Monthly Archives: December 2012

Announcing Fitbit Accomplishments for the Ubuntu Accomplishments System!

For my birthday in October, I received a Fitbit One. The reason that I wanted it is that I thought with better data tracking I could push myself to be more active during the day. The Fitbit One is a “fitness tracker”, essentially a technologically enhanced pedometer, that can also measure elevation gain (steps climbed they call it), and even track your sleep patterns. The device, which is slightly larger than a large paperclip, syncs wirelessly  to iPhones or to a computer. It uploads all your statistics to, which provides a cool dashboard which you can use to track your steps, floors climbed, calories burned, etc. Here’s my dashboard from yesterday:

My Fitbit dashboard from yesterday

Like most geeks, I love data, and nice charts and graphs too, so I’ve really enjoyed the dashboard. I’ve also found that the maxim, “What gets measured gets done” really applies here. Two nights ago at 11:30PM, I noticed I was 300 steps short of 10000 steps, so I made sure to walk around while brushing my teeth, took the trash out, and generally wandered until I got past 10000 steps. That was only 300 steps, but I’ve also found myself walking the dog more, walking to the library more, etc.

So what does this have to do with Ubuntu? Well you can see at the bottom of that dashboard that Fitbit gives “badges”, which Chris Wayne thought would be a perfect fit for the Ubuntu Accomplishments system.  So Chris hacked all weekend and created an online account plugin for Fitbit. On Monday we hooked the oauth account created by Chris’s plugin into Fitbit’s web API and now we had Fitbit accomplishments!

Badges I can earn

My Trophies

You need a Fitbit to use it, and if you buy one, use this link so that Chris and I can support our daily beer and daily steps habits. The same link is also in the collection itself.


Note: That this requires Quantal or Raring because it uses Online Accounts. The raring build broke for some reason earlier but it should be ready an hour from the time this posts.

Installing is easy, although if you don’t already have Ubuntu Accomplishments installed it’s a two step process.

First, install Ubuntu Accomplishments if you’ve not already done so:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-accomplishments/releases
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install accomplishments-daemon accomplishments-viewer ubuntu-community-accomplishments ubuntu-desktop-accomplishments accomplishments-lens

Then install the Fitbit Accomplishments collection:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:fitbit-accomplishment-maintainers/daily
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install account-plugin-fitbit ubuntu-fitbit-accomplishments

If you’re already running Ubuntu Accomplishments, you’ll need to close the viewer and restart the Accomplishments Daemon to get the new collection to show up.  You can restart the daemon by doing accomplishments-daemon –restart.  A simple logout/login will also work.

The first accomplishment you need to get is connecting to your Fitbit account. Chris also wrote a post with some screenshots if you get stuck.

You need to setup your Fitbit Online Account before you can get any Fitbit badges, follow the steps in the Accomplishment to do so.

Follow the directions in the accomplishment to set this up. Once you do that, the other fitbit accomplishments will unlock in a logical progression as you achieve things (for example, the 10000 steps in a day accomplishment requires you to complete the 5000 steps in a day accomplishment first).

Note that Fitbit admits that the Badge API is still new and there are some quirks, for example, Fitbit provides badges for 50 and 250 lifetime kilometers, but for lifetime miles, they offer 50, 250, 1000, and 5000. Also some badges are transparent, some are not, which I know we could fix, but I haven’t had time yet. As this API improved and is expanded, we’ll add more accomplishments, or better yet, you can add more by sending us a merge proposal (the code is here).


Fitbit accomplishments, like walking 10000 steps in a day, obviously have nothing to do with Ubuntu, but this collection highlights the flexibility of the Ubuntu Accomplishments system. Anything that can be tested via script can be an accomplishment. I’m sure there are lots of other websites that people use that could be added as collections like this one. If you’re interested and you need help setting one up, you can find me (mfisch) in #ubuntu-accomplishments on Freenode.

