Illustrated Kristina with an IBM Model M keyboard floating between her hands.

Keebin’ With Kristina: The One With The Biblically-Accurate Keyboard

Well, it was bound to happen at some point. [sporewoh]’s bunchiez40 keyboard for ants is made of mouse switches, which of course begs for a mouse made of keyboard switches.

Image by [sporewoh] via GitHub
[sporewoh]’s keyboards have been steadily shrinking, and they built this in order to get the smallest possible form factor for the number of keys. Surprisingly, since the mouse switches have an actuation force similar to some heavier MX-style switches (~70 g), [sporewoh] is able to squeeze 85 WPM out of it, albeit with some argument from the wrists.

If you want to build a bunchiez40, everything is available on GitHub, including the CAD files for that lovely anodized aluminium case. The typing video is coming soon, and I’m taking bets on whether it’s as quiet as a mouse, as one redditor joked.

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Num Pad Reborn As Stream Deck

Stream decks are cool and all, but they are essentially expensive, albeit sorta cool-looking macro pads. So why not try to make your own? You don’t necessarily have to start from scratch.

It all started when [dj_doughy] found an extremely clicky num pad in a recycle pile. It was so clicky, in fact, that even though [dj_doughy] didn’t need an external num pad, they wanted to keep it around as a fidget toy. From the video after the break, they look to be white ALPS switches. The only problem? It had a PS/2 connector.

Well, okay, there was another problem. The chip inside seemingly has no datasheet available. [dj_doughy] took to Discord for help, and was advised to just have the thing use extended keys, like F13-F24, and assign those as hotkeys in OBS.

In order to make it USB, [dj_doughy] need a microcontroller capable of acting as a Human Interface Device (HID). While [dj_doughy] tested using an Arduino Leonardo, they ended up using an Arduino Beetle due to its diminutive size. [dj_doughy] had a bit of trouble with the code sending two key presses, but found out they were just missing some variables. Now it works like a charm.

Would you like a macro pad that lets you physically reassign macros? Then check out this tile-based macro pad.

Illustrated Kristina with an IBM Model M keyboard floating between her hands.

Keebin’ With Kristina: The One With The Arboreal Keyboards

Well, unfortunately we don’t know much yet about this nice wooden keyboard from [Kelvin Chow], but maybe this inclusion will encourage [Kelvin] to post more about it.

Sure is nice-looking, don’t you think? That’s because there some great details at play here, like the legend-less two-tone keycaps and the neat-o locking box it sits in.

This keyboard is inspired by the Hacoa Ki-board, which uses a singles plank of wood to craft the keycaps. [Kelvin] wanted to try this technique for themselves. Evidently this won’t be the last wooden keyboard, so stay tuned for more over on

This isn’t the first dead-tree keyboard we’ve seen around here, either. A while back we saw one with Scrabble tile keycaps, and earlier this year, a nice wooden macro pad.

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DIY Streamdeck Helps You Professionalize Your Twitch Show

The one thing that separates the pros on Twitch from the dilettantes is the production values. It’s all about the smooth transitions, and you’ll never catch the big names fiddling with dodgy software mid-stream. The key to achieving this is by having a streamdeck to help control your setup, like this straightforward design from [Electronoobs]. (Video, embedded below.)

The build relies on an Arduino Micro, which is a microcontroller board perfectly equipped to acting as a USB macro keyboard. It’s paired with a Nextion LCD touchscreen that displays buttons for various stream control features, like displaying a “Be Right Back” screen or cuing up video clips. The build also features bigger regular buttons for important quick-access features like muting a mic. It’s all wrapped up in a 3D printed housing, with some addressable RGB LEDs running off another Arduino to add some pizazz. The neat trick is that the build sends keycodes for F13-F24, which allows for the streamdeck’s hotkeys to avoid conflicting with any other software using conventional keyboard hotkeys.

It’s a useful tool that would be of use to anyone streaming on Twitch or other platforms. Alternatively, you could repurpose an old phone to do a similar job. Video after the break.

