The mystery of the number lock

As I described in my arch install post , one of the few difficulties I had was with the number lock. While I did manage to have it enabled by default at the GDM login screen, I didn’t know what settings and configurations lead this to work. After a few weeks of numlock bliss, I decided to tackle the problem again, and see what I actually did.

I started off by first checking in what files on my computer had the word numlock, or numlockx in it, which would tell me where I enable it. To my surprise, I couldn’t find it initially. While it took more time than it should have to properly craft a find command to search through files properly, it was taking a long time, and yielding less than useful results. I decided to narrow the search, and only look in /etc to start.

While most guides recommend adding an entry for numlockx in the /etc/gdm/Init/Default file, mine did not contain this. I know at some point I had added it, so I must have removed it. The only file I did find that contained it was /etc/gdm/PreSession/Default. To quickly test if this was the correct one, I commented out the entry in question, and rebooted my computer. As I partly expected, the number lock was still enabled, so this was not the cause.

After much more searching, both on my computer, and through my browser history, I couldn’t find any other settings that I had left applied, except for one. A forum post listed modifying values using dconf editor for the number lock, but tests showed it only affected the session once logged in. Never, did I expect I would put so much effort in disabling the number lock, instead of enabling it.

After trying a few other things, including disabling the numlock service I added to enable it in TTYs, the only factor that contributes to it (somehow), is disabling Wayland as the default compositor for GDM. I can understand that this would imply it’s being enabled through X somewhere, but I haven’t a clue where that would be. For now, this will remain a mystery, one that I may re-investigate in the future (most likely when it breaks again), but for now, I will have to stick with ignorant bliss.


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