2011-07-24

A cold drink

So, southern Ontario is still blanketed with a delightful heat wave and my oven-er, apartment, is keeping me very warm: no freezing like in New Zealand.  However, not being a croissant, I've been spending a lot of time out of it.  Being a student, I have one of the best work places there is, a University campus.  There's a thriving ecosystem to observe for entertainment, and excessive air conditioning in all the buildings.  Wear shorts outside, and bring a jacket inside.  It works.

However, on weekends, the buildings close early.  I haven't been very social in Guelph, and am working on rectifying that finally, but for now, to get out of the apartment on a hot Sunday night, I have been adventuring, and have laid claim to a veritable Eldorado: the Second Cup.  It's classy, it's Canadian (or isn't), and it's open until 11PM.  Hoo-zah!

Smooth Linux

I'm very happy with how quickly and easily I managed to setup my old laptop to a clean version of Fedora 15 for my trip to the Desktop Summit in Berlin next month.  Yay!

Directories kept opening with my Media Player :(

Since upgrading to GNOME 3 with Fedora 15, whenever I tried to open a folder or insert a USB key, Totem, my media player, would try to open it.  This had been quite annoying.  I tried to go to System Settings -> System Info to change the Default Application for folders, but the option wasn't available.

I thought there might be a GSetting for it, so I tried to modify the key 'autorun-x-content-start-app' for the schema 'org.gnome.desktop.media-handling', but to no avail.  Then, I tried looking for .desktop files, and found a stash in ~/.local/share/applications/.  I greped for 'totem' and found a relevant reference in 'mimeapps.list'.  Therein, I found a line:
inode/directory=gnome-nautilus-folder-handler.desktop;phatch.desktop;f-spot-import.desktop;totem.desktop;gthumb-importer.desktop;gthumb.desktop;
Given that yum says nothing provides the first .deskop in the list, and that I don't have the next two installed, it made sense that totem was being called.  I wonder where gnome-nautilus-folder-handler.desktop came from?

Anyway, I removed the line, and now all is well, and nautilus opens directories again.  Glee.

Relevant bug: https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=725257

2011-07-23

GXml: test port of libgdata and documentation

This week has proven interminably long.  Work has surrounded two main tasks
  • libgdata port: I'm porting libgdata as a test.  The patch is almost complete, but not quite.  It replaces almost all the libxml2 usage and compiles.  It's volatility means that I'm linking a diff patch rather than pushing it to a repo, as up until Thursday, I was still figuring out how to handle specific cases, or changing my mind on how I was already handling them.  
    • memory: I don't have a great understanding of how to handle memory for APIs that were generated through Vala, and I need to review that.  I've learned a lot, but some of the Vala documentation is kind of out-dated, like that on transferring ownership.  Perhaps when GSoC is done I can use what I've learned and update the documentation :D
    • namespace support: It isn't part of DOM Level 1 Core that we're implementing, but libgdata uses namespaces, so right now those sections are commented out or ignored.  I will try to implement something in this next week.
    • verbosity: While some things are smaller/more concise using GXml, other stuff is more verbose, because libxml2 already has a compact naming "convention".   After writing "gxml_dom_..." a hundred times, I'm considering removing the "_dom_" namespace section, so GXml.Element.get_attribute () will be gxml_element_get_attribute () rather than gxml_dom_element_get_attribute ().  The Dom namespace is there to help separate future work from SAX and XPath, but enough of its classes will be used in other namespaces to justify omitting Dom to me.
    • porting guide: I have a text file that outlines common mappings for things, like "how to get a property in GXml" and compares against libxml2.  I'm going to move it onto live.gnome.org when I have time to format it. 
  • documentation: with a little bit of help, and a new conceptual understanding of what valadoc's options do, I can now generate documentation.  Each class and method has something written about it now, though some of it is vague, some is inaccurate (!), and some of it could do with examples.  I'll note that I'm annoyed that it complains when I use a double-space after a period. 
  • sed: it is my friend.  After hand-porting lots of code for libgdata, I eventually got comfortable enough with the process to start automating it by creating a bunch of sed rules.  That sped things up greatly this past week, though it still left me to manually review and fix the things it missed, which sometimes took extra time because it became hard to see what was originally intended.  Hehe.
  • Desktop Summit:

    • Hooray!

