Haven’t you ever wanted to have an open source artificial intelligence assistant like some companies provide on their phones/desktops or even at your home but without the privacy concerns? In July last year, during Akademy 2017, I saw a great presentation of Mycroft and the Mycroft plasmoid, done by Aditya Mehra. Mycroft can understand and answer questions the user speaks on the microphone and can also perform actions the user requests. I inmediately knew I wanted that in openSUSE. You can watch the conference in the next video to see what I mean:
Unfortunately, I saw Mycroft had a lot of dependencies and an unorthodox install system, so I didn’t do much with it, but then November came and we had a hackweek at SUSE (in few words, it’s a week SUSE developers can use to work on personal projects). So I started this project to package all Mycroft dependencies along with Mycroft itself and the Mycroft plasmoid as well as to modify Mycroft to integrate in a regular Linux system. Since then, I’ve been using some of my free time to update the packages and the result is that now Mycroft can be easily installed on openSUSE Tumbleweed with a couple of commands and following standard procedures.
I’ll give the installation instructions below, but first of all, let me give some clarifications:
- Mycroft has many dependencies, including over 50 python packages, many of which are not on Tumbleweed repositories yet (as of 2018-03-06). This is just a matter of time, but in the meantime you’ll have to add a couple of development repositories.
- If you’re using openSUSE Leap 42.3, then I’m afraid Mycroft can’t be installed there. The good news is that once Leap 15 is released, you’ll want to revisit this blog as there’ll surely be better news by then.
- Mycroft developers have been nice to accept a patch I sent them to allow it to be installed on standard distribution directories. I think it would be nice if they used those also on their Mycroft platforms, but of course, that’s their call. Also, by default, it seems Mycroft was always thought to run on virtualenvs and that’s not a recommended way to package something for a regular Linux distribution, so the packages are patched to make Mycroft use the system python packages (more on this on the Changes section below which I strongly recommend reading before installing the packages).
First, you have to add the
devel:languages:python repository to zypper, which contains development python packages that haven’t been accepted (yet) into Tumbleweed:
sudo zypper ar -f https://download.opensuse.org/repositories/devel:/languages:/python/openSUSE_Tumbleweed/devel:languages:python.repo
Then, you have to add the repository of the OBS project I use to release usable packages that are for any reason not yet in the official distribution repositories:
sudo zypper ar -f https://download.opensuse.org/repositories/home:/alarrosa:/packages/openSUSE_Tumbleweed/home:alarrosa:packages.repo
Note that both commands above are just one long line each.
Now, you can install the mycroft-core and plasma-mycroft packages, which should pull in all their dependencies:
sudo zypper in mycroft-core plasma-mycroft
It will request you to trust the added repositories keys. On a clean Tumbleweed system the command installs 160 packages and after it finishes, you can add the Mycroft plasmoid to the plasma desktop.
Once installed, you can use the plasmoid to start the Mycroft services, ask something (in the example below, I said on the microphone “Hey Mycroft, what is 2 + 2 ?”) and stop Mycroft.
But before using Mycroft you have to pair it. The first time you start it, it will give you a code composed of 6 alphanumeric characters. Go to home.mycroft.ai, create a free account and register your “device” by entering the code.
And that’s all! You should now be able to use Mycroft on your system and maybe even install new skills. A skill is a module that add a certain capability to Mycroft (for example, if you add the plasma-user-control-skill, Mycroft will understand you when you say “Hey Mycroft, lock the screen” and lock the screen as you requested). Skills can be listed/installed/removed using the plasmoid or the msm commandline application.
In any case, please note this is still work in progress and some features may not work well. Also, I made some changes to mycroft-core code and plasma-mycroft in order to install it in a Linux system and allow it to work without a python virtual environment, so this might break stuff too. Please, don’t blame the Mycroft developers for issues you find with these packages and if you report any issue, I think it’s better to mention it first in the comments section in this post before submitting a bug report to github.com/MycroftAI and bothering them with problems that might not be their fault.
Changes with respect to the upstream version
What did I change with respect to the code provided by Mycroft developers? Well, first, I included some upstream patches to make mycroft-core use python3 and installed it like any other python3 application in /usr/lib/python3.6/site-packages/ . That way we’re also helping the Mycroft developers with the planned upgrade to python3 by testing early.
I also changed the way Mycroft is started so it feels more natural on a Linux desktop. For this, I created some systemd units based on the ones done for ArchLinux. The idea is that there’s a user systemd target called mycroft.target that runs 4 systemd user services when run (mycroft-bus, mycroft-skills, mycroft-audio and mycroft-voice). Of course, it also stops them when the target is stopped. This is all hidden to the user, who can just start/stop Mycroft turning a switch in the plasmoid.
On a regular Mycroft installation, the configuration file is in /etc/mycroft.conf and the skills are installed to /opt/mycroft/skills, but on a regular system a regular user can’t modify those files/directories, so I moved them to ~/.mycroft/mycroft.conf and ~/.mycroft/skills and changed mycroft to prefer those locations. You can have a look at the Mycroft documentation to see what parameters you can set in your mycroft.conf file.
