GUI test automation and assistive technology (such as screen readers) share some common needs. While UI Automation is named after the former, AT-SPI is named after the later. AT-SPI, which stands for "Assistive Technology Service Provider Interface" -- this is the first of lengthy acronyms that will appear in this post -- is an accessibility standard for Unix/X world. Initially developed by the GNOME project, now it is also supported by Java, Mozilla, OpenOffice.org, and Qt 4.
While Microsoft-Novell interoperability agreement announced an intention to implement UI Automation on Linux (see above Wikipedia links for details), that's not available today on my Debian GNU/Linux desktop. So I looked for a way to use AT-SPI from IronPython on Mono.
First thing I did was to install at-spi package from the Debian repository. That was obvious... Less obvious was how to use it after installation, especially because I am not using GNOME desktop (I am an IceWM user). After some search, I added following two lines to my .xsession.
Now AT-SPI has an accessibility broker which clients talk to, and it talks CORBA. CORBA, which stands for (I warned you) "Common Object Request Broker Architecture", is like a big brother of IPC mechanisms. CORBA has been around for a long time, and while it is sometimes accused of bloat, its bloat is nothing compared to certain XML-based "Simple" Object Access Protocol.
So how does one use CORBA from Mono? A little search found a nice project named IIOP.NET, which "allows a seamless interoperation between .NET, CORBA and J2EE distributed objects." Cool. This project even has a support table for Mono on its status page! The download page mentions both binary and source release, but I couldn't find the binary release. No problem. Download the source release, unzip, and run "make -f Makefile.mono". Note that Makefile is for nmake, a Microsoft dialect of make, which is not compatible with GNU make. The build finished with no problem.
Bah, this is getting too long. Let's continue on the next post.