Shallow Thoughts : tags : keyboard
Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing, Science, and Nature.
Thu, 15 Apr 2010
Quick tip from Dave, passed along to someone else trying to use
an Apple keyboard on Linux:
On Linux, for some reason Apple keyboards' function keys don't work
Most of them try to run special functions instead, like
volume up/down or play/pause.
But you can get normal function keys by talking to the kernel module
that drives the keyboard:
echo 2 > /sys/module/hid_apple/parameters/fnmode
This will only last until shutdown, so put that line in /etc/rc.local
or a similar place so it runs every time you boot.
Ubuntu help page on
Apple Keyboards with more information and other tricks.
[ 15:03 Apr 15, 2010
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Sat, 01 Dec 2007
With what I learned
I've been able to type accented characters into GTK apps such as xchat,
and a few other apps such as emacs.
That's nice -- but I was still having trouble reading accented
characters in mutt, or writing them in vim to send through mutt
(darn terminal apps).
The biggest problem was the terminal. I was using urxvt,
but it turns out that urxvt won't let me type any nonascii characters.
It just ignores my multi-key sequences, or prints a space instead
of the character I wanted.
I have no idea why, but switching to plain ol' xterm solved that problem.
Of course, I had to make sure that I was using a font that supported
the characters I wanted (ISO 8859-1 or 8859-15 or something similar),
which leaves out my favorite terminal font (Schumacher Clean bold),
but Bitstream Vera Sans Mono bold is almost as readable.
Of course, it's important to have your locale variables set
appropriately. There are several locale variables:
- Which encodings to use for typing and displaying characters.
- Which translations to use, in programs that offer them.
- How to sort alphabetically (this one also affects whether ls
groups capitalized filenames first).
- Overrides any of the others.
- The default, in case none of the other variables is set.
There are a few others which control very specific features like
time, numbers, money, addresses and paper size:
to see all of them.
Once I switched to xterm, I was able to set either LANG or LC_CTYPE to
I set LC_COLLATE and LANG or LC_MESSAGES to C, so that I get the
default (usually US) translations for programs and so that ls groups
all the capitalized files first.
Along the way, I learned about yet another
way to type accented characters.
setxkbmap -model pc104 -layout us -variant intl
switches to an international layout, at which point typing certain
punctuation (like ' or ~) is assumed to be a prefix key. So instead
of typing [Multi] ~ n, I can just type ~ n. The catch: it makes it
harder to type quotes or tildes by themselves (you have to type a
space after the quote or tilde).
Even faster, the international layout also offers shortcuts to many
common characters with the "AltGr" key, which I'd heard about
for years but never knew how to enable. AltGr is the right alt
key, and typing, say, AltGr followed by n gives an ñ.
You can see a full map at
(AltGr characters are blue, quote prefixes are red).
To get back to a US non-international layout:
setxkbmap -model pc104 -layout us
Of course, these aren't the only keyboard layouts to choose from --
there are lots, plus you can define your own. And I was going to
write a little bit about that, except it turns out they've changed
it all around again since I last did that two years ago (don't you
love the digital world?). So that will have to wait for another time.
But the place to start exploring is /usr/share/X11/xkb.
The file symbols/us contains the definitions for those US
keyboards, and I believe it's included via the files in the
rules directory, probably rules/base, base.xml and base.lst.
From there you're on your own. But the standard layouts probably
follow the ones in the Wikipedia article on
[ 15:48 Dec 01, 2007
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Thu, 22 Nov 2007
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Today's holiday tip involves
how to type international characters.
For the online Spanish class I've been taking, so far I've been
able to manage without having to type characters like
ñ or á. Usually, if I need one I can find it in one of
the class examples, copy it, and paste it wherever I need it. But
obviously that would be tedious if I needed to type much.
I hacked up a quickie workaround:
script that shows a set of buttons, one for each accented
character I'm likely to need. Clicking a button copies that character
to the clipboard, so I can now paste via mouse middleclick or ctrl-V.
(I'm sure that sounds pathetic to those of you who type accented
characters every day, but it's not something most US English speakers
need to do. And besides, now I know how to access the X clipboard
from Python-GTK -- hooray for learning new things from procrastination
Anyway, Mikael Magnusson took pity on me and explained in simple
language how to use the X "Multi key" to type these characters the
right way (well, a right way, anyway). Since all the online
instructions I've seen have been rather complicated, here are the
simple instructions for any of my fellow US monolingists who'd
like to expand their horizons:
First, choose a key for the "Multi key" that you're not using for
anything else. A lot of people use one of the Alt or Windows keys,
but I use both of those already. What I don't use is the Menu key
(that little key down by the right Ctrl key, at least on my keyboard)
since not many Linux apps support it anyway.
Find the keycode for that key, by firing up
typing the key. For my Menu key, the keycode is 117.
xmodmap -e "keycode 117 = Multi_key"
Now you're ready to type a sequence like:
[Menu] ~ n
to type an n-tilde,
[Menu] ' a
for an accented a, or
[menu] ? ? for the upside-down question mark,
in any app that supports those characters.
Of course, you don't want to type that xmodmap command every time you
log in, so to make it permanent, put this in your .Xmodmap (you're on
your own for figuring out whether your X environment reads .Xmodmap
automatically or whether you need to tell it to run
xmodmap .Xmodmap when X starts up):
keycode 117 = Multi_key
I have one final useful international input tidbit to offer:
how to type Unicode characters by number.
Hold ctrl+shift+U, then release U but keep holding the
other two while you type a numeric sequence. (This may only work in
gtk apps.) For instance, try this: hold down ctrl and shift, then
type: u 2 6 6 c. Cool, huh?
You can use the "gucharmap" program to find other
neat sequences (hint: View->By Unicode Block otherwise
you'll never find anything).
Now it's time to check the turkey. Have a good day, everyone!
[ 16:03 Nov 22, 2007
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