When installing a skill, in a regular Mycroft installation, msm invokes pip to install the required python modules on the virtual environment. Since we’re not using virtual environments I’m just logging the required python modules to ~/.mycroft/mycroft-python-modules.log . So you if you think a skill might be misbehaving or not being properly loaded you should first check that file to see if there’s a missing python module requirement which should be installed in the system using zypper. I plan to make this automatic in the future, but for now, you’ll have to check manually.
I also added changes to other packages. For example, the duckduckgo2 python module is not prepared to work with python3, so I ported it. The same happens with the aiml python module, which seems to be abandoned since 2014 and only works with python2. Fortunately, in this case there’s a python-aiml fork, which adds support for python3 and other improvements, so I made mycroft use that one instead.
Some example commands
This is a small list of questions and commands you might like to try:
Hey Mycroft …
- What is 2 + 2?
- What is 21% of 314?
- What is the capital of Spain?
- When was Alan Parsons born?
- How high is the Eiffel Tower?
- Search the web for ethernet cables
- Set an alarm in 5 minutes (after the alarm is triggered, you can say “Hey Mycroft, stop alarm” to stop it)
- Remind me to watch the oven in 3 minutes (after the reminder is triggered, say “Hey Mycroft, stop reminder” to stop it)
- Tell me a joke
- Tell me about the Solar System
- Play the news (when you want it to stop, just say “Hey Mycroft, stop”)
- Open Dolphin
- Close Firefox
- Decrease volume
- Show Activities
- What time is it?
- What’s the weather like?
- Will it rain?
- Type this is a test (it will write “this is a test” on your current window as if you used the keyboard)
After you play a bit with it and test the basic functionality works, you might want to configure Mycroft for your settings. I recommend to at least open the ~/.mycroft/mycroft.conf file and change the example location settings to your city, your coordinates (look for your city on Wikipedia and press on the coordinates in the right side box to see your city coordinates in decimal notation) and your timezone (the “offset” value is your timezone difference with respect to GMT in milliseconds and “dstOffset” is the daylight saving time offset which is usually AFAIK, generally 1 hour).
When changing the configuration file, be extremely careful and don’t leave any blank line nor introduce any comment, since currently the json parser is very sensitive to syntax errors (fortunately, you’ll see clear errors in the logs if there’s any). In any case, be sure to have a backup config file, just in case.
- The first time you start the Mycroft systemd services it will download the 31 default skills which can take long (up to a couple of minutes). So if you start Mycroft from the plasmoid, the first time you do it, the plasmoid will timeout and report a “Connection Error”. Please just wait a couple of minutes, stop Mycroft from the plasmoid and start it again.
- Sometimes, the plasmoid seems to have trouble remembering its settings, so if you have trouble starting/stopping the services through the UI, go to the “Settings tab” and change “Your Mycroft core installation path” to “Default Path” and then back to “Installed using Mycroft Package” again (just clicking on one and then the other is enough).
- Some skills don’t support python3 out of the box yet. This is really troubling since some of those failing are installed by default . I sent pull requests to fix 5 skills (fallback-wolfram-alpha, skill-reminder, skill-desktop-launcher, skill-youtube-play and mycroft-youtube) but they haven’t been merged yet, so I’ve distributed the patches to support python3 within the packages and added support to msm to apply local patches after a skill is installed. Since msm also updates the skills from their git repositories, I made it reverse-apply the patches before any update and apply them again afterwards. This should allow to receive upstream patches from the skill developers and let them have preference over my patches. I’ve also fixed skill-autogui and fallback-duckduckgo to work with python3, but didn’t submit the changes to their corresponding upstreams yet.
- If you find any other skill is failing, you can check with
journalctl --user --since "1 hour ago"the journals and see if the skill is generating any exception. Also, having a look at ~/.mycroft/mycroft-python-modules.log might be a good idea to check if those python packages are installed in the system (note that the openSUSE python packaging guidelines state that the python3 package for a module must be called python3-<modulename> so it should be easy to check manually)
- Mycroft is creating files under /tmp without proper permissions. This can be allowed on a device like the
Mycroft Mark 1 or Mark II, but is a security concern on a generic Linux system. I hope to get some time in the next days/weeks to work on this.
- When installing a skill (using the ui or the msm application) sometimes it doesn’t show up as “installed” but it is. Check the contents of your ~/.mycroft/skills directory to see exactly what is installed.
I have many plans for these packages. For example, I’d like to submit to upstream all changes I’ve done since I think those will be useful for other distributions too and to help get it to work with python3 as soon as possible. As mentioned before, I’d also like to make a pip/zypper integration tool so skills requirements can be installed automatically in the system and I’d like to add a skill to Mycroft to integrate it with one application I’m developing (more on this in future posts 🙂 ) . If nobody does it first, it would be great to add Spanish support now that it seems support for languages other than English is being added.
Btw, Mycroft developers are adding support for the Mozilla open source voice recognition framework, so you might consider collaborating with The Common Voice project to help it grow and mature.
Before ending, I’d like to thank all the python openSUSE packagers (specially Tomáš Chvátal) for carefully, patiently and quickly reviewing python package submissions for over 50 new packages required by mycroft-core and of course, the Mycroft developers and Aditya Mehra (the plasma-mycroft developer), who are doing a great job.