Randa and Ontologies and whatnot…


So I am back from Randa, the small town in the Alpes where roughly 60 KDE hackers (and 2 Gnome people) met to achieve great things. Before I start raving on about Nepomuk and ontologies and all that jazz let me thank Mario Fux and his family for the great organization and the fabulous food.

Now that the pink fluffy bunny part of the blog post is done I can get to the real thing: Nepomuk. The guys (Daniele E. Domenichelli from Telapathy-KDE, GSoC students Smit Shah and Martin Klapetek, Ivan Cukic, and Seif Lotfy and Trever Fischer from Zeitgeist) and me met in Africa (for the unaware: the rooms in the house in Randa are named after continents). I gave a few short tutorials on Nepomuk, its design, the basics like RDF and how it is used in Nepomuk, and the new Data Management Service (which I still did not blog about yet – but it will come, give it time). Then I answered questions and helped with the individual projects.

Apart from the discussions on KDEPIM and Telepathy integration two topics stand out: 1. The new and improved Documentation for the Shared-Desktop-Ontologies and 2. The integration between the KDE Activity Manager, Nepomuk, and Zeitgeist.

New and Improved SDO Documentation

One thing I wanted to do while in Randa was improving the documentation for Nepomuk. Well, we did not really look much into Nepomuk’s own documentation but Daniele E. Domenichelli (Telepathy-KDE hacker and former GSoC student) and myself finished what I started a while back. We finished the script which extracts all ontology entities from the sources and generates nice docbook references. We split the manually created docbook documentation into subfiles which are combined into one docbook chapter per ontology. Then the chapters are merged into one big file which is transformed into html via xslt. All is streamlined through the cmake build system’s “docs” target. Thus, everyone can easily create their own ontology documentation at home. If you do not want to do that but want to check it out anyway without waiting for an update on semanticdesktop.org just use the oscaf project’s page which now contains this documentation.

Integration Between KDE Activity Manager, Nepomuk and Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist is an interesting project which in its topic is closely related to Nepomuk: Zeitgeist tracks events on the desktop and stores them in a database which can then be queried by clients. This allows for example to see which files you touched in the last week and track the history of a single file (here “history” refers to the modification events, not the content). Lately Zeitgeist developers have moved closer towards KDE and shown a lot of interest to work with us. At Randa we finally came up with a good plan to do so.

The problem is that KDE already has a database to store all kinds of information including events: Nepomuk. And KDE has the KDE activity manager whose API is supposed to be used by KDE applications to inform about opened/modified/closed files. Thus, we had three things to bring together: Zeitgeist and its application plugins which inform Zeitgeist about events, the KDE activity manager which does the same thing for KDE applications, and Nepomuk as the one semantic database in KDE. Thus, Seif Lotfy (Zeitgeist founder), Trever Fischer (GSoC student doing a Zeitgeist GUI for KDE), Ivan Cukic (Author of the KDE activity manager), and myself discussed the different issues heatedly and actually came to a conclusion.

The basic design will be like this: KDE applications will use the KDE Activity Manager Daemon (KAMD) API to inform about opened, modified, and closed files. The KAMD will then send these events to Zeitgeist which will apply all its magic (blacklisting, geo location attachment, and so on). Finally Zeitgeist will store the events in Nepomuk. If Zeitgeist is not available KAMD will push the events to Nepomuk itself.

Integration between KAMD, Zeitgeist, and Nepomuk

This way we benefit from Zeitgeist’s additional event processing and its integration into applications like OpenOffice or even vim.

Update: Ivan told me that he has a much nicer diagram. And in fact he has. His looks like a mutated bunny with one Gnome and one KDE ear:

Ivan is the master of simple diagrams (mine are always too complex)

We also had to merge ontologies. Zeitgeist has its own event ontology which is built upon the Nepomuk ontologies. We tried to merge as much of it into SDO as made sense. The result can be seen as a separate branch in the SDO git repository. We decided to store usage events as follows:

Usage Events in Nepomuk

If looking at the example of a file being opened NUAO models one main event which stretches from the time the file is opened to the time it is closed. This is described via nuao:UsageEvent and the properties nuao:start and nuao:end. During the time span of this event the file can be in the focus of the user or not. This is modelled via nuao:FocusEvent instances that describe when a file was in focus.

Since the action of modifying a resource is a very foggy concept and hard to fit into an event with start and end time it was decided to instead only store a timestamp for each modification of the resource. This is described via nie:modified and nie:contentModified. For file modifications one would typically use nie:modified.

Storing all focus events in Nepomuk will most likely result in an ugly amount of data which does not provide any really useful information besides the total time a resource was in focus. Thus, we introduced nuao:totalFocusDuration which allows Zeitgeist to compress all focus events and attach this resulting duration to the enclosing nuao:UsageEvent.

Well, that is it for today. Aaron urged me to write a dot article about Randa so I will probably try to do that (he says vaguely).

8 thoughts on “Randa and Ontologies and whatnot…

  1. You guys are heroes!
    Sounds like you did a nice job of integrating zeitgeist into KDE in a meaningful way – Thank you.

    • The KAMD does more than that. It also provides the backend for the share-like-connect system that allows contextual actions on the resource in focus. This might be merged with Zeitgeist, too. But we are not that far progressed yet. We take it one step at the time to make sure something is working.

      • “It also provides the backend for the share-like-connect system that allows contextual actions on the resource in focus”

        But then this will only work for KDE apps, right?

        If it were a Zeitgeist plugin (or whatever) instead, it could work for all apps, no?

  2. Pingback: Zeitgeist on its way into KDE « GeekyOgre

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