Friday, October 18, 2019

libinput and tablet pad keys

Upcoming in libinput 1.15 is a small feature to support Wacom tablets a tiny bit better. If you look at the higher-end devices in Wacom's range, e.g. the Cintiq 27QHD you'll notice that at the top right of the device are three hardware-buttons with icons. Those buttons are intended to open the config panel, the on-screen display or the virtual keyboard. They've been around for a few years and supported in the kernel for a few releases. But in userspace, they events from those keys were ignored, casted out in the wild before eventually running out of electrons and succumbing to misery. Well, that's all changing now with a new interface being added to libinput to forward those events.

Step back a second and let's look at the tablet interfaces. We have one for tablet tools (styli) and one for tablet pads. In the latter, we have events for rings, strips and buttons. The latter are simply numerically ordered, so button 1 is simply button 1 with no special meaning. Anything more specific needs to be handled by the compositor/client side which is responsible for assigning e.g. keyboard shortcuts to those buttons.

The special keys however are different, they have a specific function indicated by the icon on the key itself. So libinput 1.15 adds a new event type for tablet pad keys. The events look quite similar to the button events but they have a linux/input-event-codes.h specific button code that indicates what they are. So the compositor can start the OSD, or control panel, or whatever directly without any further configuration required.

This interface hasn't been merged yet, it's waiting for the linux kernel 5.4 release which has a few kernel-level fixes for those keys.

libinput and button scrolling locks

For a few years now, libinput has provided button scrolling. Holding a designated button down and moving the device up/down or left/right creates the matching scroll events. We enable this behaviour by default on some devices (e.g. trackpoints) but it's available on mice and some other devices. Users can change the button that triggers it, e.g. assign it to the right button. There are of course a couple of special corner cases to make sure you can still click that button normally but as I said, all this has been available for quite some time now.

New in libinput 1.15 is the button lock feature. The button lock removes the need to hold the button down while scrolling. When the button lock is enabled, a single button click (i.e. press and release) of that button holds that button logically down for scrolling and any subsequent movement by the device is translated to scroll events. A second button click releases that button lock and the device goes back to normal movement. That's basically it, though there are some extra checks to make sure the button can still be used for normal clicking (you will need to double-click for a single logical click now though).

This is primarily an accessibility feature and is likely to find it's way into the GUI tools under the accessibility headers.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

libinput's bus factor is 1

A few weeks back, I was at XDC and gave a talk about various current and past input stack developments (well, a subset thereof anyway). One of the slides pointed out libinput's bus factor and I'll use this blog to make this a bit more widely known.

If you don't know what the bus factor is, Wikipedia defines it as:

The "bus factor" is the minimum number of team members that have to suddenly disappear from a project before the project stalls due to lack of knowledgeable or competent personnel.
libinput has a bus factor of 1.

Let's arbitrarily pick the 1.9.0 release (roughly 2 years ago) and look at the numbers: of the ~1200 commits since 1.9.0, just under 990 were done by me. In those 2 years we had 76 contributors in total, but only 24 of which have more than one commit and only 6 contributors have more than 5 commits. The numbers don't really change much even if we go all the way back to 1.0.0 in 2015. These numbers do not include the non-development work: release maintenance for new releases and point releases, reviewing CI failures [1], writing documentation (including the stuff on this blog), testing and bug triage. Right now, this is effectively all done by one person.

This is... less than ideal. At this point libinput is more-or-less the only input stack we have [2] and all major distributions rely on it. It drives mice, touchpads, tablets, keyboards, touchscreens, trackballs, etc. so basically everything except joysticks.

Anyway, I'm largely writing this blog post in the hope that someone gets motivated enough to dive into this. Right now, if you get 50 patches into libinput you get the coveted second-from-the-top spot, with all the fame and fortune that entails (i.e. little to none, but hey, underdogs are big in popular culture). Short of that, any help with building an actual community would be appreciated too.

Either way, lest it be said that no-one saw it coming, let's ring the alarm bells now before it's too late. Ding ding!

