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What's A 'Scroll Lock' And Why Is It On My Keyboard? 866

Jeff Bauer writes "Today's article in The Straight Dope explains all the weird keys that come with standard PC keyboards. Now if someone could just explain what the 'Alt Graph' key does on my Sun keyboard, enlightement would be at hand ..."
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What's A 'Scroll Lock' And Why Is It On My Keyboard?

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  • scroll lock (Score:1, Interesting)

    by foxhound01 ( 661872 ) * on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @09:50PM (#7159128)
    well, i couldn't find any other use for scroll lock or its two neighbors, so i remapped them to be volume controls for my soundcard.
  • by Humba ( 112745 ) * on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @09:53PM (#7159164)
    It's always bugged me that Scroll Lock doesn't work in MS Word or in Visual Studio. (I know, I know.)

    I'll be reading a document using the scroll wheel on my mouse, get tired of that particular method then switch to using the arrow key, which then jumps the view to the current cursor position, which is by now miles away from where I was reading.

    Not exactly sure I'd remember to turn on Scroll Lock in the first place, but for read-only documents it might be a good default.

  • Mad Props (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Marc2k ( 221814 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @09:53PM (#7159167) Homepage Journal
    Sweet Jesus tell me what the 'Props' key does on Sun keyboards, for me it just beeps.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @09:55PM (#7159194)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @09:56PM (#7159208)
    The original IBM PC keyboards didn't have the inverted T section or the Insert/Home/.../PgDown section, so NumLock was an important mode. It is rather useless nowadays.
  • by nomel ( 244635 ) <turd@ i n o r b i t . com> on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @09:58PM (#7159224) Homepage Journal
    Such as Message Notification [] for Trillian and nice blinky light plugin [] for music in winamp.

    Like I'll believe it has a use other than those...pfft.
  • Uses for AltGr (Score:4, Interesting)

    by red_dragon ( 1761 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @10:03PM (#7159260) Homepage

    AltGr ("alternate graphic," although it should really be "alternate glyph") is used for entering extended characters beyond what the standard keyboard layout supports. It's equivalent to the X keysym Mode_switch. When you use the "US International" keyboard layout in Windows, the right Alt key becomes AltGr, which when pressed along with other keys produces various extended characters, including accented letters, special punctuation marks, and other fancy stuff without having to type in the ASCII value on the numeric keypad while holding the Alt key. On non-US keyboards, like the ISO Spanish keyboard on my Mac, some keys have extra characters printed on the key caps, indicating which character they generate while pressing AltGr.

  • Re:real application! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mattACK ( 90482 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @10:05PM (#7159276) Homepage
    Also, in WinXP or higher, you can pipe text into the copy buffer. I use this all the time.
    type reallybigfile.txt | clip
    More stupid cmd tricks -
    for /r c:\ %i in (*.jpg) do @echo %i %~ni %~di


    mountvol c: /d
    Don't try the last one unless you save your open files. And yes, the system will let you unmount the system drive.
  • Wrong! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @10:06PM (#7159287)
    Scroll lock is not what "una" says it is. The function she describes wasn't used in that manner. The IBM PC used the standard Control-S and Control-Q to stop and start screen scrolling.
    The Scroll Lock key was a vestige of the old IBM word processor systems. It was used to lock the cursor in place, and the up and down arrow keys scrolled the entire screen, leaving the cursor locked. It should have been called "cursor lock."
    The article is riddled with errors. For example, una says the Macintosh extended keyboards have a scroll lock key. It does not.
  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @10:08PM (#7159308) Homepage Journal
    Some one tell me how we ended up three control keys. On Windows machines we have the window key, the control key, and the alt key. On Macs we have the Apple/Command/Flower key, the option/alt key and the control key. Of course, on most machines we have a ESC key, which is really there to escape out of, or switch, modes, but has been given other weird functions such as escaping out of application or whatever.

    In fact the alt/option key is really just a replacement for the escape key, except one has to be dexterous enough to hold two keys down at once to use it.

    And lets not even get started with delete/backspace key and the del key.

    Just looking at my keyboard, which has as nearly as many function/command keys as character keys, I wonder if bloat stated with the keyboard and expanded into the software. I mean it looks cool and hi tech and all, but who needs to look hi tech in the 21st century?

  • by archen ( 447353 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @10:13PM (#7159346)
    Then switch it back (I do on all my computers).

    FreeBSD : Run sysinstall and you can select a keymap with caps as a ctrl.

    Linux : you can do it at the "KDE" level, or level of X, but the most reliable method is to just use
    echo 'keycode 58 = Control' | loadkeys
    at bootup

    Win 9x : I believe you can just use they keymap util with powertools

    Win2k (xp?) : you have to fuck with the registry. I can't recall how I did it, but I got it to work and I just run a regestry import now (you can find articles on how to do it). Looks like this.
    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSe t\Contr ol\Keyboard Layout]
    "Scancode Map"=hex:00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,02,00,00,00,1d,00 ,3a,00,00,00,00,00

    (run at own risk, may destroy your computer)
  • Useful keys (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @10:20PM (#7159406)
    I still get a lot of use out of some of these keys. Crtl-Insert and Shift-Insert are still the best cross-OS way to cut and paste, working often even when Ctrl-C (remember what that used to do?) and Ctrl-V don't.

