Issue 99 / Week 41 / 2022
This is a hand-picked selection of last week's content from a keyboard enthusiast's perspective. Posts that may teach you something, make you think and contribute to the common knowledge of the DIY builder community.
- Tips & Tricks
- Keyboard Spotting
Behind the Scenes of Issue 99
Quick news, Issue 98 follow-up, new shops, new donor, meetup database update, etc.
Welcome back for another edition of Keyboard Builders' Digest (this time Issue #99), a weekly roundup of this DIY keyboard focused newsletter and blog from Tamas Dovenyi – that's me. If you are new to this, you can read how this started out and what this is all about nowadays. If you like what you see, you can subscribe to the newsletter (free) and donate some bucks to keep this otherwise free and ad-free project alive.
- Leon from anavi.technology reached out to me. Based in Bulgaria, he's running a crowdfunding project, a macropad. I don't feature group buys and kickstarters on this blog in general, but feel free to check out the link.
Issue 98 follow-up
I messed up a lot of things last week, missed the fact that Ikeji was one of the perpetrators of the Gboard bar keyboard, and updated the Rolco-60 post with the switch.
Starting with the link in the newsletter sent by MailChimp (I hope the buttondown one was fine)... Despite triple-checking the link, it was reported it pointed to the previous issue. It seems Mailchimp is messing with me.
Ikeji & the Gboard bar.
I was sure you'd all seen the Gboard bar by the time I featured it last Friday so I didn't give the post too much thought. However, it turned out this was a big mistake.
Checking Twitter, Ikeji's comments were suspicious enough to dig deeper into this project and indeed: Our good old friend Ikeji is the mastermind behind that project. He even appears in the video picked up by not just Hackster.io and Hackaday but also CNN. :D Congrats!
And I've updated the Rolco-80 post with the switch: keycashcow commented the solution on r/olkb, and those switches are the Ericsson RMD 973 as you can see here and here.
Sorry if the K68 review confused some of my hardcore readers who are expecting only ergo split abominations on these pages. ;)
I received this nice 65% keyboard for free and wanted to say thanks with this post.
In addition, the 35% discount with the KBDNEWS coupon code is quite impressive and may come in handy for less hardcore readers who are looking for a decent and well-built hotswap 65% with ANSI layout and wireless modes.
This is not an affiliate thing. I could have added an affiliate link if I wanted to but I'd find it inappropriate.
All in all, check out the K68 review and also the product page at Kemove.
- Capsule Deluxe added. Pixljar & Cari are starting this shop TODAY! Check it out.
- lofree added.
- Köln Meetup (Nov 5) added.
- The upcoming Tokyo meetup was sold out the next day I featured it. (Not that featuring it on kbd.news had anything to do with this fact.)
As always, this meetup database is both a calendar and an archive so feel free to send me upcoming events or even ones from the recent past to make this collection as comprehensive as possible.
- A new donor. Thanks Caleb!
My local currency – and thus most of my savings – has lost 40% of its value against the US dollar since covid and the war... I don't have any financial difficulties, however, if you'd like and can afford to help, here is the donation form.
Otherwise I'll have to look for a new job which would result in less free time and lead to the slow decline of this blog.
- Preview images for meetup subpages – for sharing on Twitter.
That's all for today. Thanks for reading.
Feel free to comment in this issue's r/mk thread, and as always: keep learning and building.
Peter Lyons announced Squeezebox v2209, the latest iteration of his distinctive ergo keyboard.
Squeezebox is a scooped split ergonomic keyboard by Peter Lyons aka focusaurus. This latest version features a PCB instead of full hand wiring.
The most spectacular feature in my opinion is the "home corner". To achieve this, Peter simply hits the bare stems without keycaps.
(You can find previous iterations of this project introduced on kbd.news here and here.)
- Steeply scooped keywells creating a "home corner" arrangement
- Mechanically adjustable column stagger, splay angle, and column height
- Kailh Choc Mini switches chopped smaller for tighter spacing
- PCB to keep the wiring and diodes much tidier
- New key arrangement gives 4 keys to index, 4 to middle, 3 to ring, and 2 to pinky
- No keycaps
- There's a long blog post with tons of details and photos.
- There's also a project with log entries over on Hackaday.
- Files on Printables.
This project was sponsored by PCBWay (as well). (Check out this page for some coupons.)
Joe Scotto keeps churning out his handwired designs. This time the ScottoFly.
The ScottoFly is a 3D-printed monoblock split shared by Joe Scotto (designer of the ScottoCMD and MANY other keyboards).
This is my most recent handwired board that I fully designed and printed, the ScottoFly – Joe_Scotto.
