What’s new in Tracker 1.2?

Minions-Happy

Reblogged from Lanedo GmbH. blog

Every 6 months or so we produce a new stable release and for Tracker 1.2 we had some new exciting work being introduced. For those that don’t know of Tracker, it is a semantic data storage and search engine for desktop and mobile devices. Tracker is a central repository of user information, that provides two big benefits for the user; shared data between applications and information which is relational to other information (for example: mixing contacts with files, locations, activities and etc.).

Providing your own data

Earlier in the year a client came Lanedo and to the community asking for help on integrating Tracker into their embedded platforms. What did they want? Well, they wanted to take full advantage of the Tracker project’s feature set but they also wanted to be able to use it on a bigger scale, not just for local files or content on removable USB keys. They wanted to be able to seamlessly query across all devices on a LAN and cloud content that was plugged into Tracker. This is not too dissimilar to the gnome-online-miners project which has similar goals.

The problem

Before Tracker 1.2.0, files and folders came by way of a GFile and GFileInfo which were found using the GFileEnumerator API that GLib offers. Underneath all of this the GFile* relates to GLocalFile* classes which do the system calls (like lstat()) to crawl the file system.

Why do we need this? Well, on top of TrackerCrawler (which calls the GLib API), is TrackerFileNotifier and TrackerFileSystem, these essentially report content up the stack (and ignore other content depending on rules). The rules come from a TrackerIndexingTree class which knows what to black list and what to white list. On top of all of this is TrackerMinerFS, which (now is inaccurately named) handles queues and processing of ALL content. For example, DELETED event queues are handled before CREATED event queues. It also gives status updates, handles INSERT retries when the system is busy and so on).

To make sure that we take advantage of existing technology and process information correctly, we have to plugin at the level of the TrackerCrawler class.

The solution

Essentially we have a simple interface for handling open and close cases for iterating a container (or directory) called TrackerDataProvider interface (and TrackerFileDataProvider implementation for the default or existing local file system case).

That is followed up with an enumerator interface for enumerating that container (or directory). That is called TrackerEnumerator and of course there is a TrackerFileEnumerator class to implement the previous functionality that existed.

So why not just implement our own GFile backend and make use of existing interfaces in GLib? Actually, I did look into this but the work involved seemed much larger and I was conscious of breaking existing use cases of GFile in other classes in libtracker-miner.

How do I use it?

So now it’s possible to provide your own data provider implementation for a cloud based solution to feed Tracker. But what are the minimum requirements? Well, Tracker requires a few things to function, those include providing a real GFile and GFileInfo with an adequate name, and mtime. The libtracker-miner framework requires the mtime for checking if there have been updates compared to the database. The TrackerDataProvider based implementation is given as an argument to the TrackerMiner object creation and called by the TrackerCrawler class when indexing starts. The locations that will be indexed by the TrackerDataProvider are given to the TrackerIndexingTree and you can use the TRACKER_DIRECTORY_FLAG_NO_STAT for non-local content.

Crash aware Extractor

In Tracker 1.0.0, the Extractor (the ‘tracker-extract’ process) used to extract metadata from files was upgraded to be passive. Passive meaning, the Extractor was only extracting content from files already added to the database. Before that, content was concatenated from the Extractor to the file system miner and inserted into the database collectively.

Sadly with 1.0.0, any files that caused crashes or serious system harm resulting in the termination of ‘tracker-extract’ were subsequently retried on each restart of the Extractor. In 1.2.0 these failures are noted and files are not retried.

New extractors?

Thanks to work from Bastien Hadess, there have been a number of extractors added for electronic book and comic books. If your format isn’t supported yet, let us know!

Updated Preferences Dialog

Often we get questions like:

  • Can Tracker index numbers?
  • How can I disable indexing file content?

To address these, the preferences dialog has been updated to provide another tab called “Control” which allows users to change options that have existed previously but not been presented in a user interface.

tracker-preferences-1.2

In addition to this, changing an option that requires a reindex or restart of Tracker will prompt the user upon clicking Apply.

What else changed?

Of course there were many other fixes and improvements as well as the things mentioned here. To see a full list of those, see them as mentioned in the announcement.

Looking for professional services?

If you or someone you know is looking to make use of Open Source technology and wants professional services to assist in that, get in touch with us at Lanedo to see how we can help!

Tracker – What do we do now we’re stable?

Books

Over the past month or two, I’ve spent time working on various feature branches for Tracker. This coming after a 1.2 stable release and a new feature set which was added in 1.2.

So a lot has been going on with Tracker internally. I’ve been relatively quiet on my blog of late and I thought it would be a good idea to run a series of blogs relating to what is going on within the project.

Among my blogs, I will be covering:

  • What features did we add in Tracker 1.2 – how can they benefit you?
  • The difference between URIs, URNs, URLs and IRIs – dispelling any confusion; for the bugs we’ve had reported
  • Making Tracker more Git-like – we’re moving towards a new ‘git’ style command line with some new features on the way
  • Preparing for the divorce – is it time to finally split tracker-store, the ontologies and the data-miners?
  • Making Tracker even more idle – using cgroups and perhaps keyboard/mouse idle notifications

If anyone has any questions or concerns they would like to see answered in articles around these subjects, please comment below and I will do my best to address them! :)

tracker-search gets colour & snippets!