About the Accomplishments Code

The code for checking these accomplishments in the accomplishments scripts is very very simple:

    badgeid = "10000 DAILY_STEPS"
    me = FitBit.fetch(None)
    if badgeid in me.badges:

This is because all the hard logic is in, which provides the FitBit class and handles caching for us. Since the way accomplishments work is that each accomplishment has a script associated with it, we want to cache the info so that we don’t hammer the Fitbit web API once per script every 15 minutes (all unlocked accomplishments are checked every 15 minutes). The caching solution in, was copied from the model used by AskUbuntu and Launchpad in the Ubuntu Community Accomplishments package. also is how we interact with the Online Accounts plugin and Fitbit’s web API, so if you want to see the “interesting code”, look there.

Note: Expect a follow-up blog post from Chris Wayne on how to write an online accounts plugin in the next couple of weeks.

Help Needed

If you live outside of the US and you have a Fitbit and are willing to help, I need some assistance to see what happens if the Fitbit API returns localized Badge info. I also need to see if what it looks like when you get a badge marked in Kilometers. I don’t think I get these because of where I live (the US). Drop me an email to matt@<this_domain>.com if you can assist or find me in #ubuntu-accomplishments on freenode, I’m mfisch. I think I’ll only need a few minutes of your time.

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Understanding lightdm.conf

Based on the questions I’ve seen on AskUbuntu, lightdm.conf is one of the most misunderstood files on your system. So, I decided I’d write a post on how you can easily modify this file and what the modification are useful for. I hope to show how to modify the most asked about settings.

Safely Modifying lightdm.conf

Before you do anything to your lightdm.conf file, you should make a backup, simply run:

sudo cp /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.old

Once you’ve made a backup, the simplest and safest way to modify lightdm.conf is to use lightdm-set-defaults. lightdm-set-defaults was written so that lightdm.conf could be modified via script, but you can also use it to easily make changes. I’ve made several changes to this tool to add new features that I needed, and best of all, I even wrote a manpage for it, which should show up in raring at some point. If you’re not using raring, then just run /usr/lib/lightdm/lightdm-set-defaults with no arguments and you’ll get a clear picture on what it can do.

lightdm-set-defaults [OPTION...] - set lightdm default values

Help Options:
-h, --help Show help options

Application Options:
-d, --debug Enable debugging
-k, --keep-old Only update if no default already set
-r, --remove Remove default value if it's the current one
-s, --session Set default session
-g, --greeter Set default greeter
-a, --autologin Set autologin user
-i, --hide-users Set greeter-hide-users to true or false
-m, --show-manual-login Set show-manual-login to true or false
-R, --show-remote-login Set show-remote-login to true or false
-l, --allow-guest Set allow-guest to true or false

You can also edit the file manually, but in either case, manual edit or set-defaults, you’ll need to use sudo. And now that you know how to modify the file, let’s cover what the most frequently asked about items are.

Disabling Guest Login

Some people really get annoyed by guest login, so if you want to disable it, simply use:

sudo /usr/lib/lightdm/lightdm-set-defaults --allow-guest false

Or, you can manually add the following line in the [SeatDefaults] section:


The default for this option is true, so if unset, the guest account will be enabled.  Note: See how great the command option for lightdm-set-defaults was named? Whoever added that was a genius.

Hiding the User List

If you don’t want a user list to be displayed by the greeter, you can enable this option. This should also be used with the enabling manual login (below) or logging in may be a challenge (actually I’ve never tried one without the other, I’m not sure what will happen).

sudo /usr/lib/lightdm/lightdm-set-defaults --hide-users true

Or, you can manually add the following line in the [SeatDefaults] section:


The default for this option is false, so if unset, you will get a user list in the greeter.

Show Manual Login Box

If you previously hid your user list and would like a box where you can manually type in a user name then this option is for you.

sudo /usr/lib/lightdm/lightdm-set-defaults --show-manual-login true

Or, you can manually add the following line in the [SeatDefaults] section:


The default for this option is false, so if unset, you won’t get a manual login box.


