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KDE Connect - Mobile and Desktop Convergence

posted Oct 21, 2016, 10:10 AM by Nathan Wolf   [ updated Nov 17, 2016, 5:11 AM ]

I have been using KDE Connect for quite some time on openSUSE Leap 42.1 and
openSUSE Leap 42.2. This is a great little piece of software. It is another take on the whole mobile / desktop device convergence paradigm. Windows 8 interface that was shared with the Windows Phone was an arguably failed attempt at convergence. I'm sure that many liked it but I have the opinion that the tile system was not usable on the desktop but made sense for the Phone or Tablet computers. I know that Apple has done some great things with convergence but I haven't seen it first hand. I guess it's good....

My view on how a "desktop" or "tablet" should be used is much like how I would compare the usage of a physical desktop and a physical clipboard. The way I lay out documents and work with information on a desktop or table is much different than how I lay them out on a clipboard. To be forced to use a clipboard and a table top the same way is a fundamentally flawed idea.

The solution I do like that really impresses me is KDE Connect. It has been around for a while but is now at a point that it is a great piece of software with the momentum to make it a world class set of applications. The interface for both the Desktop and Android applications are clean and straight forward. It's designed from ground up to work with additional plugins and the set of plugins by default are already very useful. Even after you get past the novelty of it, there is a lot of general usefulness that is likely to become what will be expected for device interoperability.

For installation information, see the openSUSE Wiki page for details and set up for openSUSE and Android. If you are using another distribution, (and I'm not exactly sure why you would) generic instructions can be found on the KDE Community Site.

Key features

KDE Desktop Client interface, you have many, many options to play with. I will highlight the particular features that I find most useful.

Share clipboard - Quite possibly the feature that I like the most. I can copy a link or some text from the computer and seamlessly paste it into the browser on the phone. At the time of testing, it only works for text. I didn't have success in pasting images into a document on the phone. Since I despise the virtual keyboard for on the phone, this is a great way to get around that for anything lengthy or the requirement of precision.

Receive notifications - Phone notifications instantly pop up in the KDE notification system as they happen on the phone. When any application on the phone displays a notification of any kind, it will show up on the computer as well. Really very handy when you are separated from your phone, as I often am.

Send notifications - If you just really love notifications on your phone, you can have KDE push notifications to the phone. This is great If you are away from your computer while you have an encoding program your phone will let you know when it is complete.  Note, this only works if the phone and the computer are on the same network.

Multimedia control receiver - This allows multimedia control with Amarok and VLC. You can Play/pause, skip, and adjust volume of whatever you have playing. If both Amarok and VLC are running you can even switch control between them. So handy.

Virtual input - Although this is probably more fun than useful, for my use, controlling the computer with the phone as touchpad isn't something I really need but I can see a case where I could set up a media computer in the house, use your phone to control the mouse on the screen and use the virtual keyboard to input search text too. Though, I don't like the virtual keyboard, still a great option to have available.

Ring my phone - Lost your phone? Like the other features, it only works when on the same network, which is fine as I typically only misplace my phone at home. Also note, this overrides any vibrate or silent settings so this is far more useful than just calling your phone.

Telephony integration - I often toss my phone someplace when I get home and forget about it. I don't hear it ring or see text messages... and they COULD be important. Should I be in front of my computer a text message pops up, I will see it. If I'm quick I can reply to the message. I don't see a way to open up and view all messages but being able to send a quick reply or even just be able to read the message is great. Also, seeing when I get a phone call, also very useful so I can go run off and find the thing.

What I like and why I keep it running

I like having my computer and my phone talk to each other making sure I am informed of all these obviously important things I must know... I really like that the clipboard is shared between the devices. This is so handy for quick exchanges of text information. Since there are times I don't have all my devices with me, I like having the option of being informed when my computer is done working on something when it works in another room from me. Also, nice to have it the other way and know when phone has a notification.

This is all really much like how I imagine technology working together. Everything should be seamless and trouble free to deal with. The tech is there to serve us, not us serving the technology.

What I wish it would do

Main feature I wish it would have would be to communicate over Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi. There are cases when I have my computer and phone on different networks. It would be nice to be able to have some sort of fallback communication between them when Wi-Fi is not an option. Perhaps not everything would work but at least the clipboard transfer would be really outstanding.

Conclusion

I often hear how the desktop operating platform is dead or is dying with the reasoning that it makes no sense to use a computer when you can do the same tasks on a phone. I don't, however, buy into that idea. I think there is room for a variety of technology systems that are interconnected and all working to service the user and make navigating life more convenient. Projects like KDE Connect get us closer to what I believe is the right blend of technology in life, much as how it is depicted in Star Trek, it is not overbearing or forced, but rather a tool to help you learn, explore and further your goals.

If you are ready to install KDE Connect. Check out the instructions here on the openSUSE wiki. Complete install and setup instructions can be found there for openSUSE Leap and Tumbleweed.

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