[1] Only as of a few days ago can we run the test suite as part of the CI infrastructure, thanks to Benjamin Tissoires. Previously it was run on my laptop and virtually nowhere else.
[2] fyi, xf86-input-evdev: 5 patches in the same timeframe, xf86-input-synaptics: 6 patches (but only 3 actual changes) so let's not pretend those drivers are well-maintained.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Unit-testing static functions in C

An annoying thing about C code is that there are plenty of functions that cannot be unit-tested by some external framework - specifically anything declared as static. Any larger code-base will end up with hundreds of those functions, many of which are short and reasonably self-contained but complex enough to not trust them by looks only. But since they're static I can't access them from the outside (and "outside" is defined as "not in the same file" here).

The approach I've chosen in the past is to move the more hairy ones into separate files or at least declare them normally. That works but is annoying for some cases, especially those that really only get called once. In case you're wondering whether you have at least one such function in your source tree: yes, the bit that parses your commandline arguments is almost certainly complicated and not tested.

Anyway, this week I've finally found the right combination of hacks to make testing static functions easy, and it's:

  • #include the source file in your test code.
  • Mock any helper functions you'd need to trick the called functions
  • Instruct the linker to ignore unresolved symbols
And boom, you can write test cases to only test a single file within your source tree. And without any modifications to the source code itself.

A more detailed writeup is available in this github repo.

For the impatient, the meson snippet for a fictional source file example.c would look like this:

test('test-example',
     executable('test-example',
                'example.c', 'test-example.c',
                dependencies: [dep_ext_library],
                link_args: ['-Wl,--unresolved-symbols=ignore-all',
                            '-Wl,-zmuldefs',
                            '-no-pie'],
                install: false),
)

There is no restriction on which test suite you can use. I've started adding a few of test cases based on this approach to libinput and so far it's working well. If you have a better approach or improvements, I'm all ears.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Tuhi - an application to support Wacom SmartPad devices

Sounds like déjà vu? Right, I posted a post with an almost identical title 18 months ago or so. This is about Tuhi 0.2, new and remodeled and completely different to that. Sort-of.

Tuhi is an application that supports the Wacom SmartPad devices - Bamboo Spark, Bamboo Slate, Bamboo Folio and Intuos Pro. The Bamboo range are digital notepads. They come with a real pen, you draw normally on the pad and use Bluetooth LE and Wacom's Inkspace application later to sync the files to disk. The Intuos Pro is the same but it's designed as a "normal" tablet with the paper mode available as well.

18 months ago, Benjamin Tissoires and I wrote Tuhi as a DBus session daemon. Tuhi would download the drawings from the file and make them available as JSON files over DBus to be converted to SVG or some other format by ... "clients". We wrote a simple commandline tool to debug Tuhi but no GUI, largely in the hope that maybe someone would be interested in doing that. Fast forward to now and that hasn't happened but I had some spare cycles over the last weeks so I present to you: Tuhi 0.2, now with a GTK GUI:

It's basic but also because it shouldn't do much more than just downloading the drawings and allowing you to save them. This is not an editing UI, it's effectively a file manager for the drawings on the tablet. And since by design those drawings get deleted as you download them, there isn't even much to that (don't worry, Tuhi doesn't really delete files, you can recover almost everything).

Under the hood there were some internal changes too but I suspect they'll be boring to most. The more interesting bits are reworks so we can test the conversions a lot better now and - worst case - recover files if Tuhi crashes. It is largely reverse-engineered after all.

On that note I would like to also extend my thanks to Wacom who have provided us with some of the specs for the protocol (under NDA, we cannot share these with the community, sorry). These specs helped tremendously understanding the protocol bits that were confusing at best and unknown at worst. There are still some corners in the protocol that we don't know but for the most recent generation (i.e. Intuos Pro) we should have correct parsing of the protocol.

And many thanks to Jakub Steiner for the fancy logo.

And, as of a few minutes ago, Tuhi is available as flatpak from flathub.org. For the forseeable future is is the best way to install Tuhi.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

libinput's new thumb detection code

The average user has approximately one thumb per hand. That thumb comes in handy for a number of touchpad interactions. For example, moving the cursor with the index finger and clicking a button with the thumb. On so-called Clickpads we don't have separate buttons though. The touchpad itself acts as a button and software decides whether it's a left, right, or middle click by counting fingers and/or finger locations. Hence the need for thumb detection, because you may have two fingers on the touchpad (usually right click) but if those are the index and thumb, then really, it's just a single finger click.

libinput has had some thumb detection since the early days when we were still hand-carving bits with stone tools. But it was quite simplistic, as the old documentation illustrates: two zones on the touchpad, a touch started in the lower zone was always a thumb. Where a touch started in the upper thumb area, a timeout and movement thresholds would decide whether it was a thumb. Internally, the thumb states were, Schrödinger-esque, "NO", "YES", and "MAYBE". On top of that, we also had speed-based thumb detection - where a finger was moving fast enough, a new touch would always default to being a thumb. On the grounds that you have no business dropping fingers in the middle of a fast interaction. Such a simplistic approach worked well enough for a bunch of use-cases but failed gloriously in other cases.

