Flirting with the dark side…

Last month our 2010 27″ iMac stopped working. There was no drama, just a black screen where previously had been the High Sierra backdrop. A quick bit of investigation showed that it wasn’t as simple as a dead machine. The fans still blew and when turned off and on it made all the expected noises. There was just no picture. Plugging in an external monitor soon showed that the machine was usable and still functioning normally. After 7 years of service it seemed as if the LCD panel had finally failed.

The law of murphy stalks all such events and this time was no different. We’re in the midst of building a house so buying a replacement iMac wasn’t really an option. Looking at the pricing and specifications the offerings, none seemed like value for money – even if we had the money and wanted to splash out. However, as the machine was my wifes day to day workhorse, we would soon miss the abilities it offered. A solution was needed.

When I built my desktop computer 15 months ago I chose standard, well supported components. Given the travel my work entails it often sits idle, so a possible low cost solution would have been for my wife to use my machine. Her MacBook Air is very old and frankly not very pleasant to use for anything beyond mail and surfing the web while my laptop is more than capable. Of course, my desktop runs Windows and she is happier with the world of Apple. But maybe…

The Dark Side beckons…

Hackintosh is a term I’ve seen a lot, but when I last looked it was very complex and involved a lot of jumping through hoops and using very specific components. Looking again in 2017 revealed how far things had evolved. A lot of reviews and blogs talked about success dual booting a single, home built machine with OSX and Windows. They all mentioned the tonymacx86 website which has a lot of information, tutorials and downloads to help.
Using a monitor I found a suitable USB memory stick, registered with tonymacx86, downloaded the files and shortly afterwards had the USB stick ready for a try. I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much when I plugged it and powered up my desktop. The black screen with the Apple logo was a surprise. The progress bar slowly filling in was an even bigger surprise but when I was asked to choose an installation language I was glad to be sitting. Perhaps this could work?

Needing somewhere to install OSX on my desktop I found an older disk and after moving some wiring around had it installed and ready to receive OSX. Powering up again and going through the installtion instructions from the tonymacx86 website proved to be childs play and it didn’t take long for the install to commence. The reboots took me a little by surprise, but the process ran without any issues and soon I was filling in usernames and viewing the High Sierra backdrop.
Was everything perfect? No. That would have been too much to expect but I was sitting wondering what I was missing as up to this point it had been too simple.
Continuing with the tonymacx86 installation instructions I ran the MultiBeast app. This presented the first questions that caused me to pause. What drivers did I actually need? Looking at the OSX Preferences app it was clear no network or sound card had been recognised, so drivers would be needed for those. Ticking the boxes that seemed applicable and installing the Clover bootloader all went as expected and I rebooted – to a black screen.


This was, ironically, the same situation as the existing iMac – a responsive computer with a black screen. The fact it had worked previously meant it wasn’t a total roadblock and after some research I copied the USB stick EFI folder over the same folder on the installed bootloader. Rebooting rewarded me with a login screen and working network! The sound card had been recognised and was listed but as my sound is via the HDMI cable I still wasn’t hearing anything. Having a 4K monitor on my desktop has been great, but when running OSX it wasn’t great as the font size was far too small. Without a way to change the display font using the machine was mildly frustrating despite the change from the i3 2010 processor to the i7 2016 processor being very evident.

I tried a few things but wasn’t able to get the sound working via HDMI after trying a large number of different approaches outlined by people. The community seems to be gaining cohesion and the tools are certaiinly improving but I still found myself looking at version incompatibilities, outdated and incomplete instructions that were often filled with abbreviations that meant nothing to me. Clover is an interesting tool but isn’t as user friendly as many claim it to be.


We discovered a fix for the black screen on the iMac during this process. It was a bug related to the iMac goiong to sleep. Armed with this knowledge we were able to restore it to full working order, removing the need for me to continue. While I haven’t taken this any further when the iMac does eventually cease to be usable I will seriously consider building a Hackintosh. A quick costing with suitable components showed that it would save around £1000 over a comparable iMac, resulting in a machine that could be expanded and upgraded.