You can enable autologin by specifying the autologin user.

sudo /usr/lib/lightdm/lightdm-set-defaults --autologin username

Or, you can manually add the following line in the [SeatDefaults] section:


There are other autologin related options which you may want to set, but none of these can be set using lightdm-set-defaults:

To change how long the greeter will delay before starting autologin.  If not set, the delay is 0, so if you want this to be 0, you don’t need to change it.  Note: the default for all unset integers in the [SeatDefaults] section is 0.


To enable autologin of the guest account:


Run a Command When X Starts, When The Greeter Starts, When the User Session Starts

When lightdm starts X you can run a command or script, like xset perhaps.


You can do something similar when the greeter starts:


or when the user session starts:


Change the Default Session

If you want a different session for the default, you can modify this option. I think that the greeter will default to give you the last session you chose, so this option will only change the default session. Note: The session switcher will only show up if you have more than one VALID session; a valid session is one that points to a valid executable. By default in 12.10 you will have a session file for gnome-shell, but gnome-shell won’t be installed, so the session is invalid, leaving you with a single valid session (Ubuntu), and hence no session selector!

/usr/lib/lightdm/lightdm-set-defaults --session [session name]

Or, you can manually add the following line in the [SeatDefaults] section:


The list of user sessions is in /usr/share/xsessions, although even that location is configurable (see Advanced Options).

You can change the default greeter in the same manner, using –greeter for lightdm-set-defaults or greeter-session for the config file. The list of installed greeters is in /usr/share/xgreeters.

Advanced Options and All Other Options

There is no manpage for lighdm.conf, but there is an example that lists all the options and a bit about what they do, just look in /usr/share/doc/lightdm/lightdm.conf.gz.  If you use vim, you can just edit the file and it will be automagically ungzipped for you, users of other editors are on their own.

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Stock Quotes Lens, Now with Preview

Several months ago, I wrote a stock quote lens using Michael Hall‘s Singlet. After installing Quantal in September, I started playing with the preview feature in lenses and I really liked it, so I got motivated to add it to my lens. Turns out, it’s super easy. During the process, I also added real charts for the preview icons and fixed a bug when displaying news stories (they were missing the publication date).

First a quick look at the new graphs and previews, then I’ll go over the code.

Real charts with the quotes

The preview mode offers two buttons for stock quotes, the first one “More Info” takes you to the standard stock quote page. The second one, Interactive Chart, takes you to a large interactive stock chart, both at Yahoo Finance.

Preview with two actions


If you want to install the new version with quotes, you need version 0.6 or later. You can get them from the Scopes Packagers PPA, I’ve uploaded versions for Precise, Quantal, and Raring.

Now, let’s look at the code, you can find it here, or just branch it with: bzr branch lp:~mfisch/onehundredscopes/unity-stock-ticker-lens.  The relevant changes are in revision 11, look at the preview function in the scope code (yahoostock-scope). I’ve simplified what’s in my code some to make it easier to follow:

def preview(self, result_item, result_model):
   preview =['title'], result_item['description'], None)
   preview.props.image_source_uri = ';lang=en-US&amp;region=US&amp;width=380&amp;height=380' % result_item['title']
   open_chart ="open_chart", "Interactive Chart", None)
   open_chart.connect('activated', self.open_chart)
   return preview

The first two lines setup the preview, the first one sets the large font title and the smaller font text. The second line sets the large preview image. The open_chart lines define an action, which becomes a button in the UI. The button text is “Interactive Chart” and the button action is a function called open_chart. The open_chart function (not listed, but available in the bzr branch munges the inbound URL some and then opens a webbrowser to the Yahoo interactive chart page.

And that’s it!  Very simple! I had this up and running in about 30 minutes, while watching The Pacific on TV,

You can read more about previews in Singlet 0.3 in Michael Hall’s blog post about it. Special thanks to Chris Wayne for his git hub lens which was inspiration for these changes. You can look at Chris’s code for some other examples, his may be easier to follow than mine.

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