Recently Carlos added FTS4 and snippet support to Tracker. We merged that to master after doing some tests and have reduced the database size on disk by doing this. I released 0.15.2 yesterday with the FTS4 work, and today I decided to add a richer experience to tracker-search.

Below you can see me searching for passport and sue found in some of the documents indexed on my machine. The colour there is quite nice to separate hits and snippets/contexts where the terms were found. This search without any arguments really will search ALL resources in the database:

tracker-search-snippets

This second screenshot shows searching for love with all music in particular. So you can use this for all areas of tracker-search:

tracker-search-snippets2

With any luck, we will be releasing a 0.16.0 in time for the next GNOME release with this all available in!

Lanedo is hiring

We’re currently looking for anyone who has LibreOffice experience and is interested in working on the project. If that sounds like something you would like to do, get in touch with us.

Additionally, if you or anyone you know has experience running an open source business, please get in touch. We’re looking for someone that could facilitate a CEO type position.

Tracker Needle with improved tagging

Given there have been a number of improvements to tracker-needle recently, I thought I would make a video to highlight some of them. A quick summary:

  • Searching for “foo” now finds files tagged with “foo”
  • Searches are limited to 500 items per category/query (to avoid abusing the GtkTreeView mainly)
  • A tag list is now available to show all hits by tags
  • Tags can be edited by the context menu per item (planned to be improved later)

Really nice to have tagging supported properly in tracker-needle now.

Improved Tracker Preferences for Indexed Locations

Something I have been meaning to do for a long time, is to update the preferences dialog for Tracker to easily add locations which are special user directories (as per the GUserDirectory locations).

I wanted to do this in such a way that:

  • It was really easy to toggle locations as recursive or not
  • The file chooser was only necessary for non-standard locations
  • Better use of the space was made by integrating the two lists (previously) for single directory and recursive directory indexing
  • I could fix a few issues which had been reported when it came to saving using the special symbols (e.g. &DESKTOP for G_USER_DIRECTORY_DESKTOP, etc.) when one or more user directories evaluated to the same location

The result is this (now in master and 0.12.2 when it is released):

Tracker 0.12.0 Released!

Given we (the tracker team) want to try to fit into the GNOME schedule for 3.2, we decided to bring the release of 0.12.0 ahead early. The roadmap is mostly complete anyway.

The official announcement can be seen here.

Thank you to everyone involved!

Recently I also updated the GtkSearchEngineTracker implementation to not use hacky dlopen() calls and to use DBus instead. This avoids us updating the work for each new version of Tracker that comes along too. The patch attached to the bug (658272) should be applied soon (given Matthias was pushing for this sooner rather than later). So, we’re all on track!

Tracker extensions for Firefox & Thunderbird

Recently Adrien Bustany blogged about the Firefox extension for Tracker and has yet to blog about his Thunderbird extension work.

As you would expect, the Firefox extension syncs bookmarks to Tracker (in that direction only for now) and the Thunderbird extension sends email to Tracker to be indexed (even full text content of emails which our Evolution miner doesn’t do because of the system stress it causes). This is really quite superb work from Adrien and tracker-needle already supports bookmarks and emails so it all just works after a make install (into the $prefix where Firefox/Thunderbird are installed). Currently the Thunderbird extension requires version >= 5.0 (works with betas too), and the Firefox extension requires version >= 4.0 (and supports 5.0).

These works have been imported using a pretty cool tool after I felt more comfortable using that to import Adrien’s subtrees into Tracker’s git repository. I did read up on the coolest merge ever from Linus but it felt more like a hack to me to do it that way. Still, I guess Linus knows what he is doing :)

So now we have both plugins imported with full history into git. The thunderbird branch was merged to master today and the firefox branch will be merged this week hopefully pending Adrien’s review. Great stuff!

GTK+ website redesign finally finished!

I have blogged about this from the official GTK+ blog too, but I wanted to really say personally how happy I am that this is done now. Really great work from Devin Samarin especially with the gtk-doc integration which looks like an extension of the main website instead of a separately maintained project.

If anyone has any comments on how to improve the content, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, Devin Samarin or Javier Jardón (who also has been helping out on the website side more recently).

Continuing to support LibreOffice

Oracle donating OpenOffice.org to Apache Software Foundation?

I was quite surprised to hear about this move from Oracle. My impression is that this is a last attempt to keep OpenOffice.org alive. It’s too little too late in my opinion. Factoring in that the community chose to fork and that several major distros (if not most) have already switched to LibreOffice, I don’t see OpenOffice.org making any kind of come back. The licensing situation is also going to make it harder to migrate patches from LibreOffice to OpenOffice.org as I understand it and Michael Meeks makes some great points on that.

Some of the comments I read about the proposal (#1, #2) really re-iterate what I was thinking already. I hasten to add, I think for people/projects still using OpenOffice.org it’s a good thing.

Great responses too from Michael (#1, #2) and Norbert Thiebaud.

In light of everything, Lanedo fully backs the Document Foundation and will continue to support LibreOffice. We prefer the community driven efforts and model behind LibreOffice and there is great enthusiasm from the people involved in the project!

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