The ScottoFly's halves have a slant angle of 20 degrees (40 degrees altogether) and 36 keys in total. The case itself is printed completely solid which makes it both heavy (for being 3D printed) and sound a lot less hollow than a 3D printed case normally would.
As usual with Joe's handwired projects, the files are available for free:
The mekko5X is an ortholinear cyberdeck by sporewoh.
Christian Lo aka sporewoh published his latest experimental keyboard: the mekko5X
Part cyberdeck, part ortholinear. With 2 knobs and 2 large OLED displays, this keyboard can be used for animations, displaying information, or for controlling a GUI. The small form factor makes the board a unique ortholinear keyboard, or a powerful macropad. It could also double as a MIDI controller! – sporewoh.
While it's still in a pre-beta prototyping phase, the current designs are open source for anyone to make one for themselves.
GitHub page: https://github.com/ChrisChrisLoLo/mekko5X
The project was sponsored by PCBWay – here is a discount code for you.
Typewriter turned into a computer
Artillect converted his Brother typewriter into a Linux terminal – with documentation and files.
After months of work, Artillect turned his Brother AX-25 electronic typewriter into a computer – well, a Linux terminal running on a Raspberry Pi Zero.
It's a fully functional computer running Linux: you can use it to do nearly anything that you'd do in a terminal.
Here is a video of the author editing a document using the ed text editor, and also a sound test with the typewriter turned off.
The device is powered by a Raspberry Pi Zero running in headless mode, with an Arduino Nano connected to it over serial. The Arduino controls the typewriter and scans the keyboard, and the Raspberry Pi provides access to a terminal over the serial port.
The keyboard uses clicky Matias Alps switches.
The PCB was sponsored by PCBWay (discount code).
The source code and the KiCAD project files are available on GitHub.
Foldable split cyberdeck
An authoritative split cyberdeck that folds – files shared by legion.ultimedia.
This split cyberdeck was designed and shared by legion.ultimedia.
A dual screen Cyberdeck with split keyboard that is foldable for ease of transport – legion.ultimedia.
The screens are 13.3" 2560x1440, the system is a UDOO Bolt (Ryzen 1605b, 8GB RAM, 256GB NVMe SSD) and the power supply is a USB-C PD enabled power bank ([email protected] out wtih 26Ah capacity).
The system can be charged over USB-C PD as well while running.
With regards to the keyboard, two Pi Picos (one for each half) read the key matrices. Both are connected to each other via serial UART and one is connected to USB.
Switches are Gateron blues and the keyboard "cases" are filled with some silicone to soften the sound of the keys.
The trackball is an old PS2 optical mouse where the author soldered the buttons and wheel on the opposite side of the PCB; using a steel ball suspended over the optical sensor as the trackball. The Arduino on board the UDOO Bolt reads it using the PS2 protocol.
Project description and files are available at:
I reviewed the K68, a budget 65% keyboard by Kemove.
You don't usually see reviews of prebuilt keyboards on this blog, nor ones with more on the classic side of the layout spectrum. Indeed, this is probably the first time I try my hands on writing something like this. What's the occasion?
I received this K68 keyboard from Kemove. (Thanks Dora!)
To clarify things: I got this for free but they haven't asked me anything in return. I just felt I have to write something about it, and what I write is my honest opinion. (You see this at the same time or most likely earlier as Kemove.)
So the Kemove K68 is a nice and very affordable little prebuilt keyboard: 65% layout, hotswap, with wired and wireless modes.
The case is made of plastic, but this is a very well built hefty keyboard which is a good starting point for trying out switches and keycaps, and which you'll especially love if you are into RGB.
In addition, thanks to Kemove's own keycaps, it's also relatively low profile despite being MX compatible.
I took the K68 to my workplace and, after years of flexing implausible ergo split abominations, the K68 was probably the first keyboard my coworkers were able to appreciate – or recognize at all. :D
Is the K68 a good keyboard?
Obviously, this question makes no sense at all, and posts like this drive me crazy on Reddit.
What should you ask instead?
- Who is the K68 for?
- Is the K68 worth the price?
These days you can have the Kemove K68 for $65.
Yeah, it costs $100 ($99.99) normally, but Kemove offered you a 20% discount a few weeks ago (KBDNEWS discount code). And for the Halloween season they have a 30% coupon in effect. After asking if they could adjust my coupon code accordingly, I was told mine is worth 35% now. :D
So the price is $65 in practice.
For this money you get a fully built wireless keyboard with Gateron switches (Cherry is +$20) and the low-pro double-shot PBT keycaps.
Is it worth the price? If you belong to the group defined below, absolutely.
Who is the K68 for?
