Web 2.0 !!!

A few days ago I got this reply on one of my blog posts:


Your post — and your work — miss the point entirely. Nobody cares how email works, they just want it to work.

Gmail (and most other webmail applications) makes everything else obsolete. I can’t imagine why Evolution is even shipped with Gnome anymore.

Web-based email clients are the standard.


I just finished the E-mail client the guy wants. Here it is!

using GLib;
using Gtk;
using WebKit;

class Web20EmailClient : Window {
	WebView view;
	construct {
		view = new WebView ();
		view.open ("http://gmail.com");
		view.set_size_request (640, 480);
		add (view);
	static void main (string[] args) {
		Gtk.init (ref args);
		var win = new Web20EmailClient ();
		win.show_all ();
		Gtk.main ();

Mindstorm … s

You buy a bunch of Lego Mindstorms bricks and you start building a robot to remotely control your mobile devices.

Well, that’s the official explanation.

The actual explanation is that this is what happens when you are 26 years of age, your girlfriend tells you you are almost 30 and that when you are 30 it’s the end of your youth (although, people of that age usually tell me this ain’t true), you are a nerd of the type software developer (and quite addicted to this too), you have your own business and therefore your accountant asks to make some expenses (like .. buying a Mindstorms robot! No?).

I acknowledge it’s probably just an early midlife crisis. Boys want to make things, fiddle with stuff, put things together. Whereas girls, girls just wanna have fun. I’m totally guilty of being a boy. I know. (although, I’m sure a lot of girls enjoy making things too — before I get killed by a group of feminists –).

Now that the model itself is finished, I clearly see what I am becoming: an old lonely dude who plays with trains, electricity stuff and mostly breaks things just to put them back together. I’ll probably die getting electrocuted while trying to take apart a by that time old holographic 3D gesture recognizing display, as I’m trying to figure out whether some evil corporation is spying on its customers by using such electronic devices.

But, isn’t that cute? No? I mean, Tinne, seriously, now I must be ‘like’ a younger dude, no? I have been playing with toys for kids aged 11 to 16 (that’s what the Lego box’s age indicator says, so it must be true). Anyway, the only way that it can get worse now, is if I’ll start writing software for this Lego model. I’ll have a camera view on my screen where I can mouse-over so that the robot will follow my mouse pointer. With a library like GStreamer I can let that camera image go efficiently over a distance. Sending some commands over a socket ain’t very hard.

About the bot itself: it has three axis. One (the X one) uses normal wheels, two others (Y and Z) are built on top of the chassis. All axis are controlled by Mindstorms motors. The Mindstorms computer thing is integrated in the model, there’s a touch sensor on one of the axis (the Z one). I don’t yet have this software, that’s the next thing I’ll (try to) finish. I’ve spend ~ 450 euros on this thing (the normal Mindstorms package didn’t have enough bricks, but the programmable thing, the sensors and the motors are ~ 300 euros).

But hey, 450 euros for something that you could give to a little fellow as soon as you are done playing with it? That’s not much for multi functional and multi age toys! I mean, if I get bored of this thing, I can make another robot with it. If you have a son (or a technical minded daughter), you can let him (or her) play with the Lego bricks while watching his (her) brains grow! You can’t convince me that today’s computer games are better for training a kid’s brain than Lego.

After the kid is finished building the bot, you can make the software for it. Hah! Perfect father – son (or daughter) relationship. You actually help him make his toys, and you enjoy doing that! And … he’ll get interested in software development, join one of the many free software communities, he’ll find a job in IT as programmer, etc etc.

Lego rocks!

Three million rows in a GtkTreeView

Edit, the repository has since disappeared, you can find a Subversion Dump of it here:

Three million rows (the size per cell doesn’t matter a lot) in a treeview, and loading the treeview in four seconds. Is that doable? Sure! The treeview wil become very slow you think? Nope, it works as fast as any other (smaller) treeview. The amount of visible rows is what would slow it down. Since most screens can’t show more than 500 rows, and since showing more would be useless from a usability point of view, it’s fast.

I committed my performance tweaks to the demo repository. It includes using g_slice for allocating the real subject and replacing the GSList in the custom model with an implementation that uses a pointer position.

So I don’t have to depend on a slow linked list anymore. In stead I simply allocate a large block of proxy instances (three million proxy instances of 20 bytes each in a continuous allocation) and inject that as index in my custom treemodel.

Since those are proxy instances, they’ll each check whether their this->real property isn’t NULL when they are needed. When a row becomes visible, that instance is needed for the from, id and to properties. When it becomes invisible, it’s no longer needed (and should therefore be freed, but the unref_node thingy of gtktreeview doesn’t work perfectly — so when scrolling a little bit, around 200 instances are kept around for no reason, I’m going to try fixing that behaviour in gtktreeview soon).

Most of the time is spend in the loop that prepares the proxy instances (msg_header_proxy_new_alot). Bringing the (visible) items to the treeview doesn’t take a lot time, as the GtkTreeView is smart enough not to load everything in case fixed-row-height mode is on.

You don’t have to believe me, you can checkout the code here. Compile it (autotools) and try.

Anyway, I’m convinced GtkTreeView by itself isn’t slow. But that doesn’t mean that the way you use it can’t make it slow. I hope others will enjoy the demo as a starting point for getting their way of using the gtktreeview optimized. For most use-cases, the use of a GSList or GList is a better technique. A linked list makes it more easy to add new items to your model. Inserting and removing items would be a lot more difficult if you use the technique I used in the demo. That technique, however, is fast because you can allocate it as one large block and excercise your high-school pointer knowledge with.

Nevertheless, I swear the unref_node stuff isn’t working correctly! :-p. Or I misunderstood it’s purpose.