Keyboard Layouts on Ubuntu 13.10

After upgrading to Ubuntu 13.10 I found that often my keyboard layout, which is selected as English(UK) as it had been since starting to use this laptop, would change to English (US). Annoying as this is, even worse was that it didn’t always happen and would sometimes be fine. The layout is always shown as English (UK) despite the US layout being used, which only adds to the strangeness.

Quite how this odd bug was introduced isn’t clear, but I have found a fix.

  1. Select US keyboard
  2. Select UK keyboard

Hopefully this will be fixed soon, but at least I’ve stopped having so many odd characters appearing in my source files.

Gnome Shell & Ubuntu 12.10

After less than 24 hours with Unity, I installed gnome-shell. After some 30 minutes I have a desktop environment than looks far closer to the way I want it to. Things are where I expect them to be and easily accessible. What’s more it still feels like Ubuntu 🙂

After installing the key to customising is to add various shell extensions, but thanks to that is about as straightforward it can be 🙂

In case anyone is interested, the extensions I have added are

  • Frippery Applications Menu by rmyorston
  • Frippery Bottom Panel by rmyorston
  • Frippery Panel Favorites by rmyorston
  • Remove Accessibility by lomegor

Once installed the “dock” can still be accessed by moving the mouse to the top right corner and has all the usual functionality available (useful for adding items to the favourite menu).

Back to Ubuntu

Just under a year ago I swapped from Ubuntu to Mint. This was a reaction to the awful Unity desktop that they had decided to use as the default in 11.10. The reaction to my blog post about the change showed I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, but after living with Mint for a year I’ve swapped back to Ubuntu.

Throughout the year I’ve been using Mint it’s been a reasonable choice, but their update/upgrade mechanism requires a lot more care and feeding than Ubuntus and the system never seemed as up to date as I had experienced when using Ubuntu. Additionally I had ongoing niggles with some of the hardware on the machine (wifi and sound being the 2 main culprits) which seemed impervious to all fixes I tried. As I’ve left my days of kernel hacking behind I’d rather just use the machine than spend time debugging intermittent oddities. The lack of certain packages in apt on Mint finally pushed me to think about a switch, so as the effort involved in moving to Mint 14 was the same as moving to Ubuntu 12.10 I decided to make the switch.

The switch was also encouraged by several people who have commented that recent changes to Unity have made it less horrible and easier to deal with, so as I believe in second chances, I decided it was worth a try.

After backing up my entire partition, downloading and burning the 12.10 Desktop ISO I booted the machine using a USB DVD player and waited. Sure enough Ubuntu appeared and asked me to install. Simple. Adding the wifi password got me online and the installation was as painless as I remembered. After a reboot it was done.

The biggest question I had was whether I could cope with Unity or would have to change to gnome-shell. First impressions weren’t encouraging as I was confronted by a list of items the systems thought I should buy!? WTF! This was almost enough to make me ditch the whole experiment and grab a Mint 14 ISO, but in the spirit of giving it a try I continued on. After some google searches and some preference changes the nasty adverts went away, though with them they (apparently) took some of the other functionality. Removing most of the default icons from the “bar” on the left was easy enough – adding the ones I wanted was much harder, but eventually I managed. Finding the apps I wanted to run was a challenge and mostly involved typing the first few characters of their name into the dash search bar. Seriously? Not the best start.

As for the “Dash” and the various “lenses” that people seem to be excited about, I don’t really get it. It’s my machine and my desktop with apps on it that I have chosen. I should be able to arrange things in a way that makes sense to me. On an average day I only use a few apps and having them easily available to me is important. If I wanted to have how I should use my computer dictated I would be running OSX on a Mac.

