Archive for the ‘Online Accounts’ Category
We have continued our work towards having a nice set of core applications for finding and selecting the user’s content. Documents, which is the eldest, received a round of thorough bug squashing for GNOME 3.12. It is a much more mature and well-behaved application now than it was six months ago, mainly due to the work of our QA teams – both upstream and downstream. Photos received a set of nice new features and is well on its way towards fulfilling the role it was designed for.
This was something that was sorely lacking in the previous releases. With the increase in the number of online sources, the inability to be able to filter the content based on some parameters was badly felt. But not any more.
The documentation team has paid a lot of attention to the end-user help for these two applications. Older pages have been refreshed and newer ones written, and I can easily say that GNOME 3.12 will be one of the best in terms of documentation coverage.
Flickr integration was introduced in GNOME 3.10 when we added support for browsing Flickr content in Photos. In GNOME 3.12 we have taken this one step ahead. The Background Settings panel will now let you choose one of your Flickr pictures as your desktop’s background.
The panel only shows the 50 most recent pictures from each account to avoid overloading it with hundreds of items. If you are looking for that gorgeous photograph that you took a few summers ago, then you might want to use Photos instead. It has better search capability and is meant to handle larger data sets.
A volume monitor is a D-Bus session service that uses the org.gtk.Private namespace (eg., org.gtk.Private.MTPVolumeMonitor, org.gtk.Private.UDisks2VolumeMonitor, etc.), has an entry in /usr/share/gvfs/remote-volume-monitors/, and exposes your disk partitions, iOS devices, MTP or PTP devices as volumes. These volumes eventually show up on the GTK+ places sidebar.
We wrote a volume monitor which exposes your online file storage as a volume. It listens to GNOME Online Accounts and when it notices an account that implements the GoaFiles interface it exposes it as a volume.
To unlock support for, say, Google Drive or SkyDrive we would first need to implement the protocol as a GVfs backend, and then add the GoaFiles interface to the corresponding GoaObject.
Many thanks to Matthew Barnes for making the required adjustments in Evolution Data Server and making sure that it landed in time for the 3.8.0 release later this month.
Now that we are in the middle of the various freezes in preparation for GNOME 3.8, it is a good time to talk about some of the things that happened over the last six months. One such thing is the integration of ownCloud in GNOME. Go to the Online Accounts panel in Settings (hit the super key or the Activities button and type “online”) to enable your ownCloud account, and you will be able to access your calendars, contacts and files from GNOME.
Calendars and contacts can be accessed via CalDAV and CardDAV from their respective tabs in Evolution. Files in your ownCloud storage show up as volumes via WebDAV in Nautilus and GtkFileChooser.
Many thanks to Milan Crha for making the necessary changes to hook up Evolution with ownCloud in time for 3.8.0.
Ever since portknox.net suspended their gratis offering and sereinity (from #fedora-devel) shut down his server, I had run out of instances that I could use for working on bringing ownCloud closer to GNOME.
Few days ago, Michael Scherer pointed me to ownCloud-OpenShift kickstart, and it is really as easy as the README.md claims to be.
Thanks to it I have now got myself owncloud-lostcase.rhcloud.com.
This keeps cropping up every now and then, so I thought of writing this down once and for all. Private conversations are poisonous for a community driven free software project like GNOME.
In the new GNOME 3.x series there has been a push to integrate the user’s online accounts into the desktop. Towards this end, almost a year ago, a new single sign-on (SSO) framework was written for GNOME 3.2. However, more recently, Ubuntu created its own SSO to achieve a similar objective.
An SSO is only as effective as the applications that use it, and having to support two different frameworks with their own set of APIs and ways of doing things is a pain for application developers. Given the long history between the two projects, it is not surprising that they also share quite a few applications, and in turn developers.
Ubuntu’s SSO is based on the one used by MeeGo, while GNOME wrote its own. I do not know why Ubuntu decided not to use GNOME Online Accounts (GOA), because they decided to switch after GOA was born.
But why did GNOME write its own when MeeGo already had one? Sounds like NIH, doesn’t it?
However, it is a bit more complicated than that. MeeGo (and now Ubuntu’s) SSO has a DBus daemon written using Qt. We have been down this road before, most recently with Maliit. The daemon would have had to be rewritten without Qt using GObject for it to be a part of GNOME. This problem has only increased with Ubuntu reimplementing the signon-ui service using QWidgets and QtWebKit, which is then embedded into System Settings using XEmbed. MeeGo’s implementation of this service was proprietary.
