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Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 5:07 pm

Every so often, the Num Lock status in Linux gets reversed, i.e. the LED is lit when Num Lock is off, and vice-versa. This has been a long-standing issue (years). The only solutions I've known of prior to this were logging out and back in (stupid!), or plugging in a SECOND keyboard and toggling Num Lock from there (also stupid!), to force the system's internal Num Lock state to toggle without toggling the LED on your main keyboard.

Turns out there is a really simple solution, via a CLI tool called "numlockx". It's in the Ubuntu repository; I imagine the other major distros have it as well. You just run it with the argument "on" or "off" to force both the LED and the system's internal Num Lock state to the specified value.

For some reason, Googling "linux num lock reversed" doesn't yield a result with that answer until nearly the bottom of the first page of results. Everything else is people suggesting random ineffective things, or the "plug in the second keyboard" workaround.
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:15 pm

First time I've heard of this problem, but I never experience it myself.
 
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:29 pm

The fact that I typically use a KVM may make it more likely, but I've seen it on other systems as well. Caps Lock key can suffer from this issue too (and there does not seem to be an equivalent 'capslockx' tool).
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:45 pm

Which reminds me that it's probably time to de-chum the Model M.
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:49 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
Which reminds me that it's probably time to de-chum the Model M.

I need to turn my keyboard upside down and shake it to de-chum as well. It's amazing what people have in their keyboards.
 
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:52 pm

whm1974 wrote:
Captain Ned wrote:
Which reminds me that it's probably time to de-chum the Model M.
I need to turn my keyboard upside down and shake it to de-chum as well. It's amazing what people have in their keyboards.

Model M requires disassembly and real work to get it really clean. If I do get around to it, I'll post a pic that WILL gross out many gerbils. Nice thing about the M is that the top cover and the keycaps can go in the dishwasher. Wife hates it when I use her nylons bag to run the keycaps through the dishwasher.

EDIT: Here's the last time:

Image
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 7:24 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
Which reminds me that it's probably time to de-chum the Model M.

Heh. Yeah, as noted in another recent thread, my RK-9000 got an unplanned bath last week. It wasn't nearly as bad as the pic you posted, but since it needed a complete immersion bath (there was beer down inside some of the switches...) it got a very thorough cleaning. The only lingering aftereffect seems to be a couple of keys intermittently squeaking slightly; I'll swap out the switches if it doesn't resolve on its own.
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 7:54 pm

just brew it! wrote:
Heh. Yeah, as noted in another recent thread, my RK-9000 got an unplanned bath last week. It wasn't nearly as bad as the pic you posted, but since it needed a complete immersion bath (there was beer down inside some of the switches...) it got a very thorough cleaning. The only lingering aftereffect seems to be a couple of keys intermittently squeaking slightly; I'll swap out the switches if it doesn't resolve on its own.

I saw your groan and commune. Nice thing about the M and those keywells is that it takes A LOT OF BEER to get past the keycaps and into the workings. Even so, I've discovered that a beer-sodden Model M left by itself for several years (I have 2) will work when called upon.
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 8:34 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
just brew it! wrote:
Heh. Yeah, as noted in another recent thread, my RK-9000 got an unplanned bath last week. It wasn't nearly as bad as the pic you posted, but since it needed a complete immersion bath (there was beer down inside some of the switches...) it got a very thorough cleaning. The only lingering aftereffect seems to be a couple of keys intermittently squeaking slightly; I'll swap out the switches if it doesn't resolve on its own.

I saw your groan and commune.  Nice thing about the M and those keywells is that it takes A LOT OF BEER to get past the keycaps and into the workings.  Even so, I've discovered that a beer-sodden Model M left by itself for several years (I have 2) will work when called upon.

You know, I'm thinking a Model M from whoever still makes them or maybe a Das Keyboard. I had a cheaper Model M back in '94 and '95. Like damn fool I sold it with the old computer when I upgraded. Time to buy another one.
 
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:12 pm

whm1974 wrote:
You know, I'm thinking a Model M from whoever still makes them or maybe a Das Keyboard. I had a cheaper Model M back in '94 and '95. Like damn fool I sold it with the old computer when I upgraded. Time to buy another one.

Real Model Ms, complete with with birth certificates (the tag on the underside) are readily available on FleaBay,
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:17 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
whm1974 wrote:
You know, I'm thinking a Model M from whoever still makes them or maybe a Das Keyboard. I had a cheaper Model M back in '94 and '95. Like damn fool I sold it with the old computer when I upgraded. Time to buy another one.

