Just picked up an Omnikey Ultra. Few Q's: glue, interface and colour

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lancre

28 Nov 2016, 22:52

Yep, can confirm about the unused switch positions, they're there with solder over the pads - presumably the factory was set to do them irrespective of whether there was a switch there.

I don't mind big-ass enter keys, but the one on this keyboard is quite poorly stabilised. It has some wobble and binds off-centre. It's almost like the rod stabiliser needed to be slightly thicker and lubed or something.

So what are you going to do with the switch to the right of the split right shift key? Are you going to have 2 pipes and 2 backslash keys? That seems overkill :D

The front of the PCB will be tricky - as has been said in other threads, it's difficult to separate the PCB from the mounting plate.

User avatar
XMIT
[ XMIT ]

28 Nov 2016, 23:49

I'd probably turn that key to the right of RShift to an Fn key, after replacing the controller. :)

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Hypersphere

29 Nov 2016, 00:15

@lancre: I definitely agree with XMIT. Furthermore, whenever you have the good fortune to have a split Right Shift with a 1.00x key to the right of Right Shift, you should seize the day and make that 1.00x key your Fn key! On the other hand, if you are not able somehow to convert the BAE into a proper ANSI Enter and put a key directly above to act as a Backspace, then I would look for a different keyboard! But that's just me.

User avatar
XMIT
[ XMIT ]

29 Nov 2016, 00:19

lancre, what in particular makes the PCB so difficult to remove? Is it perhaps soldered to the plate with some giant grounding pads? Sorry if this has been mentioned elsewhere - I'm being lazy and not looking it up.

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fohat
Elder Messenger

29 Nov 2016, 00:26

XMIT wrote: lancre, what in particular makes the PCB so difficult to remove? Is it perhaps soldered to the plate with some giant grounding pads? Sorry if this has been mentioned elsewhere - I'm being lazy and not looking it up.
It is pretty strange. There are about 3-4 additional screw connections holding the plates together, unlike other Alps boards where 200+ soldered switch bodies seemed to be enough to hold them together.

On top of those screws (inset nuts on the other side) are huge gobs of solder to prevent you from getting to the screws to take them out. I don't have a great de-soldering setup, but it seems very difficulty to get that huge mountain removed so that you can unscrew the connections.

andrewjoy

29 Nov 2016, 00:50

i never did think how easy it would be to mod the big ass enter to normal ansi , now to get rid of that stupid split shift .....

User avatar
lancre

01 Dec 2016, 23:04

It's taken a few days to get used to, but these switches and this keyboard really kit butt.

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Hypersphere

01 Dec 2016, 23:45

@andrewjoy: That split Right Shift is one of the best features! However, I really cannot use a BAE -- mainly because it dislodges the key directly above, thus removing my preferred Backspace location!

@lancre: Yes, Northgates are among my favorites -- especially the Omnikey 101 boards with the standard ANSI layout. I just picked up one for only $65 on eBay. It is a lowish serial number and so it has the Pine SKCM White Alps switches. This board is clean and in excellent condition. The switches are smooth and not rattly, and the top plate is almost free of corrosion. IMO, the Northgate chassis are the very best for accommodating SKCM Alps switches.

User avatar
XMIT
[ XMIT ]

02 Dec 2016, 00:22

fohat wrote:
XMIT wrote: lancre, what in particular makes the PCB so difficult to remove? Is it perhaps soldered to the plate with some giant grounding pads? Sorry if this has been mentioned elsewhere - I'm being lazy and not looking it up.
It is pretty strange. There are about 3-4 additional screw connections holding the plates together, unlike other Alps boards where 200+ soldered switch bodies seemed to be enough to hold them together.

On top of those screws (inset nuts on the other side) are huge gobs of solder to prevent you from getting to the screws to take them out. I don't have a great de-soldering setup, but it seems very difficulty to get that huge mountain removed so that you can unscrew the connections.
I used both my regular soldering iron and my desoldering station, but, I was able to get these out. The procedure was something like this:

- Set soldering iron and desoldering gun to 650 F (345 C).
- Place soldering iron on screw.
- Place solder, maybe about 2-3cm of wire or so. This improves heat flow.
- Wait 30 seconds.
- With soldering iron in place, use desoldering gun to remove solder from top of screw.
- Still with soldering iron in place, use desoldering gun to go around the outside of the screw, picking up any excess solder.
- Yet still with the soldering iron in place, use thin flat bladed screwdriver to gently loosen and remove screw.

