[Survey] We are designing the ultimate TrackPoint Mechanical Keyboard,

It started off as a one-off hobby project. A friend and me wanted a 60% TrackPoint mechanical keyboard with backlighting, ThinkPad style buttons, and fully programmable. We asked our enthusiast friends, and some places on the internet. The TEX Yoda was a massively successful keyboard that many want to see again. We did too, and we thought we could do better. We've started building the XtaC 01 Keyboard - a compact keyboard designed to be as wonderful an experience to use as a mechanical keyboard while allowing some people to even ditch their computer mice (if they're THAT comfortable with TrackPoints).

6 weeks later, and we have our preliminary design almost complete. The first PCB is just about ready to be printed, we've sourced evaluation boards, we're in talks with several manufacturers (for TrackPoints, sensors, the mouse buttons, the chassis, and the keycaps!) and now have some important design decisions to make. That's why we need your help in making the XtaC 01 Keyboard a reality.

We will have a limited run of 25 review/early bird boards (we're calling these the XtaC 00 batch) fully assembled and ready to ship by early October (the first assembled functioning board should be brought to life in the next 6 weeks), but the larger scale run (over 25 units) will not be for several months after October (Q1 - Q2 2017).

Who are we?

We're a pair of young adults that do Engineering for a living, and have been Engineers for as long as we can remember. Our hobbies include programming software, tinkering with hardware, and now designing keyboards! We'll reveal more stuff about ourselves (including our portfolios) after we have a solid foundation for this project and are ready to start asking for pre-order money (which won't be any time before we have several completely functioning boards!).

Without further ado, the XtaC 01 Keyboard survey. Let us know what YOU would like to see to make our keyboard a success. A large part of being able to make this more than a small one-time batch project is saving on manufacturing costs, and without bulk we're projected to break even at best.

(It's pronounced ecstasy, by the way. The name is preliminary.)
xtac-keyboards

Unread post17 Jul 2016, 02:22

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Your challenge is accepted from the resident M13 expert. Prepare for headaches. And I'm one of those people that to this day insists on trackpoint laptops. (I'm actually a dual-input trackpoint/mouse person.)

One, it needs a replaceable trackpoint assembly. I prefer a T-style, but X-style might be more appropriate. I'd have to see the design of the PCB.
Two, the trackpoint itself needs to be constant rate. Not adjustable. Constant rate. Let the OS do speed/acceleration. This is how it's done, trust me.
Three, it needs to have the M13-style buttons. No M13-style silver-poppers feel, NO GUD! Those are the best part. They're VERY tactile without being at all loud. And they are NOT like the current T-series. TRUST ME. The T-series is too soft.
Four, SERVICE PARTS. HOLY CRAP SERVICE PARTS. Number one failure on true M13's behind button matrix? Trackpoints. It's gotta be replaceable, and gotta be able to get the parts.
Oh, and five - don't bloody put the trackpoint cabling above the PCB! Do not ask how many zig-zag ribbons I've seen damaged by simple cleaning.

Preference thing, I'd like the trackpoint controller itself to also be a separate segment or PCB. Stick a USB hub on the main board or something maybe? The tightly integrated design between trackpoint and main control is just.. it's so migraine inducing and so impossible to fix.

Happy to assist with anything you'd like. BTW, you'll get double bonus points if you can expand to full-size. :)
rootwyrm

Unread post17 Jul 2016, 17:46

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You're the resident M13 expert? When did that get decided?! Maybe "self-proclaimed M13 expert" is more appropriate... :)

I'm generally interested in a 60% with a trackpoint. My main concern is that it's compatible with the wealth of available accessories for 60%s, like custom cases, sleeves, keycaps, etc. Obviously keycaps around the trackpoint might be awkward but that's fine so long as the modifiers and other alphanums are fairly standard or at least compatible with existing keysets.
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Unread post17 Jul 2016, 18:12

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For saving costs, the DIY approach is always an option... Here's mine.

