IBM Model M BT-USB controller conversion kits

mind_prepared

02 Oct 2017, 16:00

xueyao wrote: xwhatsit's capsense controller already has support Model F and is fully open sourced. It could just be built on with a Bluetooth controller and battery. No need to recreate the controller.
But it ain't right now, or is it? I don't see your point. More importantly, you can't 'just' slap on a BT module and battery and call it a day, don't be ridiculous. You will need a few extra bells and whistles or else
1. your circuit will not comply with USB specs (excessive inrush current when the battery starts charging),
2. your entire circuit will draw more current than necessary which is a waste of battery life and will require a bigger battery than necessary,
3. poor placement of the BT antenna will result in poor radio quality, or the BT radio might not work at all
4. poor layout, poor insulation and filtering + radio frequencies can affect the ADC that's necessary for sensing changes in capacitance
5. you will want to add some kind of battery charging circuit or charger IC, or you will not be able to recharge the battery in a convenient way

That's a bunch of things to consider and would require changing the layout of the corresponding PCB (if there is a reference layout for xwhatsit).

Now, if you've got the time and know-how to hack something together, that's great, but ain't everybody a whizkid, you know.

xueyao

02 Oct 2017, 23:37

mind_prepared wrote:
xueyao wrote: xwhatsit's capsense controller already has support Model F and is fully open sourced. It could just be built on with a Bluetooth controller and battery. No need to recreate the controller.
But it ain't right now, or is it? I don't see your point. More importantly, you can't 'just' slap on a BT module and battery and call it a day, don't be ridiculous. You will need a few extra bells and whistles or else
1. your circuit will not comply with USB specs (excessive inrush current when the battery starts charging),
2. your entire circuit will draw more current than necessary which is a waste of battery life and will require a bigger battery than necessary,
3. poor placement of the BT antenna will result in poor radio quality, or the BT radio might not work at all
4. poor layout, poor insulation and filtering + radio frequencies can affect the ADC that's necessary for sensing changes in capacitance
5. you will want to add some kind of battery charging circuit or charger IC, or you will not be able to recharge the battery in a convenient way

That's a bunch of things to consider and would require changing the layout of the corresponding PCB (if there is a reference layout for xwhatsit).

Now, if you've got the time and know-how to hack something together, that's great, but ain't everybody a whizkid, you know.
Wow didn't know there's so much to consider. Well at least there's a reference if u wanna design one I guess? I doubt a Model F design would sell well if u wanted to make money though since the M is way more famous.

mind_prepared

03 Oct 2017, 00:02

mind_prepared wrote: I doubt a Model F design would sell well if u wanted to make money though since the M is way more famous.
I doubt that there is any ('serious') money in this kind of thing, be it Model F, M, Q, P, Z or some other device, it's all the same. Commercially this will always be a waste of time. Some dudes (elsewhere) think otherwise, which can be quite hilarious to watch. They come up with something and immediately $$$ signs start flashing in their eyes... Heh, the best thing I (or any other contributor here on Deskthority or elsewhere) may hope for is some extra moola for new gear. That's awesome enough, I would say. I'm doing this stuff mostly for the modicum of recognition that it entails. I also like the idea that somebody will have a better work experience because of some stuff I did for them. =p

mtemmerm

04 Oct 2017, 11:21

Hi everyone, I'm Michael, I'm new on this board, but wanted to make an account since I bought this controller a few weeks ago and have been using it for as long. I just wanted to say, I'm very happy with it!

I had my dad's old IBM Model M from 1988 in the closet for a few years now, had painted it and was planning to make a controller for it myself, but then I found Jörn's ebay listing for it, got in touch with him and after some emailing back and forth, bought his controller. And am I glad I did. The controller has been working flawlessly so far, I can't say that I've experienced any lag (on the contrary even, DooM (the original of course) plays better with the Model M than with my "native" USB keyboard from HP :D) or ghosting, or other nasty effects. Jörn had included complete instructions + everything needed to install the controller, even 4 screws for closing up the case which was nice since I'd "misplaced" mine.

I've mostly used the keyboard over USB, but have connected to it over BT as well, and that went as well as over USB. Jörn did advise that the BT 4 controller might not work with an earlier BT chip, which is what I have in my old laptop (HP 2760p tablet PC), and he turned out to be right, my laptop BT chip apparently doesn't go looking for input devices, but the keyboard connects fine to my tablet and smartphone.

I included some pictures of my 99% complete custom keyboard, which I also bolt modded last week to fix some "sticky" keys, and of my desktop setup which is performing very nicely. I'm genuinely very happy that I went this route instead of making my own controller. I couldn't have done it any better myself honestly.

