OBEX in Nautilus

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When I got my new laptop, one of the features it had that my previous one didn’t was Bluetooth support. There are a few Bluetooth related utilities for Gnome that let you send and receive SMS messages and a few other things, but a big missing feature is the ability to transfer files to and from the phone easily.

Ideally, I’d be able to browse the phone’s file system using Nautilus. Luckily, the Maemo guys have already done the hard work of writing a gnome-vfs module that speaks the OBEX FTP protocol. I had a go at compiling it on my laptop (running Ubuntu Edgy), and you can see the result below:

Browsing files and viewing images stored on my phone

There are a few rough edges:

  • While I can get a list of discovered devices at the location obex:///, it displays the raw bluetooth addresses rather than device names. Furthermore, the files displayed here are symlinks to the appropriate obex://[$ADDRESS]/ URLs, which aren’t that useful given that gnome-vfs does not support symlinks pointing to other schemes or authorities. This could be fixed by generating .desktop files instead, which would make it possible to provide nice icons too.
  • Can’t rename files. This might be a limitation of the OBEX FTP protocol though: the man page for the command line obexftp client says moves only work with Siemens phones.
  • Doesn’t seem to handle devices disappearing very well — when I tried turning off Bluetooth on my phone and told Nautilus to reload the window, Nautilus hung and stopped redrawing til I turned Bluetooth on again.

I don’t have any ready made binaries for others to try at this point. Below are some notes for anyone else who wants to try building it:

  • You’ll need the osso-gwconnect, osso-gwobex and osso-gnomevfs-extra modules. I grabbed them from Maemo Subversion.
  • When trying to build a debian package for osso-gwconnect, I removed the libosso-dev and mce-dev build dependencies, and made an equivalent change to the configure arguments in debian/rules. The configure script also asks for BlueZ 3.2, while Edgy only has 3.1. The package built fine when I decreased the minimum version requirement.
  • You’ll need to build osso-gwconnect and osso-gwobex before osso-gnomevfs-extra. There are a few build problems with this last module:
    1. The autogen.sh script asks for automake 1.8.x specifically, but works fine with the current 1.9.x releases.
    2. I had to change a dbus_connection_disconnect() call to dbus_connection_close() in obex-module/src/om-dbus.c.
    3. You only need to build the obex-utils and obex-module directories. There are other bits in this module that you probably don’t want, and some bits like the replacement GTK filesystem backend didn’t build for me.

With a little bit of work, this would fit into the main Gnome desktop quite well. When talking to Bastien a while back, he said that the extra dbus daemons shouldn’t really be necessary, so it might be worth trying to bypass them.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Johan Hedberg


    The osso-gwconnect dependency should be easily removable if you use bluez-utils-3.7 or newer. Starting with that version hcid provides a functionally equivalent RFCOMM D-Bus interface as btcond from osso-gwconnect does (which is what the OBEX module uses). However, this interface is currently categorized as experimental which means you need to give hcid the -x option for it to be enabled.

    The osso-gwobex dependency can hopefully also be removed in the future. Work has started on glib bindings for openobex which would be functionally equivalent to the async API the gwobex provides. You can see the current work in the glib subdirectory of the openobex CVS on sourceforge. Hopefully we can release a first version during the autumn (within a month or so).

  2. Davyd

    It’s great that this has been done (not that my phone has bluetooth). I once tried to do something like this using Gammu (when it forked from Gnokii), but ended up trying to cut myself instead.

  3. Jonh Wendell

    This is great. KDE already has a kind of that, hasn’t it?

    Once i managed to transfer files to/from phone via obex with fuse and obexfs, just frontend to obexftp. (http://www.bani.com.br/?p=10 – Brazilian Portuguese)

    Seeing that feature in nautilus/gnomevfs is very cool!

    Will it in 2.16?

  4. James Henstridge

    Johan: great news!

    Davyd: looking at the code, the VFS method should handle infrared too. So if your phone can do OBEX FTP over IR, you could still use it.

    John: The screenshot is from an Ubuntu Edgy system, which has Gnome 2.16. You won’t find it in the default install though — I compiled the code from the Maemo Subversion repository (with the few modifications listed in the main text).

  5. Ross

    Matthew Garrett was doing some very interesting work that would replace bits of this, by integrating BlueZ into HAL. There are HAL objects for every phone detected, which can be probed and so on.

  6. Marius Gedminas

    I was very disappointed recently when I did an apt-cache search in Ubuntu and didn’t find any graphical OBEX FTP client. (Googling for a FUSE module also gave me no results, so it is very interesting to see that link to obexfs.)

    Is there any chance for the OBEX FTP gnomevfs module to make it into Edgy+1?

  7. AdamW

    I may be missing something obvious here, but why does everyone want to use OBEX FTP directly? What’s wrong with nautilus-sendto-bluetooth? I use it regularly for sending files to my phone – right click file, Send to…, pick the phone – and it works very well and seems brain-dead simple to me. Sending files from the phone to the PC I do from, well, the phone, which also seems to make sense. What am I missing? 🙂

  8. James Henstridge

    AdamW: one simple reason is that this provides the same interface for copying files to/from my phone as I have for accessing my camera, PSP, USB sticks, etc.

    Initiating the send from my phone feels clunky, and is pretty inconvenient if I want to transfer multiple files.

  9. felipe

    Wow, do you know if there’s any plan to support OBEX via USB? It’s much faster than bluetooth and in many cases your phone comes with a free USB cable.

    Openobex already supoprts USB


  10. matt

    You just can mount the phone filesystem into any directory.

    But only the user who mounts it can access the mount directory, even root isn’t allowed to do that! :-/

    here’s my script:

    obexfs -b 00:12:EE:9A:19:39 -B 6 /mnt/k750i/
    nautilus –no-desktop –browser /mnt/k750i

  11. Alex Kanavin

    The author of USB support in openobex here 🙂 I plan to see what I can do with obexfs in Fedora and perhaps nicely integrate it into their removable media infrastructure (which may be shared with other distros – I dunno yet). So that when you plug your phone in, you get a nice icon on your desktop, just like your flash drive or digicam.

  12. Wout

    Can you post some (checkinstall) deb files??? You would be a hero if you did 😉

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