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[SOLVED] Keyboard typing alternate characters

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Old 07-05-2009, 07:21 PM   #1
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One and All -

I've had this ACER Aspire 8920 for a little over a month now and it's giving me fits!

At the moment it's major malfunction is that it seems to spontaneously slide into typing an alternate character set instead of the normal values shown on the keys.

Besides the "normal" key values printed in white there is a set of alternate characters, in some cases as many as 4, printed in a barely legible orange on many of the keys. And, as I'm typing along, all of a sudden for no apparent good reason, the alternate characters are substituted for the normal ones. Apostrophied contractions (for instance) start looking like I`m, they`re, and we`re and are no longer recognized by the spell checkers; and question marks come out looking like É!

Here's what I mean about the keyboard. Click the thumbnail to see a larger version.




To date this has happened with Mozilla Thunderbird, Corel WordPerfect, and a few other apps that I can't remember at the moment. I've never had this problem with any application (including those mentioned) before I bought this piece of #$%^&.

Sometimes I can get it back to normal by merely saving my work, closing and restarting the application. Other times a cold boot is required.

So,

1. Is this my fault? I'm a sloppy typer, so I often hit keys I don't intend to. Do I accidentally hit a key combo that activates a French keyboard? (I ask this because I bought the computer in Canada where both English and French are official languages.) If so, what keys do I have to be careful of? How do I get out of it without a shut down?

2. Is this a defect in the operating system? I'm running Vista Home Premium, SP2. Is there a patch for it? Some other fix?

3. Is this a hardware issue? Is the computer broken? Or is there something I have to adjust in the BIOS setup (for instance)?

BTW, I am vastly under-impressed with this machine. My 6 year old Gateway M675 was faster and gave me far less trouble. And, Windows Vista ranks up there along with Windows ME on my *&^%$ list! They should have marketed it as Vista "L" for loser!

Sorry. I had to get that off my chest.

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Old 07-05-2009, 08:36 PM   #2
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Test typing with ALTCAR key.. ex. ALTCAR key plus another key and see if it types a corresponding French character.

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Old 07-06-2009, 01:05 AM   #3
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~>power drain
~>set bios to defaults
~>update bios if applicable
~>try typing in the command prompt if it still gives you the same error...
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Old 07-06-2009, 09:10 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TriggerFinger View Post
Test typing with ALTCAR key.. ex. ALTCAR key plus another key and see if it types a corresponding French character.
Thanks for your reply.

I've tried that several times. Holding the <Alt Car> key and trying to type an alternate character produces nothing. Effectively, it's like not typing anything at all.
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Old 07-06-2009, 09:34 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JASEY_____ View Post
~>power drain ...
What does this mean?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JASEY_____ View Post
... ~>set bios to defaults ...
I haven't changed the BIOS setting. They were presumed to be set at the factory defaults as they stand now.

I just rebooted and reset the BIOS to the official factory default, but won't know if it worked for several days to a week. Stay tuned ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by JASEY_____ View Post
... ~>update bios if applicable ...
I'd considered this, but updating the BIOS was going to be left as a last resort. If it isn't done properly it would probably completely disable the computer, and it wouldn't be covered by the warranty.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JASEY_____ View Post
... ~>try typing in the command prompt if it still gives you the same error...
I'll have to wait until it screws up again before I can try this. What do I do if it does return the same error condition?

Thanks for your help.
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Old 07-06-2009, 01:01 PM   #6
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May be this can help...

http://www.ergocanada.ca/ergo/keyboa..._keyboard.html
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Old 07-06-2009, 06:45 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TriggerFinger View Post
The link was quite interesting, but didn't suggest any solution to my problem. Thanks anyway.
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Old 07-06-2009, 07:01 PM   #8
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The link was provided to show which key combination would give you a specific character if you have French Canadian keyboard. So if your Regional and Language Options in Control Panel is set up to support English and (also) French Canadian, it is possible that one key could be stuck (or may be intermittently malfunctioning) producing a random key combination that results to a French Canadian character.

I suggest you set it to ENGLISH (United States) and see if the problem remains.

Another related link here: http://www3.uakron.edu/modlang/french/keyboard.html
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Old 07-06-2009, 07:14 PM   #9
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The mystery deepens...

I've just been using Thunderbird and the keyboard started acting up again. This, BTW, is after I reset the BIOS to the factory default which was one of the suggestions offered by Jasey____. (But, thanks anyway! )

So, I opened Start > Run and tried typing won't several different ways including the techniques suggested in TriggerFinger's link (and a tip o the hat to him/her too! ). I couldn't get it to type the French characters.

So, I opened Windows Notepad. Same thing. Normal characters, and couldn't produce French characters.

I then went back to Thunderbird and the problem persists.

So I opened Firefox (which I'm using now) and there is no problem, i.e., normal characters and I cannot get it to print the French characters.

The fact that it can screw up while running one application, but not screw up on another application that's running concurrently, strongly suggests that it's not a hardware problem (e.g., a sticky <Alt Char> key).

That would also tend to rule out a BIOS problem since the same code is the underpinning for all running processes, right?

My guess is that it's the chip that generates the key codes that are transmitted to the CPU. The keyboard is messed up.

Comments anyone?

Suggestions?
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Old 07-06-2009, 07:24 PM   #10
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To summarize, french chars only appear when using Thunderbird but not on ANY OTHER application or program (ex. Notepad, Firefox, MS Word, Excel... etc.). If this is isolated to ONLY ONE program like Thunderbird then it could be a Thunderbird issue. Again if it is not a big concern, set Regional/Language (keyboard layout) support to US English only and see if problem persists.
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Old 07-06-2009, 07:39 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TriggerFinger View Post
To summarize, french chars only appear when using Thunderbird but not on ANY OTHER application or program (ex. Notepad, Firefox, MS Word, Excel... etc.). If this is isolated to ONLY ONE program like Thunderbird then it could be a Thunderbird issue. ...
No. It's happened with a number of different programs including WordPerfect 12, Thunderbird, Firefox, possibly one or two more. These are programs I've never had problems with on my older Gateway, installed from the same installation disks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TriggerFinger View Post
... Again if it is not a big concern, set Regional/Language (keyboard layout) support to US English only and see if problem persists.
I've just done that and am about to reboot. Again, it may take a day or two before I know if it worked or not. Stay tuned...
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Old 07-06-2009, 08:02 PM   #12
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Correct me if I am wrong but this is happening randomly, right? If so we still cannot safely conclude that this is a software issue. It still could be a stuck/intermittently malfunctioning key issue.

Assuming this is a hardware problem (ex. intermittently malfunctioning key), I suggest you remove the keyboard (unhook it from the motherboard) and use an external keyboard instead. If problem persists then we can safely say it is not the keyboard. This could point to the motherboard (although this is very unlikely) or a software problem.

Assuming this is software related, then you can test it using another operating system or a live CD (possibly linux like Ubuntu or Knoppix) so you do not have to install it in your hard drive. If it is caused by something in Windows (ex. malware or virus), the problem would not be present in linux.
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Old 07-18-2009, 09:10 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TriggerFinger View Post
... Again if it is not a big concern, set Regional/Language (keyboard layout) support to US English only and see if problem persists.
Vista had about 6 different keyboards activated, including English (NZ), for Pete's sake!

I gooned them all except English (US) and the problem magically disappeared. Thanks and a tip o' the hat to TriggerFinger!

Also, thanks to all the rest of you for your interest and suggestions.
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Old 07-18-2009, 10:43 PM   #14
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I am glad to know it helped. Thank you for the update.

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