As much as I’d like to devote an article to each and every bit of keyboard-related what-have-you that I come across in my travels through the intertubes, there just aren’t enough hours. And after all, this isn’t Clack-a-Day. To that end, I gained editorial approval to bring you a periodic round-up of news and other tidbits on the keyboard and keyboard accessories front, and here we are. So let’s get to it!
Okay, so you want to build a keyboard — something crazy-curvy like the dactyl or dactyl manuform. The kind of keyboard that has to be hand-wired, because key wells and rigid PCBs do not play well together. You want to build this keyboard, but all that hand-wiring would mean that you can’t easily swap switches later. And it will means hours and hours of fiddly soldering. What do you do? You could buy or design your own switch PCBs, but again, those are rigid and space is limited inside of most of these designs.
If you’re [stingray127], you trade those hours of soldering for a week of designing and printing some sweet little hot-swap sockets with wire guides. This is version four, which is easier to print than earlier versions. They are designed to use through-hole diodes and 24 AWG solid-core wire and give a tight fit. Can’t figure out how to use them? [stingray127] has a wiring guide with plenty of pictures.
We really like this idea, and it makes the end result feel more like a totally hand-wired keyboard than individual switch PCBs would As you can see, it involves little solder. The only downside is that you can only swap a few switches at a time, otherwise the matrix might fall apart. But that’s hardly even a downside.
Just want to make a macropad? You can easily print your way out of using a PCB for those, too.
Wouldn’t it be nice if every webcam had a hardware switch? Especially for those built-in webcams like the one in your laptop. Since they don’t have switches yet, we’re just stuck trying to remember to turn them off or re-apply the sticker after every meeting. [Becky Stern] was tired of trying to remember to blind the all-seeing eye, and decided to make a robot companion that would do it for her.
Essentially, a servo-driven, 3D-printed eyelid covers the eye’s iris and also the web cam directly underneath. At first, we though [Becky] had liberated the business parts of a cheap webcam and built it into the eyeball, but this is far less intrusive. The eyeball simply sits atop the monitor, and [Becky] can control the eyelid two ways: she can set a timer with the potentiometer to close it automatically after some number of minutes, or else do it on demand using the momentary button. We’d love to see it tied directly to Zoom and or whatever else [Becky] uses regularly. Be sure to check out the build and demo video after the break to see it in action.
We love this cute and friendly reminder that the camera could be watching us. It’s way less creepy than this realistic eyeball webcam that looks around and blinks.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to control a few devices from your computer, a cheap USB relay board might be the ideal solution. These are fairly simple gadgets, consisting of little more than a microcontroller and a handful of relays. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, and as [Michał Słomkowski] recently demonstrated, flashing these boards with a custom firmware allows the user to modify their default functionality.
In his case, [Michał] wanted to build a power strip that would cut the power to any devices plugged into it once his computer went to sleep. Unfortunately, he couldn’t just check to see if there was 5 V on the line as his motherboard kept the USB ports powered up all the time. But with some modifications to the relay board’s firmware, he reasoned he should be able to detect if there was any USB activity by watching for the start-of-frame packet that goes out every millisecond when the bus is active.
Now [Michał] isn’t claiming to be the first person to come up with a custom firmware for one of these boards, in fact, he credits an existing open source firmware project as an inspiration for his work. But he did create an entirely new GPLv3 firmware for these ATtiny45 powered devices, which includes among other improvements the latest version of V-USB. As it so happens, V-USB includes start-of-frame packet detection out of the box, which made it much easier to implement his activity detection code.
With the new firmware flashed to the relay board’s chip, [Michał] put it in an enclosure and wired up the outlets. But there was still one missing piece of the puzzle. It seems that Linux won’t actually send out the start-of-frame packets unless its actively communicating with a USB device, as part of the so-called “selective suspend” power saving feature. Luckily there is support for disabling this feature for specific devices based on their Vendor/Product ID pair, so after a little udev fiddling, everything was working as expected.
We love custom firmware projects here at Hackaday. Not only do they keep proprietary software out of our devices, but they often unlock new and expanded capabilities which otherwise would be hidden behind artificial paywalls.
[jakkra] bought a couple of capacitive touchpads from a Kickstarter a few years ago and recently got around to using them in a project. And what a project it is: this super macro pad combines two touchpads with a 6-pack of regular switches for a deluxe gesture-sensing input device.
Inside is an ESP32 running TensorFlow Lite to read in the gestures from the two touchpads. The pad at the top is a volume slider, and the square touchpad is the main input and is used in conjunction with the buttons to run AutoHotKey scripts within certain programs. [jakkra] can easily run git commands and more with a handful of simple gestures. The gestures all seem like natural choices to us:
> for next media track,
∧ to push the current branch and
∨ to fetch and pull the current branch,
s for git status,
l for git log, and the one that sounds really useful to us — draw a
C to get a notification that lists all the COM ports. One of the switches is dedicated to Bluetooth pairing and navigating menus on the OLED screen.
We love the combination of inputs here and think this looks great, especially with the double touchpad design. Be sure to check out the gesture demo gif after the break.
Gesture input seems well-suited to those who compute on the go, and a gesture glove feels like the perfect fit.
We know this feeling all too well [YOHON!] spent $340 building, lubing, and filming a custom keyboard and it still wasn’t perfect until they got the keycaps sorted. They bought blank ‘caps because they’re awesome, but also because they wanted to make their own custom ‘caps for all those painstakingly lubed and filmed Gateron yellows. At first [YOHON!] thought about doing it DIY dye-sublimation style with a hair straightener and polyimide tape, but that is too permanent of a method. Instead, [YOHON!] wanted room to experiment, make changes, and make mistakes.
Eventually, [YOHON!] learned about waterslide decals and settled on doing them that way. Every step sounds arduous, but we think it was way worth it because these look great. Since [YOHON!] wanted the keyboard to be weird, they designed a cute little symbol for each key which gives it a cryptic-but-accessible Wingdings feel.
We think these pictograms are all totally adorable, and we particularly like the owl for O, the volcano for V, and of course, the skeleton for X is a solid choice. Oh, and there’s a tiny fidget spinner knob to round out the cuteness. Designing and applying the keycaps took longer than the entire keyboard build, but you can check out the sped-up version after the break.
Want to just throw money at the keycaps problem? You may not want an entire keyboard full of cheeseburger and hot dog keycaps, but one or two fun keycaps are pretty cool to have. If you want to make your custom keycaps more permanent and don’t like the dye sublimation trick, try 3D printing them.
For some applications, smaller is better and that is precisely the thinking behind a diminutive keyboard like the PiPi Gherkin, which is designed to use the Raspberry Pi Pico as its controller. This keyboard may have only 30 keys in total, but they are full-sized for comfort and don’t let the scant layout mislead you. It has more functionality than it would seem to at first glance; the entire bottom row acts as dual function tap/hold keys, allowing the keyboard to shift layers on the fly.
This keyboard definitely has a a thoughtful layout, and we’re not just talking about the tap/shift functionality. We especially like the way the Pi Pico is tucked neatly underneath the main PCB, taking up very little room while exposing its USB connector between two standoffs for easy access without requiring an adapter, or wiring a separate plug.
If the Gherkin sounds familiar, we’ve seen it before as part of this lunchbox cyberdeck build, where the small size allowed it to take up impressively little room. The shifting might take a little getting used to, but it’s a clean design that uses full sized keys, so when it comes to small keyboards one could certainly do worse.