Alright, that’s a strange subject for this post, but bear with me please.

Several folks on have been chatting about the weird stuff they see in their referer lists from time to time. Alarmingly, some of these have been referer spam, but there’s often been posts by people going along the lines of “I don’t know why you came looking for insert subject here at this web log, but I don’t tend to talk about that, sorry”.

They’re not alone in this : the other day, bored, I was scrolling through my referer lists trying to see why people visit my web log (which, by the way is still a mystery to me). One of the referers in particular arrived via Google – someone had done a search for something like “Spanish keyboard layout“, and stumbled upon my blog (sorry, I forget the original search query)

Now, I’ve talked about translation of consumer electronics before, where I mention that Sun produces localised keyboards for some languages, but I’ve never specifically talked about “Spanish keyboards”. So, the question is – do we remark “Gosh, that Google must be really clever to somehow correlate Tim’s post on localisation of consumer electronics with the link he posted to the Sun Store where you can purchase Spanish keyboards”, or do we instead sit back and ponder the thought that perhaps Google isn’t the be-all and end-all of search engines and all it was doing was a variation on the bag-of-words technique ? Certainly Google is useful, but for now, it still needs a human on the client side to determine whether or not the results are relevant. (btw, the other Tim has a nice series of posts on search that are worth reading)

The thing is though, while seeing that referer was interesting to me in a sort of quirky way, I can imagine that the poor soul on the other end of the search was tearing their hair out to try and find ways to change the keyboard layout of their machine. For Google to turn up a link to my page (which the person thought was possibly useful, and wasted a bit of time coming here to see if I could help) is just plain annoying. It should be easier than that !

As Paul mentioned this morning, I see that my friend Steve is starting to write a web log as well. We’re using the search engine that Steve worked on as the foundation for the fuzzy match code in our translation memory system, without which our TM system would have been, well, quite a lot slower… Steve’s engine would probably not have listed my page as being interesting wrt. Spanish keyboards and that’s where it would have been better than Google in this case. Of course, I’m probably comparing apples & oranges here – the two systems have been designed with different aims, so maybe I’m being unfair. Regardless, having better search engines everywhere would be a really good thing and anyone gunning for that has my vote. Go Steve !

As a final note, just to be nice to that individual who’s probably found how to change keyboard layouts at this stage, here’s how to do it on Solaris. Use kdmconfig if you’re on
an x86 system and using XSun, or if you’re on a Sparc box, the system should automatically detect the keyboard type based on the dip switches on the keyboard. There’s a bit more information on
that might help.

If you’re using the Xorg server on Solaris x86, then I’m actually not completely sure how to do this : I know you can specify it in /etc/X11/xorg.conf and
I’ve seen references to a utility called setxkbmap to allow you to change it on the fly, but this doesn’t seem to be
installed on the builds I’ve been looking at (nor does the XKB extension seem to be loaded either, I have XKEYBOARD instead)
– so if anyone knows more about keyboard layout under the new X server in Solaris 10 x86, I’d be interested in hearing
about it ! There does seem to be a GNOME applet that allows you to change keyboard layout, but I
think that’s just doing various jiggery pokery with xmodmap. Anyway, hope this helps in some small way!