Friday, August 24, 2012

Gnome-shell: Show contact list

I have recently switched from RHEL 6 to Fedora 17.

I found myself less productive during the first days and I had the opportunity to agree with people that identify RHEL as a good distribution for enterprises and for people that need to be productive from the beginning, without losing time to adapt to a new environment, even if this could be winning in the long run.

But after this thoughts, that I still believe are true, I started to enjoy the experience of Fedora and Gnome3. I think they are able to satisfy you if you are the kind of person that likes to tweak his system and likes to experiment with it.

 In Fedora 17, one of the biggest area in which you can play with settings is Gnome3.

 Like other people I do believe that some of the decision of the developers have been to radical and that it's not giving out of the box the best experience that it could. A typical example is the fact that they've hidden the shutdown functionalities and that you have to press ALT to see them, something that everyone could agree is not intuitive at all. 

But maybe the idea behind all this radical decisions is that they want to offer a minimal customization, to allow people to change everything that they do not like and to extend the behaviour, a la Firefox.

And talking specifically about this customization, one extension that I've found useful is Empathy Contact List in UserMenu

"Shows an Empathy Contact List launcher in UserMenu"

Something that is really useful in my opinion because otherwise, if you are not using external sw like Pidgin, you have to perform a long set of action to open a message window to one of your contact:

- you have to go in expose mode
- you have to type the name of the contact to open his  panel
- you have to click on the message button

Only after you have done all this you can have a message window.
Like others said, I do not think this is very handy.

The linked extension allows you to have easy access to the contact list. Stop.

But there is a problem. It doesn't work in Fedora 17.

The reason for this is that the code of the extension is trying to execute empathy.desktop, the program integrated in Gnome3 to provide instant messaging functionality, but in Fedora 17, the shortcut file, to execute the program has a slightly different name: fedora-empathy.desktop .

To correct this and fix the problem this is what you have to do:

1) open the source code of the extension here

vi ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions/

2) edit line 19 changing from 'empathy.desktop' to 'fedora-empathy.desktop' and save

3) restart Gnome3 with ALT+F2 followed by the command r

Enjoy your functionality!

The last thing that I'd like to add is the way to access useful information when you try to understand what is happening with an extension that is not behaving properly. There is a log file that gives you lots of useful information.

The approach I suggest you is to execute this command in a shell before starting to use the problematic extension:

tail -f ~/.xsession-errors

In this way you can clearly see what is wrong. This was my log file, that led me to the fix:
    JS ERROR: !!!   Exception in callback for signal: activate
    JS ERROR: !!!     message = '"Shell.AppSystem.get_default().lookup_app("empathy.desktop") is null"'
    JS ERROR: !!!     lineNumber = '19'
    JS ERROR: !!!     fileName = '"/home/pantinor/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions/"'
    JS ERROR: !!!     stack = '"([object Object],[object _private_Clutter_Event])@/home/pantinor/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions/

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