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About the developer

ItayGarin
149 Stars 8 Forks GNU Lesser General Public License v3.0 165 Commits 12 Opened issues

Description

A Supercharged Keyboard Programming Daemon ⌨️

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ktrl

Crates.io

TL;DR

ktrl is a Linux keyboard programming daemon. It aims to aid you in the never-ending quest of achieving the ultimate keybinding setup.

You can dip your toes by remapping a few modifier keys (e.g

CapLock
to
Ctrl
). Or you can go all-in by creating a sophisticated layering setup with dual-function keys, tap-dancing, etc...

ktrl is heavily inspired by the amazing open-source keyboard firmware project QMK. You can think of ktrl as an attempt to re-implement QMK as a Linux daemon.

This is an alpha state project. If you find any bugs or quirks please reach out to me.

Table of Contents

Intro

ktrl sits right in the middle of the human-interface software stack. It lives in userspace, between the kernel and your display server (a.k.a X11 / Wayland).

This position allows ktrl complete control over the events your keyboard generates. These events are either transparently passed-on or transformed into ktrl's "Effects" (more on that later).

Features Overview

Aside from the obvious key remapping capability, here's a taste of some of the major things you can do with ktrl -

Layers

Although "layers" might seem like a foreign idea, it's something you're already very familiar with. After all, you apply "layers" all the time by using modifier and function keys :)

QMK takes this mechanism and generalizes it. Letting you design your own custom keyboard's layers!

If that sounds confusing, I encourage you to head over to QMK's documentation about layers.

Tap-Hold (Dual Function Keys)

Tap-Hold keys let you do one thing when the key is pressed, and another thing when it is held. For example, you can make your Spacebar act as normal when tapping, but serve as Ctrl when held.

Tap-Dancing (Multi-Tap)

Tap-dancing is quite similar to Tap-Hold. The key will act in one way if tapped once, and will act differently if tapped multiple times.

Meh
and
Hyper

Again, both of these were shamelessly taken from QMK.

Meh
and
Hyper
are special modifiers for creating keybindings that'll probably never conflict with existing ones. That's possible since
Hyper
is equal to pressing
Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Win
and
Meh
is the same as pressing
Ctrl+Alt+Shift
.

Audible Feedback

Ever wanted to bind your favorite 8bit tunes to your key-presses? Well, now you can! Though, aside from making your hacking session more musical, this feature as some very practical uses as well.

For example, it can help you build new muscle-memory connections using audible feedback. See the Capslock <-> Ctrl example below for more on that.

Installation

Getting the Executable

Start off by grabbing the main

ktrl
executable. Here's how you do that -
sudo cargo install --root /usr/local ktrl

Note: you may need to install

alsa
development bindings,
autoconf
and
libtool
. For Debian/Ubuntu distributions this can be done with
# apt install libalsa-ocaml-dev autoconf libtool libtool-bin

Setting up ktrl's User and Groups

Although a bit cumbersome, this step makes sure we can run ktrl without root privileges. Instead of running it as root, we'll make a new user for ktrl. Then, we'll add the new user to the input and audio groups. Let's get started -

sudo useradd -r -s /bin/false ktrl
sudo groupadd uinput
sudo usermod -aG input ktrl
sudo usermod -aG uinput ktrl

If you're using the sound effects

sudo usermod -aG audio ktrl

Now, let's add a new udev rule that'll allow ktrl to write to

/dev/uinput
.
/dev/uinput
is ktrl's output device. Your keyboard being the input device.
git clone https://github.com/itaygarin/ktrl
cd ktrl
sudo cp ./etc/99-uinput.rules /etc/udev/rules.d/

Note that'll need to reboot your machine for the changes to take effect...

Setting up ktrl's Assets and Config

Now, it's time to decide where you'd like ktrl's assets and config to live.

By default, ktrl will assume you've placed these under

/opt/ktrl
. Specifically,
/opt/ktrl/cfg.ron
and
/opt/ktrl/assets
. Though, you can override these defaults with the
--cfg
and
--assets
cli arguments.

To set-up the defaults, you can follow these steps -

# Asumming you've already cloned and cd`d into the ktrl project

sudo mkdir /opt/ktrl sudo cp -r ./assets /opt/ktrl sudo cp examples/cfg.ron /opt/ktrl

sudo chown -R ktrl:$USER /opt/ktrl sudo chmod -R 0770 /opt/ktrl

Locating your Keyboard's input device

For ktrl to work, you have to supply it with a path to your keyboard's input device. Input devices reside in the

/dev/input
directory.

Linux provides two convenient symlinks-filled directories to make the search process easier. These directories are

/dev/input/by-id
and
/dev/input/by-path
.

Within these two directories keyboard devices usually have a

-kbd
suffix. For example, in my laptop, the path is
/dev/input/by-path/platform-i8042-serio-0-event-kbd
.
Bluetooth keyboard location

If you are using a bluetooth keyboard, you will need to locate the associated

/dev/input/event
as
/dev/input/by-*
only lists usb connected inputs. The best way to do this is to run
cat /proc/bus/input/devices
and search for the associated bluetooth keyboard (the
Phys
output will have the MAC address). Here is an example:
I: Bus=0005 Vendor=05ac Product=0239 Version=0050
N: Name="My Keyboard"
P: Phys=SO:ME:MA:CA:DD:RS
S: Sysfs=/devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:01.2/0000:02:00.0/0000:03:08.0/0000:07:00.3/usb3/3-5/3-5:1.0/bluetooth/hci0/hci0:256/0005:05AC:0239.0009/input/input40
U: Uniq=SO:ME:MA:CA:DD:RS
H: Handlers=sysrq kbd event25 leds

Notice in
Handlers
, it tells us the event # we need. So our path to our device is
/dev/input/event25
.

