The Best of Ken Starks
My Dad’s side of the family was an amazing mix of loggers. lawyers, bank robbers, bankers, cattle rustlers, ranchers, soldiers, policemen and Gypsies.
No, really…I’m talking real Gypsies.
In some parts of Europe they are referred to as “travelers.” Today, many have been assimilated into the various ambient populations and cultures, but many have not.
My uncle Emil claimed to be of the Romnichel clan. He maintained his wandering ways throughout his life, right up until his 84th year when a State Trooper found him frozen to death on New Year’s Day at a rest stop outside of International Falls, Minnesota. His car had stalled, along with the heater, as it sat idling while Emil slept. He froze to death in his sleep, an empty pint of Four Roses whiskey on the seat next to him.
I remember, as a young boy, waking up to find Uncle Emil’s 1950 Chevrolet and his old Airstream trailer sitting in front of our house. He had arrived sometime during the night and I could always count on him to be sitting at the kitchen table with my parents, chain smoking camel cigarettes, drinking coffee and regaling them with his latest adventures.
Then, on any given morning, I might wake up to find him gone. He was with us only long enough to “borrow” money for gas and food, then disappeared with the wind.
Uncle Emil wasn’t a reliable person by anyone’s stretch of the imagination, but he was a charmer. He made promises I am sure he meant to keep, at least at the time, but when it came time to make good on those promises, he was either gone or had concocted a wild tale of events that conspired to work against him and his promises.
It just wasn’t his fault…to hear him tell it.
Nothing ever was, including his three failed marriages, five abandoned children, two felony convictions and more overnight stays for drunk and disorderly than I could count. Somehow though, these misfortunes only seemed to add to his wind-burned good looks and roguish charm.
Failure was the one thing you could count on with Emil, who drank away success the way many people drink away bad memories. That’s not a judgment, just an accurate observation. And even when you could count on him…well, your mileage varied.
And that’s the way I view the default desktop search on KDE. It’s the crazy uncle of KDE.
I’m no stranger to complaining about KDE desktop search. My complaints are not lonely. I’ve talked with a lot of people who have a hard time settling in on a reliable search method in KDE. Now, Nepomuk has finally come of age and is actually a great tool to index your files. It no longer uses a machine gun to chew through your files and RAM, and most times stays out of your way. I was hoping that this somehow would improve the search function in KDE itself.
No. In my experience it has not. Here’s what I mean.
The prime mover for search in KDE is Kfind. In my humble, never-too-opinionated view…
Kfind is Kfired.
Here’s how I came to that conclusion. It’s the same conclusion I experienced in 2009, 2012 and today.
I give a brand new OpenSuse KDE install 72 hours for Nepomuk to index my home and root system. I open KFind and see that the default folder to search in is file:///home/helios. Well, I’m not sure of that file path but it’s what comes default when I open it so that’s what I go with. I choose the search term “Santana.”
10 seconds…30 seconds…60 seconds… It tells me that there is no file or file name with “Santana.”
I assured KFind that there is most certainly a file or file name with “Santana.”
Maybe I’m doing something wrong. Maybe the search folder file:///home/helios should just be /home/helios. Maybe I need to tick the box asking KFind to use indexed files.
Nope…that wasn’t it either. Well crud…
One of the reasons I liked GNOME as much as I did was the gnome-search-tool. It was machine gun fast, sniper rifle accurate and it had little to no overhead as far as using resources. But I’m determined I am going to make KDE work for both me and the Reglue organization.
I honestly like KDE. It’s not only my DE of choice now, but the primary driver for Reglue computers. We will place over 1,000 computers in the next 3 years. I would very much like to have KDE on those machines. It delivers the polish, stability and beauty we are looking for.
So now I open Dolphin and click on the find icon at the top and type in the search string “Santana.”
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Results show up immediately. Now that’s better…I think. I mean, at least I got some results in the first 15 seconds. It showed a couple of stray files and a folder that is named “Santana,” but no individual files with that name in them. It does allow me to open the folder and see what other files with the word “Santana” are in there.
But it doesn’t list them individually.
Some folks will surely argue that just offering the folder named “Santana” cuts down on search time and is neater, that we should just intuitively know that every file with the search term “Santana” in it is inside that folder. This may be. But what if I want to find and play the song “Singing Winds, Crying Beasts” by Santana?
Well, Ken, open the file folder and find the song in that folder.
I contend I shouldn’t have to do that. I want all the files with that particular name in it and I want to see them listed. Maybe there’s a way to configure Dolphin to make that happen.
Just like there is probably a way to get KFind to work.
But folks, if it doesn’t work out of the box, to a new user it just doesn’t work and Linux sucks. No one should have to tinker to get a default application to work. That’s the job of a developer, not the end user.
I know that the abbreviated search results in Dolphin are probably due to it using the locate tool instead of find. I suppose that’s fine; I just find it a bit inconvenient to have to dig through a folder when I expect all files to be listed individually. It’s a quibble really in the scheme of things, but one that I find important enough to mention.
And look…I’m not picking on KDE. I’m liking KDE. I want to like KDE and I plan on using KDE.
But I am sure to hear from someone telling me that all one has to do is open some_config_file.txt as root and comment out lines bla bla bla, and replace those lines with bla bla bla, save it, log out then log back in and it will work.
Really? This is new-user friendly?
Please reference the mention above about the impression that Linux sucks.
I installed a search app I use in Xfce and I didn’t have to drag in too many GTK dependencies to do it. It’s called “Catfish.” Below is a screenshot of the results of all three search tools, giving me their individual results. I find it a bit odd that a third party app surpasses the native KDE search application. Catfish gets it right. It’s a darned shame that it isn’t native to KDE.
Many of you will respond by telling me there are a lot of different command line tools that allow for searching files. Yes, there most certainly are. So you search via command line and now that you know where it is, what are you going to do? Admire the results of mlocate in your terminal? Of course not. You wanted to know where the file is for a purpose or you wouldn’t be looking for it. Obviously you want to manipulate or use the file in some way.
Command line tools just help you find the file. So why use the command line when you can have one stop shopping with a GUI? We geeks and professionals use the command line because it’s how we work. The other 99 percent of people don’t know what a command line is, nor should they have to. When they open a search tool, they expect to find the files they are looking for without a bunch of drama and broken promises.
Long story short, Catfish found all the files in the directory with “Santana” in it and listed them alphabetically with live, clickable links if I want to play a song in those search returns, or even delete them if I choose to.
That’s the way it’s supposed to be.
So it seems the crazy uncle of KDE desktop search is in the wind. Maybe in the next few years he’ll stick around and hang out with all of us.
At least we don’t have to loan this crazy uncle money.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on The Blog of Helios on November 27, 2013 under the title “Desktop Search…The Crazy Uncle of KDE.”
Ken Starks is the founder of the Helios Project and Reglue, which for 20 years provided refurbished older computers running Linux to disadvantaged school kids, as well as providing digital help for senior citizens, in the Austin, Texas area. He was a columnist for FOSS Force from 2013-2016, and remains part of our family. Follow him on Twitter: @Reglue