Archive for March, 2011

Keyboard fun

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

One can have hours of fun with xmodmap. Especially if one has a Symbolics keyboard.

For a start, I get a “real” Meta key (not Alt) and a couple of extra modifier keys that emacs knows about: Hyper and Super. I mapped these to mod2 and mod3. Staying away from mod4 is a good idea because that defaults to the Windows key (on modern keyboards) and there are some Gnome shortcuts that would clash, e.g. show desktop (Windows-d). Modifier 5 is known by xmodmap as Mode_switch, normally mapped to “Alt Gr”.

I learned that a keypress can do 4 things according to the mode it’s in:

  • normal press – type the glyph
  • shift + press – type the shifted glyph
  • mode_switch + press
  • shift + mode_switch + press

The last two of these are outside of normal use, which basically means that you are free to map them to whatever. On the Symbolics keyboard I mapped mode_switch to the Symbol key. Then I had fun making the modmap to make the keys do various things like type Greek letters and mathematical symbols.

I think there’s a reasonably natural mapping between Greek and English letters thus:

  • A – alpha (α)
  • B – beta (β)
  • C – chi (χ)
  • D – delta (δ)
  • E – epsilon (ε)
  • F – phi (φ)
  • G – gamma (γ)
  • H – theta (θ)
  • I – iota (ι)
  • K – kappa (κ)
  • L – lambda (λ)
  • M – mu (μ)
  • N – eta (η)
  • O – omicron (ο)
  • P – pi (π)
  • R – rho (ρ)
  • S – sigma (σ)
  • T – tau (τ)
  • U – upsilon (υ)
  • V – nu (ν)
  • W – omega (ω)
  • X – xi (ξ)
  • Y – psi (ψ)
  • Z – zeta (ζ)

That leaves Q and J free with no obvious Greek letter equivalents. For the number keys, I added some mathematical symbols, and for the punctuation keys I added further punctuation (e.g. left and right guillemots) and things like copyright and trademark symbols.

But that’s not all… I have plans to alter the keyboard firmware (it’s just programmed using C and Teensy – I’ve already made some mods) to use the “Mode Lock” key more extensively. So Mode Lock basically is a hardware shift key, and when it’s on, I can make the entire keyboard send different key codes. Since there are a total of 255 possible keycodes recognisable by xmodmap, I should have room to fit in another complete set (again, 4 per key) and be able to type all sorts of weird and wonderful glyphs.

The only issue I have at the moment is around the keycodes that are in the “numpad zone” on a regular keyboard. The mode_switch doesn’t seem to work with them yet. I still have to figure that out.

Let’s not go overboard here

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

There is no need to be taking Potassium Iodide, because:

  • Japan is a really long way away, and any release of radioactive material would disperse before reaching the US.
  • Iodine-131 exposure apparently doesn’t increase the risk of thyroid cancer unless you’re a kid.
  • It is likely to do more harm than good.


Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Yesterday I was asked (by a native French speaker) how long I had lived in France for. Nice to know that all those years of study haven’t atrophied too much (I have never lived in France).

But I don’t speak French as well as my mother did, who was once asked (again by a native speaker) what part of France she was from!

Home from GDC

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

I’m home from the 3 day tour of GDC, and it was very worthwhile. A non-stop maelstrom of recruitment, attending talks and catching up with old friends and colleagues.

Talks I attended:

  • Video Games Turn 25: A Historical Perspective and Vision for the Future by Satoru Iwata (Nintendo Co., Ltd.)
  • Fighting Real Time by Jacky Mallett (CCP)
  • Forensic Debugging: How to Autopsy, Repair, and Reanimate a Release-built Game by Elan Ruskin (Valve Corporation)
  • Classic Game Postmortem – ELITE by David Braben (Frontier Developments)
  • Classic Game Postmortem – OUT OF THIS WORLD/ANOTHER WORLD by Eric Chahi (Ubisoft)
  • 1000s of Zombies, 1000s of Problems: The DEAD RISING 2 Multiplayer Experience by Dee Jay Randall (Capcom Game Studio Vancouver)
  • Classic Game Postmortem – POPULOUS by Peter Molyneux (Lionhead Studios)
  • The Game Design of STARCRAFT II: Designing an E-Sport by Dustin Browder (Blizzard Entertainment)
  • HTML5: The New UI Library for Games by Chad Austin (IMVU)

The standouts were the classic game postmortems, which were excellent.

I also met up with folks from my former lives, including Doox, Dimitar, Ben B, Will L, Simon C, Peter M, Demis, Cathy C, Ofer, Zak, Mike B, Mike C, Neil M, Thor, Michael S, and many besides that I said hi to.

I have to go check the GDC vault to see the talks that I missed which are recommended to catch up on. In closing, San Francisco is a nice town, but has far too many sushi restaurants.


Friday, March 4th, 2011

Quite a few people I’ve met at GDC told me they read my blog. Now that I know that, maybe I’ll update more! Anyway, last day of GDC – have seen lots of old friends and colleagues and attended a few good talks. Stay tuned for more of a report when I get back.