming you like deciphering compiler error messages when the computer says no, that is []
  2. for a quiet Wednesday morning… []

Two brief lists of names

Lesser-used pronunciations of UI toolkit names

Qt:
cute
SWT:
sweet
FLTK:
flatpack fulltick

GNOME-related technologies which are also bands

My favourite Empathy feature no-one knows about

Picture the scene. You’re painstakingly composing a lengthy message…

…when you manage to close the tab by accident (maybe you hit Ctrl-W after too many years using a terminal? or maybe you thought your browser was focused?). You hammer your keyboard in frustration: your beautiful prose is gone forever. But wait! What’s this lurking in the Tabs menu?

Not only does it reopen the tab you just closed, but the message you were composing is remembered, too. Crisis averted!

The keyboard shortcut is Shift-Ctrl-T, just like in many web browsers (which inspired this feature). As a secret bonus feature, the keyboard shortcut works in the contact list, too, to rescue you when you’ve closed the very last tab by accident. Empathy remembers the last few tabs, not just the most recent.

Of course, if you don’t know the super-secret contact list shortcut, you can go find the contact in your contact list again: Empathy should still have remembered the message you were typing. (Right now it doesn’t persist across sessions; a patch to add that would be most welcome!)

Undo Close Tab has been around for a while; remembering the half-written message was added in Empathy 3.1.2, so it’s coming soon to a GNOME 3.2 near you! Thanks, Jonny.

A Tale of Two Conferences

I spent the week in humid, rainy Berlin for the Desktop Summit. I particularly enjoyed Sunday’s keynotes by Claire Rowland and Nick Richards, not to mention the many great talks and discussions. It’s always fun to catch up with old friends (not to mention my coworkers at Collabora, very few of whom I see regularly), and to meet some new (to me, at least) faces, including João Paulo, whose Summer of Code project—implementing OTR in Telepathy—I have the pleasure of mentoring. I gave a talk of my very own, which apparently is one of the few videos available so far. I haven’t dared watch it yet. ;) I hope to make the promised new release of Bustle this coming week.

Later in the week, the BoFs on D-Bus and on GNOME IM integration were both very productive. Hylke and Andreas’s input was very useful in the latter, as was the presence of David and George of KDE-Telepathy fame: they’re solving (and hitting) a lot of the same issues as are found in GNOME, so we had some true cross-desktop pooling of ideas and solutions. Thanks to everyone!

The passport queue at Stansted

The journey back on Friday evening was smooth—at least until we hit Stansted, where of course there was an inexplicable zoo of thousands of travellers queueing for passport control. (Not pictured: the thousands more behind me.) And of course, what better to do after a week at a conference than to attend another two-day hackathon at Homerton

Desktop Summit and CamHac Lanyards

CamHac is the first Haskell hackathon I’ve attended. It’s a very welcoming community, full of interesting people and projects. I swapped Vim tips, shoulder-surfed some of the internals of GHCi, chatted about open data and web server frameworks with some Silk folks, learnt about the internals of fast output stream libraries, and otherwise hacked on a long-dormant GObject introspection-based binding generator. It took a while for me to catch up with Daf’s work to date; I warmed up by generating code for enums and flags, and then started reworking the code generator to use haskell-src-exts’s AST and pretty-printer. Interesting stuff.

Bustle 0.2.5: now with statistics

Bustle 0.2.5—“Why go all the way to Glastonbury to not watch U2 when you can just not turn on the BBC at any point this weekend to not watch them?”—is out now. This release adds a sidebar containing statistics about the log: namely, method call and signal emission frequency, and total/mean times spent in method calls.

Screenshot of Bustle 0.2.5

This code has mostly been sitting around in a branch since Plumbers in November. Sorry, dear users!

Shaving a yak with an angle bracket

Today I wrote an XMPP console for Telepathy, in the form of a little Gabble plugin plus a really terrible Gtk+ interface that lets you send an IQ and see the result, syntax-highlighted—mostly in bright pink—by GtkSourceView. Wocky, gobject-introspection and GtkGrid.attach_next_to are all great. In the highly unlikely event that XMPP consoles are something that interest you, and that the lack of one has been dissuading you from embracing Empathy, I hope this meets with your approval.

This has mostly been a diversion from debugging some weird alias, roster and presence interactions between Gabble and Prosody, which I still haven’t tracked down. But hey, the angle brackets look nicer now!

Bustle 0.2.4 released

Just released Bustle 0.2.4. Various bits of clean-up and bug fixes were kicking around in master that should have been released months ago. The viewer’s much more Postel-compliant, so if you’ve had trouble with your D-Bus logs being rejected with cryptic errors messages, you should upgrade. Also, Sergei Trofimovich contributed a build fix: thanks!

A mundane screenshot of Bustle 0.2.4

While we’re here: Bustle finally has a bug tracker! Bugs are in the Bustle component on freedesktop.org Bugzilla. And the Git repository has moved to freedesktop.org too. With luck, the next release will be more exciting. :)