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Friday, April 27, 2012

keyboard layout -change it at CLI

Keyboard layout in Centos

I have been playing with Centos 5, which is the community binary for binary version of RHEL 5 (with various elements, such as text and graphics depicting or referring to Red Hat replaced with Centos, quite legally, might I add). It's an excellent alternative, as long as you don't expect a 24/7 support, or automatic updates or any of the value added stuff that a formal contract from Red Hat provides.
Selected "Gnome Desktop", "Server" and "Server-GUI" software, and the only other customisation was disk partitioning (I like my partitions to be done the old-fashioned UNIX style).
So, as I said, the installation completed successfully, and to my best knowledge all hardware was recognised OK (still testing, so can't be totally sure). One little surprise, though - the keyboard layout was the US, not UK! Well, it is quite possible that I messed it up myself (when selecting the keyboard during installation). Either way, I went to correct it by hand, and thought I'd document it. It's quite straightforward, but a thing to remember is that two different configuration files need to be changed.

For CLI (character interface screen, accessed through CTRL-ALT-F1 - F6) you need to modify the /etc/sysconfig/keyboard. Change the KEYTABLE line to read:
This will have immediate effect, and any new CLI session will assume the correct keyboard.

For GUI screen terminals, you need to change the Xorg configuration file: /etc/X11/xorg.conf. In the "Section InputDevice", identify the line with XkbLayout and modify it to read:
Option "XkbLayout" "uk"
Unlike CLI setting, this GUI change will only take place after GUI session is restarted. I have tried the standard CTRL-ALT-Backspace, to restart Xorg server, but it didn't work! Well, not for the first time. On many systems this is disabled.
I refuse doing a full reboots lightly, so I tend to 'recycle' GUI instead. First of all, make sure you don't have any GUI-dependent users or applications before you carry out the next step (they may not like being kicked off the system without a warning).
To 'recycle' GUI means switching runlevels to 3 than to 5 again. To do that: open a CLI session (press CTRL-ALT-F1), log in as root, and switch runlevel to 3 with:
# init 3
Once the 'anaconda' message appears on the screen - you are in runlevel 3, even though you see no new prompt. Hit "Enter", and the prompt will be printed. At that point, switch back into runlevel 5 with:
# init 5
Your new keyboard layout is now available to all users.

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