Thanks to Matt Mayfields' work, we now have a much more sophisticated thumb detection algorithm. The speed detection is still there but it better accounts for pinch gestures and two-finger scrolling. The exclusion zones are still there but less final about the state of the touch, a thumb can escape that "jail" and contribute to pointer motion where necessary. The new documentation has a bit of a general overview. A requirement for well-working thumb detection however is that your device has the required (device-specific) thresholds set up. So go over to the debugging thumb thresholds documentation and start figuring out your device's thresholds.

As usual, if you notice any issues with the new code please let us know, ideally before the 1.14 release.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

libinput and tablet proximity handling

This is merely an update on the current status quo, if you read this post in a year's time some of the details may have changed

libinput provides an API to handle graphics tablets, i.e. the tablets that are used by artists. The interface is based around tools, each of which can be in proximity at any time. "Proximity" simply means "in detectable range". libinput promises that any interaction is framed by a proximity in and proximity out event pair, but getting to this turned out to be complicated. libinput has seen a few changes recently here, so let's dig into those. Remember that proverb about seeing what goes into a sausage? Yeah, that.

In the kernel API, the proximity events for pens are the BTN_TOOL_PEN bit. If it's 1, we're in proximity, if it's 0, we're out of proximity. That's the theory.

Wacom tablets (or rather the kernel driver) always reset all axes on proximity out. So libinput needs to take care not to send a 0 value to the caller, lest you want a jump to the top left corner every time you move the pen away from the tablet. Some Wacom pens have serial numbers and we use those to uniquely identify a tool. But some devices start sending proximity and axis events before we get the serial numbers which means we can't identify the tool until several ms later. In that case we simply discard the serial. This means we cannot uniquely identify those pens but so far no-one has complained.

A bunch of tablets (HUION) don't have proximity at all. For those, we start getting events and then stop getting events, without any other information. So libinput has a timer - if we don't get events for a given time, we force a proximity out. Of course, this means we also need to force a proximity in when the next event comes in. These tablets are common enough that recently we just enabled the proximity timeout for all tablets. Easier than playing whack-a-mole, doubly so because HUION re-uses USD ids so you can't easily identify them anyway.

Some tablets (HP Spectre 13) have proximity but never send it. So they advertise the capability, just don't generate events for it. Same handling as the ones that don't have proximity at all.

Some tablets (HUION) have proximity, but only send it once per plug-in, after that it's always in proximity. Since libinput may start after the first pen interaction, this means we have to a) query the initial state of the device and b) force proximity in/out based on the timer, just like above.

Some tablets (Lenovo Flex 5) sometimes send proximity out events, but sometimes do not. So for those we have a timer and forced proximity events, but only when our last interaction didn't trigger a proximity event.

The Dell Active Pen always sends a proximity out event, but with a delay of ~200ms. That timeout is longer than the libinput timeout so we'll get a proximity out event, but only after we've already forced proximity out. We can just discard that event.

The Dell Canvas pen (identifies as "Wacom HID 4831 Pen") can have random delays of up to ~800ms in its event reporting. Which would trigger forced proximity out events in libinput. Luckily it always sends proximity out events, so we could quirk out to specifically disable the timer.

The HP Envy x360 sends a proximity in for the pen, followed by a proximity in from the eraser in the next event. This is still an unresolved issue at the time of writing.

That's the current state of things, I'm sure it'll change in a few months time again as more devices decide to be creative. They are artist's tools after all.

The lesson to take away here: all of the above are special cases that need to be implemented but this can only be done on demand. There's no way any one person can test every single device out there and testing by vendors is often nonexistent. So if you want your device to work, don't complain on some random forum, file a bug and help with debugging and testing instead.