    And as a graphic designer, Print Screen gets a lot of use. Alt-Print Screen copies a screenshot of just the active window to the clipboard. Useful for taking screenshots of websites, videos, etc.

    Now, the one that really annoys me is this "Power" key that some PC keyboards have. I hit this once while working in Win2000 and the computer immediately shut off, without a prompt or anything. I lost 2 hours of work.

    That Windows key is really a blemish.

  • Re:The ` key (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @10:22PM (#7159430)
    aeiou .... you are right, you can't write foreign language in slashdot :)

    I have a bad habit of switching between english (US) and French keyboard to use the accent.
    I prefer the english layout (when programming and english writing) but sometime I have to write in french and when I need to do it properly, I write the accents. But getting the accent on the English keyboard isn't the easiest so I constantly switch between french when I need to enter a accent letter.

    On a different note...
    Wasn't there something on slashdot recently about CTRL-ALT-DELETE.
    Yes, this is one of the stupid combination to use for login in a computer. Why don't they replace the not so useful scroll lock with a Login key?
  • SysRq (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @10:25PM (#7159446)
    On old DOS systems (circa 3.0), SysRq could be used to reboot the system as alternative to ctrl-alt-del. It was alt-SysRq I believe. I remember leafing through the DOS manual for my old old XT, and seeing the description above. I didn't believe it, but I tried it and to my surprise it worked. When we upgraded to DOS 5.0 it no longer worked, but I had learned why it was called SysRq
  • Re:Alt -escape (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ComputerSlicer23 ( 516509 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @10:38PM (#7159542)
    They are slightly different. While Alt-Esc, and the Windows key do the same thing. In Windows 95, under Duke Nukem, pressing the Windows key would task switch you out, and the game would never work if you task switched back. Pressing alt-esc would do exactly the same thing, but you could task switch back to Duke. It took a lot of habit breaking to fix hitting the Windows key accidently. And even more to use alt esc to switch back to windows temporarily.

    Not sure if that is was a Win95 bug, a Duke bug or what. However, clearly it is possible to detect the difference between the two keys.

    Hmmm, that might have been Ctl-Esc, but I remember the bug in Duke was like that.


  • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by OneFix ( 18661 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @10:50PM (#7159637)
    stupid tag filter...that should have been...

    The thing actually had an [Any] was just an extra Enter key.
  • by freshmkr ( 132808 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @11:22PM (#7159874) Homepage
    Please, that's nothing. Check out this keyboard [] from an old Symbolics Lisp machine.

    Yeah, that's right. Wanna know what happens when you type Hyper-Super-Meta-Control-Symbol-Shift-Square? So do I...

    See also space-cadet keyboard [].
  • Re:Mirrors (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jmpvm ( 6160 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @12:09AM (#7160120) Homepage
    I've converted the document to PDF

    Thus making it less accessible than just a slashdotted server. Thanks.
  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @12:10AM (#7160132)
    How can I disable the scroll lock key in Linux, both on consoles and in X keyboard mapping?

    My KVM switch uses Scroll Lock to switch hosts, but, often this confuses my terminals, sometimes to the point where I must do mad-bomber techniques to reset the keyboard, and sometimes badly enough that I've chosen to reboot.

    Is there a way to disable the scroll lock key at the keyboard driver level?

  • Re:Windows Key (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ssstraub ( 581289 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @01:18AM (#7160464)
    Actually, "Windows E + D" is "Show Desktop."

    "Windows E + M" is "Minimize all." Yes, there is a difference. The first will put everything in the background, while the second will only minimize windows that have the standard "minimize" control. Experiement with winamp open...
  • True story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tmoertel ( 38456 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @02:20AM (#7160753) Homepage Journal
    About fifteen years ago while working for a defense contractor, I happened to be present while a DEC service technician was inspecting one of the many on-site Vaxen as part of a "preventative-maintenance" contract. This particular machine was running Ultrix, DEC's then-favored flavor of Unix, and the sysadmin and I were standing by while the inspection took place.

    At one point in the inspection, the technician had to monitor the machine from a boot-up state, and so he rebooted the machine. The only problem was, the machine didn't come back up. Instead, it hung early in the boot process, leaving the distinct impression on the observers that the technician had hosed up a perfectly good -- and very expensive -- minicomputer.

    Apparently, the same impression was left on the technician, because he started sweating. A lot. He tried rebooting the machine again, obviously unsure of what the hell he had done to land in his present, miserable condition and just as obviously wanting desperately to be released from it. The machine hung up again. More sweat. Another attempt. Same thing: Hang. Then he opened the case and peered inside. He was clearly grasping at straws. The sweat started to bead on his forehead.

