USB Keyboard Quirks

Recently, USB keyboards have emerged as an alternative to the more common PS/2 keyboards. USB keyboards can work quite well, but they do carry some caveats. The first of these is that the keyboard may not work until after Linux has booted. This can be a serious problem because you may not be able to select your OS from your boot loader if you boot multiple OSs. You can often overcome this problem by enabling legacy USB support in the BIOS. This support enables the BIOS to treat a USB keyboard as if it were a regular PS/2 keyboard.

Another problem with USB keyboards is that they require support in the Linux kernel. This support comes with most modern distributions, but you should enable human interface device (HID) support if you recompile your kernel. Some kernel versions separate out support for different HID tools—keyboards, mice, and joysticks. You can use HID support compiled as a module, but if there's a problem loading the module or if it gets unloaded, you may have no way to control the computer. Therefore, I recommend you compile this support directly into the main kernel file.

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