Thursday 4 April 2013

Geocluing the desktop, slowly

Over the past couple of months, Satabdi has been working during her Outreach Program for Women on geocode-glib, and Zeeshan more recently joined us to help with cleaning up some of the code.

As Satabdi's program is now finished (though not her involvement!), and a new GNOME development cycle has started, I'll try to explain where geocode-glib fits in, and answer some questions on the future of Geoclue.


First and foremost, geocode-glib is a geocoding and reverse geocoding library. It uses Yahoo! web services for this, though we're investigating using Nominatim for this in the future.

This replaces the convoluted implementations for those two services in geoclue (3 if you include Address as a service). The API should be mostly stable now, and we'll soon start porting a few applications to it (Evolution and Empathy come to mind).

The library also includes a GeocodeLocation object. This will be useful later.


geocode-glib, thanks to Satabdi's work, includes a GeoIP server, to be installed on GNOME servers eventually, which uses data from MaxMind to  locate a user connected to the Internet from the IP address. We also have a client library to access this server.

This is usually good enough to locate a user in a city, or a country, which would help us with many integration points in GNOME, such as the upcoming Date and Time panel re-design.

But this code isn't really for you, app developers.


A fine project, but the codebase is showing its age (dbus-glib!), and the decision, well, not to take decisions on which backends to use for various services make it fragile. This is a maintenance problem, both for in terms of making sure all the services are kept working, and that geoclue itself is kept stable.

So we'll start a reimplementation of Geoclue. The goals are:

  • Trimmed down API, just for positioning
  • Smaller, but more integrated, selection of ways to get the positioning (GPS from your integrated WWAN modem, Wi-Fi AP data, IP address, no discrete GPS or manual location)
  • Power-saving, by aggregating requests from all the applications
  • and finally, privacy, where only applications that you allow to request your location can get it, and only with an accuracy as needed for the application.
The code currently in geocode-glib for IP geocoding will likely move there when the project has been kickstarted.

I hope this clears any misconceptions people might have about geocode-glib, or, more likely, about the future of geoclue.