Fix touchpad behavior in a Macbook Air (Ubuntu Linux 11.10)

I received a brand new Macbook Air this week but I had already decided that I was going to install Ubuntu to be more efficient at work (yes, I’m used to work with GNU/Linux and I didn’t want to spend a few hours getting on with OS X Lion).

In order to make everything work I followed step by step* instructions available on the Ubuntu community page about my concrete Macbook model (https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MacBookAir4-2) and everything seems to work as expected… but the touchpad.

The touchpad way to work had two issues that really annoyed me:

  • The first one was that I could not disable the tap-to-click feature, which is very annoying when you try to write with the built-in keyboard.
  • The second one is that the scrolling behavior was reversed to work like it does by default in the OS X Lion. Ok, this is not as annoying as the first issue but this behavior affected the external mouse scroll-wheel too.

To fix these issues you need to edit the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file and add these three lines in the touchpad section:

Option "MaxTapTime" "0"
Option "ScrollUpButton" "5"
Option "ScrollDownButton" "4"

So, you will have something like:

Section "InputClass"
Identifier "Multitouch Touchpad"
Driver "mtrack"
MatchDevicePath "/dev/input/event*"
MatchIsTouchpad "on"
Option "CorePointer" "true"
Option "Sensitivity" "0.65" # 1 : movement speed
Option "ScrollDistance" "100" # 150 : two-finger drag dist for click
Option "ClickTime" "25" # 50 : millisec to hold emulated click
Option "MaxTapTime" "0"
Option "ScrollUpButton" "5"
Option "ScrollDownButton" "4"
EndSection

Once you have updated this file, you will need to restart your computer or restart the lightdm service (service lightdm restart in the command line) to make these changes effective.

I hope that this short post helps you in some way and keep in touch cause I’m going to explain how to fix the function keys behavior in a few days :-)

* NOTE: I must say that I’ve decided to not set up a swap partition but a swap file in order to make it easier to manage partitions both from Ubuntu and Mac OS (I usually love to have separate partitions for home, swap and boot but it’s not as easy in a Macbook, believe me, I’ve done it before in a Macbook 2,1). Another thing that I’ve also modified is the swappiness parameter but it’s something personal, it has no relation with maintenance issues.

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