In this fairly long article I discuss my attempt to simplify file and device management in KDE, while avoiding some of the draw backs of the current media:/ io-slave.
About a year ago I expressed concern about all of the extra io-slaves that have appeared in KDE. The intention of the new slaves was very important (e.g. better file and media management) but the implementation could be better, IMO. The problem as I saw it is that wholesale replacing the unix file system heirachy with a new but incompatible heirachy (e.g. system:/) comes at a price which is too high. The user gets a usable heirachy for dealing with files, but this heirachy doesn't work in non-KDE applications. Give a system:/ URL to apache or gedit for example, and they will give you an error message.
It could be argued that the file heirachy is an implementation detail. But unlike implementation details like tracks and sectors on disk, the file heirachy is also the language that programs *and* users use when talking about the location of data stored on disk. It is not a detail that can be easily concealed.
This "problem" has been hanging around in the back of my brain ever since. In the last week or so the urge became too great and I had to see what really could be done about it. It is easy to guess and talk about what should be done to improve usability in an aspect of KDE, but guess-work is not the same as having a prototype in front of you that you can try out. Time to warm up that compiler.
Put simply, the goal of this investigation is to try to answer the question:
"What can we do today to make file management more usable in KDE while at the same time preserving integration with other non-KDE applications?"
First what everyone wants to know first, the results, and then late a technical explaination.
This is in a nutshell what I was able to come up with after a few evenings working, configuring and patching my "test" installation. It is our old friend konqueror operating as a file manager showing my hard disk. Things to notice:
This setup integrates the functionality of media:/ into konqueror's view of the file system, only shows the directories that the user is interested while still maintaining compatibility with existing software.
Everything that is hidden here can be shown using the "Show Hidden Files" menu item in Konqueror by the way.
What I did (technical)
There are quite a few things going on to get this result.
I'm rather happy with the result and I'll probably set this up on my "real" machine. It makes it possible to vastly simpilify file management in Konqueror. Using only one hierarchy you can easily get to your home directory, other hard drives, removable media and the standand unix filesystem itself if you want to.
Complexity and an overabundance of things and buttons and options is a common criticism of KDE. And I feel that this can help combat the problem.
Here are the patches that I'm using:
kdelibs (3.5.4) - http://www.simonzone.com/software/kdelibs_file_cc.diff