Genesi Efika MX Smartbook’s 0 Button Mouse

I love my Genesi Efika MX Smartbook – it’s an awesome little machine. But there have been three things that have bothered me about it since I got mine, and they are the sort of things that can make a difference between sub-mediocrity and brilliance. I have already covered one of the issues in a previous post concerning the screen upgrade.

The second big problem I have with it is that the buttons on the touch pad are completely unusable. This is not an exaggeration. Due to the way they are designed, it is only possible to use them for dragging with a copious amount of luck – not skill – luck. Clicking using the buttons in the touchpad requires only an infinitesimally smaller amount of luck than dragging. This isn’t acceptable, and since I otherwise rather like the Smartbook, I decided to find a good workaround that doesn’t involve carrying a mouse or a trackball with me – this would ruin one of the best things about it – the portability.

I used to have Sony Vaio PCG-U1 and PCG-U3 machines in the past. They were quite awesome, and competed quite successfully on spec with the Genesi Efika MX Smartbook – which is fairly impressive considering the Vaio’s in question were produced in 2002 – 9 years ago. The main reason why I finally needed to upgrade from the old Vaio was because 1024×768 sccreen resolution simply stopped being sufficient for any serious use. The standard Efika would have failed this requirement even worse were it not for the possibility of the 1280×720 screen upgrade. Plus, the Efika is much thinner and doesn’t require a battery pack as big as the rest of the laptop for 6 hours’ battery life. But I digress. The main point I was getting to is that the Vaio had mouse buttons that were quite separate from the joypad, while still being very ergonomic and easy to use. This made me think about using a similar trick on the Efika. All I needed was two conveniently placed yet redundant keys on the keyboard to remap into mouse buttons. The “House” (the one with an icon of a houe as opposed to”Home”) and “Alt” keys in the bottom left corner seemed perfect for this task.

To do this, we need to do two things:

  1. Disable Xorg’s usage of the keys using xmodmap. I put mine in /etc/X11/xmodmap.
  2. Configure actkbd to trap the low-level keystrokes and execute xdotool commands to issue Xorg mouse button events. Put this in /etc/actkbd.conf
  3. Put the two together and make it happen automatically on login using a script /etc/X11/Xsession.d/95-keyremap.

That is pretty much it. The “House” and “Left Alt” keys will now act as left and right mouse buttons respectively. I hope you find it to be a big an improvement as I did. It feels like having mouse buttons again after being stuck with a 0 button mouse.

These instructions are for Ubuntu, since that is what the Efika ships with and I haven’t gotten around to putting Fedora on it yet. It shouldn’t be difficult to adapt the above approach for other distributions.