Anyway, survey filled! I'm baffled as to why mechs with TrackPoints aren't more popular.
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Unread post18 Jul 2016, 08:21

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scottc wrote:You're the resident M13 expert? When did that get decided?! Maybe "self-proclaimed M13 expert" is more appropriate... :)

Uh, that would be when I wrote all the Wiki stuff at GH and made an attempt to map the electrical and logic paths on the controller. Either that or one of the dozen plus rebuilds I've done.

I'm generally interested in a 60% with a trackpoint. My main concern is that it's compatible with the wealth of available accessories for 60%s, like custom cases, sleeves, keycaps, etc. Obviously keycaps around the trackpoint might be awkward but that's fine so long as the modifiers and other alphanums are fairly standard or at least compatible with existing keysets.

GHB is never going to be, the rest of them are easy. But custom cases, the electrical pieces and parts alone make it physically impossible. To say nothing of the mouse buttons. Where are you going to put them in a current 60% case? Yeah. That's just not going to happen and not going to work. And don't say 'split spacebar and use Fn+Space as buttons.' Just no.
rootwyrm

Unread post18 Jul 2016, 12:46

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Hey guys, thanks for all your feedback! You've all raised some wonderful points, so we'll go over them in order.

rootwyrm:
1) Odds are, due to the scarcity of TrackPoint components for the average consumer, we may end up making our own pointing stick module in the long run, possibly using an ALPS pointing stick sensor as they seem to be available in somewhat reasonable quantities. We realize that there may only be enough interest in for a handful of production runs and we don't want people feeling like they've been left in the dark after the ship sails. Under the hood of course, they're all resistive strain gauges so it should be theoretically replaceable with any other TP sensor with perhaps the resistors in the Wheatstone bridge changed out.
2) Excellent point. Of course, that's all done in firmware, and this board will be fully programmable. However, your point is absolutely valid, and the default behavior will definitely be "no acceleration curve".
3) Buttons are actually evenly split in our current survey results in between Thinkpad buttons and Yoda mechs, and we're thinking of making the button assembly modular, in that you can screw in a module with mech keys, or ThinkPad button, or for the seriously determined, their own module. It's starting to look like we will be offering both Yoda-style mouse buttons and ThinkPad. The pinout will be dead simple and in the case of making an "M13 style" it'll be as simple as changing the button microswitch and making a button bracket. You aren't the first to bring this point up, so we might explore producing this type of module ourselves (the M13).
4) As with Point #1, we aim to make this as user serviceable as possible without resorting to obscure ICs and hard-to-find components. As mentioned, the sensor itself can, in the worst case be kludged to use any resistive strain gauge.
5) Don't worry, we hate flat-flex as much as everyone else :)
6) Your preference aligns with ours. It makes the most sense to make the TrackPoint a separate module.

Thanks for offering to assist!

scottc:
Due to the nature of the trackpoint, "standard accessories" like chasses cant *entirely* work for this purpose. You have issues like clearances of the TrackPoint module, USB hub, et al. Its kinda the reason the Yoda has such a wonky looking case on the bottom, and we're hoping to do better than that. We've discounted adding in spacing between the G H and B keys as we think that would feel unnatural to people who are used to standard spacing (not to mention, it would make two of the rows essentially ortholinear and would look odd as hell). However other than making keys without cutouts for the trackpoint and of course printing the alternate functions (which may be moot as the keyboard is programmable) we're not going too far out there on making this so unique you can't mod it.

