Joachim Breitner


Published 2007-06-17 in sections English, Digital World.

The Caps lock key is quite useless, most people agree with me here. So I configured my system to make the Caps-Key a general control key: Caps-E starts a terminal, Caps-t lists my tomboy notes, Caps-Down selects the next workspace, Caps-2 selects the second workspace. For the workspace switching commands, there are also variants with Shift that move the current window, so that Shift-Caps-Down moves the window to the next workspace, Shift-Caps-3 moves the window to the third workspace and Shift-Caps-2 − does nothing.

At first I thought it was a misconfiguration, but upon closer inspection I found out: As soon as Shift and Caps are pressed, all keys in the line F1-2-W-S-X, as well as the | key are not registered, not even by the kernel, it seems. Is this some old legacy problem with PC keyboards, when the bits of a key code were hardwired in the keyboard? And is there a way around it?


Actually, it's a problem with new keyboards. Find a 20 year old one at it probably won't have this problem, because every key is separately connected to the controller. But keyboard makers wanted to make keyboards cheaper, so they reduced the about of connections and put several keys behind one connection or something like that and this is the happy end result.
#1 Paul Tötterman (Homepage) am 2007-06-17
Well, Paul is half-right. Most old keyboards (at least the post-1980 ones) share this problem. I only ever saw a keyboard or two which didn't have this problem. And the last one was in 1985 on my very first IBM compatible PC.
The thing is that several keys are grouped into rows and columns, which each share a connection to a controller. PC Keyboards can interpret 4-5 simultaneous keypresses, but some combinations don't work with as few as three keys, like you noticed. Which keys are affected can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some manufacturers at least put control keys onto their own lines on some of their keyboards. But it is hard to find out which do on which models.
#2 Sven Mueller (Homepage) am 2007-06-17
Accidentally deleted this comment by „martin“:

i have tab bound to hyper as modifier and hyper-W and hyper-S bound to actions in my window manager and it does work. So it might depend on your keyboard brand.
This worked with my old cherry keyboard and it does work with my cheap crappy logitech internet pro.

PS: and please fix your blog to work without cookies!

My answer:

What does not work without cookies?
#3 Joachim Breitner (Homepage) am 2007-06-17
Oh, Sorry i should have phrased that better. I tried posting the comment from my feed reader (akregator) and got a message that i need to enable cookies to post comments.
I think while cookies have their merit, it's not a good idea to assume passing users have the site whitelisted for cookies.

Maybe some spam protecting plugin abuses cookies are additional hidden form fields?

Thanks for the reply, i hope it's not too hard to fix it.

I'll add a fullquote of the error message:
"""Your comment did not contain a Session-Hash. Comments can only be made on this blog when having cookies enabled!
Your comment could not be added because comments for this entry have either been disabled, you entered invalid data, or your comment was caught by anti-spam measurements."""
#4 martin am 2007-06-18
I guess I can’t allow posting from feed readers to avoid spam. Note that Captchas are disabled only for very new posts...
#5 Joachim Breitner (Homepage) am 2007-06-18
I use the Caps-Lock as another AltGr and it's really good...
See (german) for more detail.
#6 Lucas (Homepage) am 2007-06-20
I'm having exactly this same problem on a brand new logitech ultraflat. I use Caps as meta for WMII (, and usually have caps-shift-1..9 set up to move in-focus windows to the numbered workspaces. Caps-shift-2 does not appear to work at all on this kb though. (As in xev doesn't even pick up a keypress event.)

At first I figured it was a (very weird) fault with the keyboard and returned it, but the replacement behaves in the same way.. Pitty, as although this is reasonably cheap kb, it feels okay and looks great. I didn't realise my demands were so high..
#7 Tim Vaughan am 2009-05-22

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