{October 4, 2010}   Activities fun [with screencast]

So… I wanted to spend this weekend offline. I did. I even logged out of irc.

But somehow I found myself hacking until 2 or 3am sunday night, instead. :)
I think it was worth it. ;)

The last few weekends I’ve been hacking on activity-related things, here and there. Fixing bugs, implementing things behind the scenes – last night I finally reached a point where the pieces began to come together. Today, I finally had something I could demo.

So without further ado, the demo:

(if the above doesn’t work, watch it on

I mentioned in there that it’s not done; we still need the activitymanager kded stuff to co-ordinate it (which ivan is working on :) and then plasma’s activity UI needs to use that API so that I can stop sending dbus commands. ;) It also needs a lot of code to handle edge cases, like properly restoring apps that are on >1 activity. The good news is, restoring the right activity associations for each window turns out to be way easier than expected. yay! :)

Oh, and there’s the taskbar integration to be done, too, and a million other little things… :) but we still have a month before feature freeze. 4.6 is gonna be awesome. :)

And now for something completely different: Berlin! it continues to be awesome too. :) I’ve got a book of Enid Blyton’s children’s stories in german, and I’ve been reading them with pete’s help; it’s a lot more fun to read ’cause the sentences are short and simple and the stories remind me of my childhood. :) I’ve also discovered that Dominion is a pretty cool game, and I can now speak german when I’m drunk. ;)

Living in another country has some funny effects. When we went to the mall today, I suddenly felt calm and happy to be there. I guess the atmosphere of blatant consumerism reminded me of Vancouver. ;) It’s weird how little things that aren’t really all that nice become happy reminders of your home country…

I still haven’t found HP sauce, though. :P Or black beans; they have every other kind of bean, but not my favourite! *sigh* On the other hand, I had no problems getting ripe avocados, and I’m still drooling over all the wonderful yoghurty things that I couldn’t get in Canada. :) And the cheese, and the cheap pizza, and the cheap beer, and, and…

Cool feature :-)
And btw, that voice is really hot <3
I like the giggles and the "tadah!" :D

sebas says:

You’re trying hard to get people out of the Free Software community.

If I’d get a “wow, hot” every time I blogged, I’d be put off by people reducing me to something that has nothing to do with the actual contribution, and that’s called discrimination.

This kind of reply makes me feel sad.

sreich says:

Odd. I imagine I’d be flattered ;p

(must just be my vanity speaking ;)

But yeah, society considers it sexism. Whereas guys doing that to other guys is apparently not yet considered sexism (at least not to me). Or women to guys. I suppose it just needs time to infect.

Chani says:

sreich, that’s because you don’t get comments like that whenever you’re trying to get work done. it’s flattering the first dozen times, then it just starts to get creepy.

Chani says:

note: it would have been perfectly appropriate to compliment me on having a good speaking voice or something. :) it’s the sexual connotations of using the word “hot” that make it a bad choice for a foss blog.

duns says:

Great to see the activity-features improve. Does that mean that you can drop using virtual desktops? Is there going to be some kind of kwin effect to show all (running) activities? This might also be nice to be done in a similar way to gnome shell, where you can at the same time search via nepomuk/strigi for documents and drop them to the right activity and get them opened there. Maybe sth. like this can even be done with scripting nowadays.


p.s.: Try Curry-Wurst if you haven’t yet (not very special but a good alternative to the usual fast food program). And don’t forget to protest/engage against the saving policy if you are still a critical activist. There are a lot of interesting political organisations in Berlin, especially due to our split history.

Chani says:

I’m not going to drop using virtual desktops, although some people might. I’ll still have most of my activities spread out over 2-3 of them, ’cause I only have the one little monitor ;)

As for a kwin effect… mrr… sadly it would suffer the same problem as the taskbar – each window would look as it does in the *current* activity, so it’d get less and less accurate as apps get more and more context-aware. I don’t think it’d work out.

I’d be happy if someone were to prove me wrong, though ;)

sebas says:

Currywurst is normally not really going to fly with vegetarians, it just happens that there’s “Yellow Sunshine”, a veggie / vegan fastfood shop in Kreuzberg, at Wiener Strasse close to Görlitzer Bahnhof, it’s very, very good, definitely worth trying: :)

disclaimer: I’m not in any way related to YS :P

mutlu says:

This looks great! Can’t wait to try it out. :)

Alejandro Nova says:

Chani, we all love you! ;) For the activity work, of course. Those Activity Sessions are what was needed to make Activities truly useful for me. Thank you.

