Ayatana Indicators

In the near future various upstream projects related to the Ubuntu desktop experience as we have known it so far may become only sporadically maintained or even fully unmaintained. Ubuntu will switch to the Gnome desktop environment with 18.04 LTS as its default desktop, maybe even earlier. The Application Indicators [1] brought into being by Canonical Ltd. will not be needed in Gnome (AFAIK) any more. We can expect the Application Indicator related projects become unmaintained upstream. (In fact I have recently been offered continuation of upstream maintenance of libdbusmenu).

Historical Background

This all started at Ubuntu Developer Summit 2012 when Canonical Ltd. announced Ubuntu to become the successor of Windows XP in business offices. The Unity Greeter received an Remote Login Service enhancement: since then it supports Remote Login to Windows Terminal Servers. The question came up, why Remote Login to Linux servers--maybe even Ubuntu machines--is not on the agenda. It turned out, that it wasn't even a discussable topic. At that time, I started looking into the Unity Greeter code, adding support for X2Go Logon into Unity Greeter. I never really stopped looking at the greeter code from time to time.

Since then, it turned into some sort of a hobby... While looking into the Unity Greeter code over the past years and actually forking Unity Greeter as Arctica Greeter [2] in September 2015, I also started looking into the Application Indicators concept just recently. And I must say, the more I have been looking into it, the more I have started liking the concept behind Application Indicators. The basic idea is awesome. However, lately all indicators became more and more Ubuntu-centric and IMHO too polluted by code related to the just declared dead Ubuntu phablet project.

Forking Application Indicators

Saying all this, I recently forked Application Indicators as Ayatana Indicators. At the moment I represent upstream and Debian package maintainer in one person. Ideally, this is only temporary and more people join in. (I heard some Unity 7 maintainers think about switching to Ayatana Indicators for the now community maintained Unity 7). The goal is to provide Ayatana Indicators to all desktop environments generically, all that want to use them, either as default or optionally. Release-wise, the idea is to strictly differentiate between upstream and Debian downstream in the release cycles of the various related components.

I hope, noone is too concerned about the choice of name, as the "Ayatana" word actually was first used for upstream efforts inside Ubuntu [3]. Using the Ayatana term for the indicator forks is meant as honouring the previously undertaken efforts. I have seen very good work, so far, while going through the indicators' code. The upstream code must not be distro-specific, but, of course, can be distro-aware.

Contributions Welcome

The Ayatana Indicators upstream project components are currently hosted on Github under the umbrella of the Arctica Project. Regarding Debian, first uploads have recently been accepted to Debian experimental. The Debian packages are maintained under the umbrella of the revived Ayatana Packagers team [4].

Meet you at the Ayatana Indicators BoF at DebConf 17 (hopefully)

For DebConf 17 (yeah, I am going there, if all plans work out well!!!!) I have submitted a BoF on this topic (let's hope, it gets accepted...). I'd like to give a quick overview on the current status of above named efforts and reasonings behind my commitment to the work. Most of the time during that BoF I would like to get into discussion with desktop maintainers, possibly upstream developers, Ubuntu developers, etc. Anyone who sees an asset in the Indicators approach is welcome to share and contribute.