Bringing GVFS to a good use

One of the GNOME features I really liked since the beginning of my GNOME usage is the ability to mount various network file system by a few clicks and keystrokes. It enables me to quickly access NFS shares or files via SFTP. But so far these mounts weren’t actually mounts in a classical sense, so they were only rudimentary useful.

As a user who often works with terminals I was always halfway happy with that feature and halfway not:

– Applications have to be aware and enabled to make use of that feature, so its often neccessary to workaround problems (e.g. movie players not able to open a file on a share)
– No shell access to files

Previously this GNOME feature was realised with an abstraction layer called GNOME VFS, which all applications needed to use if they wanted to provide access to the „virtual mounts“. It did no efforts to actually re-use common mechanisms of Un*x-like systems, like mount points. So it were doomed to fail at certain degrees.

Today GNOME uses a new mechanism, called GVFS. Its realized by a shared library and daemon components communicating over DBUS. At first glance it does not seem to change anything, so I was rather disappointed. But then I heard rumors, that Ubuntu was actually making these mounts available in a special mount point in ~/.gvfs.
My Debian GNOME installation were not.

So I investigated a bit and found evidence about a daemon called gvfs-fuse-daemon, which eventually is handling that. After that I figured this daemon to be in a package called gvfs-fuse and learned that installing it and restarting my GNOME session is actually all needed to do.
Now getting shell access to my GNOME „Connect to server“ mounts is actually possible, which makes these mounts really useful after all. Only thing to find out is, if e.g. the video player example now works from Nautilus. But if it doesn’t I’m still able to use it via a shell.

The solution is quiet obvious, on the one side. But totally non-obvious on the other.

A common user eventually will not find that solutin without aid. After all the package name does not really suggest what the package is used for, since its referring to technologies instead of the problem it solves. Which is understandable. What I don’t understand is, why this package is not a dependency of the gnome meta package. But I haven’t yet asked the maintainer, so I cannot really blame anybody.

However: Now GVFS is actually useful.