moving out: Marta has been in London a couple of times, in these two weeks; she has found a nice house in Crystal Palace, and began to buy furniture and stuff, and preparing it for us to move in. Next week, we’re both going to London and buy the remaining stuff (a sofa-bed, a table for the living room and some chairs to begin with). We should return in Milan for a couple of days on the 4th of May, as we must sign documents and papers for the marriage, and actually choose its date (it’ll be in July, probably).

gtk+ recent: the merge went well; on the gtk-devel list, Murray Cumming pointed out a couple of issues; most notably, the lack of integration with the GtkUIManager. The plan was to add a placeholder tag to the markup used to build the UI, but I really don’t like this approach anymore: it’s inherently messy. As a replacement, I coded up in a couple of hours a new GtkAction subclass: GtkRecentAction; when bound to a menu item tag, it creates a new submenu hooked to a GtkRecentChooserMenu; when bound to a toolbar item tag, it creates a GtkMenuToolButton like the one Gedit uses for the Open toolbar button. Unfortunately, I still can’t see a way to hook up an inlined list of menu items. Well, I suppose I’ll have to file a bug to the HIG and have it changed to use submenus for the list of recently used files. ;-)

gnome-utils: good news everyone: I’ve asked Fabio Marzocca for his permission to include into the gnome-utils package the fine disk usage tool called Baobab that he wrote; he agreed, and work is underway to clean up the code and hook it up to the gnome-utils build, in order to have it ready for the 2.15.1 release. Also, work is underway to add Solaris support to the system log viewer, and I’m fixing up a bunch of open bugs for the dictionary, including the re-addition of the “speller tool” (the list of matching words showed if no definitions were to be found).

Gnome-utils 2.13.95 – “Escape Velocity”

Seems like I forgot to announce the new release of gnome-utils; actually, this week-end I had a bad cold (I’m not completely cured, though), and standing in front of my laptop made my eyes sore after two or three minutes.

Anyway, the last release before March 15th is out. It should have been 2.13.94 (and it’s advertised as such inside the README and the NEWS files of the tarball, but who reads those files anyway?), but there has been some misunderstanding between the working copy I checked out from CVS in order to build the release and me. Well, it’s not the first time I fuck up something in the release process – and I’ve got the feeling that it won’t be the last.

The release contains just a couple of last minute fixes, like the handling of the transparency of the applet when the panel is set to a solid color and low opacity; also, the applet’s window can be closed using the Esc key.

Go get it and try it out.

Gnome-utils 2.13.92 – Gnome-utils vs. Bugzilla

This evening, before going to dinner with Marta at my parent’s, I did the 2.13.92 release of gnome-utils, codenamed Gnome-utils versus Bugzilla.

Since we have approached the feature freeze, the UI freeze and now the string freeze, it’s mostly a “fix and clean up” release; a couple of nasty bugs were fixed, though, like the not translatable name of the screenshot file name in the screenshot application, or the dictionary applet’s window flicker when toggled. Also, thanks to Paolo Borelli (and his constant checking out of each commit inside the entire CVS using Bonsai) the log viewer preferences code has been cleaned up a bit, making it more solid and reliable.

Unless new crashers or blocker bugs are found, I think this will be the last release before 2.14.0 hits the tarballs; so, please test it and report any bug you should find as soon as possible, so that we can make Gnome-utils better before the next stable release!

Gnome-utils 2.13.91 – Ain’t That a Brown Paper Bag?

The first second β-release of the Gnome-utils package is out!

Fixes for crashers, better error handling, font settings and much more!

Go get it!


Gnome-utils 2.13.90 had a glitch in the build system that resulted in the absence of the translations database in the package; thus I’ve just released the 2.13.91 version of gnome-utils, Ain’t that a brown paper bag, which fixes the glitch.


With the incoming release of Gnome 2.13.90, we are approaching the 2.14 version of Gnome. Now, features are frozen, and soon even changing the UI will require at least two approvals (one from the GUP and one from the release team); so, while we still have a full month for fixing bugs, I think it’s time for some little thinking and planning ahead about the next release cycle of gnome-utils.

The biggest job for the 2.15/2.16 cycle will be the cleaning up of the System Log Viewer. The code-base is a bit messy, but thanks to the great work of Vincent we’ve avoided the Design by Accretion Syndrome; still, even a white space consistency patch would be in order: some lines have a (horrid) three-space indentation, while some other have a tab indentation. So, I’d move everything to a tab-based indentation. The other “cosmetic” clean up is the removal of the dead and/or obsolete calls, the usage of a naming scheme for the classes and functions, and a switch to typed objects (e.g. boxed types and GObject-based types). I’ve already begun some attempt at cleaning up the code base, but this will most likely require to land in a new branch as soon as we release gnome-utils 2.14.