Loading some of my media from the backup proved more encouraging as everything played straight away. The days of having to find odd packages to get the right codecs appear to have been banished.

I may be showing my age, but I prefer my window buttons to be on the right, so I had to run

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.preferences button-layout ":minimize,maximize,close

Simple enough, but couldn’t there be an easier option?

Overall Unity has improved, but still lacks in many areas. Too much of Unity seems directly cloned from OSX, right down to the little arrows next to the app icons in the bar thing. As I don’t really like how OSX works, this doesn’t feel like a positive direction to me. Nor does it feel as though they are innovating. For all it’s faults, Windows 8 does at least feel fresh and innovative.

Will I stick with Unity? I’m not sure yet, but I wouldn’t put your money on it.


While looking at some web page (I forget which, but it’s not really important) I was reminded about Songbird. I’d looked at it ages ago and while I liked the concept, the execution wasn’t worth spending time with. Things have certainly changed.

Downloading and installing was the usual Mozilla affair and it ran straight away. A nice little set of dialogs took me through the basic setup and a sensible choice of plugins was recommended for download. I quite like this approach, as it means I have the most up to date choice and versions straight away. Most importantly it also allows me to choose not to install things I have no interest in 🙂

The plugin to find images on flickr is interesting and shows the way that people are thinking around the app. Of course, if I could figure out how to view the images it would be even cooler…

It found the music on my laptop and created it’s library – exactly as you’d expect. The tabbed approach works well and shows the browser style origins.

It’s not perfect though.

  1. it really needs to get album art for me automatically.
  2. the concert plugin is good (and one I might well use) but it needs to store my location when I set it and allow me to change locations after showing me the search results. The display of search results is good and the opening of new pages with concert information inside the app works well.
  3. UPDATE: the plugin does store the location and will let you change locations, just it’s not obvious where to do this.
  4. where is the ability to stream from If it’s there I don’t seem to be able to find it.
  5. podcast support seems non-existant at present

The plugin to find images on flickr is interesting and shows the way that people are thinking around the app. Of course, if I could figure out how to view the images it would be even cooler…

Having said all that, this is a product under development and the sheer quantity of plugins already available is testament to the support it has. I really hope they continue to develop the product and I hope it gets the features I really want (which aren’t many), namely

  1. proper podcast support (feeds, placing on ipod in podcast folder)
  2. album art work
  3. ability to listen to streams
  4. automatic adding of content to library when added to machine
  5. dlna client support for home streaming

I’ll keep an eye and follow releases, but it already seems as though it has enough to allow me to use it frequently.

ToDo List manager?

Anyone got any suggestions for a ToDo list manager for Ubuntu? I know Sunbird has one, but I’d rather have a simple little app that was based on the desktop.

Ubuntu 8.04

As much as I hate to jump on the bandwagon, but 8.04 is still not as usable for me as 7.10 was 🙁

The biggest annoyance is that usb devices aren’t automounted. Stick in a USB memory stick, formatted as fat32 or ext2, and nothing happens. Looking at dmesg shows it’d detcted and devfs does it’s thing, but then nothing. In previous versions of Ubuntu it would be mounted – exactly as you would expect and hope. Sometimes running “gnome-mount -d /dev/xxxx” will mount the device, but not always. Annoying 🙁

I do find it quite amazing that the Ubuntu team have released 8.04 with such a serious flaw, but looking around for solutions it seems I’m not the only one to experience this problem. Sadly my searching hasn’t found a solution and I’ve seen reports that people still using Ubuntu 7.10 have had the same problem, so reverting to that version probably isn’t an option 🙁

This is the first time I’ve run into serious problems with Ubuntu on the desktop, but I hope it’ll be the last!