Real Model Ms, complete with with birth certificates (the tag on the underside) are readily available on FleaBay,

Ah found the bookmark for Unicomp, Inc. Time for me to cough up ~$100 or so and buy a new Model M. I'm sure it would be worth it, right? Right?
http://www.pckeyboard.com/page/SFNT
 
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:23 pm

whm1974 wrote:
Ah found the bookmark for Unicomp, Inc. Time for me to cough up ~$100 or so and buy a new Model M. I'm sure it would be worth it, right? Right?
http://www.pckeyboard.com/page/SFNT

Buy a real Model M on FleaBay. The Unicomps aren't quite as well-built, and the real Model M is so damn indestructible that 99.99% of FleaBay purchases will be just fine. Back when Scott/Damage wrote the quarterly "suggested build" posts, he always described the Model M as the keyboard to own if you ever thought you'd need to use your keyboard as a personal defense weapon.
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:27 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
whm1974 wrote:
Ah found the bookmark for Unicomp, Inc. Time for me to cough up ~$100 or so and buy a new Model M. I'm sure it would be worth it, right? Right?
http://www.pckeyboard.com/page/SFNT

Buy a real Model M on FleaBay.  The Unicomps aren't quite as well-built, and the real Model M is so damn indestructible that 99.99% of FleaBay purchases will be just fine.  Back when Scott/Damage wrote the quarterly "suggested build" posts, he always described the Model M as the keyboard to own if you ever thought you'd need to use your keyboard as a personal defense weapon.

But the Unicomps are still better then most keyboards right? Maybe I'll get a simple Das Keyboard instead.
 
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:34 pm

whm1974 wrote:
Maybe I'll get a simple Das Keyboard instead.

At this point you should hit up JBI, as I believe he's been there. I'm a hard-core Model M guy, so you've moved beyond my small sphere of knowledge.
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:40 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
whm1974 wrote:
Maybe I'll get a simple Das Keyboard instead.

At this point you should hit up JBI, as I believe he's been there.  I'm a hard-core Model M guy, so you've moved beyond my small sphere of knowledge.

All I want is a simple reliable keyboard that comfortable to use and can take a great deal of abuse. Without all the useless "features" that "Gaming keyboards come with".
 
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:49 pm

whm1974 wrote:
All I want is a simple reliable keyboard that comfortable to use and can take a great deal of abuse. Without all the useless "features" that "Gaming keyboards come with".

If that's truly what you want and you have the desk space and the auditory tolerance, the Model M is your guy. It'll outlast either of our terms on this Earth.
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:57 pm

whm1974 wrote:
Captain Ned wrote:
whm1974 wrote:
Maybe I'll get a simple Das Keyboard instead.

At this point you should hit up JBI, as I believe he's been there.  I'm a hard-core Model M guy, so you've moved beyond my small sphere of knowledge.

All I want is a simple reliable keyboard that comfortable to use and can take a great deal of abuse. Without all the useless "features" that "Gaming keyboards come with".

Not going to gainsay the Model M, but that description would also fit the Ducky Zero that I've been using for a few years. Cherry MX switches (of your preferred type), plain black ABS plastic with white printing, no fancy lights, USB connection, weighted with a nice steel plate and so could still be used to knock someone unconscious in an emergency. Aside from all the standard keys you'd expect, it has volume control and a Calculator button spaced above the numpad, and those are its sole concessions to not being a work device.
 
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:58 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
whm1974 wrote:
All I want is a simple reliable keyboard that comfortable to use and can take a great deal of abuse. Without all the useless "features" that "Gaming keyboards come with".

If that's truly what you want and you have the desk space and the auditory tolerance, the Model M is your guy.  It'll outlast either of our terms on this Earth.

Speaking of auditory tolerance, I remember back in High School in the early 90's a few computer labs using Apple II's and IBM machines, the clacking of the keyboards drove some people nuts, and quite a few folks dropped computer classes because of that. As I recall, we computer geeks then had a good laugh about that.
 
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:59 pm

I could live with a volume control if it works in Linux. Hell I would find that useful.
 
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:12 pm

whm1974 wrote:
Speaking of auditory tolerance, I remember back in High School in the early 90's a few computer labs using Apple II's and IBM machines, the clacking of the keyboards drove some people nuts, and quite a few folks dropped computer classes because of that. As I recall, we computer geeks then had a good laugh about that.

