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    Tarmak layouts without modifying your XKB files (With Linux/Xmodmap)

    • Started by olemartinorg
    • 11 Replies:
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    • From: Norway
    • Registered: 21-Jul-2014
    • Posts: 3

    Hi all!

    I'm starting out learning Colemak, and the idea of using transitional layouts seems to be the best route (as i still want to be somewhat productive at work while i'm learning Colemak). I found the XKB modifications DreymaR published, but i didn't really need or want the rest of that big bag of tricks (at least not yet), so I didn't really want to patch all my XKB files either.

    What I've come up with, as an alternative, is a script that generates Xmodmap files from your current QWERTY-based layout. Using Xmodmap for this purpose fits the bill perfectly. When you are done learning Colemak, you can just throw the transitional maps away.

    Check out my github repository with further instructions on how to set this up:
    https://github.com/olemartinorg/tarmak-xmodmap

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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    Hei Ole Martin! :)

    Nice work! I'll link to it from the Tarmak page.

    olemartinorg @ GitHub said:

    DreymaR, the author of Tarmak, has a big bag of tricks that contains XKB layout files for Tarmak 1-4. Tarmak is supposed to be a temporary layout, and i think that bag of his is way too big - I'd rather not rewrite most of my XKB layouts for something i will hopefully just need for a few weeks.

    Not sure what you mean by the Big Bag being "way too big"? It's a package of modular additions so you can use what you like and not care about the rest. I'm not worried that there's, say, a Berber or a Turkish layout in a Linux distro, or that the Icelandic layout was updated in the last xkb version – because I don't use any of those. And like those layouts, the Big Bag just lies there until you need something from it. Nice for when you need my Norwegian Colemak[eD] for instance, but I don't see how the rest gets in your way?

    Last edited by DreymaR (23-Jul-2014 15:23:50)

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
    *** Check out my Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks for Win/Linux/TMK... ***

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    I would say one definition of 'way too big' is how big it seems when the patch goes wrong and you have to try and undo its work (ideally having forgotten to back anything up like I tend to do).

    It does change an absolute shed load of stuff.

    I can see the attraction of using something a bit smaller and easier to add/remove - particularly with the tarmak stuff where you only need it temporarily

    I can see where dreymar is coming from, on the 'if you don't need it, just ignore it' but the issue is if something goes wrong with xkb then its a *nightmare* to fix, because of the nature of what you're doing - tinkering with your only means of input to the machine. Therefore anything which reduces the need to mess with xkb files is a good thing to my mind.

    Last edited by bph (23-Jul-2014 15:37:39)
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    • From: Norway
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    Thanks for the link, DreymaR! :-)

    Well, about the big bag, i'm just not that comfortable modifying (even though it's all adding) so much of my XKB files. As a sysadmin at heart, patching my distributions XKB files hurts if i don't really need to do it. Especially when it's for the sole purpose of having the Tarmak 1-4 layouts (for a period of time).

    As for Colemak[eD], i haven't even learned Colemak yet - so I'll have to evaluate Colemak[eD] whenever I'll be ready for that. From what i understood after skimming over your posts about it, that layout also assumes a normal, staggered and non-split keyboard. I'm currently using the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, i'm waiting for a Truly Ergonomic Keyboard Model 209 (it's in the mail), and i'm considering ordering the ErgoDox from the drop that's going on now. Am i horribly mistaken in thinking those keyboards solve some of the problems you try to solve with Colemak[eD]?

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
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    I do recommend backing up your xkb folder before patching. That's what everyone recommends isn't it? ;)

    However, as bph says it can go horribly wrong if you lose your keyboard because of some system hangup. I hate it when that happens, yes indeed.

    Part of "the nightmare" is about to go away I hope. Instead of patching, I'll make a script that backs up and then replaces the xkb files. That way, undoing will be as simple as sudo copy-paste as long as you haven't done anything to those files yourself (which doesn't play too well with patching anyway). In addition, that'll let the careful copy over only the files they want (such as the extend file for instance) – at the cost of not seeing the changes in the system menus and having to run setxkbmap at startup instead, that'll be a very system safe alternative! This option is available already as I've provided the changed files, but it means having to understand what the various files and the options in them do as well as their names.

    The Truly Ergonomic will solve the ergonomic problems of a standard staggered board that the WideAngle mod solves. It'll let you make Extend-like mappings; but Colemak[eD] is neither of those things. It's just my AltGr and dead key mappings, along with locale variants for a lot of locales including ours. Not sure what the keyboard lets you do with those? Usually, it's done in the OS as Key Events while the keyboard itself handles scan codes.

    Last edited by DreymaR (23-Jul-2014 16:02:49)

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
    *** Check out my Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks for Win/Linux/TMK... ***

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    In an ideal world I would like to just be able to turn on wide angle mods over and above what you already get as standard with ubuntu xkb (colemak is already bundled as default) without having to know anything about xkb

    in other words i need dreymar to get his wide angle mods into the ubuntu code base so its there already and I don't need to do anything but select it from the appropriate keybaord dialog

    the other great approach would be to buy something like the typematrix and never have to worry about software again (but i already own a filco so i can't)

    problems for me always arise when I upgrade the OS and something invariably goes awry with the keyboard coz i've messed about with it so much and I'm left not even being able to enter my password

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    very cool - especially the names, the pegasus hoof!

    i think you can get teensy based things to sit in between, 'on the wire' as it were, as well but the pegases hoof is more tidy

    i'm pretty tempted actually - thanks for the link

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    actually not sure any are compatible with a FFKB68M/UKB

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    bph said:

    in other words i need dreymar to get his wide angle mods into the ubuntu code base so its there already and I don't need to do anything but select it from the appropriate keybaord dialog

    Haha, yeah. Good luck pushing this upstream to the Ubuntu/XKB maintainers. They need to have a strict filter not to allow anyone and everyone to contribute their own layouts (i.e., they need to filter out layouts that are not relevant for most people, or not a standard layout for some human language). Remember, being user friendly means not offering way too many choices. The keyboard layout modifications we're talking about here are definitely on the fringe.

    But, by all means, DreymaR, you could always try to submit your patch to their bug tracker. Just make sure it will run against their latest git head. Color me impressed if you make it!

    bph said:

    problems for me always arise when I upgrade the OS and something invariably goes awry with the keyboard coz i've messed about with it so much and I'm left not even being able to enter my password

    And this is the reason i created xmodmap files instead. :-)

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    I also admit to a fear of not understanding large patches (especially after hearing about some of the problems that can crop up!), leading me to to instead make small (and very questionable) ad hoc changes to my existing files.

    If you provided a step-by-step example tutorial of how to make something similar to your patches, I think it would benefit the likes of me.  (Admittedly, I don't know how many people that would be.)

    Having detailed instructions might also encourage others to experiment with their own customizations.  Some interesting alternatives might result.

    I did try figuring out the patches directly, but as with many large things it was quite daunting ;[

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
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    My patches are not easy even to myself. I couldn't make a nice little step-by-step for you without teaching you the ins and outs of xkb pretty much, and by then you wouldn't need it. If you want to learn the basics, there are some nice pages at the arch wiki for instance.

    That's my feeling about it anyway. I've been working with this wonderful but complex format for a long time now and I think I'm getting the hang of it...

    When we move from patches to changed vs original files, it'll be easier to see where everything fits in I believe. Then you can compare the changes with a file comparison tool such as Meld (Linux) or WinMerge (Win).

    Last edited by DreymaR (24-Jul-2014 19:54:36)

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
    *** Check out my Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks for Win/Linux/TMK... ***

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    That makes an unfortunate sense.  I'll give it another shot after the transition.

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