Until recently an encrypted volume I was using was automounting, but now it’s the same as my other USB devices 🙁 When i try and use gnome-mount to mount the drive, I get…

x40:~$ gnome-mount -vtd /dev/mapper/luks_crypto_xxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx
gnome-mount 0.8
** (gnome-mount:17095): DEBUG: Mounting /org/freedesktop/Hal/devices/volume_part_1_size_0
GConf Error: Bad key or directory name: "/system/storage/default_options/(null)/fstype_override": `(' is an invalid character in key/directory names
** (gnome-mount:17095): DEBUG: Mounting /org/freedesktop/Hal/devices/volume_part_1_size_0 with mount_point='', fstype='', num_options=0
** Message: Mount failed for /org/freedesktop/Hal/devices/volume_part_1_size_0
org.freedesktop.DBus.Error.UnknownMethod : Method "Mount" with signature "ssas" on interface "org.freedesktop.Hal.Device.Volume" doesn't exist

Any Ubuntu folks have solutions or suggestions?

xchat2 freenode script

The first one I grabbed was a bust, but this one works as advertised 🙂


A short while ago I was having lunch with someone who has a Myth TV setup when they told me that Myth had commercial skipping abilities. I’d wondered on and off about creating a setup here, though as I have a Sky+ box it always seemed a bit excessive. However, in a moment of weakness I bought a DVB card and attached it to the appropriate ariel – fired up the relevant drivers and voila! Or at least so I thought.

MythTV wasn’t as easy to setup as I thought it would be but it’s now installed and working. It records programs and mythweb works really, really well. So far I’ve been extremely impressed by MythTV and the few things I don’t full grasp yet arent enough to hinder my usage. That privilege is reserved for a more serious problem.

The DVB card I bought is a Nova-T-500 which has 2 tuners from a single antenna connection. This was part of it’s attraction. Plugging in the card was strange as it doesn’t appear as a PCI card but rather 2 USb devices. This threw me initially and led to some headscratching but I found a web page or two that helped. In order for the card to be usable some firmware is needed – finding it was an exercise until I found it via a blog post. Installing it allowed the card to work and I thought that was the end of it. That was until the first kernel oops. This has now become a regular event and one that is very annoying.

After the initial occurance the DVB card is totally useless. There have been some other people reporting this problem but so far no solutions (or none that I’ve seen). It’s a little annoying to have it so close to working – and yet be so far away!

automatic updates

One of the features that all modern OS’s require these days is that they update themselves on a regular basis. Ubuntu is no different and normally the process is as smooth as smooth can be. Occasionally though it introduces a problem – such as the one I now experience on an irregular basis when Firefox simply dies. One second it’s all fine and the page is downloading normally, the next there is no more Firefox. It’s only been happening since a recent update and started within minutes of that update being applied.

Hopefully there will be another update soon that will fix it.

Xgl & compiz

Having heard that this combo resulted in superior eye candy I decided to give it a try. As usual the Ubuntu forums had agreat howto, so it looked as though it wouldn’t be too complex. Following through the howto it all seemed to progress as it should. The system is amd64 and the graphics card is nVidia, so there didn’t appear to be any problems there. Getting the Xgl server running rather than Xorg took a few tries, but I got there.

Then I tried running compiz. Sadly it didn’t quite work as predicted 🙁

david@drakh:~$ gnome-window-decorator & [1] 5940
david@drakh:~$ compiz --replace gconf decoration wobbly fade minimize cube rotate zoom scale move resize place switcher water &
[2] 5943
david@drakh:~$ compiz.real: No XKB extension
compiz.real: No GLXFBConfig for default depth, this isn't going to work.
compiz.real: Failed to manage screen: 0
compiz.real: No managable screens found on display :0.0

[2]+  Done                    compiz --replace gconf decoration wobbly fade minimize cube rotate zoom scale move resize place switcher water

I have no title bars and a lot of the usual nicities of Gnome have stopped working. Logging out is the only way to fix it. So far none of my searches have rsulted in a solution, so I guess I’ll go back to plain old Xorg until I can find a solution.


