Yesterday the electric piano we had ordered for Beth came in. She’s been taking lessons since sometime last fall, and she’s still very much into it. Up until yesterday, she had been practicing on a toy piano. Problem with that is that the keys are smaller than the ones on a real piano, it only had 3 octaves, and the volume of each note was the same no matter how hard you pressed the key. Also, it did not have a sustain pedal.

Since she has been sticking with it, and she has been making some really good progress, we decided it was time to spring for something that will hopefully suit her needs for years to come. I could have had an acoustic piano for free if I had been willing to talk a friend or two into helping me move one. Free pianos come up on craigslist all the time. The caveat is that you always have to move it yourself. But even then, we just don’t have a place in our house to put an acoustic piano. Acoustic pianos are big!

The one we got is very nice, IMO. It sounds like a piano. Plus it has 482 voices to entertain a geeky dad like me, including helicopters, machine guns, footsteps, barking dogs, galloping horses, gurgling brooks, laser guns, starships, etc.

I was playing around with it last night after everyone went to bed. Penny was in the same room, but she was pretty much just ignoring me until I selected the “scream” voice. “EEEEEEK!” sang the piano, and Penny about leapt out of her skin. She quickly came over and sniffed at the piano. I played a few more screams. She cocked her head. Then she pawed at the keyboard and played one herself.

Now that’s entertainment!

In other news…
This morning Beth told me that they had been having a bit of trouble with the computers at school, and Mrs Brace wanted me to look into it. So I did. One of the kids did something to her account so that the keyboard no longer worked. I knew the keyboard itself was working, because we were able to log in to her account. And her account was the only doing that – at first. Mrs Brace logged her into a different kid’s account so she could get her work done (most sysadmins would freak about that. I don’t like it either, but I do understand the necessity). In short order, she managed to magically disable the keyboard in that account too. That’s how I found it when I got there.

I poked around, but I really didn’t see anything obvious. Not being of much use, I decided to head on to the office and kick off a few Internet searches while I did my work. Also, I wanted to consult with another Linux geek (Dennis). Dennis was as puzzled as I was. But then I hit paydirt on the Innerwebs. Here’s what was going on.

There is a feature built into the desktop environment (KDE in our case) that was designed for handicapped people. This feature is called “Slow Keys”, and when enabled, the keys don’t “take” until they’re held in for half a second or so. This feature is for amputees (et al) who may accidentally, and momentarily strike several keys with a stub before settling on the one they really want. It’s also useful for quadreplegics how type with a stick held in the mouth. Or at least I think that’s what this feature is good for. Anyhow, this feature is activated when the shift key is held in for 8 seconds. A screen popped up, and she just clicked “Continue” either without reading it, or without understanding it. Thus, it appeared that the keyboard was disabled, when really it was in an “accessibility” mode.

I went back to the school after work and fixed her right up. Sure enough, that’s what it was. Mrs., Brace also complained that the Internet had really slowed down this week (which coincides with all the work I did switching us to a new firewall and bringing the new ltsp online). I verified that indeed, the speeds were horrible, but also found that it was only the DNS lookups that were taking forever (where forever equals one minute). THAT will certainly slow things down! I haven’t figured out why it’s doing that yet, but knowing what it’s doing is more than half the battle.