UPDATE: I have subsequently found that transcribe works beautifully well and comes with some great pedal drivers. It’s a great piece of software and well worth the modest price.

John Heritage told me to go buy a foot pedal. I picked this Infinity USB-2 pedal up from ebay for $30.


It does make a tremendous difference not to have to constantly move one’s fingers from keyboard to mouse and back, although I had mitigated this considerably by using a thinkpad external keyboard with a trackpoint. However, this set-up did have some Rachmaninoff problems – requiring hand contortion to control audio, with attendant RSI/CTS-baiting effects that often resulted in sore wrists during transcription binges.

Getting the foot pedal working in Linux (Mint 14) was a minor mission, so I thought I’d document it for anyone else doing the same:

  1. First, I installed the lovely Footpedal GNOME integration control, which sadly seems a bit dormant.
  2. After installation, the script didn’t work immediately. I edited the script following Phillip Goodfellow’s instructions.

This involved:

a finding the script: # which footpedal —> /usr/bin/footpedal
b editing that script to comment out lines 119-126:

119 # Check whether your notification agent support
120 # icon-summary-body layout.
125 # self.reusable_notification.set_timeout(1000)
126 # Doesn't do anything

  1. Finally, after I got permissions issues (the error message suggested I run sudo chmod a+r /dev/usb/hiddev0 footpedal, which didn’t seem to work) I followed Jason Barnett’s and Richard Steffan’s advice and set up a udev rule:

# /etc/udev/rules.d/footpedal.rules
# Set permissions for USB footpedal Infinity IN-USB-1
# sudo lsusb -v reports
# Bus 002 Device 002: ID 05f3:00ff PI Engineering, Inc.
# Device Descriptor:
# <...>
# idVendor 0x05f3 PI Engineering, Inc.
# idProduct 0x00ff
# bcdDevice 1.20
# iManufacturer 1 VEC
# iProduct 2 VEC USB Footpedal
# Rules recommended by PLUG mailing list member, Jason Barnett on
September 20, 2011
# After changing rules issue this command: sudo service udev restart
SUBSYSTEM=="usb", SYSFS{idVendor}=="05f3", MODE="0666"
SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTRS{idVendor}=="05f3", MODE="0666"

One sudo service udev restart later, and the footpedal is up and running! Now to get it working with CLAN under windows emulation…


Tools for Writing Conversation Analytic Papers
Pandoc + Markdown for Conversation Analytic Transcripts
10 best practice tips for your research/portfolio website
How to share large amounts of research video data with Syncthing

5 Responses to “Getting a footpedal working with Linux”

  1. Nathan Basanese

    // , Has anything related to this improved?

    Does the infinity usb-2 footpedal still require a udev rule for it to function as well in Linux as it does in Windows?

    By the way, I love the way you included enough of the necessary technical context to allow someone who’d never heard of udev to use this.

    Well done, and thanks for sharing this with us.

  2. saul

    Hi Nathan,

    Glad it was helpful!

    I’d definitely recommend looking further – I haven’t looked into this for a while so no news from me I’m afraid.

    I did manage to get a transcription system working with the set-up described above – using Mplayer’s FIFO and gnome footpedal, but it was a little fiddly and didn’t really enable fine-grained control.

    In the end I stuck with Transcribe! which is a great piece of affordable cross platform software written by a small code shop – so I liked paying for it. Their pedal drivers work really nicely for fine control, and the audio/video playback, EQ and effects are great.

    Good luck with it!

  3. saul

    That’s fantastic, thanks so much for pointing me towards these Rolf. I’ll check them out and add them to my howto docs as soon as I have a chance. Great work!

  4. ss

    I have been using Rolf’s footswitch2 program (or rather, my wife has) and it works very well in Ubuntu 14.04. We’ve never done transcription in Windows. We had to jump through some hoops to get .dss and .ds2 files converted, but the footswitch program is flawless. It has options to speed up/slow down, and a decent EQ (good for those recordings where the doc is in a car, etc).

Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS