Telepathy-ssh renamed to ssh-contact and released

July 16th, 2010 by xclaesse

I’m glad to announce the first release of ssh-contact, previously known as telepathy-ssh but renamed because there is already so many telepathy-foo projects (mainly ConnectionManagers) that it could be confusing.

It now has a great interactive CLI, letting you select which IM contact to connect. Of course it display only the contacts who installed the ssh-contact service.

Distro packagers, you can find the ssh-contact 0.1 tarball here. I’ll probably host the project on in the future.

Feedback would be appreciated!

SSH your IM contacts

July 12th, 2010 by xclaesse

Did you ever wanted to connect to your computer but couldn’t make an SSH connection because it is behind a NAT, dynamic IP or firewall? Telepathy-ssh is for you!

Telepathy-ssh is a simple client/service program that make an ssh connection through a telepathy Tube.

$ telepathy-ssh-client gabble/jabber/testman2_40jabber_2ebelnet_2ebe1
xclaesse@’s password:
Linux xclaesse-laptop 2.6.32-23-generic #37-Ubuntu SMP Fri Jun 11 08:03:28 UTC 2010 x86_64 GNU/Linux
Ubuntu 10.04 LTS

Welcome to Ubuntu!
* Documentation:

Last login: Mon Jul 12 17:55:39 2010 from xclaesse-laptop
xclaesse@xclaesse-laptop:~$ exit
Connection to closed.

Of course I’m planning to make the CLI a bit better. At least I would like to let choose the account between a list instead of having to type its ID manually. You can know your accountID using “mc-tool list” command. Also since the telepathy tube creates a local socket on which the ssh client connects, you see that it says it’s connecting to “”, is it possible to tell ssh client to display another hostname?

I wrote that tool to make easy to connect my mother’s computer remotely, whithout dealing with her dynamic IP and NAT. If you also find that tool useful, and have suggestions, feel free to post a comment, or even patches :)

Need help with non-latin alphabet

June 7th, 2010 by xclaesse

Felix Kaser is working for Collabora, writing EmpathyLiveSearch widget. It is a widget similar to N900’s HildonLiveSearch. The goal is to make easy to search in your contact list in a smart way. So it match only if words are starting with your search string. For example if you have a contact “Xavier Claessens”, typing “Xav” or “Cla” will show it, but not if you enter “ier” nor “ssens”. The match is of course case-insensitive, so typing “xav” will match as well.

Where things gets more complicated, is that our code also try to strip accentuation marks. For example if you have a contact “Gaëtan”, typing “gae” will match it. This is done using g_unicode_canonical_decomposition() and keep only the first unicode.

I’m writing unit tests for that matching algorithm to make sure it is working as wanted. Being French speaker, I can easily test that letters éèçàï, etc are stripped correctly to keep only the base letter without the accentuation marks. But I would like to include tests in other non-latin alphabets, like Arabic/Chinese/Corean/etc. I don’t know if such “accentuation marks” that can be stripped makes sense in any other alphabet, but if you know, please give me some example strings.

Strings must be encoded in UTF-8 of course!


Update: Empathy in git master now has the live search merged. Please give it a try and see if it maches your needs. It has the matching algorith described above, surely not perfect in all languages, but already better than nothing.

Of course, I’m interested in feedback, does it fail horribly with your language, or is it acceptable? All I can tell is it is perfect in French :D

The nVidia “nouveau” driver

May 23rd, 2010 by xclaesse

I’m using an “old” laptop with an nvidia geforce7 mainly as media center connected on my TV. Getting TV-Out working with the nvidia card always was a pain, had to install proprietary driver, pasting chrunks of settings found on random forums to xorg.conf, and repeat until it decide to work. Had to restart X server each time I want to switch from LCD to TV screen.

Recently I upgraded it (actually made fresh install) to Ubuntu Lucid, was prepared to spent hours to get the tvout working again… But I got totally impressed by the new “nouveau” driver installed by default now, TV-Out was working out of the box, I can setup it easily with gnome-display-properties, even the fn+F7 key binding was working to switch display between LCD-only, TV-only or clone TV-LCD.

So I decided to share this good news, thanks to all devs that made that possible! OpenSource: 1, nVidia: 0.

Empathy getting contact vCard support

May 17th, 2010 by xclaesse

Telepathy spec had for some times now the ‘ContactInfo’ interface to get a vCard from our IM contacts, and set one for ourself. This is currently only supported by telepathy-gabble (The jabber backend).

Now I added high-level API in telepathy-glib to get those vCard information from a TpContact and set our self vCard on a TpConnection. I also added UI in Empathy to view IM contact’s vCard and edit our own vCard.

mandatory screenshots:

The code for this is not yet merged, it is waiting for review. You can find git branches:

telepathy-glib and empathy

Update: This is not related to metacontacts. Current plan for that is using libfolks which is being developped by Collabora right now.