Secondly, MeeGo used libdbus-glib-1 instead of GDBus when the discussion to use it in GNOME first took place. I do not know whether it has changed since then or not. We have been actively trying to move away from libdbus-glib-1 to GDBus. One of the problems with libdbus-glib-1 is that it is not thread-safe. If we mix the two in an application, the same process will end up having two connections to the DBus daemon. We want to avoid that. This means that we would have to migrate it to GDBus.
Both of these would require non-trivial changes to the code and hence it is not as NIH as one might think it to be.
Not to mention that the pass through authentication scheme used by MeeGo would only make it harder to patch existing applications to use the SSO.
Ofcourse, one can argue that we could have still tried to push the needed changes to MeeGo. Maybe we could have done so, but I am not convinced that it would have made life any easier for GNOME, MeeGo or Ubuntu. More on that later.
One of the ways in which Ubuntu’s SSO differs from GNOME’s is that it allows third-party plugins to offer new account types or providers. They leverage this to make Empathy export its code for adding chat accounts (Jabber, SIP, etc.) via external plugins. While we do agree that plugins can be useful, we are not too excited about allowing third-party or external plugins. We intend to support in-tree plugins for GNOME Online Accounts.
Third-party plugins lead to a kitchen sink. There is no way you can stop them from stepping on each others feet. This was one of the reasons why we stopped supporting external panels in the System Settings against a lot of stiff opposition.
Someone’s kitchen sink can be another’s extensibility. However GNOME 3 is still young and I think it is important to stay clear of kitchen sinks at this point.
There is no fundamental reason not to have all the different types of chat accounts supported by Empathy in the SSO itself, as long as we take care not to clutter the UI and keep the popular ones separate from the rest. The thumb rule for adding a new account type to the SSO is to have a GNOME application that hooks into it. In this case, we have two — Empathy and GNOME Shell.
Thirdly, having an application provide a new account type via a plugin violates the basic layering of the GNOME platform. This is mostly a good taste vs. bad taste thing. The SSO is supposed to be right at the bottom serving accounts and credentials. Things like libgdata, libzapojit, libsocialweb, etc. sit on top of it and leverage the information as GDataGoaAuthorizer and ZpjGoaAuthorizer currently do. Then you have the applications using these libraries to offer something useful to the users. In fact Empathy already works this way in GNOME.
Having a circular dependency where applications provide critical functionality to the SSO via plugins, which they then consume, only complicates the whole platform.
GNOME and Ubuntu
Recently GNOME and Ubuntu has diverged quite a bit in their plumbing layers. Think in terms of gdm vs. lightdm, systemd vs. upstart, gnome-shell vs. unity, and so on. Both projects are focused on building a vertically integrated product, and it is only fair that they get the liberty to make decisions that are best for them and be free to fail or succeed without getting flamed.
Then there is the issue of copyright license / assignment agreements that Canonical asks for those components that are hosted on Launchpad. For example, signon-ui. I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that GNOME has always stepped carefully when it comes to signing these agreements with a company because it makes it tricky for competing commercial entities to participate.
This is why I am doubtful that we would have ever been able to merge or share everything because this divergence is only going to increase. The SSO will closely tie in to the way we will do application bundles and sandboxing in GNOME, which in turn will depend on systemd. These things are still being hotly discussed within GNOME, so I do not know what the exact implementation will be neither do I know what Ubuntu plans to do, but it is possible that theirs will be different.
So, if one wants to make sure their application is both a GNOME and an Ubuntu application they will have to spend some extra effort to make sure that it works well on both platforms. But it is not bad as it sounds. Both GNOME and Ubuntu are doing a great work of taking free software on the desktop forward, and the effort spent in supporting both will only be rewarded by a greater number of users.
With the new GNOME 3.5.3 release this week, it is a good time to highlight the UI/UX related patches against the Online Accounts panel that got merged recently. There isn’t much to write about because the changes are visual. So I will leave you with a few screenshots.
In the new GNOME 3.x series there has been a push to integrate the user’s online accounts into the desktop. At the same time we have been working on a new set of core applications for finding and selecting the user’s content. Documents is one such application. It lets you view and search your documents that are stored both locally and online.
GNOME 3.6, which will be released in September this year, will have lots of improvements and new features in this regard. One of them is the integration of Microsoft’s SkyDrive file hosting service. Go to the Online Accounts panel in System Settings (hit the super key or the Activities button and type “online”) to enable your Windows Live account, and you will be able to access your SkyDrive from Documents just as you are now able to do with your Google account.
Here, in these screenshots, you can see that I am viewing the PDFs of the famous Linux Device Drivers (3rd edition) book which are stored on my SkyDrive account.
The development of this new and exciting feature is being tracked here. You can either wait for GNOME 3.6 to come out in September, or you can get the latest copies of gnome-online-accounts, gnome-documents and libzapojit to try it out.