For anyone else having issues getting gmplayer to run and reporting it can’t find a skin, the option to add to the gui.conf file (yep, not config) is gui_skin = . With this small change it now starts and runs correctly so I can stop using the commandline to watch movies!


When recording the feathercasts I’ve been using a program under windows, but ideally I’d like to be able to record under Ubuntu as well. Looking around a solution using the JACK server seems as though it should work, but it requires oss2jack for Skype is still stuck using OSS for it’s sound when the rest of the world has moved onto using ALSA. Installing oss2jack was no mean feat though as it’s not an official package for Ubuntu.

This is what I eventually had to do (from memory and some steps may be missing)!

Install the following packages from synaptic

  • libsamplerate0
  • libsamplerate0-dev
  • libjack0.100.0
  • libjack0.100.0-dev

Then grab the latest fusd and oss2jack packages. Rather than follow the links I found on various webpages I eventually just visited the main page at and then fetched the latest packages as listed there. Extracting and building these worked fine.

I loaded the fusd module using modprobe kfusd and checked that /dev/fusd was created and had the 2 expected nodes.

After a reboot sound worked fine, but jackd and oss2jack didn’t startup. The breezy package has some scripts that permit this, but these weren’t usable on the dapper system.

Following some advice I found I rmeoved the oss modules from the kernel.

sudo rmmod snd_pcm_oss
sudo rmmod snd-mixer-oss

After removing these there were no /dev/dsp devices listed. Starting jackd and oss2jack replaced the /dev/dsp device.

jackd -R -d alsa -d hw:0 -r 48000 &
oss2jack &

Once checking that I once more had a /dev/dsp node I started skype. Calling the echo test worked and I had sound – although it was a little choppy.

For testing the JACK documentation talked about using ecasound, so I installed the following packages via synaptic.

  • ecasound
  • ladspa-sdk

This proved that the sound was working and wasn’t choppy, so the problem had to be Skype. I tried running xmms and then calling the echo test service again using Skype – the result was both applications producing audio with no errors reported by Skype. This seems to show that it’s all working. Now I just need to try and get the Skype quality improved and figure out how to record it!

where is sunbird?

ubuntu still doesn’t have sunbird available as a package 🙁 It’s a shame as it’s an application I had started using mroe and more on FreeBSD. Having a timetable that could best be described as “variable”, the ability to publish for friends/family was one that had long made sense, but until the advent of sunbird wasn’t really practical.

I saw that there is now Lightning that can integrate with Thundebird, but I really would like a stand alone calendar app so I can quickly check where people are. Hopefully ubuntu will add it at some point soon.


After reading that the next version of Ubuntu had been released and finding the page that detailed how to upgrade using the graphical update manager I decided to try it. Once more my faith in Ubuntu has been affirmed. It took just under 2 hours to downlaod the 1172 files it needed, then effortlessly upgraded my system and rebooted into a shiny new Gnome 2.14 desktop. All of my settings were migrated – even for apps that it uninstalled as not supported (xchat being the first one I found).

Latest version of Firefox and Thunderbird are appreciated. As I found with FreeBSD the boot time is quicker with the latest Gnome, though the warning about the .dmrc file remains at startup (even after checking all the items it says might be wrong), but otherwise the restart was as smooth as I could have wished for.

No doubt there will be some rough edges, but so far none has been apparent. This is certainly a candidate for the smoothest os upgrade I’ve ever done. Anyone who believes that Linux desktops aren’t coming of age really needs to take a look at Ubuntu Dapper.

ubuntu redux

When I decided to make the move to ubuntu on the desktop I also decided that I would change my laptop. The logic is that I’d rather only have one OS on the two “desktops” I use. It should make life easier and means less problems when jumping between them.

