One of the issues introduced by Ubuntu 11.10 on my Eee PC 901 is touchpad dragging. The tap-and-drag gesture, for moving the cursor with the mouse button depressed, is too sensitive. I have to tap as fast I can to activate the gesture every time.

Today I pursued the bug report for this issue to find a fix. It didn’t take long to find a workaround using synclient, which is a utility for manipulating options for Synaptics touchpads. Run this command to get the timeout before a tap is interpreted as a single tap:
synclient | grep "SingleTapTimeout"

On my system this option was set to 180, which is too fast. Run this command to double the timeout to 360:
synclient SingleTapTimeout=360

At this point, tap-and-drag should be much easier like in Ubuntu 11.04. But for me, it highlighted a second problem: there was a slight delay before any regular tap would register on the screen. This was very visible in the file browser, where there was a visible delay between tapping a file and that file becoming selected.

Enabling the “FastTaps” option fixes the delay issue:
synclient FastTaps=1

Now on top of touchpad dragging being fixed, the whole system feels more responsive! I hope that I haven’t been using Ubuntu on this netbook with FastTaps disabled all these years. All of the synclient options are documented in the synaptics manpage.

Changes made by synclient are not persistent across reboots. The proper way to set these options would be using Xorg configuration files. For now, I’ve just added the two synclient commands to Startup Applications to run automatically when I log in.

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