Scheduling subsystems (crontab, at) and the desktop

Philip Van Hoof spamfrommailing at
Thu Jul 22 13:51:34 EEST 2004

Hi there fellow hackers, geeks and others who want the UNIX desktop to

I bring forward the question whether or not a (
specification is necessary for application scheduling software.

The current UNIX Desktop user does not have an easy way to configure the
tasks which he wants to schedule. Sure we have such a utility. And sure
we can shout to our Desktop users "export EDITOR=vi; crontab -e" you
moron, and RTFM!!

And then that user wont ever use our desktop anymore. He will probably
never figure out out to quit vi let alone insert a line in that spartan
editor and forget it that he will actually lookup how the format of a
crontab record looks like. And the user is right. He should not have to
look it up. He should not have to know about that. He is right that he
can be stupid, really stupid, while working with that device which
others call it a "computer".

And yes, scheduling tasks is something lots of desktop users want to do.
Scheduling a backup of is "important" data (whether or not this data
really is important our not, is not important). Scheduling a virusscan
(whether or not this is necessary TODAY, is not important). Scheduling
an annoying noise at 8'O Clock in the morning which tells the user to
wake up. Scheduling a reminder message. Scheduling a shutdown.
Scheduling a fadeout effect on the users music volume just before he
goes to bed.

So we (a team of three people: Gaute Hope, Philip Van Hoofand Kristof
Vansant) created a HIG-compliant GNOME 2.0 userinterface for both at and
crontab. It's in the GNOME Cvs, module name is gnome-schedule. It
currently depends on python, pygtk -from cvs- and python-gconf.

However, and here comes the reason for this E-mail.

While implementing this userinterface, we came across several
incompatibilities between different versions and implementations of
crontab and incompatibilities between different versions of at.

This makes it very very hard to implement a GUI for such systems.

At will prepend a bunch of environment variables to your scripts. Which
ones differs between distributions, users and the stack of environment
variables which you have set.

Crontab has different implementations (dcron, Vixies crontab) which
might or might not have the same commandline options and behaviours.

I feel that is the place to be to get a specification
for these subsystems published.

What do you people think?

Philip Van Hoof, Software Developer @ Cronos
home: me at freax dot org
gnome: pvanhoof at gnome dot org
work: Philip dot VanHoof at Cronos dot Be,

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