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Input Devices

Does Your PC Really Need a SysRq Button Anymore? 806

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-don't-even-use-vowels dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Ever wondered what the SysRq key on your keyboard does? Lenovo has decided it's so rarely used that it has started removing the key from some new Thinkpad Edge laptops. We already know that Lenovo are something of the fastidious scientists when it comes to keyboard design. Last time they fiddled with the age-old key layout, it was after painstaking research to count exactly how many times users press the Delete and Escape keys. Now it seems another relic of computer keyboards is starting to disappear."
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Does Your PC Really Need a SysRq Button Anymore?

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  • by ls671 (1122017) * on Thursday January 14, 2010 @11:00AM (#30764112) Homepage

    I don't recall ever using that key although I have coded my own "terminate and stay resident" (TSR) programs back then in order to achieve some level of multitasking in DOS.

    With TSR programs, you could intercept the timer interrupt and do some amount of computation in the background before returning to the running program. You could also intercept the keyboard interrupt in order to switch from one application to another on the fly but I have never actually intercepted the Sysrq key. I used some other hot key combination definition. Maybe back then I though that it wasn't a good idea to fool around with that key but this page says other TSR programmers were using it:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/System_request [wikipedia.org]

  • Debug key (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Thursday January 14, 2010 @11:01AM (#30764134) Journal

    Ever wondered what the SysRq key on your keyboard does?

    Introduced by IBM with the PC/AT, it was intended to be available as a special key to directly invoke low-level operating system functions with no possibility of conflicting with any existing software.

    In Linux, the kernel can be configured to provide functions for system debugging and crash recovery.[4] This use is known as the "Magic SysRq key".

    Microsoft has used SysRq for various OS- and application-level debuggers. In the CodeView debugger, it was sometimes used to break into the debugging during program execution.[5] For the Windows NT remote kernel debugger, it can be used to force the system into the debugger.[6]

    So it's a handy debugger key for those who need one, functioning in the same key as print screen, but you need to hold alt key. What's the harm having it there, since it already is? It's not like it's an extra button on your keyboard.

  • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Thursday January 14, 2010 @11:04AM (#30764172) Journal

    Caps Lock
    Num Lock

    Both of these keys should die a firey death before you get rid of the SysRq key, which is very useful for Linux users.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 14, 2010 @11:06AM (#30764208)

    How about the stupid "Windows Key" while we're at it?

  • argh (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 14, 2010 @11:12AM (#30764320)

    As far as I'm concerned, the 101-key keyboard layout was handed down from on high by the FSM, and anyone who changes it should be boiled in oil.

    (Yes, this includes whoever was responsible for Windows keys, which I'm still pissed about 15 years later.)

  • by Xest (935314) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @11:14AM (#30764348)

    Reading through the discussion I looked down to remind myself where on my keyboard it was, only to find that my Logitech keyboard I've been using at work for the last 2 years doesn't even have a Syr rq key.

    My work laptop does though as an alternative on the delete key.

    Still, I didn't even realised it'd gone from my main keyboard!!

  • Re:Debug key (Score:4, Interesting)

    by houstonbofh (602064) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @11:14AM (#30764356)

    In Linux, the kernel can be configured to provide functions for system debugging and crash recovery.[4] This use is known as the "Magic SysRq key".

    I guess there will be no more Raising Skinny Elephants on a Lenovo anymore. And while I have only used it a few times in the last year, I have used it.

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @11:23AM (#30764546) Homepage
    They would do better to remove the CAPS LOCK key, which is more bulky and - as far as I know - useful only to morons who don't know how to keep from SHOUTING on the internet. If CAPS LOCK functionality is really needed, they could just allow holding the Shift key for a period longer than t(x). The SysRq key is both the same key as "Print Screen" which is often used and useful, and is a major component of debugging for the most used operating system in the server market (Linux). (Bear in mind that the kernel that runs on those servers gets developed on laptops and desktop workstations, not servers.)

    As a Linux developer this move screams to me: "HEY! WE'RE LENEVO, AND NOW THAT WE HAVE BOUGHT THE RIGHTS TO THE THINKPAD NAME FROM IBM, WE ARE SHOUTING HOW CLUELESS WE ARE BECOMING FROM THE VIRTUAL ROOFTOPS".

    This is NOT
    their father's Thinkpad.
  • Re:Caps Lock Key (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jgtg32a (1173373) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @11:31AM (#30764716)

    Rebind it to CTRL and learn to love the CAPS key

    http://johnhaller.com/jh/useful_stuff/disable_caps_lock/ [johnhaller.com]

  • by Alinabi (464689) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @11:39AM (#30764862)
    I have a KVM switch which intercepts SysRq. Without it I could not switch between input sources. So needless to say, I use it all the time.
  • Re:Debug key (Score:3, Interesting)

    by C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @11:44AM (#30764948) Journal

    just do like HP did with the notebook i use at work

    Fn key + scroll lock = num lock
    Fn key + pause = break
    Fn key + insert = prt scr
    Fn key + delete = sys rq

    or are you gonna tell me lenovos dont have the "fn" key ?

    heck, even 5 yr old iBooks have Fn keys...

