BOINC Monitor - AppIndicator panel icon for monitoring and managing a BOINC core client. Includes GUI_RPC API in Python
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README.md

BOINC Monitor

App Indicator for monitoring and managing a BOINC.

Also includes python API bindings for the XML RPC_GUI API that the BOINC core client exposes.

The Problem

Boinc taskbar/panel icon has many issues in Linux:

  • For starters, official docs doesn't even say it exists. Only Windows and Mac are mentioned. Same in "unofficial" docs.

  • Uses wxTaskBarIcon, which renders as GtkStatusIcon, the old 'notification area' system (also called 'systray'), which has issues in Ubuntu: 11.04 onwards requires whitelisting the icon to make it work, and for 13.04 onwards such support was completely removed.

  • Thus, for many Linux users BOINC has no taskbar icon at all. Some think it doesn't even have one, like I did.

  • Current system lacks good desktop integration: icons are sub-par, menu layout is not native, and exiting BOINC Manager also shuts down try icon. Also, closing Manager window has its own issues.

The XML RPC_GUI protocol also has a few drawbacks:

  • Lacks proper documentation. "Look at the source code" is the recommended approach.

  • The only API library provided, gui_rpc_client, is C++. No plain C, no Python.

  • The command-line utility boinccmd, the other high-level interface to boinc client, is easy to use and well documented, but hard and not reliable to use its output to build a GUI manager/monitor on top of it, requiring complex string manipulation and many shell calls.

The Solution

  • Ubuntu since 10.04 uses the Indicator system, which works for both Gnome and KDE, and it's now available for many distros. It uses a consistent, well-integrated menu for all its App Indicators.

  • An AppIndicator for BOINC can be completely independent of BOINC Manager. You can shut down Manager and still do basic management from Monitor.

  • Provide the GUI_RPC API in a fully, easily reusable form. Actually, 2 APIs: one for low-level GUI_RPC, and another, higher level such as boinccmd command-line options.

  • Everything in Python, to lower the entry barrier and promote third party managers, monitors and GUIs to use a standard library. Python bindings for Gtk libs still have a few rough edges, but it's still more widely (and easily) used in Linux than C++.

The Approach

  • gui_rpc_client.py is a re-write of gui_rpc_client.{h,cpp} in Python. Should provide the GUI_RPC API as faithfully as possible, in a Pythonic way, similar to what PyGTK/PyGI/PyGObject/gir bindings do with Gtk/GLib/etc libs. It starts as direct copy-and-paste of the C++ code as comments, and is progressively translated to Python code. C++ structs and enums are converted to classes, class RpcClient() being the port of struct RPC_CLIENT.

  • client.py is a conversion of boinccmd, not only from C++ to Python, but also from a command-line utility to an API library. Uses gui_rpc_client.RpcClient calls to provide an interface that closely matches the command-line options of boinccmd, ported as methods of a BoincClient class.

  • monitor.py is the AppIndicator GUI that uses client.BoincClient and offers improved icons and better desktop integration. At first, it closely matches the layout and features of BOINCTaskBar.{h,cpp}, but will soon incorporate features from BOINC Manager, specially the Activity menu from Advanced view, and later a simplified version of the Simple view

  • Since API and App Indicator are distinct, in the future they they can be packaged separately: API as a library package named python-boinc-gui-rpc or similar, installed somewhere in PYTHONPATH, while the app indicator monitor can be, for example boinc-monitor or boinc-indicator. Indicator depends on API and recommends boinc-manager, and API depends on boinc-client.

The Challenges

Many questions still remain, and help is needed in many areas, not only in programming:

  • Indicator (and API) currently has the same limitation as Manager: it can shutdown the BOINC core client, but it can not start it, since it would require elevated priviledges. pkexec can be used to overcome this, and allow a "Start BOINC Client" command via menu.

  • Icons are improved, but still subpar. The "suspended" icon is very amateur to say the least (I have no skills at all with Gimp), and the "disconnected" was blatantly "stolen" from... the Mac OSX Boinc Uninstaller! We need better icons, and more importantly, a good icon design: How to convey messages such as "GPU not Active"? Or Network? Or server Notices? Actually, do we need to convey such messages in the icon? Perhaps use Desktop Notifications for some. So, how many states should the icon have? Should they be conveyed as different colors or using mini-"emblems"?

  • Also, most desktop design guidelines suggest a monochrome-ish icon design. Both dark and light sets. Colored icons look dated in Unity and Android. So yes, we desperatly need a good designer. Actually, anyone that can create a consistent set, either colored or light/dark, in scalable format and also properly resized to needed sizes.

  • There is no point creating a solid API if there is no documentation. I have no experience in documenting code, or tools to auto-gererate docs from source. Need ideas and implementations (wiki? doxygen? gtk-doc?), and also ways to make it available to users (man page? Yelp? DevHelp?)

  • Naming and Packaging: how to package a Python API? How should it be named, in terms of OS package and python package/module hierarchy? And should the indicator monitor should be boinc-indicator or boinc-monitor? Maybe something else?

  • It wouldn't hurt to have a simple project page, or a wiki in Github. Anyone familiar with that? Feel free to create it! I already have some screenshots I'd like to post somewhere.

  • Most (if not all) of this project could be incorporated in upstream BOINC. How to promote it and make it happen?

Have any comments or suggestions? Don't be shy: join or open a new issue to discuss any of the above topics and share your ideas!

Requirements

  • Pyton (tested in 2.7)
  • gir bindings for GLib, Gtk and AppIndicator3

The above are already installed by default in Ubuntu and many Gnome3-based distros

And, of course, the BOINC client.

Running the Indicator

Clone the repository and run:

./boinc-monitor

A proper installer with .desktop launcher will be available soon.

Using the API library

Package and modules names are not set in stone yet. Actually, API is still a non-working stub. But, assuming a boinc package in PYTHONPATH, it will be something like:

For the client API (emulating the options of boinccmd):

from boinc.client import BoincClient
bc = BoincClient()
status = bc.get_cc_status()

For the XML GUI_RPC API:

from boinc.gui_rpc_client import RpcClient
rpc = RpcClient()
rpc.init()
status = rpc.get_status()

The idea is to make the client API somewhat higher-lever and a bit more straightforward than the GUI_RPC, since it automatically deals with deals with exchange_version(), read_gui_rpc_password() and authorize(), but it also may have fewer features. Maybe in the future we realize having 2 layers is pointless, and merge both in a single module that provides both complete feature set and straightforward usage. Only time (or you) will tell.

Written by

Rodigo Silva (MestreLion) linux@rodrigosilva.com

Licenses and Copyright

Copyright (C) 2013 Rodigo Silva (MestreLion) linux@rodrigosilva.com.

License GPLv3+: GNU GPL version 3 or later http://gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html.

This is free software: you are free to change and redistribute it.

There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law.