[I18NGR] Language versus Country ISO code for Greek keyboard layout

Thanos Kyritsis djart at linux.gr
Wed Feb 15 17:33:30 EET 2006

Good evening to everyone.

I am starting this thread about changing the name of the Greek keyboard 
layout from 'gr' to 'el'. XKeyboardConfig developers made a decision 
about 1.5 years ago, but its consequences are visible only in the last 
few months.

I'm talking about this bug:

Which is introduced only in X.org 6.9.0 and 7.0.

The source of this "bug" is starting here with the XKeyboardConfig 


X.org syncs with XkeyboardConfig in 6.9.0 and 7.0:


Before going on, I'd like to remind you of an old discussion:


Ok, now let's forget the X.org bug because it is not the real problem 

The problem is about consistency and backwards compatibility. This is 
the 3rd time the greek layout is changing. This bug only raised the 
issue for one more time.

Some more history:

XFree86 4.0.1 and earlier had no greek keyboard layout support. The 
Greek i18n community provided greek users with a layout named as 'el'

XFree86 4.0.2 and 4.0.3 introduced greek keyboard layout support named 
as 'gr'

The greek community asked for a correction on this and this was made. 
More information on that will follow below.

XFree86 4.1.x, 4.2.x and 4.3.x including 4.4.x support the greek 
keyboard layout named as 'el'

X.org merged from XFree86 and so 6.7.x up to 6.8.2 support the greek 
layout named as 'el'

Now, we have another change in 6.9.0 and 7.0 getting this poor layout 
name back to 'gr'

Ok, digging up in XKeyboardConfig's mailing list archives, one can see 
the efforts being done for correct naming layouts by ISO. So far so 
good. Everyone agrees to that.
It was not so clear but I think that in the end you decided to name the 
2 letter codes after the ISO-3166 (country) while you already had some 
arguments and thoughts on having the 2 letter codes being named after 
*either* ISO-3166 *or* ISO-639 (language) code *depending* on the 
situation and little details for each Country/Language.

So, I'd like to describe that situation and little details concerning 
the Greek keyboard layout and let it up to you to consider it and take 
the final decision.

We actually do not have greek keyboards. The keyboards being sold in 
Greece are basically American (us) layout keyboards with a greek 
language "support layer" on top of them.

This means that ~50% of the keyboards used in Greece have no difference 
compared to the American layout keyboards and for the other ~50% some 
buttons have an extra smaller sticker below them representing the greek 
letter. For example, letter A is common in English and Greek. But the 
button for letter D has a 2nd smaller sticker on it 
representing the greek delta letter. 

And there is a minority of keyboards having all button letters in greek, 
but in reality they are again us layout, and another group of keyboards 
that have all the letters in Greek and some of the buttons have an 
extra smaller sticker below them representing the english letter (i.e. 
Big delta with a second smaller 'D' sticker under it), again being in us 

So, based on this reality, and taking *ONLY* for consideration and *NOT* 
for example what Microsoft Windows do (they do the 'el' thing), we came 
to the conclusion that the correct way was to define our layout by 
using the ISO *language* (639) code and not the *country* (ISO-3166) 

This fact is also double confirmed by the following fact:

For example someone has bought a laptop from UK and the keyboard follows 
the GB layout and wants to write in Greek. He will not change his 
laptop's keyboard layout to GR, he will simply add a layer *on top* of 
his current GB layout in order to support Greek. Everything else which 
is common to both languages (for example buttons a, e, i, T, and so on) 
still has to follow the originating keyboard layout (which is GB) and 
not the originating GR layout of keyboards sold in Greece which is 
basically US.

So, again, summarizing. There isn't trully any greek layout out there. 
The layout of keyboards sold in Greece is US and for typing in Greek 
the "operating system" (whatever that OS is) adds a layer on top of 
that layout.

And now, the consequences. I can see that XKeyboardConfig's developer is 
Russian, and I believe you can understand how many years of true pain 
and efforts and searching and digging and fights we have been through 
in order to at last obtain a true stabilized and rock steady Greek 
Localization/Internationalization support in Linux, BSD and other 
unix-derivatives or unix-like Operating Systems that rely on X.

Many years of building howtos, guides, instructions, submitting patches 
to Linux distros and so on ... You are aware of all these actions made 
by volunteers, I'm sure.

It is of great importance that seemingly small things like the 'gr' or 
'el' naming of such a basic component as the keyboard layout are to 
remain somewhat stable and not change their name every two years 
because this has the effect of chain reaction. All next Linux distros 
that will ship with X.org 6.9.0/7.0 will have broken greek support, 
applications and applets for uses like displaying a flag up to changing 
the keyboard layout will break, guides will break, howtos will break 

I agree that the end user doesn't have to care about these low level 
things. I also state that I as a power user can easily 'hack' the guts 
out of a X.org cvs bundle and bring it under my own likes. But the 
point is to finally stabilize a naming for the greek layout and not 
having it change every 10 X releases.

Sorry for this huge post, but I hope to have shaded with light every 
aspect of this. I would like to ask from you to reconsider on the 
naming of the kb layout, and take a final decision, the greek i18n 
community can help as much as it can and in every way, submit patches 
for fixing the X.org bug, resync X.org with XkeyboardConfig under an 
emergency-like situation and try to reduce the consequences from the 
'gap' that this bug will leave behind it.

Thank you very much in advance.
I CC this message to every person found to have participated in this, 
the XkeyboardConfig developers and mailing list, as well as the Greek 
i18n mailing list (which hosted by the Hellenic Linux User Group), 
hoping for the best.
Thanos Kyritsis <djart at linux.gr>

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