TDE session manager (ksmserver)
Matthias Ettrich <email@example.com>
Lubos Lunak <firstname.lastname@example.org>
ksmserver is TDE's new session management server. It talks the
standard X11R6 session management protocol (XSMP). Thus, in theory,
it should be compatible with all session managment compliant X11R6
applications. Unfortunately, there aren't that many of them. To be
precise, I have never seen a single commercial application that
supports it and even within the official X11R6 distribution, 'xclock'
is the only exception. Nevertheless we've chosen to support XSMP
despites the complexity of the protocol in order to provide TDE users
more interoperability with applications that were not explicitely
written with TDE in mind. XSMP, as an official X standard, promised to
be more likely to be supported by third parties than even a superior
TDE-specific protocol. Let's see whether we were right and more
applications will actually talk XSMP. At least all TDE applications do
Here's a short overview on how session management works.
Starting the server
The server is usually started from the 'starttde' script. It supports the following options:
-r, --restore Restores the previous session if available
-w, --windowmanager <wm> Starts 'wm' in case no other window manager is
participating in the session. Default is 'twin'
The default 'starttde' launches 'ksmserver --restore'. The
'windowmanager' option is useful for users that prefer a window
manager other than twin. Since the window manager has to participate
in the session (it has to remember window positions and states), it is
usually restarted when the session is restored. To be *really* sure
that this happens, even if the wm might have crashed during the
previous session, ksmserver ensures that. The option specifies, which
windowmanager shall be launched for sure. But again: if the stored
session contains a window manager, the restored one will be used, not
the specified one. As a special feature, ksmserver always starts the
specified window manager first, which results in a much nicer startup
sequence (less flashy).
TDE startup sequence
Ksmserver controls the second part of the TDE startup sequence,
after it gets control from the starttde script, which controls
the first part of the startup sequence. All code related to startup
should be in startup.cpp and going down in that source file should
follow the startup order (but note that this is just a documentation
which may get outdated, so in case of doubts the source wins ;) ).
The starttde scripts already launches tdeinit, which in turns launches
TDE daemons like dcopserver, klauncher and kded. Kded loads autoloaded
kded modules, i.e. those that have X-TDE-Kded-autoload=true in .desktop
files. The exact way autoloading works is controlled by X-TDE-Kded-phase=,
which may be 0, 1 or 2 (the default). Kded phase 0 means the module is
always loaded by kded, even outside of TDE session. It should used only
by kded modules which must be always running. Kded phase 1 modules are
loaded right after kded startup, but only during TDE startup, i.e. it is
for modules that are always needed by the TDE session. Phase 2 modules
will be loaded later.
Startkde also launches kcminit, which performs initialization done by kcontrol
modules. There are three kcminit phases, 0, 1 and 2, controlled
by X-TDE-Init-Phase= in the .desktop file, which defaults to 1. Phase 0 kcminit
modules should be only those that really need to be run early in the startup
process (and those should probably actually use kstartupconfig in starttde
to be done even before tdeinit and daemons). After executing phase 0
modules kcminit returns and waits.
When ksmserver is launched, the first thing it does is launching
the window manager, as the WM is necessary before any windows are possibly
shown. When the WM is ready, ksmserver tells klauncher to perform autostart
phase 0 ($TDEHOME/share/autostart). There are 3 autostart phases, 0, 1 and 2,
defined by X-TDE-autostart-phase, defaulting to 2. Phase 0 is reserved only
for the actual visible base components of TDE, i.e. KDesktop and Kicker,
in order to make the startup appear visually faster. Both KDesktop and Kicker
use DCOP calls suspendStartup() and resumeStartup() to make ksmserver stay
waiting for autostart phase 0 until both KDesktop and Kicker are ready.
Next step is telling the waiting kcminit to perform phase 1 - all kcminit
modules that should be executed before TDE startup is considered done.
After that ksmserver tells klauncher to perform autostart phase 1,
i.e. launching normal components of TDE that should be available right
after TDE startup, and after this session restore is performed,
i.e. launching all applications that were running during last session
saving (usually logout).
By this time TDE session is considered to be more or less ready and
ksmserver does the knotify starttde event (i.e. plays the login sound).
It also tells klauncher to perform autostart phase 2, kded to load all
remaining autoload (i.e. kded phase 2) modules, kcminit to execute
kcminit phase 2 (kcontrol modules that do initialization that can wait,
like launching daemons) and kdesktop to execute the user Autostart folder.
Technical note: There's a reason why kded modules and items in autostart
default to the latest phase. Before you explicitly use a different phase,
read and understand what's above. You should also consider whether something
really needs to be launched during TDE startup and can't be loaded on-demand
when really needed. Abusing the phases will result in public spanking
for making TDE startup slower.
Establishing the connection
As required by the XSMP specification, the session management server
propagates its network address in the SESSION_MANAGER environment
variable. Probably not the best way to do it, but it's the way it
is. All TDE (and plain Qt) applications simply read this variable and
try to establish a connection to an XSMP server at this address. If
the variable is undefined, nothing happens.
This means, if you want to start a program that should not participate
in the session, simply undefine SESSION_MANAGER in your terminal
window and launch the application. If you want to see an application
desparately trying to connect to something, try setting it to some
In addition, ksmserver propagates both its network address and its
process id in ~/.kde/socket-$HOSTNAME/KSMserver-$DISPLAY. A
utility function KApplication::propagateSessionManager() reads this
setting and sets SESSION_MANAGER accordingly, so that child processes
can pick it up. The function is called by clients that are started
outside the session ( i.e. before ksmserver is started), but want to
launch other processes that should participate in the session.
Examples are kdesktop or kicker, see below.
XSMP is, just like DCOP, built on top of the Inter Client Exchange
(ICE) protocol, which comes standard as a part of X11R6 and later.
Authorization is done using 'iceauth', with MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE as used
by X. In order to be able to access the session management server, you
need to be able to read ~/.ICEauthority. For security reasons, we do
not provide any host-based authorization (neither does DCOP, btw.).
Requesting a shutdown
If an application wants to request a shutdown (i.e. a logout), it does
this via an SmcRequestSaveYourself message to the server. In TDE, a
utility function KApplication::requestShutDown() does exactly
this. It's for example called by TDE's panel or by the context menu of
ksmserver has a very straight-forward user interface. It mainly asks
the question "Shutdown TDE Session?" and provides two obvious command
buttons "Yes" and "Cancel". The interesting bit is the additonal
checkbox that says "Restore session when logging in next time". The
checkbox remembers state within session, so simply use whatever you
prefer. For those who remember, this was one of the main questions
with TDE-1.x ("How to get rid of session managment?"). With TDE-2.x,
most users will probably prepare a session once, store it with the
checkbox enabled and keep the checkbox disabled in the future. This
way you get a proper and clean 'homesession' each time.
If you experience trouble like 'logout does not work anymore' or 'I
cannot start new applications', as a result of a previous crash,
ensure that ksmserver is indeed not running anymore and remove the
file ~/.kde/socket-$HOSTNAME/KSMserver-$DISPLAY. Shouldn't be necessry,
but one never knows.