Some small tweaks

May 26, 2008

One of the things I’ve been looking at again recently is the initial experience for the desktop. Previously we investigated reducing the number of steps by starting the browser by default; incidentally I have plan for a more refined version of that kicking around that isn’t quite ready but should hopefully be soon.

In the context of the Online Desktop work we want to get the user logged in online. However, this requires a network connection. Pretend for a moment you’re new to the system. Look at a default desktop, say one from the Phoronix Fedora 9 review, without the obligatory window to 1970 in the middle.

How do you know what to do to get online? If you’re using a wired connection then you don’t have to know anything; NetworkManager does it automatically. However a much more common case now is wireless networks, and you would have to know to click on the “two computer and broken X” icon in the top right. A simple solution is to have a notification pointing to it:

How to connect to a wireless network

Cooking up the patch for that, I quickly ran into the problem though of notifications pointing to the wrong place. If you’ve used GNOME for long enough you probably know what I mean; on login sometimes getting a notification in the top left instead of the top right, or it could just be off by 10 pixels. This usually wasn’t too bad because the notification was more about the content, but in this case a notification pointing to the wrong thing was actually worse than nothing.

Fixing this right ended up taking me though a number of layers in the stack, from the application displaying the notification, to libnotify, to GtkStatusIcon, to the notification protocol, and finally to the notification daemon, which needed a fairly big patch. However after spending a bit of time this weekend I finally got it to work:

Link to Theora video

Not earth shattering, but it has been a pretty longstanding bug in the desktop. It was actually sort of fun to get back to grubbing around with the low level of Xlib.

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