Try the late '70s, a PDP-8e, and an ancient ASR-33 teletype machine. Since it had a punch-tape "writer", it was how we handed in programming assignments.
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:20 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
whm1974 wrote:
Speaking of auditory tolerance, I remember back in High School in the early 90's a few computer labs using Apple II's and IBM machines, the clacking of the keyboards drove some people nuts, and quite a few folks dropped computer classes because of that. As I recall, we computer geeks then had a good laugh about that.

Try the late '70s, a PDP-8e, and an ancient ASR-33 teletype machine.  Since it had a punch-tape "writer", it was how we handed in programming assignments.

I think Ars Technica had an article a while back about really old computer devices still in use. One business was still using punch cards of all things. I hear that governments are real bad about still keeping hardware that should have been replaced a long time ago in use.
 
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:25 pm

whm1974 wrote:
I could live with a volume control if it works in Linux. Hell I would find that useful.

It works for me, certainly, and I've never needed to configure anything (Ubuntu 12.04 through 16.04, 64-bit) - mute, volume up and volume down all work as they should. The calculator button calls up the calculator, too.
 
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:37 pm

@whm1974, I'd vote for a WASD (or CODE, same manufacturer). I've got a tenkeyless WASD with browns and o-rings, and that Aimpad review a while back has been the only thing ever to make me think it isn't perfect.
 
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 11:11 pm

Thanks, I'll go read some reviews on WASD keyboards. 
 
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Tue Jan 10, 2017 11:29 pm

whm1974 wrote:
Captain Ned wrote:
whm1974 wrote:
Ah found the bookmark for Unicomp, Inc. Time for me to cough up ~$100 or so and buy a new Model M. I'm sure it would be worth it, right? Right?
http://www.pckeyboard.com/page/SFNT

Buy a real Model M on FleaBay.  The Unicomps aren't quite as well-built, and the real Model M is so damn indestructible that 99.99% of FleaBay purchases will be just fine.  Back when Scott/Damage wrote the quarterly "suggested build" posts, he always described the Model M as the keyboard to own if you ever thought you'd need to use your keyboard as a personal defense weapon.

But the Unicomps are still better then most keyboards right? Maybe I'll get a simple Das Keyboard instead.

Unicomps are decent if you really want something resembling a Model M (i.e. with buckling spring mechanisms) in a new keyboard. As Ned says, the build quality of the Unicomps isn't quite up to IBM's original standards, and a used Model M in good condition will likely be a nicer keyboard overall. Other minor issues I've noticed which may or may not matter to you:

- IME the spring tension on the Unicomps is somewhat inconsistent from 'board to 'board; some are quite stiff, while some require substantially less pressure to activate. Within a single 'board they're pretty even, but there can be a quite noticeable difference between different keyboards.

- No n-key rollover, even over PS/2.

The Das is a nice Cherry-based unit. As Cherry switches go, I prefer MX blues (with o-rings) myself; Das also makes one with browns (which I don't find tactile enough), but they're quieter if you need that.

Chuckaluphagus wrote:
Not going to gainsay the Model M, but that description would also fit the Ducky Zero that I've been using for a few years. Cherry MX switches (of your preferred type), plain black ABS plastic with white printing, no fancy lights, USB connection, weighted with a nice steel plate and so could still be used to knock someone unconscious in an emergency. Aside from all the standard keys you'd expect, it has volume control and a Calculator button spaced above the numpad, and those are its sole concessions to not being a work device.

I have a Ducky Zero as a spare. The build quality of the original Rosewill V1 RK-9000 was better, but the Ducky probably has a slight edge over the V2 RK-9000s. I do prefer the "clip and wire" stabilizers for the larger keys (as used on the RK-9000 series) over the multiple plungers Ducky uses, as I feel it results in smoother key action; the downside of the wire stabilizers is they make keycap removal for cleaning or installation of o-rings more difficult.

whm1974 wrote:
Captain Ned wrote:
whm1974 wrote:
Speaking of auditory tolerance, I remember back in High School in the early 90's a few computer labs using Apple II's and IBM machines, the clacking of the keyboards drove some people nuts, and quite a few folks dropped computer classes because of that. As I recall, we computer geeks then had a good laugh about that.

Try the late '70s, a PDP-8e, and an ancient ASR-33 teletype machine. Since it had a punch-tape "writer", it was how we handed in programming assignments.

I think Ars Technica had an article a while back about really old computer devices still in use. One business was still using punch cards of all things. I hear that governments are real bad about still keeping hardware that should have been replaced a long time ago in use.

