Split personality

One thing I miss good support for are the different roles or identities in which one works in the virtual worlds. If one uses the same computer system for her work, her private stuff, and her FLOSS activities, she might want to hold all the data and settings apart. So her working fellows do not need to see her love letters floating on the desktop, or her friends all the secret business documents. Her soccer club mates should not be able to send instant messages to her when she is in a presentation. But then they might when she is doing boring calculations on her own, so joined roles are usefull, too. And then even subroles are usefull, e.g. when working with a business partner, who should not see his competitors in her addressbook.

Now how to map this to the user and rights system of unix? Does not look very good. It’s really time some more capable concepts get into mainstream FLOSS operating systems by default, with proper support by application(framework)s. This is 2006, not 1970. For now I use different accounts for the different roles. Still better than nothing. How do you cope with this?

As the existing support in KDE for concurrent X sessions is not too comfortable (for me), I have been experimenting with a special session applet, which tries to offer access to everything around sessions. It shares some base libraries with the contactsapplet, and yesterday I updated the applet code for the changes in those libraries.

switchsession.png

If you are interested, take a look at
KDE-Look, or check it out from trunk/playground/base/sessionapplet in the KDE repository.

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7 thoughts on “Split personality

  1. This idea sounds perfect to me – and makes sense in quite a lot of ways. Have you thought about making a feature request for KDE4? Or talked with for example Aaron about this stuff? I think he once spoke about something similar as a dream for future KDE versions…

    And about how to realize that:
    I think different sessions are a workaround, but not a solution. The better way would be to use a tagging mechanism for it, and then implement some basic KDE stuff where only things will be shown which belong to these tags – or will be hidden when they belong to these taggs.

    Imagine you start your computer, and mark the tags “comapny a, friends, club”, and instantly all documents and all contacts in your addressbook belonging to these tags are hidden, and additionally you are invisible to all im-contacts belonging to that tag – that woud be great.

    So the only thing missing is a KDE-global tagging system which works together with akanodi as well as with decibel/kopete, and the full support of hiding/showing these files in a global context 😉

    liquidat

  2. This is also one of the things I miss the most on the desktop. What I was thinking several times that would be great is if the desktop could in some way automatically detect where my laptop is (for example by SSID of wireless network the laptop connects to) and then the desktop could set some desktop/system wide setting on which profile to use and when you launch any app that supports profiles it would display in a special way depending on where you are. Maybe udev/dbus could be used in KDE4 to make this happen.

  3. > If one uses the same computer system for her work, her private
    > stuff, and her FLOSS activities, she might want to hold all
    > the data and settings apart.

    I don’t see why…

    > So her working fellows do not need to see her love letters
    > floating on the desktop, or her friends all the secret
    > business documents.

    Use different folders in your homedir. Usability tests show that the Desktop as a folder to just throw all your icons in is a broken concept. Its no surprise that whatever usage of the desktop right now is confusing.

    > Her soccer club mates should not be able to send instant
    > messages to her when she is in a presentation.
    We have ‘do not disturb’ away-mode for that.

    > And then even subroles are usefull, e.g. when working with a
    > business partner, who should not see his competitors in her
    > addressbook.

    The address book (and kontact) has categories for that.

    I think you have not really tried working inside the system and are creating problems that are actually already solved… 🙂

  4. @rb: No, decibel is about identities of others (and how to do realtime communication with them). I am concerned about my own identities and roles (private vs. businessgeneral vs. fun vs. business_special1 vs. …)

    @liquidat: Well, feature requests do not result in products by themselves. It needs some mind making before, and that’s what I’m trying to start here 😉 Getting people used to some idea, have it spreading, give other’s the feel of need for it. Because someone has to actually do it. Mostly it still will be yourself.
    Yes, something like tagging seems to be a good solution (though scientific terms seem to be something like roles). Roles/Tags could be bound to virtual desktops, switching roles/tags would be protected by identity-checks (password, card), so your fellow could not switch roles/desktops while you are for the toilet.

    @Jure: Yes, additional location based roles would be cool, too.

    @Thomas: It’s the other way round: I think you have not really tried getting what I mean 😉 (perhaps because you might not have experienced the problems). To do so, take a step back from the term “personal computer”. Often it is not your personal one, but a shared one: people looking at your display over your shoulder, via VNC, or via projector, or when lending your running system shortly to others. So you would like to restrict the access based on the condition/role/group you are in (this includes viewing, even filenames). Because most of the data is still your personal 😉
    And different roles help also with your working: e.g. by setting base directories and resources automatically dependant of the current role. And blending out all unneccessary stuff.

  5. […] Btw., talking about tagging and KDE 4 – I’ve recently read this blog post about session handling, and it sounded pretty interesting to me. Just the idea is as new as it is sensible, and I would like to see that in KDE4! There is also a small discussion in the comments whre I tried to embrace the idea and others add their thoughts. Nice to read. […]

  6. What I needed to hear! Thank you for this as it was the one thing stopping me from moving over to Linux. I have too many identities and was petrified of not being able to sift/aggregate/use them all from one machine, which can be done on a windoze platform with a little work of course.
    Thanks again – I will be keeping abreast of this.
    tc
    TW

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