Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Tinkering with the Tin man's heart
You know one of the things that always gets to me is that the folks who design things for the rest of us to use tend to make design concessions on things that matter. I had a '74' Gremlin hatchback and the headlight burnt out. The headlight assembly had screws with five different heads. Should I replace the headlight or the car or trace all over the city to find five different screw drivers? Having been a Linux user for a while, I recognize radical departures when I see it and this new KDE 4.0+ is a change. Ubuntu has this thing about normal user and superuser privileges. In traditional Unix or Linux, you would make two accounts, one for the root or superuser and then a normal user account. The idea was always with security in mind. The root account was for doing administrative tasks on your system, the normal user was for doing regular work. When you are the only user on a computer, do you really need these two accounts? There are schools of thought of course. So, distro developers have devised a way to be a normal user yet invoke superuser privileges. The "sudo" command is always talked about with a touch of distain by Linux oldies, inspite of the handiness of it. What am I fussing about? Well, in Xubuntu 7.10 you could just open a terminal, type sudo, then the program name, and presto, you were into superuser mode while using your selected application. There was ample warnings that you could change or damage your system, but you only needed it for the brief moment anyway. In my case, I just want to make sure I have rights to access the Virtualbox files. In Kubuntu 8.04 with KDE 4.0 there seems to be no friendly way to get to user accounts, add or change permissions and continue on. If you are going to change how the interface handles admin chores, you have to remind the application writers that their applications must adjust for those changes also. If admin chores are a thing of the past (old school), then new apps shouldn't use old school means for installation and maintenance. OR, you must establish a root user account at the Linux install. Then, when you do something that requires root user priviliges, ask the user for the password for that kind of access. Also, in KDE 4.0+, when is a file not a file? When it is on the desktop. Move a file from the file manager to the desktop or download a file to the desktop. Those files do not have drag and drop ability. On the desktop, they are different than simple files, more like the widgets on the desktop. So, in my workflow I need superuser access to change settings, priviliges, move files to secure locations, etc and I need to change my habits so that I can freely move about Linuxville. I think they want to eliminate putting file icons or folder icons on the desktop. Oh yeah, did I mention, where's the trash can? Old habits die hard!! The old dog has just encountered an electric fence, the Tin man needs an upgrade. Again I want to thank all you forum people, your tips and tricks make using any Linux distro very accessible. But things that should be common knowledge among users need to be documented, nailed down. Once you explain it and a user does it a few times, it all becomes so clear and easy. The Tin man, he takes a lickin and keeps on tickin.