Sunday, June 20, 2010

1337 h4x in Ubuntu... I think?

So I've decided to play around with Linux some more. I've got an Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope dual boot on my retired desktop (retired since it doesn't handle a cable attack by a 2-year-old very well) but my laptop has just been running Windows 7.

Well I got bored the other day and decided to tinker around with it some more. Downloaded Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx yesterday and got it set up. Since I'm just tinkering, I went with the somewhat lame-o "installed within Windows" Wubi install. I'm not really looking for max performance, and I really didn't feel like repartitioning my hard drive, so give me a break. :-p

Once it was done installing, I rebooted, and selected the Ubuntu boot. One thing that always bugs me is that if you do the Wubi install, you have to go through 2 bootloaders, Windows and GRUB. I might just axe one of them later today. One thing that has always impressed me about Ubuntu is it's capability to run well "out of the box". Sure enough, everything was functioning great; I had my Google Talk and Gmail all configured and was connected to the wireless in minutes. I downloaded Chrome and began surfing the web, installing Adobe Flash 10.1 on the way.

Then I noticed one little problem; tap-to-click on my touchpad was enabled. Now, I understand a lot of people like this feature. I hate it. My hand rests on the touchpad in such a way that my thumb rests on the left mouse button. It doesn't take any more effort for me to click with my thumb, and sometimes I quickly touch the trackpad to move my cursor short distances, which often gets registered as a tap. Either way, I can't stand it.

So I went to the mouse settings in Ubuntu, and, go figure, Touchpad settings aren't there. This is because, despite tap-to-click being enabled and 2-finger scrolling functioning fine, the touchpad was being reported to the OS as a PS2 mouse. Thus, no touchpad tab, no way to shut it off.

I dug around for a while on the web. Since I just dabble in Linux, I only know a handful of terminal commands and had no idea where to start on this problem. Finally, I stumbled upon this post: Elantech touchpad improperly recognized as “ImPS/2 Logitech Wheel Mouse” - Post #44.

Awesome! A working fix! All I need to do is... modify the kernel? Yikes. Okay, okay, yeah, I know you Linux folks do crap like this all the time. In fact, tinkering around with Jaunty Jackalope I rebuilt a kernel while trying to teach myself more within terminal. But damn, to a Windows guy like me, this sounds like some serious stuff, 1337 h4x and all that. I mean hell, we think we're hot stuff when we go in and modify registry entries. These Linux guys are absolutely nuts on the other hand.

So I followed the instructions and had to improvise on step 3 since his command to determine my kernel version didn't work for me. "apt-get source linux-image-$(uname -r)" ended up doing the trick. I followed the rest of the steps without issue, entering long strings of who-knows-what into the terminal window, and finally (without even a reboot) my touchpad was registering properly as an ELANTech touchpad. The Touchpad tab was now showing in Mouse options and tap-to-click was quickly disabled.

Now I just need to figure out exactly what the heck I just did. I get the general idea, but I need to know precisely what just happened, and that entails knowing more about how Linux itself functions (which I'm ashamed to say I don't know a ton about). Time to get reading.

Oh and Happy Fathers Day to myself and all you other dads out there!

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