RFC: libei - emulated input in Wayland compositors

Peter Hutterer peter.hutterer at who-t.net
Fri Jul 31 05:13:50 UTC 2020

I've been working on a new approach for allowing emulated input devices in
Wayland. Or in short - how can we make xdotool and synergy work? And
eventually replace them.

The proposal I have is a library for Emulated Input, in short libei.

libei has two parts, the client side (libei) for applications and
a server side (libeis) for the compositor. The two libraries communicate
with each other (how? doesn't matter, it's an implementation detail) to
negotiate input devices.

The process is roughly:
- the libei client connects and says "I am org.freedesktop.SomeApplication
  and I want a pointer and a keyboard device"
- the libeis server says "ok, you can have a pointer device and a keyboard
- the libei client says 'move the pointer by 1/1', etc. and the server does
  just that. or not, depending on context.

There are more details, see the README in the repo and the libei.h and
libeis.h header files that describe the API.

The sticking point here is: emulated input comes via a separate channel.
The server a) knows it's emulated input, b) knows who it is coming from and
c) has complete control over the input.

a) is interesting because you can differ between the events internally. The
API right now is very similar to libinput's events so integrating it into a
compositor should be trivial.

b) is somewhat handwavy if an application runs outside a sandbox - any
information will be unreliable. Flatpak gives you an app-id though and
with that we can (eventually) do things like storing the allow/deny
decisions of the user in the portal implementation.

c) allows you to e.g. suspend the client when convenient or just ignore
certain sequences altogether. The two made-up examples are: suspend EI
during a password prompt, or allow EI from the software yubikey *only*
during a password prompt.

Now, the next question is: how do they *start* talking to each other?
libei provides multiple backends for the initial connection negotiation. My
goal is to have this work with flatpak portals so an application running
within the sandbox can be restricted accordingly. Alternatives to this could
be public DBus interfaces, simple fd passing or (as is implemented right
now) a named unix socket.

The aim is that a client can simply iterate through all of the options until
finds a connection. Once that's found, the actual code for emulating input is
always the same so it's trivial to implement a client that works on any
compositor that supports some backend of libeis.
The server part only needs to care about the negotiation mechanisms it
allows, i.e. GNOME will only have dbus/portal, sway will only have... dunno,
fd exchange maybe?

Next: because we have a separate channel for emulated input we can hook up
XTEST to use libei to talk to a compositor. I have a PoC implementation for
weston and Xwayland:
With that xdotool can move the pointer. Note this is truly the most minimal
code just to illustrate the point but you can fill in the blanks and do
things like the compositor preventing XTEST or not, etc.

This is all in very early stages with very little error checking so things
will probably crash or disconnect unexpectedly. I've tried to document the
API to make the intentions clear but there are still some very handwavy

Do let me know if you have any questions or suggestions please though.


More information about the wayland-devel mailing list