Bustleman’s Holiday

I recently had a few weeks off work, and mostly did a good job of staying away from my computer. However, I couldn’t resist putting in a few hours to release Bustle 0.8.0, someone’s favourite D-Bus profiler. Get it on Flathub today!

Screenshot of Bustle 0.8.0's About dialog. “Someone's favourite D-Bus profiler”
I never have clarified whose favourite D-Bus profiler it is…

The main user-facing change is a great new icon, designed and drawn by Tobias Bernard. (Unfortunately the Flathub website still shows the old one for CDN cache reasons, but you can feast your eyes above or in your favourite app centre.)

I also rewrote some parts of the app from Haskell to C. In particular, it no longer uses the Haskell D-Bus implementation and libpcap binding, instead using GDBus and GVariant (via some minimal hand-written FFI bindings) and some mostly-existing C code, respectively. Me circa 2008 would be horrified to learn that I’ve done this, and me circa 2020 is sad to be introducing more unsafe code, but the net result is a smaller app with way fewer transitive dependencies.

Why can’t it use GDBus via GObject Introspection, you ask? GLib didn’t have a D-Bus implementation in 2008, and there was no GObject Introspection support for Haskell. These days, bindings for Gio etc. generated via GObject Introspection exist, but migrating Bustle to these would amount to a rewrite, and I don’t have the time or stomach for that. (These libraries all have my name on them because I made a small start at the generator back in 2011 with the express goal of using them in Bustle, but I’d be amazed if any of my work is still present.)

I’ve been fortunate to have had a dozen or so contributors to Bustle over the years, but it’s certainly true that my choice of implementation language has been a big barrier to entry for other contributors. I maintain that it was not a bad choice in and of itself for a weekend project: in 2008, a time before GObject Introspection was widely available, the Haskell GTK and Cairo bindings were unusually thorough and well-written and allowed me to write concise code and iterate quickly. But going against the grain of the community has a cost: the intersection of “Haskell programmer”, “D-Bus expert” and “GNOME enthusiast” is a very small set, and I know several people personally who were interested in contributing until they saw the language.

Why C rather than Rust, you ask? If you want to try to glue Cabal, Cargo and C together, be my guest.

(In case the joke in the title doesn’t translate outside the UK: busman’s holiday on Wiktionary.)

Bustle 0.2.3: now with pairs of D-Bus traffic charts side-by-side

I just released Bustle 0.2.3. The notable improvement is that you can now view a pair of D-Bus traffic logs side-by-side on the same chart. So if you’ve taken a trace of the session bus and the system bus, and want to see how the bus traffic matches up on the two, this is the release you’ve been waiting for! (If not, well, I made the ugly pink lines a more tasteful grey, and fixed some bugs you never noticed.)

While I was refactoring to support the second log, I would have liked to have been able to run Bustle in a “batch” mode to render straight to a file, and then run some kind of visual diff tool to compare the output of the branch versus the last release. Coincidentally, when I opened my inbox, I found a mail requesting the same feature! I imagine that this could come in handy for producing automated reports: maybe you’d have a weekly cron job that produces some stats about the traffic using bustle-count and, if it goes significantly up or down, sends an email to tick off or congratulate the relevant team as appropriate with an attached diagram. ;-) If anyone fancied having a crack at this, it shouldn’t be too hard.

Bustle 0.2.1

A couple of days ago, I released version 0.2.1 of Bustle, someone’s favourite D-Bus profiler. As the version number suggests, there aren’t really any big new features; most of the changes just make it a bit nicer to use, like showing you all the bus names a service owns, ellipsizing strings, a slightly less spartan UI, etc. Having finally gotten around to cutting a release, I’ve started wondering what to work on next. There are various small things I have in mind, such as searching, filtering, integrating the various statistic tools (bustle-time and friends) into the UI, and so on, but it’d be nice to have a larger goal to work towards.

One recurring feature request is the ability to see messages’ arguments. This isn’t currently possible because the simple plain-text logs produced by the monitor (which is a variation on the theme of dbus-monitor --profile) only includes the message header. I’ve thought for a while that the right thing to do would be to log the raw dbus messages, together with a timestamp, but wasn’t sure what the files would look like. (Maybe shove the timestamps into the message headers?) Rob had a nice idea: why not log to pcap files? This avoids inventing a new format—the UI would just use libpcap and feed each message through the dbus parser—and would also let you look at the logs in WireShark, if you’re into that kind of thing. I’m hoping to find some time to give this a shot soon. (Maybe on a cold Christmas evening, in front of a fire?)

In the meantime, have a peek at what your D-Bus-using applications are up to, and let me know what’s missing!