Issues in getting ‘kdeconnect’ to browse the Android phone’s file system.

One Plasma 5 application which I’m a fan of, is the ‘kdeconnect’ application, which, if The corresponding Android app is installed on a smart-phone or tablet, allows synchronizing data and use between the phone, and our desktop environment.

Here is what the widget looks like on the Linux computer’s desktop, when it’s showing no notifications from the phone:

Screenshot_20190216_125813

(It has the capacity to display notifications which appear on the phone, but on the Linux desktop, as well as numerous other capabilities.)

Under Plasma 5.8, most of what it has to offer works out-of-the-box. But there has been one issue, when trying to browse the phone or tablet’s file system, from the desktop, and which is a known issue. This does not work out-of-the-box. I know why it does not.

What ‘kdeconnect’ will do from the client, which is the desktop, is use an ssh-mount to mount the file system of the phone or tablet, virtually, on the Linux computer, after which that virtual file-system can be read from and written to, on the Linux computer. In order for this to work, the app on the phone needs to act as a file-server, and as far as I can tell, the Android app does so without flaw.

(Updated 3/27/2019, 7h40 … )

(As of 2/16/2019 : )

The issue which eventually arises is, that this version of ‘kdeconnect’ will ask the Android app to use the ‘ssh-dss’ Host Key Method, while any recent Android platform has discontinued support for that. The Android app is limited to applying libraries that are determined by the Android application framework, and this framework will also insist that the Host Key, which can be offered to the Linux desktop, be ‘ssh-rsa’. ‘ssh-dss’ is no longer deemed to be secure enough, by Google.

There is a workaround which I can apply, on a Plasma 5.8 desktop, which will allow this feature to work:

Screenshot_20190216_130006

Screenshot_20190216_130110

But, I’m not going to state here what the workaround is because I fear that my method of patching the problem would be too delicate for most of my readers to undertake. At the very least, trying to apply my workaround and botching it, will result in a ‘kdeconnect’ (Linux) application that crashes eventually.

But I did think it would be a good thing for me to do, to point out where the problem lies, so that the actual coders and maintainers of the project can solve it in an official way – eventually.

(Update 3/20/2019, 21h45 : )

Just today Google Play has distributed a newer version of the Android app, upgrading that to version 1.12.3 .

This update requires the Linux version of ‘kdeconnect’ to be version 1.3.2 or higher, in order for the file browsing to work.

The version of ‘kdeconnect’ which I have on my Debian / Stretch computer, named ‘Phosphene’, is ‘1.0.3-1~bpo9+0′.

The trick which I was previously using, to get file browsing to work, will no longer make this version of the Linux software, compatible with the up-to-date version of the Android app. For that reason, I had two choices on how to proceed:

  1. Uninstall the Google Play version of the app, instead rolling back to an externally provided .APK-File, to provide the old version for Android (1.10.1), or
  2. Disable the File Browsing feature of the Plasma 5.8 desktop.

I chose option (1). :-)

 

(Update 3/27/2019, 7h40 : )

Just this morning, Google Play pushed through yet another update to the Android app, making its version 1.12.6 . To my great surprise I found, that this latest version does work with the Linux app, the modifications to which I’ve kept.

One feature which the new (Android) version adds, is that on the phone (or tablet), the user can select which folders to expose, to the PC. In addition, the app now has the proper dialog, which Android apps must have, in order to obtain permission to write to the SD Card.

According to the older version of the Android app, the entire file system was exposed, as was the SD Card, but the PC did not gain the ability to write to the SD Card.

After some basic testing, it seems that I can now explicitly add the SD Card to the locations which the PC can browse and write to.

Dirk

 

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