My high school and first year undergrad CS courses were taught using punch cards. The racket of an IBM 029 keypunch was on par with an ASR-33; with both the ASR-33 and the IBM 029 you could hear and *feel* every keypress -- the KA-CHUNK of holes being punched in cardboard, and (for the ASR-33) the simultaneous creation of an inked impression on paper.

The Model M was designed to mimic the feel of the 029 keypunch and give audible feedback for each keypress, since that's what users of keypunches (and the classic IBM Selectric typewriter) were accustomed to.

synthtel2 wrote:
@whm1974, I'd vote for a WASD (or CODE, same manufacturer). I've got a tenkeyless WASD with browns and o-rings, and that Aimpad review a while back has been the only thing ever to make me think it isn't perfect.

The WASD/CODE units look very nice. A little pricey, but if/when I eventually need to replace my RK-9000 they will be at or near the top of my short list.
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Wed Jan 11, 2017 4:47 am

Captain Ned wrote:
whm1974 wrote:
Ah found the bookmark for Unicomp, Inc. Time for me to cough up ~$100 or so and buy a new Model M. I'm sure it would be worth it, right? Right?
http://www.pckeyboard.com/page/SFNT

Buy a real Model M on FleaBay. The Unicomps aren't quite as well-built, and the real Model M is so damn indestructible that 99.99% of FleaBay purchases will be just fine. Back when Scott/Damage wrote the quarterly "suggested build" posts, he always described the Model M as the keyboard to own if you ever thought you'd need to use your keyboard as a personal defense weapon.


Unicomp units are almost the same thing (Used both). The only thing that can kill a Model M and its newer sibling is a beverage accident (non-water) if the beverage manages get into the matrix board. The key molds are slightly inferior on Unicomp units but the body construction is about the same though. It is like comparing original Shelby Cobras versus their replicas.

You really can't go wrong with Unicomp if you can't find a good deal on a "used" Model M (They are getting harder to find these days).
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Wed Jan 11, 2017 5:14 am

just brew it! wrote:
The fact that I typically use a KVM may make it more likely, but I've seen it on other systems as well. Caps Lock key can suffer from this issue too (and there does not seem to be an equivalent 'capslockx' tool).

Replace the key code for numlock with that for caps lock and recompile. Linux sources are easily available. Should be that easy, right?
 
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:19 am

Krogoth wrote:
Unicomp units are almost the same thing (Used both). The only thing that can kill a Model M and its newer sibling is a beverage accident (non-water) if the beverage manages get into the matrix board. The key molds are slightly inferior on Unicomp units but the body construction is about the same though. It is like comparing original Shelby Cobras versus their replicas.

Last I heard they were still using the *original* key molds (they acquired the equipment and tooling when the Model M went out of production), and if that is indeed the case those molds are likely a little old and tired at this point. It would certainly explain why they are "slightly inferior".

I haven't checked in the past couple of years, but assuming they haven't done so yet I bet they could gain some new fans if they would just update the design with n-key rollover support.

Igor_Kavinski wrote:
just brew it! wrote:
The fact that I typically use a KVM may make it more likely, but I've seen it on other systems as well. Caps Lock key can suffer from this issue too (and there does not seem to be an equivalent 'capslockx' tool).

Replace the key code for numlock with that for caps lock and recompile. Linux sources are easily available. Should be that easy, right?

Depending on what's required to sync the internal and external Num Lock state it may not be quite that simple. If it was as simple as sending a simulated key code, just pressing the physical key would get things back in sync with no need for an extra utility.
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Re: Simple solution to one of life's annoying little mysteries

Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:51 am

just brew it! wrote:
Igor_Kavinski wrote:
just brew it! wrote:
The fact that I typically use a KVM may make it more likely, but I've seen it on other systems as well. Caps Lock key can suffer from this issue too (and there does not seem to be an equivalent 'capslockx' tool).

Replace the key code for numlock with that for caps lock and recompile. Linux sources are easily available. Should be that easy, right?

Depending on what's required to sync the internal and external Num Lock state it may not be quite that simple. If it was as simple as sending a simulated key code, just pressing the physical key would get things back in sync with no need for an extra utility.

It is indeed "not quite that simple"... but it is close. For some reason, Caps Lock is treated differently than Num Lock, and simply modifying all key references in the code does not work; the program bombs with the message "X Error of failed request: BadAtom (invalid Atom parameter)".

I found a solution on Stack Overflow though: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1568 ... -lock-mask (it is a one-line change, in addition to replacing all references to "num" in the code with "caps"). Looks like the original author of numlockx used a method that is specific to the Num Lock key, instead of the more general solution found by the Stack Overflow poster.
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