Connect to the Internet in More Than 10 Clicks (BUG)

(As requested by my audience, I wish to make a distinction in pointing out that my post is mistaken in thinking that the described features of KDE are a default. They are, contrarily, a BUG with my own installation. Nevertheless, I will hold the secondary method of connecting to the internet as something that can be revised and improved.)

As KDE worked on the new Network Manager for version 4, they decided to make the interface more powerful and through the use of the network manager widget, more accessible to users. The interface is indeed powerful and full of features aimed at working out every corner of customization on a given network. Wireless or wired network, they both have their particulars when it comes to connecting to the internet.

However, seeing at different operating systems, KDE's network connection manager seems cumbersome and hard to work with. Nevertheless, the disappointment comes from the first run of this software, not from the daily usage of it. Once everything is set up correctly, network manager will not even ask you to connect to the internet. It will do it automatically. Automatization however, comes at a cost of more than 10 clicks and a little extra knowledge about the particular network you are trying to access.

I really like the way that Mac OSX does it. They have an icon sitting in the system tray, as you click it, a drop down menu displays all the available networks. Users select one and you would be connected to it after typing a password if necessary. The next time you are around such network, Mac OSX will connect to it automatically unless you decided to run on a different network.

Another method out there is very similar to what Mac does. Ubuntu tries to connect to the internet in a simlar way. They also feature a network icon in the system tray. If you click on it, you get a drop down menu with available networks as well. Selecting and entering a password are very much the same as in Mac, except Ubuntu (and KDE) have an added feature of password protection through Gnome's Keyring and KDE's KDE Wallet.

During the first time that a user selects a network that is password protected, he is asked to create an extra password to store the password just entered into the wireless network setup. At first, this was very confusing to me, I didn't know if my password for the keyring or wallet had to be my root password, or a different password. I also ran into the mistake to placing the wireless network password into the keyring, thinking that it was the password for the wireless network being requested. Obviously, this can be solved by being smarter ;) But it does show that there is a learning curve that is not so smooth when working with networks. I think people who are trying to connect to the internet on a Mac also run into confusion as well. An icon sitting at the top bar that does not connect to the internet unless you click on it also represents a learning curve but one that takes less time and effort to do what we do most on a computer, browse the internet. Mac does not have a keyring or wallet that pops up upon login when you are trying to connect to a specific network. I believe these settings could change to make it easier on users to connect. If security seems to be an issue, probably Linux can get by easily with it. openSUSE could also benefit from a more seamless connection to networks by simplifying the process, it would stand out as the distribution with the easiest connection learning curve.

This is what one currently sees as you try to connect to the internet under KDE 4.6

 You connect not by clicking on an available network, you do it by clicking network manager.

 Then you are presented with a screen that contains the first network setup designed for wired networks. However, in my case, I need to add a wireless network, so I click on the second tab.

 After that, if this is the first time, then I do not see any available networks. I need to click on add.

 A rather complicated form shows up in which a tiny button called "scan" will eventually show me how to find the wireless network I want to connect to.

 Once clicked, I am greeted with a very tiny window that shows all available wireless networks around me. If you are in the place where I am, it is really hard to see where I am to click. Instead I choose "Details" which organizes the view in a list.

I select the one I am to connect to and hit OK.

Later, to finish the process, I need to hit OK a couple of times and then I get back to the desktop. But I am not connected yet. I need to go back to the Wireless icon on the system tray and now I am able to see the new connection I added through the prior steps. Once I click on it, the setup will finally end by connecting to the wireless network.

I think this is really too long. It could be made short and there are plenty of good options out there that have simplified this process. openSUSE will benefit from a simpler way to connect to the internet if they choose to create a more simple method. My idea would be to simply show a drop down menu with the available networks, select, enter password and connect. If a keyring or wallet is necessary, allow this services to unlock passwords at system startup without having to enter it everytime.

By the way, this is the way I have my current KDE 4.6 with openSUSE 11.4. I am liking it so far.

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