Ubuntu Lucid – indicate

April 1st, 2010 by xclaesse

I upgraded to ubuntu Lucid yesterday, and I was totally disappointed with the new user experience they are trying^Wforcing with their ‘indicate’ applet.

At first, I was not using indicate applet in Karmic, so after the upgrade I didn’t have the indicate applet neither.

  • Rhythmbox’s icon when not playing was modified to be blank&white but the icon when playing was not modified, so big inconsistency in the style.
  • Rhythmbox’s status icon behaviour is modified: it does not play/pause when middle click, right-click does nothing, left-click popup a revisited context-menu. There is no way to show/hide rb when clicking the status icon. Scrolling on the status icon does not change the volume of the playback anymore.
  • I don’t have the bluethoot icon anymore, but tbh it’s fine because I don’t use it anyway. But still, I see no way to add it back.
  • The volume applet is also removed from my panel with no way to add it back.

Then I decided to give a try to indicate applet, I get 4 icons:

  1. bluetooth: exactly the same than without indicate, no way to remove it;
  2. rhythmbox: with all the issues mentioned above;
  3. volume: exactly the same than without indicate, they just made the bar horizontal instead of vertical;
  4. IM: probably the worst, here are issues I had:
    • It force using evolution so it’s useless for thunderbird users like me.
    • the menu shows random contacts in it, I had no idea for which reason contacts appeared… turned out that it’s the last login/logout contact… there is no notification for that, so unless you have always the menu open you can’t understand any reason those contact are there.
    • Incoming call dialog to accept/reject the call steal your focus, so if you were typing, it will reject the call. Empathy upstream fix that by blinking the status icon instead of poping a dialog. Yes, WM people claims that’s fixed 15years ago, blablabla, but no, poping a dialog STEALS the focus.
    • incoming message just turn the icon green, nothing blinking, so it’s really hard to notice. Even with upstream behaviour where the icon is blinking, lots of users complain it’s not noticable…
    • how am I supposed to know if I’m connected to IM??? When booting it does not connect IM accounts automatically, I have to click the IM indicator applet and open the contact list, and then magically it connects my accounts… how discoverable is that??? Using Empathy upstream, you directly see in the notification area an icon for your presence, and if you didn’t start empathy, you see that the icon is not there. In contrast the indicator IM applet is always there with no visual difference for your presence.

As an empathy developer I would like to add a comment on the very poor communication they had with us. Last year they started patching Empathy to use libindicate. They pushed packages in ubuntu karmic (when it was still in dev) without consulting upstream at all. They pushed empathy packages as we use “git commit” and opened an upstream bug attaching the ‘final’ patch. Upstream made an enormous list of comments pointing issues with the patch. While they fixed most of them, we still got lot of bugs reported in upstream by ubuntu users, adding more work for upstream dev. Guillaume Desmottes even lost several *days* of work to fix a nasty empathy crasher that turned out to be ubuntu’s patch fault.

So my conclusion, for my personal use case (maybe other users are happy with it?) that indicator is at best the same as upstream behaviour, but what they changed is getting worst. I don’t blame Ubuntu for trying new user experience, it was a good idea to explore, really. But what makes me totally disappointed is that there is no way to get back to the upstream behaviour if the user choose to not have the indicator applet.

How to make a GObject singleton

February 11th, 2010 by xclaesse

A while back some people asked me to blog about how to make a GObject singleton. I think we are doing it right in Empathy’s code.

The most common way of doing a singleton is to add a function like that:

foo_bar_get_default (void)
  static FooBar *self = NULL;

  if (self == NULL)
    self = foo_bar_new ();

  return self;

It means that you should never unref the return value, and the singleton is leaked for the entire live of the process (unless you play some atexit magic). It also means that g_object_new(FOO_TYPE_BAR, NULL) will return a new object and not a singleton, which is not friendly for bindings.

Here is how we are doing it most of the time in Empathy:

static GObject*
constructor (GType type,
                 guint n_construct_params,
                 GObjectConstructParam *construct_params)
  static GObject *self = NULL;

  if (self == NULL)
      self = G_OBJECT_CLASS (foo_bar_parent_class)->constructor (
          type, n_construct_params, construct_params);
      g_object_add_weak_pointer (self, (gpointer) &self);
      return self;

  return g_object_ref (self);

static void
foo_bar_class_init (FooBarClass *klass)
  GObjectClass *object_class = G_OBJECT_CLASS (klass);

  object_class->constructor = constructor;

With that code, g_object_new() will return a singleton, and will always return a new ref. That means that you have to call g_object_unref() on the singleton once you don’t need it anymore, just like any normal object. If the last user of the singleton drops its ref, then the object is finalized (so there is no leak) and next time someone needs the singleton, a new one will be created (thanks to the weak pointer).

