Love and Communication

For the Google Summer of Code, Vytas Liuolia wrote the (very much needed) guniqueapp library; just a small recap: libguniqueapp allows the creation of single instance applications, that is applications that gets instanced once and each subsequent instance just quits – or send a command to the currently running instance.

Libguniqueapp has two available backends: D-Bus, as default, and bacon (a Un*x socket living in /tmp and used to send and receive commands). After reading about guniqueapp on desktop-devel-list, I began hacking on it in order to add a new backend, using X itself as an IPC mechanism.

Single instance applications are used on the desktop (Gedit, Mozilla, Epiphany, Evince – the list goes on), but are very interesting for an embedded device because of the the memory and/or screen real estate limitations. On the Maemo platform, for instance, this issue has been solved by having each application behave as a D-Bus service: each time an application is launched a new object on the bus is created and subsequent instances just abort. Not every embedded platform uses (or can use) D-Bus, though, hence the need for anothe IPC mechanism – like the Xlibs-based backend.

In the process of adding this new backend I’ve accidentally broken the whole guniqueapp codebase; I know, I’m really sloppy at the times. Reassembling the pieces together using GTK+ coding style (which, even though it uses the evil 2-spaces indentation from hell, I actually prefer using when programming using GObject/GTK-based stuff) and clearly hiding the backend stuff under the carpet, something else came out of it – GtkUnique.

GtkUnique is pretty much similar to guniqueapp, except that:

  • the backend implementations have been more cleanly separated and hidden in helper libraries;
  • there’s an Xlibs-based backend, which is preferred right after the D-Bus backend;
  • the IPC channel is bidirectional; that is: the message sent from a second instance to the first instance of the application has a return code, in case the operation that has been requested failed;
  • the D-Bus backend has been changed: the name of the application is used as the object on the bus, so you don’t have awkward stuff like org.gnome.GUniqueApp.YourApp but something a bit more friendly like tld.your-company.YourApp;
  • also in the D-Bus backend, the SendMessage message has been changed: it now accepts a stringified command, which is the “nick” value of the GtkUniqueCommand enum object; this way you can send commands like activate or new instead of integers on the wire;
  • the GtkUniqueApp object keeps track of the top-level windows of the application;
  • I’ve added API documentation using gtk-doc;
  • Perl and Python bindings are in the works;

You may think of GtkUnique as a fork of guniqueapp; really, it’s more of an experiment I wrote to get more aquainted with Xlibs (for instance: now I learned the hard way that you must remember to use XSelectInput() on a window to get the PropertyNotify events) and D-Bus programming. I intend to use GtkUnique inside the next release of the Dictionary and inside another project of mine, so I’ll keep on working on it.

If you want to play with it, just pull the bazaar repository from here:

  main:  bzr branch
  perl bindings: bzr branch

and there’s a tarball available here

Note on the library: the libbacon-like backend is broken at the moment, as I’m still playing with it.

Note on the bindings: I’ll add the branch for the python bindings as soon as I have them in a buildable state. The Perl bindings are very rough at the moment – the make test phase fails and while you can send a message from a Perl application to a C application sharing the same name, you can’t do the opposite.

Special Delivery

I almost forgot – this should tell you how bad a maintainer I am ;-) – but Lennart’s blog reminded me: the ringchart code hit Baobab HEAD:

Baobab Ringchart

The ringchart view is really nice – even though I still very much like the treemap – but the real improvements are in Baobab’s user interface, which got streamlined and made simpler. Kudos to both Fabio Marzocca, Paolo Borelli and to all the people at Igalia who worked really hard in order to make the next stable release of Baobab rock.

I did not package a gnome-utils tarball in time for 2.17.1, as I’m still working on my development tree for both the dictionary and the screenshot tool; but since I got a couple of bug fixes (backported to the stable branch) I plan to do a 2.16.2 release this weekend and a 2.17.1 before the end of the month. In the meantime: grab a snapshot from CVS and test away!

Mood to Burn Bridges

Whoa, really long time no blog.

I can’t say I’ve been really busy with GNOME-related stuff: work mostly blocked me from doing much. After GNOME 2.16 I’ve released gnome-utils 2.16.1 containing a couple of fixes to Screenshot, and one of them was written by Ross; I’ve also released not one, not two but three versions of the Gnome2::GConf perl module wrapping GConf, two of them today, thanks to the awesome work of Laurent Simonneil, who provided two patches for fixing the schema objects handling and for wrapping the recursive unsetting in the Gnome2::GConf::Client class. Those two patches are what Laurent needed for creating a FUSE-based file system (written in Perl using the FUSE and GConf bindings) for browsing the GConf database.

You can find the latest releases of Laurent’s GConf-FS, as well as the latest Gnome2::GConf module release, on CPAN.

now listening: Neko Case, Furnace Room Lullaby