Taggable Desktop


Luis: You wanted a taggable desktop? Oh, okay.

Announcing Leaftag, our desktop tagging framework. This is an evolution of the original prototype we created, originally named fstaglib (isn’t leaftag just so much better?).

The main part of Leaftag is a library called (oddly enough) libleaftag, which interfaces with the tag database. It’s GObject-based, and the API is quite small. It can tag anything with a URI.

There’s tagutils, a small app used for working with tags and files. It is able to tag and untag files, list all known tags, list all files with a specified tag, and manipulate tag properties (such as icons and descriptions). It also includes some symlinks that provide shortcuts to common tagutils functions (tag, untag, tagls, tags, and tagprop).

leaftag-python contains Python bindings for libleaftag. It simplifies the already simple libleaftag library.

And then there’s leaftag-gnome, which will contain all future GNOME support for tagging. Currently, it supports only a Deskbar handler. Future releases will hopefully include Nautilus search integration and property pages.

Now, it’s important to point out that the screenshots on my previous blog entry are of the old implementation, and have not been ported over to Leaftag yet. This is largely due to lack of time as of late (because of Galago and VMware Server work, on my part), but it’s also because we want to re-implement this correctly. In the meantime, we’re hoping additional apps will start supporting this.

This is the first public release of the Leaftag framework, so please report any bugs to us. In time, after a server migration, I plan to put together a dedicated Leaftag site and bug tracker.

Are we assuming users are really dumb?

Update: This is a general criticism of modern development trends. Despite appearing on Planet GNOME, and referencing a current debate, this is not at all specific to GNOME. The point listed below was more a maintainer screw-up than anything else. It’s not a debate on good usability, because everyone has different opinions on it, none of which are right. The point you should be caring about is how users are treated. I know we’ve assumed too little of some people in Gaim and other projects. Not always, but often enough, and I know many other large projects do this as well. So please, focus on that part.

I completely agree with Davyd on the contextual information lost in notifications. I like GNOME, but I feel that we are taking a step back in this regard, and it’s leading me to wonder, are we assuming our users are really, really stupid and need hand holding?

Now, the Linux desktop is maturing, but there are a lot of areas that could be made easier. Things that confuse users. I hardly think “JPG” or “PNG” or “SSH” emblems are one of them. And really, do we think users have never seen JPEG or PNG files, have never heard of them, and would be confused and scared to use their desktop if they saw them?

If a user is connecting to a remote server and mounting it, they probably have some kind of understanding as to what SMB or SSH means. I mean, come on, they have to choose it first! It’s not some random technical thing we’re throwing at them. Context is good, and I know a lot of average users who prefer the context and turn on file extensions on Windows because they want to know what kind of file they’re actually working with.

The common question that I always hear is “but can my Grandma use it?” Are we really targetting senior citizens? If so, we’ve lost. Let’s take a page out of the proliferation books that McDonalds, Microsoft, and everybody else uses. It’s a simple one. Target people when they’re young! Contrary to popular belief, a number of teenagers use computers, and these teenagers understand things. They’re using bittorrent clients, maintaining websites, sending files across the Internet. Should we really treat them like they’re idiots? Sure, Grandma may not know what a JPEG file is, but I doubt she’s a heavy computer user anyway. Most likely, she plays solitaire, and I think her hand can be held with anything else. In the meantime, let’s not forget our younger users who really aren’t as stupid as we’re starting to treat them.

Pretty new notifications… And a release!

I’ve been inspired by the December GNOME mockups. A lot of them are quite nice, and in the area of notifications, it had some good ideas on sprucing up the look and feel. So I present to you, notification-daemon v0.3.4!

Along with the usual assortment of bug fixes, I’ve improved the style quite a bit. There’s now a countdown timer on notifications with actions, a close button, themed urgency-based stripes, and actual buttons.

Before After
Old urgency stripesOld icons and actions New urgency stripesNew icons and actions

A few project updates

I’ve been putting off several posts for a few days now, due to just being busy with things. So, here we go.

Notification Framework

I just put out a couple of good releases of notification-daemon and libnotify. A few days ago, I released version 0.3.2 of both components, and tonight I put out notification-daemon v0.3.3, which contains a few nice bug fixes such as a fix to prevent notifications when the screen saver is active or when something is running full-screen. The style of the notifications has been changed to resemble the look from notification-daemon v0.2.x. It now supports theme engines, so that other looks can be developed. The protocol has improved and stabilised a bit, and the API and general code of both components have been cleaned up, thanks to J5’s work.

