3. Setting up the environment

Contents of this section

3.1 Console

All stuff needed for russification of the Linux console is contained in the kbd package. The package is accessible at sunsite.unc.edu or tsx-11.mit.edu. Usually, that package is already installed (it is a standard part of at least Slackware distribution).

To setup the Cyrillic stuff, one should do three things:

  1. Set the appropriate screen font. This is performed by the setfont program. The fonts files are placed in /usr/lib/kbd/consolefonts. NOTE: Never run the setfont program under X or it will hang your system. This is because it works with low-level video card calls which X doesn't like.
  2. If you use the font in Alt coding (as I do) then you have to set up the screen mapping program to perform automatic conversion from Alt to KOI-8. For that purpose use the mapscrn program and the /usr/lib/kbd/consoletrans/koi2alt file.
  3. Load the appropriate keyboard layout with the loadkeys program.
  4. Output an ESC(K escape sequence on the screen (ESC stands for the Escape character with code 033). Only God knows the purpose of that combination. I stole it from the Danish-HOWTO (thanks, Thomas Petersen) and it works for me!

The following is an example of a script which sets up the Cyrillic mode for console:

# load cyrillic defs for console
# *** NEVER TRY IT UNDER X!!! ***

loadkeys /usr/lib/kbd/keytables/ru.map
setfont /usr/lib/kbd/consolefonts/Cyr_a8x16
mapscrn /usr/lib/kbd/consoletrans/koi2alt
echo -ne 'ESC(K'        # use the REAL ESCAPE character here !
echo "Use the right Ctrl key to switch the mode..."

3.2 The X Window System

Like the console mode, the X environment also requires some setup. This involves setting up the input mode and the X fonts. Both are being discussed below.

The X fonts.

First of all, you have to obtain the fonts collection having the Cyrillic glyphs at the appropriate places.

There is a number of such fonts on the net. The author's favorite one is the collection VakuFonts created by Serge Vakulenko (vak@kiae.su). It can be found in the collection of cyrillic stuff for the X Window System where you can find many useful packages for X.

Usually the X fonts are distributed in the BDF format which is actually the textual font description. You should compile the fonts to the PCF format using the bdftopcf command:

bdftopcf -o name.pcf name.bdf

It is also possible to compress the compiled font using the compress program (I am not sure about the gzip support).

Now you should do three things to set everything up:

  1. Put the compiled (and possibly compressed) fonts to the specified directory. If that directory is not already known to the X server, then you should make it known. To achieve that, add the following commands to the xinitrc file (either local or global one):
    xset +fp directory_with_fonts xset fp rehash
  2. Recreate the list of fonts for the directory. Simply cd to it and run:
    mkfontdir .
    You should run it once. This will upgrade the the fonts catalog file fonts.dir.
  3. If the fonts package provides the file of fonts' aliases (usually fonts.alias) then append it's contents to the fonts' aliases file in the directory containing the fonts.

After you have made the settings above, you can check the availability of the new fonts by running the following command:

xfd -fn fontname

This should show the table of characters of the specified font.

The input translation

The switching between the different input translations is set up by the xmodmap program. This program allows customization of codes emitted by various characters and their combinations. It sets the things up based on the file containing the translation table, usually named ~/.Xmodmap. If you want to create your own table, refer to the xmodmap(1). However such tables are generally supplied with the various X Cyrillic stuff packages. The good example is the tables in the perfect package by Serge Vakulenko described above.

Once you have such file containing the table, you should run the command:

xmodmap filename

every time you start X. Modify your .xinitrc file to perform it. NOTE: your .xinitrc can already contain the code to run the xmodmap over your local table if the one exists.

The table distributed with the Serge's Vakulenko package didn't work for the author. The following patch fixed the problem:

diff -u --new-file jcuken.xmm jcuken.xmm.mod
--- jcuken.xmm  Mon May 20 09:11:36 1991
+++ jcuken.xmm.mod      Sun Aug 13 15:44:06 1995
@@ -2,6 +2,8 @@
 ! Cyrillic keyboard mapping table.
 ! Produced by Serge Vakulenko, , Moscow.
+! Modified by Alexander L. Belikoff (abel@wisdom.weizmann.ac.il), 1995
 ! Russian JCUKENG keyboard layout implemented. 
 ! Cyrillic characters are entered in koi8 encoding.
@@ -10,7 +12,9 @@
 ! Use CapsLock as rus/lat switch key.
 remove lock = Caps_Lock
-add mod2 = Caps_Lock
+keysym Caps_Lock = Mode_switch
+add mod2 = Mode_switch
+add lock = Mode_switch
 !       Key             Base            Shift           Caps    ShiftCaps

Now I can use the Caps Lock key to switch between normal and Cyrillic input modes.

The author would appreciate the version of the table to support the different mode switch key, say Alt or Control.

NOTE: The following is an excerpt from the list of new features announced in the XFree 3.1.2:

Cyrillic fonts (using KIO8-R encoding) from Cronyx Ltd.

Unfortunately the author hasn't had a chance to check it yet.

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