The other job is the implementation of a couple of transport methods for Dictionary, namely the HTTP-based transport, which should allow the connection to a web-based dictionary service; the file-based transport, which should allow the querying of locally available dictionaries; the StarDict transport, similar to the file-based one, but including a C parser for the StarDict format. Regarding this format, I’ve had a look at the C++ library and I seriously think that before releasing some software under an open source licence, a serious check on the code style should be in order; I don’t like C++, I think it’s inherently inefficient and messy, but something like this:

whitespace horror in lib.cpp

should really be closed source software – in order to avoid programmers throwing themselves out of the window after having had a look at it.

One more job would be the re-working of the gfloppy utility, with the addition of the ability to format every removable media (floppies, USB sticks, CD/DVD RW, etc). This will require some updates inside HAL – namely, the volume formatting and partitioning support. I think that, while floppies are becoming more and more rare these days, gfloppy might be reborn into something very useful again.

Finally, the last job for the 2.15/2.16 cycle should be the update of the Screenshot utility. First of all, I’d like to close bug #325708, but the whole bug list should be triaged and updated.

Obviously, I can’t promise that everything will be ready in time for 2.16. As always, patches that will make this happen faster are welcome.


The next release of gnome-utils, 2.13.90, will make libgdict adhere to the API/ABI freeze, even if it’s not part of the Gnome Developer Platform but only of the Desktop.

The freeze had been in effect since the last release (January 18th), and I planned not to change libgdict API; unfortunately, when writing the support for the document_font_name GConf key, which was introduced in Gnome 2.12 and that should be honoured by any application showing arbitrarily long texts to the user, I noticed that a call to gtk_widget_modify_font to a GtkContainer does not propagate to the containers’s children. The widget the Dictionary uses to display the text of the definitions is, in fact, a composite widget (a GtkVBox) as it needs to hold the text display and the find bar; the inner widgets are held inside a private structure, and are not visible to the outside.

If I wanted to work around this, I would have written something like this function inside the code of the libgdict users:

static void
gtk_container_modify_font_children (GtkContainer *container,
				    const gchar  *font_name)
  GList *children, *l;
  PangoFontDescription *font_desc;

  g_return_if_fail (GTK_IS_CONTAINER (container));

  font_desc = NULL;
  if (font_name)
      font_desc = pango_font_description_from_string (font_name);
      g_return_if_fail (font_desc != NULL);

  children = gtk_container_get_children (container);
  for (l = children; l != NULL; l = l->next)
        GtkWidget *widget = GTK_WIDGET (l->data);

	gtk_widget_modify_font (widget, font_desc);

  g_list_free (children);

  if (font_desc)
    pango_font_description_free (font_desc);

But it would not have worked; I wanted to change the font of the GtkTextView widget inside the GdictDefbox, while the function above would have changed font for all internal widgets – including the find pane.

Assigning a name to the GtkTextView widget, say “text-display”, by using the gtk_widget_set_name function, and changing the code of the inner loop to something like this:

  for (l = children; l != NULL; l = l->next)
        GtkWidget *widget = GTK_WIDGET (l->data);
	const gchar *name = gtk_widget_get_name (widget);

	if (strcmp (name, "text-display") == 0)
          gtk_widget_modify_font (widget, font_desc);

I would have avoided the API breakage inside libgdict – but I would also have created a performance bottleneck, since I transformed a constant time operation into a linear time one (from an assignment to a list walk) – plus, I don’t know what happens into gtk_widget_modify_font; also, I would have created a documentation issue, since I now would have to document the widget’s name and hope that nobody would ever have the urge to change the GdictDefbox font – at least, not after having had lunch.

Giving a name to the inner children of a composite widget is always a good practice – it makes handling these kind of situations easier; but between an hackish approach and a breakage of an API freeze, I would rather choose the latter. Hacks tend to get sticky, and you get a design by accretion if you let them stick around enough.

So, I opten for adding a new property to the GdictDefbox widget, called font-name, and its two accessor functions:

G_CONST_RETURN gchar *gdict_defbox_get_font_name (GdictDefbox *defbox);
void                  gdict_defbox_set_font_name (GdictDefbox *defbox,
						  const gchar *font_name);

Which are just proxies for the gtk_widget_modify_font function. Since nobody uses libgdict (it’s been out there only for the folks using Ubuntu or jhbuild), the breakage is really minimal; nevertheless, I feel a bit guilty for not having tested this stuff before, in time for the freeze.

New release of gnome-utils

I’ve just rolled the 2.13.5 release of gnome-utils, code-named Optimized for Size.

This release sports a ton of fixes for Dictionary, which now can remember its size and state across sessions; the usage (in the Search Tool and in Dictionary) of the new, spiffy, faster and lighter GSlice slab allocator from GLib HEAD branch, which means that gnome-utils now forcefully depends on at least the 2.9.1 version of GLib; also, the Dictionary got two new localized dictionary sources, one for French and one for Spanish. I hope to add more of those sources, since it’s really quite easy and having localized dictionaries would make the Dictionary utility even more useful.

The full announcement has been posted on the gnome-utils mailing list, and it’s available here.

Be sure to grab it, test it and bug it.