Chani says:

:) you’re welcome :)

Andrea says:

First of all: nice voice ;-)
Second: it’s possible to set one activity for each desktop… why this is not enough? I think that the best thing is just unifying desktops and activities… adding one is adding the other and vice-versa.

arwa says:

Isn’t this feature already available for virtual desktops? For me it is confusing to have this possibilities with desktops _and_ activities. How should one use these both things correctly without getting lost?

But maybe I did not got the idea of activities right yet.

Chani says:

No, this feature, as far as I know, has never been done before. On any OS. Ever. :)

if you want to learn more about activities, check out my other blog posts on the subject:

dodosoft says:


Now it will be perfect if each activity could manage its own panels.
I _really_ need different panel configurations for different activities.
Is this planned?

And yes, I agree that Activities AND Virtual Desktops are too similar to coexist, it doesn’t make much sense.

Chani says:

not planned, but I have a vague memory of aaron talking about how it could be done.

what we’d need is a volunteer to write the code – I can’t think of anyone who’d have time for it…

Fri13 says:

That is just sad news. Hopefully someday (sooner than later) will make code for it. As activities with separated panels is a killer feature.

Then we actually could make real activities where we have different application shortcuts in panels, different set of panels (1-3 panels), different configurations (autohide, different resized or positioned panels).

And mostly, different themed panels (well, that is not so must for me, but it could be the cherry top of the cake).

It is just such that when having a different activity per different virtual desktop, and then different panel settings on every activity. It would be like having multiple computers designed for every task.

One virtualdesktop to graphical designing. Where you have one panel with shortcuts to graphical applications and widgets to most common resource directories.

One virtual desktop to filemanagement where you have all tools (krename etc) with different dolphin/konqueror profiles shortcuts on panel etc.

One for multimedia (amarok, digiKam, Kaffeine and so on) where icons again in different places, some panels on autohide or having multiple panels.

And then in the end, different activities on different monitors. Activity 1 on screen 0 and activity 2 on screen 1. With different set of panels, widgets on panels and so on.

mat69 says:

For me one reason for activities and agains virtual desktops is that the later consumes more ram.

I tend to have a lot of instances of dolphin, okular, etc. open to avoid the hassle to track all those files/folders down when I need them. Yet often I do not need them — no, I don’t want to work on uni stuff every day. ;)

So this could help me to stay more focused on the task at hand, by banning akregator — damn I wanted to work on uni stuff right now :D — from my uni activity…

Actually those changes will make activities very useful and enjoyable for me.

Chani says:

hehe, that’s exactly my use case ;) I tend to have a bazillion things open for each course, and then there’s the shiny distractions like akregator…

sebas says:

Showed your screencast to non-geek friend (but Plasma user), she loved it immediately. “That looks really useful.”

Awesome work, Chani.

Activities are already useful to me, and this addition makes them even better! Once support for task manager is in, I’ll be completely sold.

Chani says:

ah yes, that. anyone interested in hacking on libtaskmanager? iirc mgraesslin has briefly explained what needs doing on plasma-devel, but we need to find someone who has time to carry it out :)

Lionel Chauvin says:

It could be interesting to atomatically stop an activity after a delay (and start it when you switch).

Chani says:

yep. or switch activities automatically :) there’s lots of fun things that can be done from here…

Sorry if I missed anything, but does this remember the activity settings per-window or per-application? For example if I open a new KWrite, will it have the same activity settings, or if I close Kwrite then open it again…?

Chani says:


the only catch is that if one process has two windows, you can’t tell it to session-close only one of them… that’s where the implementation gets “fun” ;)

if you open new windows, they won’t have any activity associations now; deciding what to do with new windows will be nepomuk’s job :)

vespas says:

don’t know if it’s still there, but try the Club der Republik near Kastanienallee, an ostalgie place. lots of fun! :)

henshaw says:

How well do konsoles work with this? I guess on session restore all the state in the shell would be lost, which is not what you want.

I know konsole does preserve a few things across session save/restore but for this it would also have to restore the environment and the per-tab command history and I don’t know what else. Maybe that’s all do-able though?

Chani says:

all konsole restores is the working directory. for history it uses the standard bash history, which means everything’s merged.

per-tab history *would* be a really neat feature, though. :) please, go tell the konsole devs about your ideas (or even better, send them patches!)

Psychotron says:

Oh I love you for this feature!! It’s something I’d like to have since I started to assign virtual desktops to certain tasks. Now I can get rid of all the apps that I keep around which clog my ram when I don’t need them!! :)

You’re really on to something here. The tea leaves say activities are the seedling which will blossom into the next generation of desktops.


Now if I can only find the document I was reading.

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