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Understanding Canonical's new Linux notification system
Written by Daniel   
Tuesday, 23 December 2008 11:22

Canonical, the company behind the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, has announced plans to overhaul desktop notifications.

By Ryan Paul | Published: December 23, 2008 - 06:30AM CT

   A change in status
The project is part of a broader initiative that the company launched earlier this year to boost the usability of the Linux software ecosystem.

Transient visual notifications are employed extensively in desktop applications to provide users with passive updates about application status or system events. Some typical usage scenarios include notifying users when they receive new e-mail, when an instant messaging buddy signs online, or when a CD finishes burning.
The current status of notifications on Linux

The most widely-used notification system on the Linux desktop today is based on the (FDO) notification specification. The spec, which was authored by the developers behind the Galago project, describes a standardized API that can be accessed through the desktop-neutral D-Bus interprocess communication protocol to display visual notifications on the user's desktop. The authors of the spec supply a reference implementation called notification-daemon that is shipped with the GNOME desktop environment in many popular Linux distributions. An accompanying library, called libnotify, provides a lightweight abstraction layer that helps applications interact with the daemon.

Although notification-daemon is included in many distros and is used heavily by GNOME applications and many components of the desktop environment itself, the GNOME community has consistently rejected proposals to formally include it as a core dependency of the environment because it still has some technical limitations and usability issues that need to be addressed. The lead notification-daemon developer, Christian Hammond, is very busy with other projects and doesn't have much time to work on the notification system.

In October, following the release of GNOME 2.24, the GNOME community began the process of nominating modules for inclusion in the next major version of the desktop environment. Developer Colin Walters proposed notification-daemon once again and started a new discussion about its suitability. The outcome of this discussion was productive on several levels. Hammond acknowledged the need for additional maintainers to help apply patches and also proposed migrating the source code over to GNOME's subversion repository.

Last month, he announced the first new libnotify and notification-daemon release since 2007. It contains several much-needed bug fixes and a new preference tool for configuring the default notification bubble theme and position.

Canonical's vision for better notifications   [Arstechnica...]    [Comments...]


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