Galago

Galago’s been on hold lately due to work and trying to get the new notification-daemon and libnotify ready for distros. Development has picked up again, and I’m hoping I have very little to do before I can put out the 0.5.0 releases of all the components. Finally, libgalago will be GLib/GObject-based, and the API will be a lot more sane. Plus, Python bindings! Yay!

Oh, and I’m moving to Trac for our bug tracking (see trac.galago-project.org). This is real nice, because I can now reference bugs in commit messages and they’ll close automatically with the commit message. It’s also quite clean and easy to use. I’m slowly moving some bugs over, but I’ll continue to monitor the bugzilla for a while.

Leaftag

Remember those screenshots of our tag integration I posted? It too has been on hold, but it’s far from vaporware. We’re calling it leaftag, and I think our logo is somewhat cute :). I have very little left to do before the library is released, and I should be able to redo the Nautilus support quickly. I’ve been using the tagging almost every day. Now I just need to find the time to get this ready. Maybe at one of these upcoming hackfests I’ve been doing (and really hope to do more) with friends.

VMware

Busy busy busy, but good. I’m working on some pretty exciting stuff. More about this later 🙂

Oh, and someone needs to remind me to put up a picture of our cool new Workstation 5.5 sweaters featuring Mario!

Tagging and the GNOME Desktop

Just a little preview. It’s not done yet, but will be shortly. What you see below is a small python module, a useful command line utility (well, that’s not shown, but if you check the gallery these are in there will be a full-size screenshot showing one), and plugins for Nautilus, GNOME-VFS, and Deskbar. There are plans for Beagle support in the near future, and to make the system more robust.

Stay tuned. There should be a release soon.

Tags in Nautilus lists

Tags in Nautilus lists

tags URI

Deskbar Integration 1

Deskbar Integration 2

Goings Ons

Hard Day in GNOME

All day long, people have been talking on IRC about the Novell lay-offs. It’s been sad to see, and as hard as it was for the people who were let go, I’m sure it was just as hard for those that had to let people go. My condolences to everyone who’s been affected by this.

I’ve talked to a few people individually about this, but it’s been recommended to me by a couple of people that perhaps using Planet GNOME would be the best way to reach everyone interested…

I’d like to offer to anyone affected by this who is looking for a job to send me your resume if you’re interested in a job at VMware. I can make sure it goes to a human being who will actually read it, rather than in some queue somewhere. We’re looking for good people, and the company is nice to work at. Although the Palo Alto offices are where all the interesting things happen for the Linux desktop development, some jobs are available at our new Cambridge office. So if you’re looking for a fun job where you can do interesting work with good people, and this interests you, even a little, we can try to get the ball rolling. To everyone else, best of luck. I don’t doubt that you will all find good jobs soon, and everyone appreciates what has been done so far by everyone in the Ximian team.

Nokia 770

My Nokia 770 came today. I haven’t had much time to play with it, but it’s quite nice so far. Cute little device, and I’m eager to hack on it. I have a couple of games I’ve written or PDAs that I hope to port. Taco would be fun to port to it, if it had cairo (which I don’t believe it does? Correct me if I’m wrong!).

Galago

A lot of work has been done in Galago SVN the past couple of weeks. A lot of the code has been cleaned up and the API is in the process of being fine-tuned. Python bindings are being written. libgalago is moving to glib. All neat stuff. I’ll post more when I get closer to being finished, but this is very cool:

for service in galago.core_get_services():
    print service.get_name()
    for account in service.get_accounts():
        print account.get_username()

Just so easy. That’s not the final API, though. The core_get_services() part will change. Anyhow, fun stuff.

Chippy’s first Boston trip

I’m finally heading to the Boston GNOME Summit! I’ve wanted to go for years, and people have asked me to attend, but due to school and such it was just never possible. However, this year VMware is sending a few of us to go. Alex Graveley, Philip Langdale, my girlfriend Jamie, and myself are all going, and will be there Friday night.

We might give a small talk on our experience in integrating our product with the GNOME desktop, and I’ve been asked by a few people to give a quick talk and demo of Galago with Tomboy, Beagle, Gaim and Evolution integration (and hopefully Gossip at that point too).

I look forward to going and meeting all these great people who I’ve only talked to through IRC and e-mail. It should be a fun weekend.