Thursday, May 29, 2008

And the Runner Up is ... Gnome "2.24 Maybe" Apps

Right now, there are three applications proposed for the Gnome desktop which are not out of the running, but definitely aren't near crossing the finish line. They are:
  1. Empathy Communication Framework (IM/VOIP/Video chat) Again?!?
  2. Conduit Synchronizer, and
  3. Hamster Time Tracker
They all are worthy apps that face significant hurdles before getting accepted into the Gnome desktop.


Empathy is on my list of "maybes" every six months. Basically, it's an IM client with a front end based on Gossip and a backend from Telepathy.

The Good

The UI has been broken out into libraries for other applications to reuse. That means that Evolution could take part of Empathy and embed a chat client into the Contacts area, while Cheese could use the framework to change your avatar and send a video to a friend. A lot of people really want this.

The Bad

The biggest problem with Empathy is the licensing. Gossip is GPL, and putting that code into a library makes the library GPL. Gnome doesn't like GPLed libraries. They want LGPL. The corporate developers of Gossip don't want Empathy to be relicensed. Am I moving too fast for you? No? Good. Anyway, Empathy is at an impass. It has great potential, but it can't get through the relicensing situation without rewriting most of its code. I don't see it happening ... again.

The next big problem is API documentation. There is none. The developer admits this. He has a library with an undocumented API. It doesn't look good. Gnome will not take this project if the documentation doesn't at least move in the right direction.

The Outlook

Dreary and bleak. I don't see this going through, even though many of us have been hoping for a couple of years now.


Conduit is a Python application which syncs information.

The Good

Since it uses a plug-in architecture, the "data providers" are really numerous and available for pretty much anything that has a Python binding. Local stuff includes folders, photo apps, music apps, Tomboy notes, and Evolution data. Remote stuff could be another computer, an online file service, Flickr, YouTube, or a hundred other things. More providers are arriving all the time. It's really cool. I just want an automatic mode.

Including this in Gnome means that there can be focus on a real backup solution. Applications can invoke Conduit to set up backup preferences and then the user can back up from the application, too.

The Bad

The biggest problem right now is accessibility. It has none. You can't do anything without the mouse. The canvas it uses doen't really support accessibility, either. The developer is waiting to change to the Gnome canvas once that gets built.

Another, less-pressing problem is the use of Gnomevfs. None of the Gnome developers seem to want a new application that's using a depricated library. The Conduit developer has promised to move over ASAP.

The Outlook

Sadly, not good. Accessibility isn't something you throw on as an afterthought. A lot of code will have to be checked and/or rewritten. That's too bad, as well.


is a handy little time tracker that stores its data in sqlite.

The Good

Because of SQLite, Hamster can generate interesting reports. Also, unlike some older Gnome time trackers, Hamster has support for persistent categories and tasks, making time tracking slightly less painful. Any time tracker that doesn't feel like surgery without anaesthesia is good, in my opinion.

Hamster can also take ToDos from the Evolution Data Server (EVS) and use them as categories. There is some talk about migrating the SQLite backend to use EVS completely, with Evolution keeping track of the time and activity. This would mean that the calendar in your Gnome panel clock would show what you've accomplished for that day. Hmmm.... Maybe I don't really want that kind of accountabiilty.

The Bad

There was no bad feedback on the developer list. I think the only hold-up to Hamster is that it isn't really very "Gnomey." It doesn't seem to be integrated the way the developers want.

The Outlook

I really suspect that Hamster is going to make it in this time. Gnome 2.24 doesn't have a lot of new functionality, and having one more bullet point stating "New time-tracking ability with Hamster!" will probably appeal to enough Gnome developers that it'll get in.

Hamster change the way you work with your desktop, though. I'm still rooting for Empathy to clean its act up.



The feature that I am looking forward to most in 2.24 is the drag select mode of list view in Nautilus.

Finally we will be able to click in white space and drag select a group of files in list view without using the Crtl key.

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