Of course to avoid object create/destroy ping-pong, you could want to keep a ref for the whole live of the process anyway, it really depend on your needs. But if you are writing a library, you cannot know in advance if the object will be needed for the whole live of the process, so it’s better to let the program using the library decide by managing the refcount itself.

Update: Thanks to Rony and Alexander for pointing me that this is not thread-safe. I think we have to use a mutex in that case. If someone has a better idea, please tell me :)

Common mistake with GtkMenu

February 11th, 2010 by xclaesse

While hacking on Empathy, I discovered that most GtkMenu were leaked everywhere in the code. It looks like a common mistake so I decided to blog about it. Maybe other projects are doing that as well. For me it’s something new I learned recently, sorry if everybody was already aware of that :)

How it works

gtk_menu_new() returns an initially unowned widget. It means that its refcount is 1 and the floating flag is set. When you call gtk_menu_popup() on it, an ref is temporarily added as long as the menu is shown. That means that its refcount is now 2 and the floating flag is still set.

Popup and forget

If you want to show the menu and forget, then after calling gtk_menu_popup() you have to clear the floating flag using g_object_ref_sink() then drop the ref you own using g_object_unref(). Like that the menu will only have 1 ref that will be dropped as soon as the menu is popped down. So your menu will be finalized.

Reuse your menu

If you want to keep a pointer to your menu to reuse it, you have to attach the menu to a widget, using gtk_menu_attach_to_widget(). That means the widget will become owner of your menu because it calls g_object_ref_sink() and will make sure the GdkScreen on the menu is the same than on the attach widget. So if ‘self’ is your widget on which you want to popup a menu, simply do priv->menu = gtk_menu_new(); gtk_menu_attach_to_widget (menu, self, NULL); then you can do gtk_menu_popup(priv->menu) when you want. Like that your menu will be finalized in the same time as self.

Using GtkUIManager

If your menu comes from a GtkUIManager, then it is already owned by the ui manager. That means that as long as you own a ref to the manager, you can use the menu. I think you should still attach the menu to your widget to make sure the GdkScreen is handled correctly. Can someone confirm this?

Empathy, Adium, Geolocalisation, Desktop sharing, and File transfer

June 15th, 2009 by xclaesse

Long time without empathy blogpost. Lots of things happened in the Empathy/Telepathy world recently. Here I’ll present 4 new exciting feature of the upcoming Empathy 2.27.3. It will be an impressive release with not less than 49 bugs fixed!


The one year old adium branch got finally merged. This adds support for Adium Message Style themes in empathy. Themes are made of html and javascript, rendered using WebkitGtk. Of course webkit is optional dependency and old style themes can still be used.

Unfortunately all themes are not totally supported yet. Please check our wiki page for more information.


Another long standing branch got merged into Empathy master to add geoclue and libchamplain support. That means that you can now publish your position to your contacts. Your position can be calculater based on a connected GPS, based on your IP, or set manually to a postal address. You can of course tweak Empathy preferences to not publish the exact position for privacy.

If you have contacts publishing their position in your contact list, you’ll be able to see a world map with a marker at his position. The map is rendered thanks to libchamplain and animated using Clutter. Of course the map data is provided by OpenStreeMap.

This was done by Pierre-Luc Beaudoin and he will blog soon with more details and mandatory screenshots.

Desktop sharing

Work has been done to share your desktop with your contacts. This is done by creating a Telepathy StreamTube with your contact and passing the VNC protocol through it. Telepathy StreamTube spec is now undrafted and considered stable.

Guillaume will soon blog with more details about this.

File transfer

And last feature: The file transfer support in Empathy got large improvements. It now support checksum to make sure the transfer succeeded, and soon will support resume.

Empathy moved to GNOME’s git

April 17th, 2009 by xclaesse

Long time no blogging…

Yesterday the git-team pushed the red button and started the git migration from SVN. I’m really happy to see GNOME going forward without too much flames.

We were using GIT for the Empathy developement for a long time now, thanks to a git mirror I maintained using git-svn. But now we have an official git repository hosted on GNOME server. So please, everyone who has branches based on the old repository, follow those instructions to migrate your work to the new repository. I already ported my personal repository and rebased all branches there, so if you are using it (cloned, or added as remote location) you will have to clone it again, or add it as remote location on a new clone of the official GNOME repository.

Once again, thanks to those who made all the work to make happen!

Other Empathy news:

  • I released Empathy 2.26.1 with lots of bug fixes.
  • We opened Ubuntu jaunty ppa with up to date packages for empathy and the whole telepathy stack.
  • Development started on master for the 2.27.x branch. It contains all the fixes from 2.26.1 plus: A new presence chooser widget (Thanks to Davyd), ported to GtkBuilder instead of libglade, and more to come soon…