    Eventually, after about fifteen minutes of increasingly distressing diagnostic procedures, consulting the LEDs, and hand wringing, he gave up: "You've got a bad motherboard. I'll have to call in for a swap." He half ran away from the uncomfortable scene to make his phone call.

    While he was gone, the sysadmin busted out laughing. Then he pointed at the keyboard on the console VT320. The Scroll Lock LED was lit. The sysadmin said that the technician must have hit it earlier and never took it off before rebooting. When the kernel tried to send boot-up messages to the console, the console wouldn't accept them, and so the kernel blocked, waiting for the Scroll Lock to be released!

    A few minutes later, the technician returned, looking only a bit less nervous. In his best it's-under-control voice: "Yeah, we'll have that new board out right away. No problem." The sysadmin's reply: "Great! I'm sure glad we have the preventative-maintenance contract, because I bet those boards are plenty expensive. I'd hate to pick up the tab for one of them." After a few precious moments of letting that thought sink in, the sysadmin "noticed" the scroll-lock situation: "Hey, isn't the scroll lock on? Let's just see what happens if I ..." He then tapped the keyboard.

    And the Vax booted right up.


  • Re:True story (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pe1chl ( 90186 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @03:19AM (#7160929)
    Yes, this is a very weak link in that system. I have seen it on other mini systems as well. When the console is off or defective, or Ctrl-S or scroll lock is hit, the whole system stops (after a while) or won't boot.
    We have had our AIX box hanging during a weekly nightly reboot because someone switched off the console terminal.
    Indeed it can leave you puzzled for a while, especially as this console is rarely used, and operators normally use network connections to access the machine.
  • by Sindri ( 207695 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @05:07AM (#7161197) Homepage
    I did notice the example had to do with listing 20,000 Lesbian Porn pics but didn't see anything wrong with that until you pointed it out.

    I just thought he should sort them into subdirectories like I do.
  • by Captain_Chaos ( 103843 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @05:42AM (#7161301)

    Most PC keyboards outside of the US have the Alt Graph (or Alt Gr) key. It's used to access all kinds of international characters. On my keyboard (I'm in the Netherlands), I can type the following characters with it: 1/41/23/4''xaae(R)uuiooaBdoae(C)nc

    When I typed it, there were 36 special characters (accented characters, the Euro sign and other currency signs, international alphabet and punctuation characters, etc.) following that colon, I'm curious to see how many of them will survive Slashdot's US-centric character handling code...

  • by Captain_Chaos ( 103843 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @06:09AM (#7161353)

    Wow, that's pretty sad. None of them survived! Not a single one! Slashdot displays typical American arrogance and ignorance by discarding accents and changing characters to alternatives that are not equivalent or just plain wrong.

    I was going to include a table here showing what some of the worst mistakes Slashdot makes are (I mean, changing a ringel-S, which is an alternative to a double S, to a B?!?!), but it wouldn't pass the lameness filter! It told me to "use fewer 'junk' characters"! So accents, currency signs, international punctuation, etc. are considered "lame" and "junk" by Slashdot?! I mean, how fucking arrogant can you get!

  • Re:True story (Score:2, Interesting)

    by HarveyTheWonderBug ( 711765 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @07:03AM (#7161484)
    Old Digital Equipment computers have a lot of special keys, especially on the numeric keybord. Under Vax-VMS EDT and EVE editors, they used to allow for text selection, query/replace, etc... They were accessed with the "Gold" key -so named because it's the only yellowish key on the keyboard...

    Believe it or no, but these boxes are still around... The software that run on them was never ported to *nix. Right now, I have to edit some files over such a machine/OS but I am connected to it from a sun where none of these keys exist... And it's really a pain :(
  • Re:True story (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Generic Guy ( 678542 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @10:33AM (#7162643)
    especially as this console is rarely used, and operators normally use network connections to access the machine.

    Often times, although probably less now than in the past, these console terminals would dump console input/output to an attached printer. Sort of a permanent record, especially if something really bad(tm) happened and killed the machine (you could see the last few lines of output on the printout).

  • Re:real application! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by silicon not in the v ( 669585 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2003 @11:23AM (#7163220) Journal
    Holy cow, I never thought I would hear of Irfanview again. My roommate in college used it, and I haven't thought of that in years. He also introduced me to another old program that would be good to have around. It was called Awave and could open just about any format of audio file and save it as any other format. That was great back when I used to find some stuff in *.na (Netscape audio) format, and the only player I've ever found that could play those came with Netscape 2.0 or 3.0 and was discontinued in 4. Awave used the concept of "nag-ware", where it would give you a "Please buy the full version." message when you opened it. It would let you open and convert only one file, and then you would have to close and re-open the program, where it got to remind you again how great it would be to buy the full version. Free utility software was great, even if it came with a little bit of hassle.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost