Problems with AltGr on international keyboard layouts

Christian Rose menthos at
Thu Dec 12 20:24:24 EST 2002

In Red Hat Linux 8.0, many users of international keyboard layouts are
experiencing severe problems with using the AltGr key, both in console
mode and in X mode.

The problems seem to be triggered when NumLock is activated, at least in
console mode, and causes lots of garbage characters to be printed on the
screen in addition to the desired character, when trying to type a
character such as {}, [], @, \, ~; characters that are typically
composed using the AltGr key on many international layouts. Even
pressing AltGr by itself generates garbage, which it shouldn't, since
it's supposed to be a silent key.
The bug seems to be releated to the inclusion of a Speakup patch in the
Linux kernel. Please see the bug report at

The problem is not only an annoyance to users that can't type characters
without getting garbage; it's also prone to many accidents, even though
one may be already aware of this very problem. I had an accident myself
today, where I wanted to type "rm *~" in a terminal to delete all emacs
backups in a directory. Since entering "~" as always generated lots of
garbage, I tried to go back and delete the garbage, but it still got
interpreted as "rm * ~" and I thus lost all my files.

Please don't interpret this as some sort of criticism of Speakup or it's
inclusion in the Linux kernel; I fully understand the need for it, and
am in fact currentlying taking an entry-level university course in
deploying assistive technologies, so as to learn more about what
solutions are needed.
But there has to be a way of enabling Speakup use without rendering the
AltGr key, and hence the keyboard layouts used in large parts of the
world, unusable at the same time.


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