An image of a smarphone sitting on a lightly-colored wooden table. It has a tan case surrounding it on the top 2/3, and a copper case holding a BlackBerry Q10 keyboard jutting out over the bottom of the phone.

FairBerry Brings The PKB Back To Your Smartphone

Missing the feel of physical keys on your phone, but not ready to give up your fancy new touchscreen phone? [Dakkaron] has attached a BlackBerry keyboard to a slightly more recent device.

Designed for the FairPhone 4, [Dakkaron]’s hack should be transferable to other smartphones as it connects to the phone over USB without any of that tedious mucking about with Bluetooth. There’s even a handy OpenSCAD-based generator to help you along in the customization process.

[Dakkaron] started with an Arduino Pro Micro-based implementation, but the most recent iteration uses a custom board that can be obtained partially-populated. Unfortunately, the Hirose connector for the keyboard isn’t available off-the-shelf, so you’ll have to solder that yourself if you’re planning to do this mod. Sounds like a perfect opportunity to practice your surface mount soldering skills!

If the Q10 keyboard looks familiar, it’s probably because it’s one of the most popular keyboards for small projects around here. Check out Regrowing a BlackBerry from the Keyboard Out or a LoRa Messenger with one. We’ve even seen them in a conference badge!

Blackberry Pi Puts Desktop Linux In Your Pocket

Let’s face it — Android wasn’t what most of us had in mind when we imagined having Linux running on our phones. While there’s a (relatively) familiar kernel hiding at the core of Google’s mobile operating system, the rest of the environment is alien enough that you can’t run Linux software on it without jumping through some hoops. While that’s fine for most folks, there remains a sizable group of users who still dream of a mobile device that can run a full Linux operating system without any compromises.

Judging by the work put into the Blackberry Pi, we’re willing to bet that [IMBalENce] falls into that camp. The custom handheld combines the Raspberry Pi Zero, a 320√ó240 LCD, and the BBQ20KBD keyboard from Solder Party with a 2500 mAh LiPo pouch cell and associated charging circuitry. Optionally, it also supports modules such as the Raspberry Pi Camera, a Real-Time-Clock, a ADS1015 ADC to read the battery voltage, and even a USB hub — although you can’t have all the goodies installed at once as it draws too much current.

Everything is packed into a 3D printed case that looks roughly like an original DMG-01 Game Boy if somebody replaced the bottom half with a tiny keyboard. We appreciate the ZX Spectrum theme, even if it’s not immediately clear how it relates to the project other than being an excuse to play around with multi-color printing. [IMBalENce] says the final product works quite well, though the relatively limited keys on the BlackBerry keyboard does make it tricky to use the device for writing code.

Interested in mobile Linux, but not trying to build the hardware yourself? We recently took a look at the SQFMI Beepy, which is fairly similar in terms of hardware, but very much in need of some talented penguin wranglers who are willing to come in and work on the software and documentation. Think you’re up for the challenge?

Review: Beepy, A Palm-sized Linux Hacking Playground

In the long ago times, when phones still flipped and modems sang proudly the songs of their people, I sent away for a set of Slackware CDs and embarked on a most remarkable journey. Back then, running Linux (especially on the desktop) was not a task to be taken lightly. The kernel itself was still in considerable flux — instead of changing some obscure subsystem or adding support for a niche gadget you don’t even own, new releases were unlocking critical capabilities and whole categories of peripherals. I still remember deciding if I wanted to play it safe and stick with my current kernel, or take a chance on compiling the latest version to check out this new “USB Mass Storage” thing everyone on the forums was talking about…

But modern desktop Linux has reached an incredible level of majority, and is now a viable choice for a great number of computer users. In fact, if you add Android and Chrome OS into the mix, there are millions and millions of people who are using Linux on daily basis and don’t even realize it. These days, the only way to experience that sense of adventure and wonderment that once came pre-loaded with a Linux box is to go out and seek it.

Which is precisely how it feels using using the Beepy from SQFMI. The handheld device, which was formerly known as the Beepberry before its creators received an all-too-predicable formal complaint, is unabashedly designed for Linux nerds. Over the last couple of weeks playing with this first-run hardware, I’ve been compiling kernel drivers, writing custom scripts, and trying (though not always successfully) to get new software installed on it. If you’re into hacking around on Linux, it’s an absolute blast.

There’s a good chance that you already know if the Beepy is for you or not, but if you’re still on the fence, hopefully this in-depth look at the hardware and current state of the overall project can help you decide before SQFMI officially starts taking new orders for the $79 gadget.

Continue reading “Review: Beepy, A Palm-sized Linux Hacking Playground”

A BlackBerry Classic-sized device with a BlackBerry keyboard and an e-ink screen. It sits next to an e-ink smartwatch with a grey bezel that matches the 3d printed enclosure of the messaging device.