  • Re:Print Screen (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tomtomtom (580791) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @11:47AM (#30765004)
    Is there a good reason Fn+Alt+Ins can't still function as SysRq?
  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @11:47AM (#30765008)

    IMO, the perfect keyboard was the Mac Classic one, before they made it all PC-compatible.

    My favorite feature was that "Enter" and "Return" were two different keys, so you didn't have to do that retarded "use control-Enter to actually do return" crap that we do all the time now. ("Return" added a new line and "Enter" entered information.)

    "Home" and "End" worked in a reasonable fashion. And "Caps Lock" actually did what the key SAID it did, instead of caps reverse, which is what PCs have always done.

    If I ran the world, I'd get rid of every key that causes more tech support calls than it saves time. This includes "Scroll Lock" and "Pause", which basically work as a "my Excel is broken!" key. And ditto "Insert", except that one's more of a "my Word is broken!" key. Oh, and "Num Lock"... why would anybody ever want the keypad to *not* be a keypad? Definitely scrap that one too.

    And while we're at it, we need Microsoft to make up its mind whether the "Windows" key is a key or a modifier... right now it does both, which is insane.

  • Re:Yes? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by natehoy (1608657) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @11:47AM (#30765022) Journal

    Since Lenovo is remapping the PrintScreen function to be an alternate of the Insert key, you'll still have print screen.

    There's a picture of the keyboard in the article, and it does seem relatively well laid-out. Page-up and page-down look a tad clumsy, but are logically placed in relation to the arrow keys at least.

    I think my biggest objection would be the reintroduction of the chiclet keys, but then again I suppose those are easier to seal and clean, so I guess there's a good argument for them. I just hope for Lenovo's sake they haven't screwed up the keyboard play and made the chiclets feel like the old mushtastic keys on the TRS-80, which is the last time I dealt with chiclets and I hated them.

    What I don't understand is, if they have the "fn" key there anyway, why not remap SysRq to Fn-Tab, or Fn-Tilde, or something? Of course, then they'd have the problem that most of the "magic SysRq functions" in Linux are done with normal keys and having Fn pushed to get to SysRq could mess with that, I suppose.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 14, 2010 @12:09PM (#30765452)

    SysRq-K is the Linux secure attention key (SAK [wikipedia.org]), analogous to Windows' Ctrl-Alt-Del.

    The reason for using a SAK before typing in your login information is that without a key sequence that only the OS can catch, any user program can spoof the OS login or unlock screen and grab your login password.

    If SysRq goes away, what key(s) can Linux use as its SAK?

  • by dallaylaen (756739) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @12:17PM (#30765580) Homepage

    Winkey is very useful.

    I have a ton of tiny shell scripts invoked by Win + $key (via xbindkeys [nongnu.org]):

    "Grey+" / "Grey -" -- volume control
    G -- google current selection (see xclip (1))
    W -- search Wikipedia (or Russian wikipedia with shift)
    A -- open terminal
    K -- invoke xkill [wikipedia.org] (1)
    L -- lock screen
    and some more

    On the other hand, the invenror of the Insert key deserves a mousetrap being put right under the light switch in their room.

  • Lenovo keyboards (Score:3, Interesting)

    by piojo (995934) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @12:24PM (#30765700)

    I love the keyboard on my 2.5 year old thinkpad. Especially the dedicated "back" and "forward" buttons, which I've remapped to more useful functions. In fact, I think the keyboard is almost a "killer feature" that none of their competitors can match. If they start removing buttons I use, I may be able to make my next laptop a system76 or clevo.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 14, 2010 @01:02PM (#30766424)
    ... when messing with tradition.

    Back in the last century, when we were putting a lot of mainframe apps on the intranet at Boeing, fiddling with keyboard functions was a major problem. One app used by quite a few engineering managers would produce various reports upon pressing various function keys (F1..F12). Our initial approach was to provide links on the top of the page with the names of the reports. Not good enough. Everyone referred to them as the 'F10 report'. So we put the old key names in the URL text. Still not good enough. A few old timers couldn't be retrained to no longer punch the function keys. Other hilarity ensued*. A few geezers retired over the fuss. The moral of the story: Don't mess with tradition.

    *One amusing aspect of the whole mess was that the old 'function key reports' were printed out (on 132 column tractor-feed paper) back in a central printing facility. These would then be delivered through the intra-company mail (usually the next day) to the request originator. So these guys would click on the URL (if they hadn't already quit in a huff over the loss of the actual Fn hard key), see the report window pop up and assume that this was acknowledgment of the print job being generated. In spite of the big banner that said 'Print this page for a hard copy'. They'd sit patiently, expecting the printout to be delivered in the next day's mail.

  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @02:28PM (#30767996)

    Troll? Seriously?

    I don't mind being down-modded, if the mod makes sense. Could someone please explain to me how anything in that post is considered "trolling."

  • by WED Fan (911325) <akahige@NOSpaM.trashmail.net> on Thursday January 14, 2010 @03:15PM (#30768888) Homepage Journal
    While hooked up to a time share in the mid 70's, I wanted to know what the key did. I kept pounding it. After a few minutes, my display responded with ****STOP RINGING THAT DAMN BELL*****. Seems a large clanging bell in the server room, miles away, was hooked up so the System Admin could respond to requests from the user.

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350

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