The GNOME note-taking utilities Tomboy and Gnote both made releases recently. Tomboy, the older project, released version 1.0.1 and includes some long-awaited online storage features. Gnote, a port of Tomboy to C++ instead of the original C#/Mono, released version 0.6.3, a bugfix release in its own right, but one that put an end to rumors that the project was without a maintainer.
Tomboy meets Ubuntu One
Tomboy has supported online note synchronization via WebDAV and other back-ends for several releases. An announcement in May of 2009 attracted considerable attention to a new option, "Tomboy Online," a Tomboy-specific network service that would allow users to access their notes through a web interface in addition to the desktop clients, and share notes with other users. The software powering Tomboy Online, Snowy, is AGPL-licensed, and built on top of Django. As of December, however, Tomboy Online still has not debuted, and activity slowed down on the Snowy Git repository.
Consequently, it was seen as welcome news by Tomboy fans when the 1.0.1 release added support for a new online service that permits web-based note editing, Canonical's Ubuntu One. Ubuntu One accounts provide 2GB of storage to Ubuntu users, supplying Tomboy with a large base of potential testers. More importantly, Ubuntu One's implementation of online Tomboy synchronization and editing uses the same REST-based API designed for use with Tomboy Online and implemented in Snowy. Ubuntu One's Tomboy service does use OAuth 1.0 Revision A for authentication, while Snowy uses OAuth 1.0, but the newer revision plugs a security hole in the OAuth token approval process, so the likelihood of an update is high.
Synchronizing with Ubuntu One is indeed simpler than setting up and using WebDAV. Setup requires only entering the Ubuntu One URL into Tomboy's Synchronization preferences tab; clicking "Connect to Server" then hands off authentication to the browser-based OAuth process. Even more interesting is the possibility of setting up a private Snowy server; the Snowy web page links to instructions for installing the software on the popular Dreamhost web hosting provider, and instructions for configuring Apache with mod_python or mod_wsgi.
Sandy Armstrong's blog announcement also highlighted a new Note Statistics plugin that provides the user with access to line counts, word counts, and character counts, and updates to the Android and Maemo ports of the Tomboy client. The Android application Tomdroid can sync with Ubuntu One's note service in the latest Bazaar branch, and the Maemo application Conboy has work underway but has not yet made a release. Both mobile clients should be able to sync with any server that implements the Tomboy Online REST API.
The latest development release of Tomboy, dubbed 1.1.0, was released at the same time as the stable 1.0.1. For both the stable and development releases, users can download tarballs for generic Linux systems and binary installers for Windows and Mac OS X. OpenSUSE users can install both releases through the package management system, and Ubuntu users can install both via stable and development personal package archives (PPAs).
Gnote meets Fedora
Gnote is a port of the Tomboy desktop application that uses C++ instead of C# and plain GTK+ instead of the Mono stack. The project was started in April of 2009 by Hubert Figuiere as a spare-time effort, but gained a significant following. As always seem to be the case when Mono is involved, the project's existence ignited long standing debates about Mono itself, and when Figuiere decided in late October that he could not continue as maintainer, detractors of Gnote declared it a "victory." The Fedora distribution decided to include Gnote as its default note-taking application starting with Fedora 12, though, and Fedora packager Debarshi Ray stepped up to take over as Gnote maintainer.
is Ray's first release as maintainer, and he said he plans to continue
tracking Tomboy's feature set. The next major release should add support
for synchronization and the Directory Watcher add-in, which will bring the
younger application closer to supporting the same online services just
announced for Tomboy itself. Gnote has always strived to remain compatible
with Tomboy, using the same file format, and it can import users' existing
Tomboy notes — although the Gnote team makes it clear that there are
no warranties as to whether Tomboy can read notes created with Gnote.
Support for Tomboy plugins is spottier, but many are reported to work.
Gnote builds are not provided for Windows or Mac OS X. Linux users on many non-Fedora distributions can find packages through their package management system, including Mandriva, Debian and Ubuntu. Moblin users have expressed interest in Gnote, since the distribution does not include a note-taking application and Gnote would not require building Mono and introducing its corresponding runtime dependency, however Moblin-specific packages are not yet available. Plain Moblin is based on Fedora and Canonical's Ubuntu Moblin Remix is based on Ubuntu; both can run Gnote packages rebuilt from their desktop distributions' respective source packages.
Fedora's decision to include Gnote as its default note-taking application still has its critics, who cite the small development community. It is important to note, though, that Gnote is a direct translation from Tomboy's C# code to C++, not a rewrite, and thus requires considerably less coding effort than either Tomdroid or Conboy.
Gnote's new maintainership and new release is unlikely to change any minds about the project; some will continue to see it as a viable alternative and others as an attack on its parent application Tomboy. What is clear, though, is that neither application is going away soon. Tomboy is poised to finally deliver on the online storage and editing service users have been waiting for, and even if the first service to go live was not the one originally planned, it is probably better in the long run to have multiple, compatible services. The same could be said for Tomboy and Gnote itself.
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