Setting up ktrl as a Service (Optional)

ktrl is a daemon that's designed to run as a background process. Therefore, you might want to set it up as a service. Feel free to skip this step if you just want to experiment with it.

Creating a service will vary from distro to distro, though, here are some basic steps that'll get you started on

systemd
based systems -
# Again, asumming you've cloned and cd`d into the ktrl project

edit ./etc/ktrl.service # change your device path sudo cp ./etc/ktrl.service /etc/systemd/system sudo systemctl daemon-reload sudo systemctl start ktrl.service

Configuration

Finally, we get to the cool part! Though, let's briefly go over ktrl's config primitives before assembling our first config file

Primitives

Input Event Codes

ktrl uses Linux's input-event-codes everywhere. The full list can be found either in Linux's codebase here or under ktrl's KeyCode enum.

Specifically, ktrl uses a subset of the event codes that describe keyboard keys. E.g

KEY_A
and
KEY_LEFTCTRL
describe the 'A' and Left-Ctrl keys.

Actions

Within a layer, we map a source key (ex:

KEY_A
) into an
Action
. Actions describe the physical input movements you'll apply to the source key. E.g A
TapHold
describes a tap and a hold.
Actions List
  • Tap
    : This is the default keyboard action. Use for simple key remappings.
  • TapHold
    : Attach different
    Effect
    s for a tap and hold.
  • TapDance
    : Attach different
    Effect
    s for a tap and multiple taps.

Effects

An

Action
will contain one or more
Effect
s. These are the virtual output effects that'll manifest following the action. E.g Playing a sound, toggling a layer, sending a key sequence, etc...
Effects List
  • NoOp
    : As the name suggests. This won't do anything.
  • Key
    : This is the default effect you're "used to".
  • KeySticky
    : Once pressed, the key will remain active until pressed again (like Capslock).
  • KeySeq
    : Outputs multiple keys at once. E.g
    Meh
    and
    Hyper
    are
    KeySeq
    s
  • Meh
    : A shorthand for
    KeySeq(KEY_LEFTCTRL, KEY_LEFTALT, KEY_LEFTSHIFT)
  • Hyper
    : A shorthand for
    KeySeq(KEY_LEFTCTRL, KEY_LEFTALT, KEY_LEFTSHIFT, KEY_LEFTMETA)
  • ActivateProfile
    : Activates a user-defined profile
  • DeactivateProfile
    : Deactivates a user-defined profile
  • DeactivateAllProfiles
    : Deactivates all user-defined profiles
  • ToggleLayerAlias
    : When pressed, either turns on or off a named layer.
  • ToggleLayer
    : When pressed, either turns on or off a layer.
  • MomentaryLayer
    : While pressed, the relevant layer will remain active
  • Sound
    : Plays one of the pre-built sounds
  • SoundEx
    : Plays a custom sound provided by you.
  • Multi
    : Lets you combine all the above effects. E.g
    Multi([Sound(Sticky), KeySticky(KEY_LEFTCTRL)])

Configuration File Format

ktrl uses the wonderful ron (Rust Object Notation) to make serializing configuration much easier. The format should be pretty intuitive, though please refer to the supplied cfg.ron for a practical example.

Examples

Remapping
Ctrl
to
Capslock

This is probably one of the most effective yet simple changes you can make right now. You're left pinky will greatly appreciate this change in the long-run.

Doing this with ktrl is easy. In one of your layers, add the following -

KEY_CAPSLOCK:  Tap(Key(KEY_LEFTCTRL)),
KEY_LEFTCTRL:  Tap(Key(KEY_LEFTCTRL))),

Though, let's make this more interesting, shall we?

To make the transition smoother, let's add an error sound effect to the left Ctrl. This'll remind you you're doing something wrong -

KEY_CAPSLOCK:  Tap(Key(KEY_LEFTCTRL)),
KEY_LEFTCTRL:  Tap(Multi([Key(KEY_LEFTCTRL), Sound(Error)])),

Ah, much better!

Of course, you can also go cold turkey and only leave the sound effect. Like so -

KEY_CAPSLOCK:  Tap(Key(KEY_LEFTCTRL)),
KEY_LEFTCTRL:  Tap(Sound(Error)),

Home-row Modifiers

Another change I've been experimenting with is mapping modifiers to home row keys Though, due note you'll have to calibrate the

tap_hold_wait_time
config value to avoid false-positives.

Here's an example setup -

KEY_A:  TapHold(Key(KEY_A), Key(KEY_LEFTCTRL)),
KEY_S:  TapHold(Key(KEY_S), Key(KEY_LEFTSHIFT)),
KEY_D:  TapHold(Key(KEY_D), Key(KEY_LEFTALT)),

This will make

A
,
S
and
D
act as usual on taps and as modifiers when held.

Limitations

  • TapHold
    and
    TapDance
    require calibration and tinkering. as stated above, you'll have to tweak the wait times for both of these to minimize false-positives.

Similar Projects

  • alt: An Event Aggregator that connects to ktrl
  • QMK: An open source keyboard firmware (ktrl's inspiration)
  • kmonad: Very similar to ktrl (written in Haskell)
  • xcape: Implements tap-hold only for modifiers (Linux)
  • Space2Ctrl: Similar to
    xcape
  • interception tools: A framework for implementing tools like ktrl
  • karabiner-elements: A mature keyboard customizer for Mac

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