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I have x11-forwarding set up from an ubuntu 12.04 vm to my (windows) laptop. It works, but when I type in the forwarded applications, it is using the qwerty layout and I would like it to use colemak.

I would like a command-line solution since I don't have the GUI installed in the vm.

I have tried setxkbmap -v us -variant colemak, but I get "Error loading new keyboard description":

$ setxkbmap -v us -variant colemak
Warning! Multiple definitions of keyboard layout
         Using command line, ignoring X server
Warning! Multiple definitions of layout variant
         Using command line, ignoring X server
Trying to build keymap using the following components:
keycodes:   xfree86+aliases(qwerty)
types:      complete
compat:     complete
symbols:    pc+us(colemak)
geometry:   pc(pc101)
Error loading new keyboard description

I also tried setxkbmap -v us -variant dvorak, which did seem to work.

What is wrong? Colemak comes with ubuntu, and I can see a section for it in /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/us, which is where the layout is defined, I assume.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

My mistake was assuming that the keyboard layouts that were important were the ones in the vm (/usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/).

Actually, when using x-forwarding it is the keyboard layouts defined in my x server, xming (C:\Program Files (x86)\Xming\xkb\symbols) that are important, and colemak is not included with xming by default. I was able to just download the colemak definition and drop it in the xming symbols folder; then it works as expected.

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It's strange, I can correctly switch to colemak with your command:

#> setxkbmap -v us -variant colemak
Warning! Multiple definitions of keyboard layout
         Using command line, ignoring X server
Warning! Multiple definitions of layout variant
         Using command line, ignoring X server
Trying to build keymap using the following components:
keycodes:   evdev+aliases(qwerty)
types:      complete
compat:     complete
symbols:    pc+us(colemak)+inet(evdev)
geometry:   pc(pc105)

but I can't if I try to keep my Italian variant:

#> setxkbmap -v it -variant colemak
Warning! Multiple definitions of keyboard layout
         Using command line, ignoring X server
Warning! Multiple definitions of layout variant
         Using command line, ignoring X server
Trying to build keymap using the following components:
keycodes:   evdev+aliases(qwerty)
types:      complete
compat:     complete
symbols:    pc+it(colemak)+inet(evdev)
geometry:   pc(pc105)
Error loading new keyboard description

I'd suggest to you this article, but given that you don't have any desktop manager installed it will be pretty useless.

However, the motivation should be this one:

#> grep colemak /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/*
/usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/gb:xkb_symbols "colemak" {
/usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/gb:    include "us(colemak)"
/usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/lv:// http://colemak.com/
/usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/lv:xkb_symbols "colemak" {
/usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/lv:xkb_symbols "apostrophecolemak" {
/usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/lv:  include "lv(colemak)"
/usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/ph:// http://colemak.com
/usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/ph:xkb_symbols "colemak" {
/usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/ph:xkb_symbols "colemak-bay" {
/usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/us:// 2006-01-01 Shai Coleman, http://colemak.com/ . Public domain.
/usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/us:xkb_symbols "colemak" {

I can choose the colemak layout among gb, lv, ph and us languages only. You should have a similar problem.

At the end of the story, you can do two things: select colemak for a language close to us that you have installed (e.g. uk or gb), or try to install colemak support for us language via command line (I really don't know how, sorry).

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Thanks. This didn't solve my problem, but it pointed me in the right direction. Looks like it is my X server (xming) that needs colemak installed, and not the vm. –  Gabe Moothart Oct 9 '12 at 17:07
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