Sidebar Magic

It’s still buggy and missing a lot of features, but as of revision 469 check out the following:

$ melange --replace &
$ /usr/local/share/screenlets/SidebarUA/SidebarScreenlet.py &

$ /usr/local/share/screenlets/Meter/MeterScreenlet.py --server=Sidebar
$ /usr/local/share/screenlets/DigiClock/DigiClockScreenlet.py --server=Sidebar

Also, drop me a comment if you know of any out-of-branch screenlets whose authors haven’t been contacted yet.

Initial Version of Universal Applets Sidebar


Vote! Vote! Vote!

Its time!

Cast your vote for Universal Applet’s new name over at doodle, (Re)cast your vote at Zoho or drop a comment below with a new name.


UA News Roundup

There’s a lot going on in the Universal Applets community at the moment, so I’ve decided to start writing semi-weekly wrap-up posts summarizing everything that’s happened. Here goes news roundup #1:

melange butter

(Thanks, Kwaanens)

Forking :(

I know the news is already out all over the forums, so I’ll try to keep this short: There’s been some tension between myself and Whise lately, and the situation has not been fun. Instead of staying around the Screenlets project and doing development in a small hidden corner, I’ve decided to fork the project. I don’t have anything personal against Whise or the Screenlets project, and in the long run, I’m confident that a fork will be the healthiest option for both sides.

That said, Whise is responsible for bringing Screenlets all the way from the buggy version 0.0.10 to this month’s stable 0.1.2 release. I know version numbers don’t excite most people, but, whether you’re running the Universal Applets or Screenlets codebase, Whise does deserve your thanks along with RYX, so I suggest that you head over to the forums or gnome-look andlet him know that.

IRC Channel… Phoenix, Melange, Paragon, and Lizard

Until the community decides on a new name for Universal Applets, there’s a temporary irc channel at #universal-applets on freenode with a looong list of names in the channel topic. Head over there and let us know what you think, or suggest a name of your own.

Some-guy’s new screenlets icon     Gecko Icon Blue

New mockup icons by Przemo and Some-guy

Screenlets-Extras and New Central Repository 

Moving on to something a bit more cheerful than forks, we recently moved all of the individual Screenlets out of the core Universal Applets branch and into Kwaanens’ new-ish Screenlets-extras branch. (Based on the abandoned 3rd party screenlets project.) At the moment, there’s nothing too exciting going on over there, but I suspect that’ll change by my next post

In other long-overdue news, Some-guy recently pulled off some magic with OpenSuse’s Build Service and is now running a central repository for both Universal Applets, Screenlets, and Screenlets-extras.  Kwaanens and Gilir also helped out, yet again proving that they’re worth their weight in gold.

When Bling Starts Bouncing

Yesterday, I committed some hacky code into Melange (the main Universal Applets server) for a shiny new physics engine. Words really just don’t do it justice, so go over and get it while it’s hot.


Silent Coding

For those of you who have been wondering why I haven’t pushed any revisions to Universal Applets lately, this video should be enough of an explanation. (Thanks to Qball for taking the screencast.)

No, that’s not a simple Applet/Screenlet. The bouncing ball is going to be integrated with Universal Applets in some extremely nifty ways.


Universal Applets Overview

NOTE: Some of this post is no longer relevant. Please use Universal Applet’s internal documentation.

At the moment, there’s very little documentation for developers describing the Universal Applets architecture. I’m hoping to roll out a stable release within the next week or two, and I should have the time to write up some docs after that.

In the meantime, this post should provide adequate installation instructions and a quick developer overview for those of you who have been asking. If you haven’t already done so, please read this article first.

Installing Universal Applets and Getting the Server to Run

1. Grab a copy of the branch off of bzr with the following command:

bzr co http://bazaar.launchpad.net/~aantny/screenlets/universal-applets

You can subscribe to the branch on launchpad here.

2. Install Universal Applets with the following:

sudo make install

3. Start the server with the following:

chmod u+x src/share/examples/server.py


4. Start any screenlet or applet. There’s a non-screenlet-based test applet in src/share/examples/test-applet.py

The Architecture

The Universal Applets architecture is heavily built on XEmbed and DBUS. Any application can create an applet using a GtkPlug (or the equivalent widget in any X toolkit) and any application can display an applet using a GtkSocket. All communication between the applet (the process containing the GtkPlug) and the server (the process containing the GtkSocket) is done over DBUS.

There can be multiple servers running at any time. Each server can display applets in different places on the screen (e.g. in a sidebar or in a panel). In other words, the same applet can be displayed in different applications without requiring any modifications to the original applet. Accordingly, an applet server can easily display any applet without knowing or caring what language the applet was written in. Again, applets do not run in the same process as the applet server.

The Ten Second Component Overview

At this point, the only server is the aptly named server.py application that’s contained in my branch. server.py displays applets in toplevel windows. It runs a DBUS service and holds an array of GtkWindows and GtkSockets. (The toplevel windows are commonly referred to as “applet containers.”) Any application which would like to function as an applet server can do so by implementing similar DBUS code. Yes, it’s really that easy.

The AppletWrapper class implements all of the basic code necessary for an applet. It can be used to make any part of an app’s gui function as an applet. It handles the DBUS communication with the applet server and automagically takes care of all the nitty gritty XEmbed details. AppletWrapper is currently written in Python but I’m planning on reimplementing it in C.

In the layman’s terms: By using AppletWrapper any part of your app can gain toggleable applet status with about three extra lines of code. Nifty.

The Screenlets base class contains code for applets that need to implement custom drawing. It’s not absolutely necessary, but if you’re planning on writing a python applet you should probably subclass the Screenlets class. It supports theming and editable options (options that can be edited with a GUI) and will make your life simpler. Screenlets uses AppletWrapper for the magical DBUS and XEmbed ‘stuff’.

The session class is used by Screenlets to handle multiple instances. If you’re writing your own applet using AppletWrapper (or if you’re implementing your own equivalent to AppletWrapper) you can ignore it.

Other Important Notes:

There’s still some ugly and outdated legacy code from Screenlets in several places. In particular, I wouldn’t even try to understand the screenlets-manager.py file. It’s a coding nightmare and will be rewritten by the Universal Applet’s 0.1 release.

The server.py application (the name will change to something more original with the release) is the only currently the only applet server. There are plans to add support to Awn in the coming weeks.

There are still several features missing in Universal Applets that are present in the Screenlets. I’ve tried to focus on improving the stability and performance instead of adding new features. If someone wants to test the speed of my branch against screenlets’ trunk, I’d be interested in the results.

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