My lack of a USB cd-rom means that installing onto the laptop is an adventure into using PXE. This worked well when I installed FreeBSD and so I wasn’t overly worried about using it again. It took a little while to get the correct files in the correct place, but once I had done that it went quite smoothly. The reboot took place and there was Ubuntu – 4.10! My lack of familiarity with the Ubuntu names/versions meant I grabbed an out of date PXE tarball. Instead of worrying I decided to use it as a learning experience for upgrading the systems, which I did to 5.04 and then 5.10. It may have cost me some time but at least I learned some lessons along the way.

The system again feels slightly faster than FreeBSD and glxgears shows a 50% increase in speed. The two desktops are almost identical now – more so than they were under FreeBSD as more of the system is available on both.

It’s all been quite positive, with one exception – sound. I’ve spent a bit of today looking around the web, reading wikis (not something I normally participate in) and am still no further forward. I saw one blog post (I’ve forgotten the URL now) with a review of Ubuntu which summed up my feelings – “everything works out of the box except sound”. Some people seem to repot that they can get the level of operation that would be nice (having more than one application playing at once is the first thing) but despite trying a few of the descriptions it just doesn’t want to work here. Annoying and hopefully something that will get sorted out.

ubuntu #2

Ubuntu has been installed for a couple of days now, and so far it’s far exceeded my expectations. One of the nice things about FreeBSD is that there is a lot of useful information around to help you through problems, but as I’m discovering the amount of documentation available for ubuntu is as great, if not greater. What’s more, a lot of it answers specific questions I have.

It took me only an hour or so to get to a point where I had the nVidia graphics drivers installed and a dual head setup running. This gave me direct rendering and resulted in glxgears giving speeds in the 3500 range (FreeBSD was giving approx 180) – more than fast enough for me.

After some more digging I managed to install mplayer and had movies playing with a smoothness I had never seen under FreeBSD. The whole system still felt responsive and usable, whereas under FreeBSD it was sluggish. Of course getting mplayer installed took a little persuasion and learning about the way the installer works, but thankfully mads was helpful to point me in the right direction.

When I plugged in my external hard dirve it just appeared. No messy mounting configuration, just “plug and play” – exactly as it should be.

Overall I’ve been very impressed so far. The system is stable and everything just seems to work (so far). Plugging in a webcam and it’s detected and available to Gnome Meeting! This is where all operating systems should be. Thom told me when I debated making the switch that Linux had come a long way on the desktop, but I didn’t believe him until now. Sorry mate!


I’ve been using FreeBSD for about 10 years on various machines but only in the last fewyears have I really tried to use it as a desktop. It’s not as straightforward as I’d like it to be and all the development around X desktops is taking place in Linux systems, meaning that FreeBSD is constantly playing catch up. It’s frustrating.

My desktop system has never been as stable as I would have liked. I had a problem with some memory, but even after that was replaced it wasn’t as stable as I wanted it to be. I’m not sure why, but the hardware RAID on the motherboard I was using wasn’t 100% supported and there always seemed to be lots of problems with it. The downtime I’ve seen over the last few days has led me to finally decide that enough was enough and it’s time to try and cure thr problems and get a stable system. I need a desktop I can use.

Contemplating removing everything and starting again I wondered about swapping away from FreeBSD. nVidia make Linux drivers for their graphics cards, even for amd64 archictecture, so it would remove the problem of lack of drivers and hopefully mean I could remove the second graphics card from the machine. Additionally the Gnome desktop actually works very well on Linux compared with just working on FreeBSD, so the change should make the desktop more usable “out of the box”. Having heard good things about Ubuntu I decided to give it a try.

Thom told me that it could do software raid at the install stage, so I decided to try it. I want RAID 1 on the machine to try and provide a backup capability. 200Gb of storage isn’t as simple to backup as the smaller 1Gb drives we all remember! The install took a little while to get started as burning the ISO took 2 attempts before it would work, but then seemd to go well. It’s slick and straightforward asking sensible questions in a manner that should make sense to most people. Then we got to the hardest part of all Unix installations, the partitioning of the drives. It was here I ws expecting to have to setup the RAID and sure enough there were options for doing it. The next question was how to set it up – not as obvious as the previous options.