      While I'm only a GSoC student, living in Canada, I wouldn't have been able to afford this myself, so I am incredibly grateful to the GNOME Foundation, since I am

      I'll actually be in Germany for about 3 weeks, as my parents are both from Germany and I have many relatives there, and have never been before. 
  • I am going to sleep now.  Tomorrow is a big, terrifying day.

2011-07-22

[Linux] Keeps falling back to sleep

So, since upgrading my laptop from Fedora Linux 14 to Fedora Linux 15, and
consequently from GNOME 2.3x to GNOME 3.0, I've had an issue where if I suspend my computer, about a quarter of the time when I resume it, it thinks there is no battery (or that there's an empty battery) and then instantly goes to hibernate.

It's bug 704110.  There is a battery with sufficient charge there.  Besides the problem of mistakenly thinking I don't have a battery with enough energy, it's compacted because GNOME 3.0 assumes your laptop won't be wrong, so when the laptop tells GNOME its battery is critically low, GNOME 3.0 only gives me the options of instantly hibernating it (suspend to disk) or shutting down.  So, I wake it up, I see a message "No battery!" and then I watch it go back to a hard sleep.

I think previous versions of GNOME were less optimistic about the computer underneath, and gave options such as "do nothing when my battery has no power" or at least "ask me".   So, just because gnome-control-panel doesn't let me choose those two passive options, doesn't mean they're not supported anymore.

Using the gsettings tool, I can manipulate hidden settings from the command-line, and in this case, I can set it to 'interactive' (ask me) or 'nothing' (ignore critical battery states) using the following command:

$ gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.power critical-battery-action 'interactive'

I hope that helps someone else until the bug is fixed.

2011-07-21

undefined reference

/tmp/ccis3CaX.o: In function `_lambda42_':
ElementTest.vala.c:(.text+0x39b0): undefined reference to `gxml_dom_backed_node_to_string'
collect2: ld returned 1 exit status
error: cc exited with status 256
Compilation failed: 1 error(s), 0 warning(s)
It's obtuse problems like the one giving me the above error that makes me think I must be incompetent.  I understand what the compiler is complaining about, but I'm not sure why it's seeing what it is seeing.  From the Vala perspective, Element extends BackedNode, where a few methods are defined.  ElementTest exercises these methods, but for some reason, a method in BackedNode, to_string, ends up as 'undefined' when compiling the C code.  If I check the C code for BackedNode, gxml_dom_backed_node_to_string is defined, and I don't know why it wouldn't get into the .so that ElementTest links against.  I mean, the symbol name is present in the .so, and other methods that are coded similarly to to_string are there and considered defined.  I've tried rewriting the function, using an almost-empty function, changing the function name, etc.  This has caused me to waste too much time today and is giving me a major headache, and it's something so trivial.  Sigh.

update: Yup, I'm an idiot.  A change to where I was storing the built .so resulted in me persistently linking to an older one for the last couple of days.  I hadn't noticed, as I've been mostly working on documentation and porting another library to use mine, and hadn't added any new symbols.  Going by hand, and using gcc and pkg-config directly, helped me figure this out, as well as writing the above.

git: failing to push


I am stupid, and cloned a GNOME git repository I had intended on writing to from git://git.gnome.org/gxml.  Last week on a Planet GNOME update, I proudly declared my intent on pushing things more regularly.  However, each time I tried, I'd get this loathsome message:

[richard@clarity gxml]$ git push
fatal: The remote end hung up unexpectedly

Today, for purity, I even made a regular diff of my files, re-cloned the repository, re-committed all my changes, to no avail.  After yet more Googling, though, at last I understood:  http://live.gnome.org/TranslationProject/GitHowTo#Convert_an_anonymous_clone_into_an_eponymous_one

I was stupid when I blindly cloned it anonymously, but believed for the last week I'd done it correctly.  http://live.gnome.org/Git/Developers clearly distinguishes between anonymous access and developer access, too.