Beepberry Brings Memory LCD And A Physical Keyboard To Your Pi

As the 2020s are seeing the return of the flip phone, could we see a rebirth of other device form factors from before the slab era? [Eric Migicovsky] and [SQFMI] are working on a new physical keyboard device with the Beepberry.

Featuring a high contrast Sharp Memory LCD and the tried-and-true reliability of a BlackBerry keyboard, the device is designed for messaging all your contacts over WiFi without the distractions of a smartphone. As this is a collaboration with the Matrix-based chat service Beeper, the device is designed around the CLI version of their client.

If you want to eschew the distraction-free nature of the device, since it’s Pi-powered it can run any ARM Linux programs you might want as well being a playground for hardware mods. Add a DSP and headphone jack and this could be a neat little pianobar player. [Migicovsky] stresses this is currently a dev board and by no means should be assumed to be an off-the-shelf piece of kit.

If this looks like a familiar reuse of a BlackBerry keyboard, you might be remembering [arturo182]’s Keyboard Featherwing or this LoRa Messenger.

Continue reading “Beepberry Brings Memory LCD And A Physical Keyboard To Your Pi”

Long-Distance Text Communication With LoRa

Affordable and reliable cell phones have revolutionized the way we communicate over the last two decades or so, and this change was only accelerated by the adoption of the smartphone. This is all well and good if you’re living in a place with cellular infrastructure, but if you’re in more remote areas you’ll have to be a little more inventive. This text-based communications device, for example, lets you send text messages without all of that cumbersome infrastructure.

While [Arthur] didn’t create this project specifically for off-grid use, it’s an interesting project nonetheless. The devices use a physical QWERTY keyboard and a small screen, reminiscent of BlackBerry devices from the late 2000s (partially because they are actually using BlackBerry keyboards). One of the other goals for this project was low power consumption, and between polling the keyboard, the memory LCDs, and receiving and transmitting messages using LoRa, [Arthur] was able to get the current draw down to 12 mA.

Between the relatively common nRF52840 and SX1262 chips, plus the fact that [Arthur] made the schematics available, this makes for an excellent off-grid device for anyone who likes to drive off into the wilderness or lives far enough outside of town that cell phone reception is a concern.

Looking for something a little easier to put together before your upcoming camping trip? This similarly styled LoRa communicator from [MSG] uses off-the-shelf modules to greatly reduce the part count. Another option for off-grid communications is to use existing smartphones paired with a LoRa network like we saw in this project.

Blackberry Will Run Out Of Juice On January 4th

Happy New Year, though it may not be for Blackberry fans. The company that has so often had their products compared to a certain addictive substance recently announced that they are ending support for Blackberry OS and Blackberry 10 devices.

What does this mean? While they won’t be bricking phones outright, they might as well be. On January 4th, Blackberry will be shutting off all the key services — data, SMS, phone calls, and 911 support. In official terms, they are ending network provisioning for these older devices, meaning that they won’t be able to join any cellular or WiFi networks.

Unless you’re old enough to remember, it may seem strange that these half-screen, half-keyboard machines once dominated the mobile market. But back then, the people who used them were texting wizards who had broken free from the chains of the T9 keyboard.

Though this news may not mean much except to a select few, it’s still sad to see the Blackberry era come to a true end. We never had one ourselves during the heyday, though we did pick up a cheap used model to carry around as a tiny mobile writing device and calendar. We sure do miss phones with real keyboards though, and would love to see them come back. At least the keyboards themselves get love in the hacker community.

[Main and thumbnail images via Digital Trends]

LoRa Messenger Does Its Best BlackBerry Impression

While the de facto smartphone design ultimately went in a different direction, there’s no denying the classic BlackBerry layout offered some compelling advantages. It was a gadget primarily designed to send and receive emails and text messages, and it showed. So is it really any wonder [MSG] would build his pocket-sized LoRa messengers in its image?

Of course, he did have some help. The communicators use the Keyboard FeatherWing by [arturo182], which puts a surplus BlackBerry Q10 keyboard on a custom PCB designed to accept a board from Adafruit’s Feather collection. [MSG] ended up pairing his with a Feather M4 because he wanted to work with CircuitPython, with a 900 MHz LoRa FeatherWing along for the ride. He notes that switching his code over to Arduino-flavored C would allow him to use the Feather M0 that features integrated LoRa; a change that would allow him to make the gadget a bit thinner.

Inside the 3D printed enclosure, He’s made room for a 3.7 V 1800 mAh pouch battery that should provide plenty of runtime. There’s also an external antenna with a uFL pigtail for connecting to the radio. The case is held together with heat-set inserts, which should make it more than robust enough to handle a few adventures.

[MSG] says slight variations in hardware versions means his STLs might need a little tweaking to fit your components, and warns that his code is basically just a mashup of examples he found online, but he’s still sharing the goods for anyone who wants to reach out and touch someone without all that pesky infrastructure in the way.

Continue reading “LoRa Messenger Does Its Best BlackBerry Impression”