Injecting fake keyboard events to KVM guests via libvirt

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Fedora, Gtk-Vnc, libvirt, Virt Tools | 3 Comments »

I’ve written before about how virtualization causes pain wrt keyboard handling and about the huge number of scancode/keycode sets you have to worry about. Following on from that investigative work I completely rewrote GTK-VNC’s keycode handling, so it is able to correctly translate the keycodes it receives from GTK on Linux, Win32 and OS-X, even when running against a remote X11 server on a different platform. In doing so I made sure that the tables used for doing conversions between keycode sets were not just big arrays of magic numbers in the code, as is common practice across the kernel or QEMU codebase. Instead GTK-VNC now has a CSV file containing the unadulterated mapping data along with a simple script to split out mapping tables. This data file and script has already been reused to solve the same keycode mapping problem in SPICE-GTK.

Fast-forward a year and a libvirt developer from Fujitsu is working on a patch to wire up QEMU’s “sendkey” monitor command to a formal libvirt API. The first design question is how should the API accept the list of keys to be injected to the guest. The QEMU monitor command accepts a list of keycode names as strings, or as keycode values as hex-encoded strings. The QEMU keycode values come from what I term the “RFB” codeset, which is just the XT codeset with a slightly unusual encoding of extended keycodes. VirtualBox meanwhile has an API which wants integer keycode values, from the regular XT codeset.

One of the problems with the XT codeset is that no one can ever quite agree on what is the official way to encode extended keycodes, or whether it is even possible to encode certain types of key. There is also a usability problem with having the API require a lowlevel hardware oriented keycode set as input, in that as an application developer you might know what Win32 virtual keycode you want to generate, but have no idea what the corresponding XT keycode is. It would be preferable if you could simply directly inject a Win32 keycode to a Windows guest, or directly inject a Linux keycode to a Linux guest, etc.

After a little bit of discussion we came to the conclusion that the libvirt API should accept an array of integer keycodes, along with a enum parameter specifying what keycode set they belong to. Internally libvirt would then translate from whatever keycode set the application used, to the  keycode set required by the hypervisor’s own API. Thus we got an API that looks like:

typedef enum {
   VIR_KEYCODE_SET_LINUX          = 0,
   VIR_KEYCODE_SET_XT             = 1,
   VIR_KEYCODE_SET_ATSET1         = 2,
   VIR_KEYCODE_SET_ATSET2         = 3,
   VIR_KEYCODE_SET_ATSET3         = 4,
   VIR_KEYCODE_SET_OSX            = 5,
   VIR_KEYCODE_SET_XT_KBD         = 6,
   VIR_KEYCODE_SET_USB            = 7,
   VIR_KEYCODE_SET_WIN32          = 8,
   VIR_KEYCODE_SET_RFB          = 9,

} virKeycodeSet;

int virDomainSendKey(virDomainPtr domain,
                     unsigned int codeset,
                     unsigned int holdtime,
                     unsigned int *keycodes,
                     int nkeycodes,
                     unsigned int flags);

As with all libvirt APIs, this is also exposed in the virsh command line tool, via a new “send-key” command. As you might expect, this accepts a list of integer keycodes as parameters, along with a keycode set name. If the keycode set is omitted, we are assuming use of the Linux keycode set by default. To be slightly more user friendly though, for the Linux, Win32 & OS-X keycode sets, we also support symbolic keycode names as an alternative to the integer values. These names are simply the name of the #define constant from corresponding header file.

Some examples of how to use the new virsh command are

# send three strokes 'k', 'e', 'y', using xt codeset
virsh send-key dom --codeset xt 37 18 21

# send one stroke 'right-ctrl+C'
virsh send-key dom KEY_RIGHTCTRL KEY_C

# send a tab, held for 1 second
virsh send-key --holdtime 1000 0xf

So when interacting with virtual guests you now have a choice of how to send fake keycodes. If you have a VNC or SPICE connection directly to the guest in question, you can inject keycodes over that channel, while if you have a libvirt connection to the hypervisor you can inject keycodes over that channel.


Rich said at 2:23 pm on October 3rd, 2011:

I wrote a hack which does this a while back (see “virt-click”). For a really complete solution, you need to also be able to send mouse movements and mouse clicks.

Daniel Berrange said at 2:38 pm on October 3rd, 2011:

IIRC, there are QEMU monitor commands for injecting mouse movements and clicks, but these are not exposed as libvirt APIs yet.

Tip: Wake up a guest from screen blank | Richard WM Jones said at 12:20 pm on April 1st, 2015:

[…] few years ago Dan Berrange added a way to send fake keyboard events to libvirt guests. You can use this to inject just a press on the Left Shift key to wake up a guest from screen […]

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