Ultimately, I should have done:
git clone ssh://[login]@]git.gnome.org/git/[project]
But instead I did
git clone git://git.gnome.org/[project]
This was easily fixed by running
git config remote.origin.url ssh://[login]@git.gnome.org/git/[project]

Documentation is now up, so back to libgdata!

2011-07-16

GXml, fewer features, more stuff

A summary in bullet points for busy days!
  • git.gnome.org: GXml's development is now hosted on git.gnome.org under gxml.
  • libxml2: Patching libxml2's VAPI file.  This is hand written rather than generated normally, so I've been adding bindings for functionality I want exposed for gxml.  I should clean it up and post the patch to bugzilla soon, to make sure that I'm making changes appropriately :)
  • I/O: Thanks to the above VAPI work, we now have Stream and File support for I/O operations.  For future I/O work, I might add asynchronous support.
  • configuration: Spent time figuring out pkg-config and how to generate a .pc file for GXml.  Turns out I just had to hand-write it.  Struggled with passing variables from WAF unless I started guessing.  Hooray!
  • documentation: The amount of todos and personal notes in the source code have grown enough and most code is there, such that I started to prioritise documenting stuff this week.  I want to use valadoc, but honestly, I haven't been able to correctly generate the documentation using it yet.  I'm going to start asking for help next week :)  This has had the added bonus of revealing deviations from the spec, which have been being fixed.
  • porting libgdata: I'm grateful for all the projects that volunteered their code.  Based on scope of usage, and a bit of nepotism, I'm writing patches for libgdata, a GNOME library primarily used to communicate with Google services.  I contributed to libgdata over a few months in 2009, working on PicasaWeb support, and I still use the library myself.  I asked Philip Withnall if I could just make a branch in the official repository for it, and he said sure.  I spent time this week figuring out how to include libraries compiled from Vala directly into C code (hence the pkg-config work) and have been reviewing its libxml2 usage and playing with changes to figure out what I need to do.  There are features they use that we don't support yet since they're not strictly part of the spec, like getting a string representation of an XML node structure.  I'm starting to realise that I should provide porting guidance once I'm done with this for other interested projects.
  • intimidation and quality control: To be honest, having work hosted at gnome.org is pretty intimidating.  It took me a little while at first to get comfortable with committing imperfect changes frequently to my gitorious repository, but my good mentor Alberto Ruiz encouraged me to, to at least demonstrate progress as it was made.  However, previous efforts to submit patches to GNOME projects have generally gone through careful review and revision before being committed, so I've been reluctant this week to commit and push changes like documentation and libgdata toying until I was happy with it.  This won't work, though, as the week is over and because the documentation work still doesn't generate correctly and because I'm not sure whether libgdata changes I'm toying with are what I'll want to keep, code hasn't been pushed for a few days.  I do care about the quality of GNOME's code, and once GXml is sufficiently mature, I'll be much more conservative with the changes I push, but for now for the sake of transparency, I'm going to have to push things even when unready.  Sorry!
  • GSoC midterm evaluations: Despite having personal issues this past month and losing productivity for a couple weeks, I've passed my midterm evaluation, indicating support and confidence from my mentor, for which I'm glad.  While life still isn't smooth yet, it is great to be trusted and allowed to continue this awesome project.   Hooray!
This post brought a day late thanks to J. K. Rowling. 

2011-07-09

GXml 0.0.1 and Interruptions

GXml (formerly GDom) development was sidetracked for almost two weeks due to personal matters that required my attention and energy, but after discussions with my mentor, things are progressing again.

