Console Setup in Ubuntu (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Sat, 04 Oct 2008

Console Setup in Ubuntu

Dave and I were testing some ways of speeding up the booting process, which is how he came to be looking at my Vaio's console with no X running. "What's wrong with that font?" he asked.

I explained how Ubuntu always starts the boot process with a perfectly fine font, then about 80% of the way through boot it deliberately changes it to a garbled, difficult to read that was clearly not designed for 1024x761. Been meaning for ages to figure out how to fix it, never spent the time ... Okay, it said "Setting up console font and keymap" just before it changes the font. That message should be easy to find. Maybe I should take a few minutes now and look into it.

The message comes from /etc/init.d/console-setup, which runs a program called setupcons, which has a man page. setupcons uses /etc/default/console-setup which includes the following section:

# Valid font faces are: VGA (sizes 8, 14 and 16), Terminus (sizes
# 12x6, 14, 16, 20x10, 24x12, 28x14 and 32x16), TerminusBold (sizes
# 14, 16, 20x10, 24x12, 28x14 and 32x16), TerminusBoldVGA (sizes 14
# and 16), Fixed (sizes 13, 14, 15, 16 and 18), Goha (sizes 12, 14 and
# 16), GohaClassic (sizes 12, 14 and 16).

The hard part of changing the console font in the past has always been finding out what console fonts are available. So having a list right there in the comment is a big help. Okay, let's try changing it to Terminus and running setupcons again. Nope, error message. How about VGA? Success, looks fine. That was easy!

But while I was in that file, what about the keymap? That's another thing I've been meaning to fix for ages ... under Debian, Redhat and earlier Ubuntu versions I had a .kmap.gz console map that turned my capslock key into a Control key (the way God intended). But Ubuntu changed things all around so the old fix didn't work any more.

I found a thread from December from someone who wanted to make the exact same change, for the same reason, but the only real advice in the thread involved an elaborate ritual involving defining keymaps for X and Gnome then applying them to the console. Surely there was a better way.

It seemed pretty clear that /etc/console-setup/boottime.kmap.gz was the keymap it was using. I tried substituting my old keymap, but since I'd written it to inherit from other keymaps that no longer existed, loadkeys can't use it. Eventually I just gunzipped boottime.kmap.gz, found the Caps Lock key (keycode 29), replaced all the Caps_Locks with Controls and gzipped it back up again. And it worked!

Gary Vollink has a more detailed description, and the process hasn't changed much since his page on Getting "Control" on the "Caps Lock".

Another gem linked to from the Ubuntu thread was this excellent article on keyboard layouts under X by Daniel Paul O'Donnell. It's not relevant to the problem of setting the console keymap, but it looks like a very useful reference on how various international character input methods work under X.

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[ 22:33 Oct 04, 2008    More linux | permalink to this entry | ]

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