"But KNM makes me jump though some non-obvious hoops to get anything done, having to know that I must choose "New Connection" in order to teach it about a network I've never been on before, and having to suffer through a popup menu that completely fills the screen of already learned networks when *none of them are in range*... and which is *in the way* of the other menu as I scroll up to do the thing I actually need to do."
Do they have a nm-applet for KDE.
NM in Gnome does not connect to a wireless network automatically unless you have already connected to the network before, but the only time you would have to add a new connection in order to make it appear in the list is for a hidden network. If a network is broadcasting an SSID it will show up in the list and you must click it the first time to connect, but it does not require creating a new connection. Granted it may be a bug in the kde interface.
how does Windows XP do it?
In all fairness it is a Gnome project, just as Amorak(I use Exile now, but it is different) does not run as well on Gnome, Network Manager does not run as well on KDE.