Gmail, Conky, and libnotify

Several years ago I discovered a fantastic system monitor named conky. Over the years I've been tweaking my .conkyrc and it has really evolved into a little command center all on it's own. However, I read my e-mail through a mutt, and thus to check it I have to open mutt and look and see if I have any new mail. This is often obnoxious, because I'll either forget to check and miss something until later, or I'll check a lot and not get any e-mail. Today it occurred to me "hey, computers are good at repetitive tasks!", so I decided to automatically check my e-mail and render the results in conky. I also have heard lots of noise about libnotify, and how wonderful it is, so I decided to use that as well. The result is a script which checks a user's Gmail (using a password stored in a keyring), updates conky, and shows a libnotify notification if necessary. It also supports querying of arbitrary Gmail labels, allowing you to display unread counts for other e-mail addresses you might possibly have mapped to your Gmail account.

You can get your own copy to play around with if you like. It's fairly well documented, but I'll answer any questions anyone has. The dependencies (at least on Ubuntu) are python-notify python-keyring and your favorite of: python-keyring-gnome or python-keyring-kwallet.

I've released it under a beerware style license, in hopes that someone, somewhere, might find it useful. Feedback is appreciated!

Gmail Atom Feed Authentication

Perhaps the most complicated part of the application in my recent post was the authentication with Gmail. Although my final method boils down to only a few lines of python, Google describes several different ways to authenticate (additionally, putting the username and password directly in the URL). I didn't like any of these options, as some seemed much too complicated for what I wanted to do, some didn't work, and some were too insecure. However, it turns out that the atom feed supports HTTP's basic access authentication. In python, this is fairly easy to do:

$ python
>>> import urllib2, base64
>>> username = ""; password = "secret"
>>> url = ""
>>> req = urllib2.Request(url)
>>> authstr = base64.encodestring("%s:%s" % (username, password))[:-1]
>>> req.add_header("Authorization", "Basic " + authstr)
>>> urllib2.urlopen(req).read()

Note that the above also works for Google apps users you just have to stick "/a/" in the appropriate spot in the URL. Hopefully this will help out someone else who is hopelessly bashing Google's servers with failed login attempts ;-)