Should "tracker" be rebranded?

Disclaimer: I am not a native speaker, maybe my perception of English words is skewed.

To me the word “tracker” in combination with computers has very negative connotations, be it browsers promising to do anything they can to “block trackers” or news about big tech secretly GPS tracking any device they can call home from. Thus, I always found it a bit odd that there is this process called “tracker” on GNU/Linux systems and I have witnessed other people being equally confused on their first encounter.

Of course an average user should never get in contact with the process name, but just like 'Task Manager" probably is a very popular app under Windows, Linux users will sometimes try to find out what is wrong with their system. And if they make their way to a process list, finding a “tracker” process might at least cause some confusion (especially should it be currently running and taking up lots of CPU cycles). Having another process called “tracker-miner” is not great either, if one knows of crypto mining.

I am curious if other people agree, so here is a poll. Feel free to put name suggestions in the comments.

Do you think “tracker” could use a different name?

  • Yes
  • No

0 voters

3 Likes

When I first started using GNOME, I was very bewildered when I saw the tracker and tracker-miner-fs processes running. I thought I somehow picked up a virus that apparently saw no need to hide its function. Thankfully a Google search let me know that it was a normal part of GNOME and nothing nefarious. Tracker could definitely use a different name so it’s not as alarming.

6 Likes

A few thoughts from one of the current Tracker maintainers…

The name “Tracker” and the term “miner” both date from 2006. If I were naming a desktop indexing tool today, I would avoid both those terms.

A full rename of a project is very expensive. Besides running sed through 2 codebases, you need to think about: distro packages, every app that consumes Tracker GIR namespace, website, Gitlab project, documentation links, IRC and discourse labels, etc. etc. Not to mention agreeing on a new name :slight_smile:

During the Tracker 3.0 cycle @garnacho suggested we rename “libtracker-sparql” to “sparqlite”. Of course we would need to run this past the SQLite developers first :slight_smile:

In terms of seeing a process named “tracker-miner-fs-3” in top, this a legitimate concern. My first response when I think “has my system been compromised??” is often to look in top and check for unfamiliar processes.

I wonder if we could change the argv[0] of tracker-miner-fs-3 to search indexer or some such thing, without requiring a significant investment of time to rename the whole project.

6 Likes

Seems like a good compromise to me. Tracker is a scary moniker in these times’ context, for sure.

1 Like

TOO FUNNY!

The first time “tracker” came to my attention, I immediately removed the application without even investigating its actual purpose.

For years, the first thing I did with a new OS install was remove tracker! A couple of years ago, I discovered tracker’s actual utility by pure accident.

Today, it is absolutely my favorite gnu/linux application. I love that it provides the facility to write more complex searches with tracker-sparql, which greatly enhances my ability to manage large numbers of files, especially my ridiculously large collection of audio and video.

1 Like

Hello Peter,

Thanks for starting this thread!

It made me think about my own ridiculous and rather irrational responses to the name “tracker” over the years. Just thinking about it makes me smile :slight_smile:

It’s like the dip in sales of Corona beer at the onset of the “Corona Virus” epidemic. Humans are smart enough to figure out important aspects of the utterly counter intuitive behavior of sub-atomic particles, we wouldn’t have computers fast enough to run tracker otherwise, yet even the smartest among us tend to have strangely irrational responses to things as trivial as a name. (See any of the many papers inspired by the research of Tversky, Kahneman, and Nash for some really fun, but dryly academic, studies of systemic irrationality in human behavior) “Branding” really should not matter, but it does!

A full rename of a project is very expensive.

No doubt! But worth it?

Wow, that is a really difficult question to ponder when I think about just how much influence things as trivial as a name seem to take on real importance in reality. I like the ARGV[0] idea, as it is relatively simple and at least addresses those users technically inclined enough to look at “top”, and even those who might have the where-with-all to click the “processes” tab in “System Monitor”.

But ultimately, it really is a matter of “branding”! And even though I hate to admit it, I do care.

While I genuinely believe that gnu/linux will never really appeal to users outside of it’s existing niche, it should try. And tracker is a very important part of this! WindoZe 11 is slick! The indexing has improved considerably. WindoZe 10 could not compete with Gnome and/or Cinnamon with tracker. WindoZe 11 makes both look primitive, unless one digs deeper and considers features such as tracker-sparql, which is utterly irrelevant to my football loving beer guzzling friends :). Just the kind of “new users” gnome has oversimplified itself trying to appeal to …

How important is a name? I really wish I knew … or could even make an educated guess about …

I do think that the name “tracker” is justified. When I first installed GNOME, I really liked being able to do full content search on my system. However, it caused some serious lagging to the shell back then, so I disabled it and had no use anymore for it. But the process kept running in background anyways, occasionally getting my attention in the system monitor.

If found it really hard to stop the miner process, and regularly saw that it somehow got started again. Uninstalling the package was difficult too, because a lot of packages are depending on it and the dependency is not always correctly marked as optional.

So before renaming tracker, maybe start by making sure it does not behave like one.

  • Give it a systemd service! There is nothing more fishy than a background daemon that isn’t managed by systemd. Also, I know I can trust disabled systemd services to stay off, unlike any custom mechanisms.
  • Make sure it is optional in all software projects that depend on it. Clearly state the dependency as an optional one, so that packagers don’t make it required by accident.

P.S.: I find KDE’s equivalent “baloo” equally offending. Bonus points for having two file system indexers running because half of the applications require the other one.
P.P.S.: My experience with this is not recent. I haven’t had any problems with it within the last year or so.

Tracker Miners had systemd services for 7 years. I take the rest of the comment is as well informed and up-to-date.

tracker is not optional: it’s required by nautilus, gnome-photos, gnome-music, gnome-boxes, rygel, and grilo-plugins.

1 Like

To be fair, that commit did not make it into a Debian release until Stretch in 2017, 5 years ago. I’m getting old …