I'd recommend the K68 for those using ANSI and most likely with a US layout – or for hardcore touch typers with all the symbols in their muscle memory.
For those of you from e.g. Europe with a bunch of funny national characters, this may not be the best choice since this model is only available in ANSI layout and with the stock US keycap set (of course you can replace those any time).
In my native language there are 9 extra vowels. While I've been touch-typing for decades, these extra alphas take up the places of almost all the symbols on the base layer which makes a proper keycap set (indicating the new home of all those outcast symbols) quite handy.
In addition, compared to ANSI, the extra ISO key next to the left Shift is also essential for me (when typing on classic layouts), so you have to consider if you can live without it.
Physical F-keys aren't that important in my opinion (especially if you take the time and optimize your logical layout), similar to the numpad and a classic navigation cluster (see later).
Nice packaging, surprisingly hefty.
We are talking about a plastic case so I didn't expect a relatively heavy keyboard like this. My scale indicates it's over 1kg. (After disassembly it seems a thick metal switch plate is the reason for that.)
Keyboard, keycap puller, switch puller, donge, cable, instructions, DUST COVER!!! Honestly, a dust cover should be shipped with every single keyboard.
The designers at Kemove decided on a more curvy contour. This may increase the overall footprint by 1-2cm, but it isn't a l'art pour l'art thing: It provides a nice grip, and you can lift the keyboard more easily despite it's weight.
The stylish depression at the front of the keyboard has a practical benefit too: when you want to lift the board with one hand, especially if your hand is small.
Up until a few days ago the design was called "butterfly", and the product page referenced Butterfly Lovers, a famous Chinese tale as its inspiration, however, those references are gone now.
Regardless, I'd say the white version (the one I received) is reminiscent of a flattened stormtrooper helmet as well.
By default, you can choose from various Cherry and Gateron switches.
Mine came with Cherry Reds. (I forgot to ask for a specific switch but no problem at all. I've never tried original Cherry Reds. ;))
I'm not a pundit in the field of linear switches but started with Gateron blacks years ago, am using Momoka Frogs/Flamingos at home, and have also tried the Melgeek Plastic switches by Kailh recently.
In my experience, these Cherry Reds aren't on par with the newer linear switch models. They are scratchy and the stem wobble is also considerable.
However, we're talking about a hotswap keyboard so replacing your switches is not a big deal.
(I like to support the PCB/hotswap socket while replacing the switch. With the K68 you have to remove a lot of caps to be able to access the screws and the back of the PCB which means replacing just a few switches as a test is not that easy – at least if you want to be careful and make sure you don't rip off some sockets.)
I had to remove 11 from a total of 24 screws to access the hotswap sockets, however, the disassembly was very easy.
The caps are Kemove's in-house low-profile, double-shot PBT keycaps with legends transmitting light.
This is a sculpted cylindrical set but nothing like Cherry profile with its sharp edges.
Feels nice to the touch, not a cheap feeling at all. Very fine, slightly silky texture.
Of course, low profile is relative. Because of the MX keyswitches, a mechanical keyboard is higher than the average cheap rubberdome. Low-pro caps here mean that the K68's overall height is about the same as a rubberdome, and it's lower than most mechanical keyboards.
But most of the difference lies in the case height and case/plate angle. If you put e.g. an MDA cap on the home row (one of my favorite profiles), you can see the difference is not significant:
The homing dashes are small but sharp – I don't know about you but this is very important for me.
The spacebar has sharp edges at the corners but is rounded in the middle of the key which is a nice touch.
Of course, if you prefer a different profile, the K68 sports MX-compatible switches so you can easily replace the caps with any compatible set of your choice.
With the default caps and red switches, the typing feel and the feedback is very direct, I'd say too direct for me. Hard bottom out. At least without a desk mat. With desk mat it's somewhat better but still not my taste.
I thought that's the result of the mounting style (top mount) and the lack of gaskets which could make impossible a more cushioned typing on the K68 even with switches and caps replaced.
Surprisingly, that's not the case.
I tried out various switches and keycaps, and it turned out that the typing experience can be easily improved, and that the mounting style is maybe not that important as I thought. With doubleshot MDA caps and the Kailh Plastic switches (both shipped with the Mojo 84 I had at hand), the $65 K68 was very close to a $200 keyboard with regards to typing feel. (The difference is more in the materials and design.)
Customizing the layout
To be able to use this board with my workflow and the languages I type in, I made some changes to the logical layout.
Actually, I had these changes in place for a non-programmable rubberdome so at the moment the K68 was recognized by my PC these changes were applied automatically:
- Space-FN (accessing another layer by holding the spacebar)
- Arrows and navigation cluster on the right home box.
- Numpad on the left side.
