Re: using dbus in the platform


Alp Toker wrote:
2) GTK+ has a dependency on dbus, on X11 only, for "desktop
integration" features to work. (See list of examples above.) By
"dependency" I mean specifically:
 - dbus.h is not included in gtk.h
 - gtk or gdk contains interfaces such as settings, notifications,
single instance, launch help viewer; on X11, these are implemented
using libdbus (suggest a cut-and-paste of hippo-dbus-helper.[hc] or
equivalent is used internal to gtk)

I believe that we've already discussed this possibility and duly dismissed it as unworkable.

Who is "we"? I certainly did not agree.

I define GTK as an application framework[1]; it should support what apps need to do. This means talking to the desktop, and dbus is how that is done on Linux (and unix in general, of course).

For GTK to do this it needs some dbus implementation.

Note the "dbus.h is not included in gtk.h" point I made. i.e. We are not talking about libdbus in the gtk API; we're talking about using it internally. In theory another dbus implementation could be swapped in sometime, though I don't think that is a worthwhile or near-term likely goal. In practice, we will probably want to swap something else in right away on Quartz and Windows ports.

[1] some may define GTK as a UI toolkit only, but in practice it has already gone far beyond that, and IMO it's right to do so because nice APIs really require a broader "application framework"

* .NET, Java, Ruby (and soon Python) applications each make use of their own D-Bus implementations. There has even been talk of a new C implementation. There is little sense in imposing the dead weight of libdbus on GTK+ applications using these platforms.

It is not "dead weight," it's needed to provide functionality. gvfs already relies on it, which all gnome apps will already be using. KDE apps also already rely on it.

Some implementation is needed in the C stack; I don't see a new one that's close to ready (nor do I think a new C implementation makes sense for free desktop purposes[2], but that's another debate).

We aren't going to use the .NET, Python, or Ruby bindings in C libraries like GTK or gvfs, so they are irrelevant here.

[2] it might make sense for embedded or something, since libdbus is optimized for flexibility and security, at some cost in both size and speed

* Moreover, multiple implementations of the D-Bus client in one process will lead to multiple connections to each of the system and session bus daemons.

That is one reason why libdbus is *designed* for language binding, and for sharing the DBusConnection object among object system mappings, and it is not encouraged to reimplement DBusConnection.

A basic assumption of the GTK+ and "stack" to date is that shared code among languages / projects is written in C.

As I've said, I think it's a worthwhile tradeoff[3] in .NET or Java to reimplement, because there is value on those platforms to a zero-native-code solution. However, reimplementing DBusConnection in the languages that already heavily rely on native code (C, C++, Ruby, Python) is simply a bad idea[4], for the reason you give among others.

The shared code that leads to a single connection *must be* in C, because we need to use it in gvfs, GTK, and other elements of the C stack. This has been known for years, and that's why libdbus is designed the way it is.

[3] Even in the managed languages like .NET and Java, it's a tradeoff, though a worthwhile one. One price of avoiding native code is multiple bus connections - this could potentially be dynamically avoided at runtime, though, if libdbus is found to be present. Another major price is making it harder to add a new feature, such as a new auth mechanism, in a way that spans all apps / the whole desktop. This price is higher the more reimplementations we have.

[4] Let me qualify this, I think it could be interesting to have reimplementations in these languages for use in some contexts, but I think it would be better if the bindings dynamically decided to push messages into the shared DBusConnection when libdbus is available. We can optimize this as needed to avoid extra copies of the message, which has been discussed. But the point is for a typical Linux desktop it is optimal to have all the apps going through the DBusConnection in libdbus.

 >  - on Windows and OS X, these interfaces are implemented in some
 > native way (though it could make sense to rely on a dbus port in some
 > cases, I don't know)

* The lack of portability you mention is an artificial limitation (or perhaps one imposed by libdbus).

There is no problem making libdbus portable. The unportable part is the stuff *on* the bus. i.e. if we have a "Screensaver" interface defined for the free desktops (GNOME, KDE) that is not going to be present on Windows unless someone goes to some effort, and it's unclear to me that writing a dbus service to talk to the Windows screensaver API makes more sense than just having GTK talk to the Windows screensaver API directly. (For example.)

Modularity is one thing we've been getting right all these years. The functionality that you've discussed is definitely welcome as an optional part of the platform, but is not appropriate for integration with the UI toolkit, any more than, say, Bonobo would have been suitable for GTK+ 1.2.

This isn't why Bonobo did not go in (to 2.0, it was 2.0-era).

(Well, Bonobo *did* go in, in the same not-in-the-API optional sense I'm proposing D-Bus, since it's used by the a11y stuff that generally gets loaded at runtime. But leave that aside for a moment.)

You're right there was a period of time where at least some people thought there should be a libgnomeui layer that was the app framework, while GTK was only the UI toolkit (i.e. only widgets). I don't think this is the theory or the practice today, though.

Aside from that debate, the major problem with Bonobo was in the specifics, not the idea of IPC. Example specifics were neglect of lifecycle issues; the famous "recursive main loop" bug; widget-embedding and app framework interfaces that didn't make sense with the GTK API; and being GNOME-specific instead of least-common-denominator.

Having IPC and IO (dbus and gvfs) below the app framework is the correct layering, because the app framework needs to use this stuff. The app framework does not necessarily need to expose this stuff in the API, though, especially when it needs to be (or should be) done differently per-platform.


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