Since the last blog update, a lot has happened, some of which was reported on gnome-soc-list, and some of which in the last week.
  • GXml: We decided to rebrand our effort as GXml, though we're still just implementing the DOM Level 1 Core API.  In the future, GObject SAX and XPath may be provided.
  • I/O: We can read files from GInputStreams (given a patch for libxml2's bindings).  We can also save documents to paths, but not yet GOutputStreams, which will require more enhancements to the libxml2 Vala bindings.  (Patches to come.)
  • website: https://live.gnome.org/XML was updated, but is now out of date again.  I will update it again this weekend including scheduling information for the rest of the summer.
  • bugzilla: we have a 'gxml' bugzilla product now, which I've started to use to manage features to come.  I still need to enter more.
  • building: we now use WAF as our build system.  This proved trickier than I expected, but I like how clean the result is.  
  • extended coverage: more classes work more fully now, including CharacterData, Text, NodeList, and a few others, and come with fun tests.  Some classes in the API do not seem to have counterparts to wrap in libxml2 (like ProcessingInstruction and EntityReference) and we might have to forego supporting them.  
  • first release: while the source code has been available in a gitorious repo since the beginning, I have wrapped up a tarball and uploaded it to my server for today: http://kosmokaryote.org/files/gxml/gxml-0.0.1.tar.bz2.  I've done this entirely so we can migrate to git.gnome.org, which wants at least one release for a new project.  I don't really recommend using it until libxml2 binding patches are available, though, so GIO can be used rather than file system paths.
  • project port: my request for volunteer projects from yesterday got a good response and I'm going to look at them this weekend and then decide by Monday which I'd like to use.  Thank you for your helpful responses!
  • libxml2 bindings: I'll need to submit patches for the libxml2 bindings so GXml can implement some of the features we want.  For example, I've been intent on using xmlSaveToIO to get an xmlSaveCtxtPtr, since it aligns well with GOutputStream's methods, but those two libxml2 items aren't bound yet.
Thanks for reading and have a good weekend.

Update:
I linked the wrong tarball.  It's the same contents, but the tarball should be gxml, not gdom, and be generated by distcheck, not by hand.  The link has been updated. 

2011-07-07

Wanted: software to port to GXml

Hello GNOMEys.

GXml is pretty functional now, and it's time to start exercising it in a real-world situation.  I'm looking for a GNOMEy project which makes liberal use of an XML DOM via libxml2, and might be interested in seeing how GXml's GObject API could make life easier.

If you'd like to suggest your project, you're not under an obligation to accept the resulting patches if they don't meet your needs (though they will be irresistable), you don't need to do much work (though I might ask a few questions), you help ensure the usefulness of this Google Summer of Code project and help improve XML programming in GNOME.

Preferably, your project will be mainly in Vala or C.  GXml itself is being written in Vala.  XML use should be important to your project.

A first release, 0.0.1, will be out this week.  I had a Life Situation slow progress for two of the past weeks, but things are sailing smooth once more.  A status update comes tomorrow.

Cheerio!

2011-07-04

Unlimited Heart Break

I've been party to the most heart breaking thing recently.  A family friend, R, has had language issues due to strokes for a while, losing his ability to clearly articulate himself, unable to name nouns.  He also seemed to become forgetful.  Last week I found him at my dad's doorstep looking for my father's help with something.  I was happy to see him out and about and a bit more independent than usual.  I asked if I could help, assuming it was a physical matter at his house.  He said he thought I could, and came in to explain his problem.

My heart strained as I heard him explain that strange people are keeping him in a house and controlling him, that there's a woman who's always there, telling him what to do.  And they want his money, of course.  He wanted my father to help.  He wanted my father to drive him far away, and maybe come live with him for a month to help him set up.  Somewhere in the country.  He would pay my father well.  He needed to escape.

My heart broke and my mind cried as I realised that R had forgotten that the woman was his beloved wife of decades.

I vainly tried to reason a little with him.  I wanted him to remember that that lady who hovered over him, M, was his wife.  I asked him if he remembered his visit to New Zealand two years ago, and he said yes, it was with my wife and I (I don't have a wife, but still).  I showed him photographs of he and M together.  He'd briefly think he remembered, but then assert that that is a different man who looks the same as the one in his house.  That that couldn't be his wife, because his wife is dead.  He saw her lying there.  She was as cold as stone.  

So, after the majority of their life together and with two sons (he is aware he has one, but doesn't know his name), the woman he has loved all that time continues to care for someone who doesn't even remember her.

I had to close my eyes to suppress tears yesterday when we joined them for supper, as well, when I realised that M didn't accept this yet, and was focused on it being simply a speech deficit with some small confusion.  I wanted to talk to her about it, but all I could do was give her a hug.

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I am aeronautical, vanship-style.  I am olympic and mythical.  I rest on my laurels.