I eventually did it this way, which may not be how it should be done, but it seemed to work and kept the install happy. I have 2 200Gb SATA disks that I wanted to use as a RAID 1.
I used the default partitioning options and ended up with a small (6.8Gb) swap partition and the remainder as a single large partition.

In orer to be used for creating the RAID both disks had their large partitions edited to change the use to “physical volume for RAID”.

Choose “Configure software RAID” from the options

Create MD Device from the Multidisk configuration options

Select RAID 1 when asked

Answer 2 for active devices

Answer 0 for spare devices

Select the 2 partitions created (one per disk)

The new RAID partition was now created but had to be edited before it could be used.
Once complete the remainder of the installation went OK.

The most annoying part was getting to a point where I had a CD image that worked. It took me 3 attempts at burning the ISO before it would work.

more adventures from the garden

As I’ve been taking a fair few pictures recently I’ve found that the easiest way for me to start “sifting” them is to load them onto the machine and run a quick slideshow. It’s simple, quick and allows me to start getting a feeling for which pictures are worth keeping. EOG, the graphics viewer that comes with Gnome is fine and does a nice slideshow, but it doesn’t handle the EXIF headers correctly. This is a shame as the camera sets the orientation correctly in the headers and it wouldn’t be too hard for EOG to detect the setting and rotate the pictures correctly so I could simply “open and view”. f-Spot did this but it’s a mono application and so won’t run on my desktop machine. Additionally it also created a duplicate of every picture which was mildly annoying and wasteful of my precious disk space on the laptop.

EOG refused to run on my AMD64 desktop under Gnome 2.12, but after an upgrade to 2.14 it’s happy and runs nicely. It still doesn’t rotate the images for me and also doesn’t change the orientation when I save an image after using one of it’s “rotate this way” buttons. This is really annoying and strikes me as being very wrong at worst and inconsistent at best.

2.14 corrects a few of the 64-bit problems that existed under 2.12 and seems slightly faster and smoother overall.

keyboard confusion

I’m running Gnome 2.12 on my laptop and desktop. The desktop is AMD64 FreeBSD -CURRENT and the laptop is i386 with 6-STABLE. They both have experienced problems with setting the correct keyboard layout in the past, but both were working correctly until recently. Today they both display errors at startup and the laptop has a US keyboard layout! What’s worse is that the desktop machine now refuses to awaken from the gnome screensavers, requiring a remote login to kill the gnome screensaver process or a CTRL+ALT+Backspace to restart X 🙁 Neither is ideal.

I’m not sure what changed. The laptop had a few ports removed (nothing that would affect the keyboard I thought) and the desktop has seen numerous rebuilds of the ports that relate to keyboards in gnome and X – all to no avail. It’s annoying and has suddenly struck the laptop from nowhere. Anyone got any ideas what’s going on and how I fix it?

The error I get on login is

Error activating XKB configuration.
It can happen under various circumstances:
– a bug in libxklavier library
– a bug in X server (xkbcomp, xmodmap utilities)
– X server with incompatible libxkbfile implementation

X server version data:
The X.Org Foundation

If you report this situation as a bug, please include:
– The result of xprop -root | grep XKB
– The result of gconftool-2 -R /desktop/gnome/peripherals/keyboard/kbd

The information requested looks like

$ xprop -root | grep XKB
_XKB_RULES_NAMES_BACKUP(STRING) = “xorg”, “pc105”, “gb”, “”, “”
_XKB_RULES_NAMES(STRING) = “xorg”, “pc105”, “gb”, “”, “”


$ gconftool-2 -R /desktop/gnome/peripherals/keyboard/kbd
layouts = [gb,us_intl]
model =
overrideSettings = false
options = [grp grp:alts_toggle]