Nephiel:
Gorgeous board :). Really digging using the screw as the stick extension. We were actually toying with a similar idea after hearing about the issues the Yoda had with its stick breaking. Thanks for filling out the survey!

rootwyrm/scottc:
Definitely no split-space/fn+space sorcery. The mouse buttons will be a module that sits underneath the spacebar as a little protrusion. Think MX13 (wiki/MX13_SpaceSaver_Keyboard ) but removable.
xtac-keyboards

Unread post18 Jul 2016, 19:51

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I'm after a compact keyboard (60% to 75%) with symmetrical stagger, plenty of thumb keys and a small gap in the middle (enough space for the controller and perhaps a trackpoint without affecting keycaps). Yeah, I know that it's not happening on mass scale.
davkol

Unread post19 Jul 2016, 20:14

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Is this project still alive?
spamferkel

Unread post13 Nov 2016, 11:54

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This is a good question.
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Unread post04 Jan 2018, 20:48

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Yoda Tex 2 happened months ago ...
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Unread post04 Jan 2018, 22:36

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Ok. If xtac= tex electronics, then that makes sense. Though it’s not all that clear from reading the original post.

Who here has one?
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Unread post05 Jan 2018, 05:12

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I have two yoda 2 kits, built one ... and as a long term thinkpad trackpoint user, i am quite disapointed. There is no config software for the trackpoint sensitivity configuration and I have been getting wandering cursors frequently. Have to replace the trackpoint module and see if that improves things.

Probably the biggest pain point is the fact that the length of the track point stick is only compatible with OEM caps really. Cherry profile caps leave the trackpoint exposed :(
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Unread post05 Jan 2018, 06:38

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The two companies are not related.

I have one on order. When it arrives I’ll see for myself how the stick attaches to the module pcb; if it’s easily detachable, I imagine there’d be a way to find a replacement part (surely?).
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Unread post05 Jan 2018, 21:20

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Wodan wrote:I have two yoda 2 kits, built one ... and as a long term thinkpad trackpoint user, i am quite disapointed. There is no config software for the trackpoint sensitivity configuration and I have been getting wandering cursors frequently. Have to replace the trackpoint module and see if that improves things.

Probably the biggest pain point is the fact that the length of the track point stick is only compatible with OEM caps really. Cherry profile caps leave the trackpoint exposed :(

@Wodan - I just built my kit and I see exactly what you mean about the sensitivity. Right out of the box its too sensitive, and even on the lowest sensitivity it's hard to control. In fairness, this is the first trackpoint device I've owned, so I want to give it a try before getting down on it (overall it's an extremely high quality product and I'm happy with it). I'm also getting wandering cursors though, and while it doesn't bother me TOO much, I don't like that.

Where will you get your replacement trackpoint module from? You can get them directly from Tex Electronics. Justin is reachable via the facebook page/messenger chat.
rominronin
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Unread post09 Jan 2018, 12:07

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As Yoda 1 & 2 look both quite bulky and have wandering cursors problem, and lowpoly seems to have totally given up any attempt to complete his project (a few prototypes we have seen so far in many years), this looks like the best implementation with dual USB-Bluetooth capability, assuming the cursor control is all right though:

Image
Menuhin

Unread post09 Jan 2018, 16:03

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That's interesting. But it looks like a one-off custom board, right?
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Unread post10 Jan 2018, 15:50

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A short update from my Yoda 2!

I received a replacement Trackpoint Controller from Tex after they stumbled upon my post here - very impressive customer service!!!

The new module has a low sensitivity setting that I can work with. But I consider myself a medium-high DPI guy so I am sure there will still be people who find the replacement module too sensitive.

They also almost completely fixed the issues with the "ghosting". It still did happen occasionally but easily 95% reduction of this happening. One thing that Tex won't be able to fix that hurts me a little is the fact that this keyboard was build for OEM profile keycaps. It comes with OEM profile keycaps and everything is fine if you want to use them.

But I put some Trackpoint-compatible Cherry profile caps on the board and they are a little flatter around the Trackpoint so it stands up above the caps. Something to consider when picking your caps for this keyboard!
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Unread post05 Feb 2018, 12:54

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Wodan wrote:I received a replacement Trackpoint Controller from Tex after they stumbled upon my post here - very impressive customer service!!!

*Ahem* :roll: They may have had some guidance


:D
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Unread post07 Feb 2018, 07:54

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