My Omnikey Ultra is undergoing a complete renovation that, when done, will include a replacement for the Enter key and a new controller. I'll also sonicate the switches, and whiten the case and key caps. I'll also sand blast and re-paint the plate.

It looks like every switch has its own diode. This is extremely promising. I'll get some good high resolution photos of the front and back of the PCB.

I expect this project to take most of December. What a nice way to spend some time waiting for my new Hall boards to come in. :mrgreen:

User avatar
Hypersphere

02 Dec 2016, 01:04

@XMIT: That's quite a project that you have put in front of you. Thus far, I've been satisfied with a relatively limited refurbishing of my Omnikey 101 boards. These are my favorite Northgates, because I don't have to mod the Enter key and I prefer not to have the extra width of the Ultra boards.

For all of them, this has consisted of washing the case and caps along with cleaning the top plate. For some, I have also sonicated and lubed the switches, replaced the alphas with PBT, and replaced the mods and spacebars with blank black ABS from Matias.

I usually also lube all the stabilizers, put some new 0.15 mm polyurethane foam under the spacebar inserts, and replace the spacebar slider with one from a Matias Quiet switch.

For some, I have also painted the top case. The bottom case usually requires only some cleaning, including sonicating the rubber flip feet. No more painting for a while -- it will be too cold in my neck of the woods until spring/summer. I am still in the process of evaluating different types of paints, including Duplicolor Vinyl & Fabric, Krylon, SEM, and VHT.

Finally, I install an internal Orihalcon-Soarer converter along with a panel-mount micro-USB connector. The connectors with extension cables from DataPro line up exactly with the holes for the PS/2 connector, so it is not necessary to drill new holes. I add a piece of "art foam" cut to fit the bottom of the metal pan, but I have not yet assessed what difference, if any, this makes in the sound of the board.

This overall treatment usually suffices to produce a good-looking and functional board. However, some of the top plates have a bit more corrosion than I would like. It is not really visible with the caps on, but knowing it is there gnaws on my conscience. :(

User avatar
XMIT
[ XMIT ]

02 Dec 2016, 03:41

Hypersphere wrote: @XMIT: That's quite a project that you have put in front of you.
Yeah, it is. Fortunately I'm in no hurry. I'll tackle this in chunks, over many days, until it is done. This is the approach I've had to take for big projects in my day job now that I have a family. I don't really care when it is done, so long as it does get done, to a high quality standard.
Hypersphere wrote: No more painting for a while -- it will be too cold in my neck of the woods until spring/summer.
This is not a problem I have. It stays warm here, and, I have access to a (somewhat mediocre but decent and dedicated) indoor spray painting facility.

User avatar
XMIT
[ XMIT ]

05 Dec 2016, 03:36

I'll just leave these hard earned photos of the Omnikey Ultra's PCB here if that's alright with everyone. :ugeek:
600_4432.jpg
Northgate Omnikey Ultra PCB - front.
600_4432.jpg (621.79 KiB) Viewed 782 times
600_4430.jpg
Northgate Omnikey Ultra PCB - rear.
600_4430.jpg (903.04 KiB) Viewed 782 times
This board looks like a hacker's dream. One sided - easy to read the traces. Very few jumpers - a sane layout. Multiple switch options. A diode for every switch - even the unused ones. Small switch pads that are not connected to the ground plane - easy to solder. A single MCU that looks like it is super simple to replace with a new controller.

It is everything I hoped and more. If I were to design a PCB, it would be exactly like this.

If someone wants a high quality JPG or RAW (Nikon NEF) file here shoot me a PM.

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Darkshado

05 Dec 2016, 07:08

There's a signature (?) on the PCB: one instance of "KIDDO" on the numpad, what I assume to be an Asian glyph, a large "N" and another "KIDDO" near keys K,L; also the words "N-KEY ROLLOVER" above the numpad.

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alh84001
v.001

05 Dec 2016, 10:20

Yeah, the Omnikey PCBs are gorgeous. On ultra's even the Caps Lock switch position could easily be moved. On 101, as it is near the edge of the board, I think some traces are in the way.

And I love the "Europe" switch positions :lol: I wonder what that big "BBC" letters stand for.

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