(I've installed Kemove's software but couldn't find any options to mimic my usual settings, and I wasn't interested in macros, customizing lighting effects or synchronizing lights with the music played on my PC.)
To achieve these changes in the logical layout without any keyboard-specific software, I've been using TouchCursor for many years. AutoHotKey is probably just as good.
Add PKL (Portable Keyboard Layout) to the mix, which itself is a wrapper for AHK, and you can swap the keys on whatever board, programmable or not-programmable.
If you're looking for a budget prebuilt keyboard with ANSI layout and US caps, a wireless board which is a good basis for customization (hotswap, MX-compatible), you should definitely consider Kemove's K68.
I've been using this keyboard in 2.4G wireless mode for 4-5 days at work. In my experience, if I'd prefer ANSI, I could absolutely use this on a daily basis.
After 5 days, the color code indicates the battery level is somewhere between 50-95%. (I'll update this once I'll have to recharge it.)
If you are interested, don't forget to use the KBDNEWS discount code at:
Tips & Tricks
Värdera is a low-profile Choc-compatible keycap – STLs shared by braindefender.
Nikita Shirokov aka braindefender shared his custom Värdera keycaps.
The Värdera caps are custom designed low-profile keycaps for Kailh Choc switches – but with MX spacing! They are uniform and more on the spherical side, although not entirely spherical.
And there is a special rounded thumb keycap "for better ergonomics and ease of use".
The printer is an SLA Elegoo Mars 2 PRO. No post-processing was done on these keycaps, just plain print. The surface is a bit rough and layered, but you can feel it only with your nails – braindefender.
After looking it up, "Värdera" means: to value, appreciate, assess, evaluate in Swedish.
At first sight the profile is similar to LDSA keycaps (if you like these, you can also check out Lev Popov's Chicago steno version as well as Pseudoku's original CS).
In the latest update Various homing keys have been added:
More photos and files:
Rectangular version for Choc spacing will come next week.
nice!view on 4-pin PCBs
A photolog by beekeeb: putting nice!view displays on a 4-pin PCB.
The nice!view, this low-power, high refresh rate OLED display replacement by Nicell was featured last week.
As described in the nice!view documentation, this 5-pin display can also be used on PCBs made for 4-pins OLED screens.
The trick is a little handwiring, and beekeeb posted some photos on the process.
Hotswap switch plate?
An interesting concept by @kgnwsknf_chef: switch plate turned into main PCB via pin headers.
It seems @kgnwsknf_chef came up with a novel idea to turn a switch plate into a main PCB by using L-shaped pin headers to affix the hotswap sockets to the contraption.
Or is this for handwiring? I don't know. No, it's indeed a switch plate with the matrix circuitry. Regardless, it may inspire some of you crazy bastards.
今日の進捗— 機嫌を損ねたシェフ (@kgnwsknt_chef) October 10, 2022
Updated hotswap sockets
It seems there were some changes made to the Kailh hotswap sockets.
As reported by the Yousha Kobo staff, the shape of the metal part of the Kailh hotswaps sockets has changed in a new lot.
It doesn't seem to matter in reflow, but what about hand soldering? It's going to be a little harder, isn't it? – Yousha Kobo.
（スタッフのひとり言）Kailhのスイッチソケットですが、新しいロットは金具の形状が変わっています。発注のタイミングの関係でまだ当店には入ってきていませんがそのうち新しくなります。リフローでは関係なさそうですが、手はんだだとどうなんでしょう？少しやりにくくなるんですかね～ pic.twitter.com/ruO9yKMC1S— 遊舎工房 (@yushakobo_shop) October 12, 2022
An Abekas A72 digital character generator spotted by drake9800.
Not much info on this beauty, but I wanted to include it to be able to find it later...
So the Abekas A72, posted by u/drake9800, was a digital character generator (CG).
If the character generator part needs some explanation, they are devices that produced static or animated text (such as news crawls and credits rolls) for keying into a video stream.
(E.g. here is another character generator featured earlier.)
This specific Abekas model was probably quite popular, at least according to this article, discussing the design of the Abekas A72, and how its architecture has affected its evolution:
The A72 was built to offer the highest possible character quality and smooth motion effects, but it was initially unable to satisfy market needs for density and complexity of text pages. However, the flexibility of its design allowed the system to grow and evolve, and to offer capabilities and effects previously thought impossible to implement. The use of many general-purpose processors, with software used to control even low-level tasks normally “hard-wired” on a CG, allowed this growth to occur with few hardware modifications to existing models. This approach proved invaluable in keeping the CG up-to-date, and it may prove to be increasingly advantageous for future equipment design.
That was Issue #99. Thanks for stopping by.
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