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Quick Hack: The Phone To Stream Deck Conversion

What do you do with those old Android or iPhone phones and tablets? You have plenty of options, but it is pretty easy to build your own stream deck with a little off-the-shelf software. What’s a stream deck, you ask? The name comes from its use as a controller for a live-streaming setup, but essentially, it’s an LCD touchscreen that can trigger things on your computer.

The software I’m using, Deckboard, is a server for Windows or Linux and, of course, an Android app. The app is free with some limitations, but for under $4 you can buy the full version. However, even the free version is pretty capable. You can use an Android phone or tablet and you can connect to the PC with a USB cable or WiFi. I’ve found that even with WiFi, it is handy to keep the phone charged, so realistically you are going to have a cable, but it doesn’t necessarily have to connect to the host computer.

Linux Setup

Setup is very easy. The biggest hurdle is you might need to set up your firewall to allow the server to listen on port 8500 with TCP.  There are a few small issues when installing with Linux that you might want to watch out for.  There are 32-bit and 64-bit versions in deb, tar.gz, and appimage format. There’s also a snap. The problem with the snap is it is sandboxed, so without effort you can’t easily launch programs, which is kinda the entire point. I finally removed it and installed the deb file which was fine.

There were still two other wrinkles. First, while Deckboard offers a way to launch programs, it must be a program from a list it reads from your system. That would be acceptable, but the list wasn’t complete. I never did figure out why some things show up on the list and others don’t. For example, GIMP which shows up on my application menu was absent. Yet other things that were fairly obscure did show up.

I thought this might be a dealbreaker until I found that Deckboard has a well-developed plugin system and one of those plugins lets you run an arbitrary command line. I guess it is a little less convenient, but it is much more flexible since you can launch any program you want and provide options to it as well.

The only other complaint I had is that when you run the program, it shows its configuration interface and puts itself in the system tray. That’s great the first time you run it, but on system startup, it would be nice to just have it quietly start. If there’s an option for that I haven’t found it. I’ll tell you how I solved that later, but, for now, just live with it.

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Homebrew Stream Deck Pedal Emulates The Real Thing

Pedals are a great way to control functions on your computer. You’re rarely using your feet for anything else, so they can handle some tasks, freeing up your hands. This Elgato Stream Deck controller from [DDRBoxman] does just that.

[DDRBoxman] wanted to control Elgato Stream Deck much like the offical pedal sold by the company. Thus, some hacking was in order. Using Wireshark with the Elgato pedal helped to determine the communication method of the real hardware.

Once the protocol was figured out, it was just a task of getting the Raspberry Pi Pico to replicate the same functionality. With the help of the tinyusb library, [DDRBoxman] was able to emulate the real Elgato device successfully. Paired with a 3D-printed footswitch design from Adafruit, and the project was functional and complete.

We’ve seen great foot pedal devices over the years, from a simple macro device to a super-useful page turner for sheet music. If you’ve been hacking away at your own nifty input devices, be sure to drop us a line!

Sparkpad Sparks Joy For Streamers

The best streamers keep their audience constantly engaged. They might be making quips and doing the funny voices that everyone expects them to do, but they’re also busy reading chat messages aloud and responding, managing different scenes and transitions, and so on. Many streamers use a type of macro keyboard called a stream deck to greatly improve the experience of juggling all those broadcasting balls.

Sure, there are dedicated commercial versions, but they’re kind of expensive. And what’s the fun in that, anyway? A stream deck is a great candidate for DIY because you can highly personalize the one you make yourself. Give it clicky switches, if that’s what your ears and fingers want. Or don’t. It’s your macro keyboard, after all.

[Patrick Thomas] and [James Wood] teamed up to build the perfect stream deck for [James]’ Twitch channel. We like the way they went about it, which was to start by assessing a macro pad kit and use what they learned from building and testing it to design their ideal stream deck. The current version supports both the Arduino Pro Micro and the ESP32. It has twelve key switches, a rotary encoder, an LED bar graph, and an OLED screen for choosing between the eight different color schemes.

If you’d rather have dynamic screens instead of cool keycaps, you can do it cheaper by making non-touch screens actuate momentaries.