GNOME Break Timer: Week 13

I’m nearing the end of a very busy few weeks, and getting very close to that soft pencils down date! With school starting up again this hasn’t been my most productive week on the GNOME Break Timer front, but I’m pretty happy with what’s been done.

First, most importantly, Jasper and the GNOME admins helped me get to set up on’s infrastructure! This is really exciting to me, because hosting and bug tracking looked like a crazy jumble throughout my project, and they got it all sorted out very efficiently. This feels a lot more real now, somehow, and I feel like I’m in a better position to continue maintaining this for a long time.

So, here are the important links:

Incidentally:, you’re awesome. I noticed a bunch of translations committed before I even knew gnome-break-timer was up there, and I was blown away.

What else is new? Unit tests, bits and pieces for maintainability (including code format and documentation), and some visual fun for the status panel.

GNOME Clocks has a really new cool widget for its countdowns and timers. I went ahead and borrowed that design to replace the very boring (and repetitive) icons we had before. I think this helps to quickly get across what’s going on. Also, I’m just a fan of common UI elements.

We show how close a break is like how GNOME Clocks shows a countdown
We show how close a break is like how GNOME Clocks shows a countdown

I also added some arrows, like the ones in Alan’s early mockups. This was all really fun: I hadn’t really explored Cairo before, and I was very impressed with how easy it was to get nice looking curves drawing on the screen. It took a bit of tweaking to get that arrow arranged neatly, without overlapping the text (ever), but I think I got it where I needed. I guess I’ll wait and see if anyone manages to break it.

The arrows probably aren't exactly necessary (I hope), but they add a bit of whimsy that I find quite appealing
The arrows probably aren’t exactly necessary (I hope), but they add a bit of whimsy that I find quite appealing

Over the weekend I’m going to be busy with yet more stuff my past self went and volunteered me for, but I’ll be back soon with some more progress. (Also, I promise one of those distractions is a really awesome charity web project that I’m very excited about. I’ll be able to show it off in the start of November, and I honestly can’t wait). I’m down to “nice to have” features at this point, and the next one is collecting some basic statistics like how many breaks you ignored (or didn’t ignore) last week. Of course, this isn’t so the application can label anyone a bad person. Instead, I’m hoping this will make way for simple, positive and helpful messages in the status dialog. A lot of that could use extra design work, but at least having the data in place will be a nice start – and I’ll certainly be giving it a shot anyway.

Other than that, I’m going to be improving the experience for translators with notes for some of the weirder strings in the application. A few more unit tests, some documentation, a placeholder icon, and a 1.0 release. Hooray!

Since I’ve been working on a lot of cleanup already, and the last few weeks were a bit slow, I’ll be working on code past Monday the 16th’s soft pencils down date (at risk of some panic near the end). Of course, that isn’t terribly important: I look forward to maintaining and improving this well into the future, too.

GNOME Break Timer: Final report

Well, it’s September, so I guess it’s time to call it quits with that whole “summer” thing. This has been a really nice few months. I’m very grateful that I could participate in Google Summer of Code this year with my project to build a shiny new Break Timer application for GNOME 3.

This was meant to be a picture of Fall's first day of torrential wind and rain, but the rain stopped as soon as I went outside and this is all I got. Stupid rain.
This was meant to be a picture of Fall’s first day of torrential wind and rain, but the rain stopped as soon as I went outside and this is all I got. Stupid rain.

So, where am I leaving you? With GNOME Break Timer 1.1, of course! (And I’m not leaving). I think my project over the summer has been successful. At times I have had the unmistakeable feeling that I was trying to spread too little butter over too much bread, but we always found something interesting to work on (including a nifty and GNOMEy side project that I’ll talk about really soon, but mostly on Break Timer itself) and I think we have some good quality code as a result — and a lovely little application, too!

GNOME Break Timer 1.1

Well, it has an About dialog
Well, it has an About dialog

Don’t worry, that icon is a quick placeholder, and I realize it looks confusingly similar to either a normal clock, a speaker or a power button. If you feel strongly about it, I will be eternally grateful if you check out the art request for a new icon.

Here’s what I did this summer, in summary…

  • Cleaned up a lot of old code, fixing bugs and removing oodles of unwanted complexity.
  • Adopted a “normal” build system and fought off my intense fear of Automake. (I now simply dislike Automake. That feels like progress).
  • Made a cute little application to get started with Break Timer, view the current break status, and set a break schedule. I think it’s pretty cool.
  • Improved the activity tracking code so it’ll be way easier to adapt to changes in the input stack. I still need to take a close look at how this will work under Wayland, but I’m less worried, at least.
  • Polished up the “take a break” notifications and added automatic screen locking, as well as better awareness of the system in general.
  • Implemented really awesome state saving between sessions.
  • Investigated per-application defaults for notification appearance. (Didn’t go brilliantly, but I’m going to try again. More on that later).
  • Wrote lots of tests. I didn’t get to write any UI tests, and I was hoping to find out about testing timeouts and timers but I’ll need to save that for another day. Probably a rainy one. Still, it should be very hard for someone to (unknowingly) break any of the more fiddly parts of the application. I’m sure that will pay off in the long run.
  • Learned all about GObject, Vala, Cairo, unit tests, GNOME, and wonderful new things in GTK!
  • And I wrote a blog post for each of those things.

All sorts of people have helped me with my project over the summer. Thanks, Jasper and Allan for being so patient with me :) And thanks, GNOME! You folks are all brilliant. I’m definitely going to keep going with this project and I’m excited to work with you all in the future.