This year’s GUADEC has been really great – it seemed hard to top last year’s but paul, thos, robster and the rest of the GUADEC team really rocked hard to make everything work at its best. Kudos to all of them.

Unfortunately, my GUADEC was cut short on Wednesday for a small medical emergency, as my wife had some health problems on Tuesday night that got worse on Wednesday. Now it seems everything’s back to normal, but as we’re still expecting some of the lab analysis to come through, we had to postpone our holidays and the trip back to Italy.

I could only stay in Birmingham for the GTK+ “state of the union” (awesome) talk by Kris and the 3.x4.x workshop and see the wonderful presentation Fer and Xan did – really funny but also straight to the point. The following discussion was a bit hijacked towards the ABI/API break issue, which I believe is neither interesting nor really important. I also missed the Clutter talk on Thursday, but I was told Matthew rocked. It’s fun to see people picking up Clutter and finding it API-friendly: it’s hard, being very near to it, to judge whether some of the choices you make are the right ones.

I had to cancel my tutorial on Perl and GTK+, as well as the GConf workshop. I’m very sorry if this has caused you some trouble; I heard that Ryan did an interesting talk on his dconf project, though.

I missed Havoc’s keynote on the online desktop, but went to Alex’s keynote; it was intriguing, even though I disagree on some of his points – especially the bit about Firefox being an interesting platform to develop towards or with, after the utter disregard that the Mozilla developers have had in the past for Linux and GTK+ (two issues spring to mind: borked clipboard usage and UTF-8 drag and drop); oh, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the words “good engineering practises” and “small extensible core” anywhere near “mozilla”, unless “the Fox” that Alex mentioned was a new web browser I’ve yet to see. What I completely agree is that we need to tap into the resources of the non-C, non-hardcore programmers: we need tools to make possible for Flash developers, for Javascript developers, for designers to use our platform, and provide new ideas; in short, make the platform interesting and usable for developers, like the desktop should be interesting and usable for the users.

Let’s take Plasma, the new environment KDE provides for writing their version of desktlets-dash-widgets-dash-applets-dash-somethingets. Obviously, right now, it’s just an exciting new way to write not really useful stuff, like the uptenth variant of a clock, or a weather applet, or a note taking applet; but you get an HTML canvas widget, and you can write ${FOO}ets in Javascript. This way, KDE will get a truckload of useless stuff lying on a desktop which will be covered in windows anyway – but they will also get the attention of web developers writing small apps integrating with web services in a transparent way, using their own strengths and knowledge, without forcing them to learn the intricacies of a complete platform; and in time they’ll get those developers to know this platform and gain new workforce to work with it, and on it. Compare to GNOME: if I want to write something as simple as a desklet, right now, I’d need to know GTK+, Cairo, GConf and possibly gnome-vfs, libsoup, or third party modules for talking to web services through their API. The curve for contributing to the platform is still too steep; and you don’t even get to use your own knowledges: you have to learn everything from scratch. KDE core developers understood this before we did, and their move might keep KDE from falling into the irrelevancy of geek-only usage. It’s up to us find a way for making the GNOME platform interesting again for developers, as well as users.

Take it or leave it

After the comments on my latest blog post, I got back at Unique and did some rearrangements in the code base. Now the backends are all compiled in (obviously, depending on whether you have the dependencies to compile them) and the backend to be used can be defined at runtime. The default backend is chosen at compile time and can be overridden by setting the UNIQUE_BACKEND environment variable. Obviously, if you launch an instance with UNIQUE_BACKEND=dbus and another one with UNIQUE_BACKEND=bacon you will have two instances running – but that’s only to be expected.

I’ve also updated the API to something I can probably call “semi-frozen” (small API additions notwithstanding); the constructor changed to always accept a startup notification id (it will try to be clever and find it for you if you pass NULL, though) and allows you to define custom commands with a single call.

As usual, you can clone the Git repository from here:

  git clone

or grab the tarball for from here.

I’ll keep working on making a 1.0.0 release at GUADEC (probably it’ll happen right at GUADEC), API/ABI stable and with the Xlibs backend. Then I’ll resume working on the GtkApplication class, which will have the Unique features but will (hopefully) be integrated in GTK+.

Update@2007-07-12T12:54+0100: New release, with full API reference documentation, a couple of stupid bugs squashed and workspace support.

Strange news from another star

I’ve been promising a release of GtkUnique for a while now, but work and other stuff got in the way of the namespace change-slash-rewrite. Yesterday I finally got around finishing the porting of the Unix domain sockets backend (or “bacon”) so I cooked up a preliminary release with the D-Bus and Bacon backends working. You can find the tarball here or, if you’re feeling in hacking mood, you can check out the git repository from here:

  git clone

the unique-0.9.1 is the tag for this release. I’ll work on finishing the port of the Xlibs backend and target a stable 1.0.0 release for GUADEC.

The API of Unique changed a bit since the last GtkUnique release, and I think it’ll change a bit more in order to be usable with the smallest impact possible. Now you can register custom commands and there’s convenience API for sending strings and URI lists; the command registration and construction API might change to something similar to the GtkDialog API – and I might switch to a more signal based approach (construct the message payload inside a signal handler) before 1.0. I also might add a –replace command line switch that gets slurped and does The Right Thing for you.

The biggest change is happening under the hood, though; with this release, the UniqueApp instance will request the specified name as soon as it is created, so you’ll be guaranteed to either be the first running instance or be able to send messages to the currently running instance at the same moment that the UniqueApp constructor returns. Hence, no more race conditions between the constructor and the “is running” request. Finally, the “window watching” functions have been removed – even though I might add a “watch window” function to handle the startup notification sequence for you (now that we have the API to do that in GTK+ 2.11).

This release also means that the code in SVN under the gtkunique module is to be considered deprecated. I’m going to ask the svnmaster to move it into the attic, as the delta is too big for a simple check-in. As soon as 1.0.0 is out I’ll also ask the release-team for “blessing” Unique as a dependency, so if you want your module to depend on it you’ll be able to safely do it. Again, sorry for taking this long to finish up this work.

Update@2007-07-09T15:16+0100: I’ve just rolled a 0.9.1 to fix some build issues and add licensing terms. Thanks to Christian Persch for the heads up.