Some details:
Keyboard: IBM Model M from 1988 made in the UK
OS: Arch GNU+Linux
Desktop environment: GNOME
Use case: Work and music production mostly

Consider this my first post and a sort of 'hello'. I live in Belgium, if anybody wants to contact me, feel free.

PS if anyone is interested in the paper templates you can see in the pictures, let me know, I made them in LibreOffice Draw.

Cheers & thanks Jörn,
Michael
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depletedvespene

04 Oct 2017, 13:01

mind_prepared wrote: Up to 6 layers can be configured with a CLI. The next thing on the to do list would be a GUI for the programmer tool, something like the AIKON GUI, and I'm looking into that (actually Arakula, who posted feedback above, is looking into that right now). The firmware is pretty mature, but if demand justifies it, new features can be added. Pretty much anything you want. It's not meant to compete with the big guys though, s.a. TMK.
Quick question that I've thought about only now (and that may well have already been taken care of): after installing and stuff, when the keyboard announces its presence, does it have a fixed name, or can it be changed?

This weekend my kid and I were fooling around, trying to mount as many keyboards as possible on his laptop at once, including both of the folding keyboards from Plugable we got (one mini, one full-sized), and it turns out that both of them announced themselves as "Plugable Folding Keyboard". So, if I were to have two BT Model M keyboards aroung, how could we distinguish which was which?

mtemmerm

04 Oct 2017, 13:58

So, if I were to have two BT Model M keyboards aroung, how could we distinguish which was which?
Each controller has a unique MAC address with which it identifies.

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depletedvespene

04 Oct 2017, 14:07

Yes, but is the MAC address also used as the device's "name"?

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consolation

04 Oct 2017, 14:17

I assume it will work fine with the terminal version of model M? It's just missing the LEDs on the case/controller, not connecting them to the controller board should be fine?

Re: model F bluetooth adapter, it'd be a real pita getting the signal out of the metal case. You'd need a module that takes a plug in antenna and place it under the keycaps. Having said that, I wonder how compatible the design would be with the controller Ellipse is putting in his F77s...

mind_prepared

04 Oct 2017, 15:51

after installing and stuff, when the keyboard announces its presence, does it have a fixed name, or can it be changed?
right now name changing is not supported. So in both BT and USB mode, the device will always be displayed as 'Model M'. The ability to change the name of the device might be useful in certain settings, I agree, so I might add the feature later on, but how many Model Ms can you realistically place infront of you and work with?
Actually, I have never seen or heard of a USB device that would let you change its name.
I could also add a specific serial number to every controller to tell different devices apart.

I currently don't have another finished device at hand to check, but it may be possible to change the displayed name of the BT device after pairing.
BT name changing would be possible, too, and a bunch of other parameter adjustments, but the microcontroller would have to act as a serial to USB bridge (unless you want to hook up wires to the UART port of the BT module everytime), and I haven't started looking into that yet.

I'm willing to sell the BT modules pre-programmed with my HID firmware to anyone interested. If demand should justify it, I could add the extra code necessary to make it (to a certain extent) programmable via UART serial protocol, too. I'm just saying that because it would provide a good opportunity for raising the bar on the part of the firmware.
I assume it will work fine with the terminal version of model M? It's just missing the LEDs on the case/controller, not connecting them to the controller board should be fine?
yes, it will. I've successfully carried out conversions like that before. Additionally you could also drill/mill/file holes for the LEDs. You could order a spare LED sticker from Unicomp or make your own. Just take some measurements, create suitably sized openings in the cover, mount the LED PCB, and you're done.
model F bluetooth adapter, it'd be a real pita getting the signal out of the metal case. You'd need a module that takes a plug in antenna and place it under the keycaps.
Yikes, all Model F keyboards have a metal case? In that case, conversion to anything wireless will be even more complicated, 'consolation' is right on.

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fohat
Elder Messenger

04 Oct 2017, 19:07

mind_prepared wrote:
Yikes, all Model F keyboards have a metal case? In that case, conversion to anything wireless will be even more complicated, 'consolation' is right on.
All Model Fs have 2 heavy steel plates beneath the keys. Most have steel bottom pans and plastic tops, but AT case is all plastic. 4704 series has all-metal cases but they are an odd lightweight "pot-metal" material.

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consolation

05 Oct 2017, 00:25

I think the bottom pan would block / bounce the transmission anywhere but up; seems it'd be easier to put the antenna between the barrels on top; just a generic laptop style flat trace one should be fine. I no longer have my XT to look at, however, so I could be talking out of my arse...

Kali

30 Oct 2017, 09:48

I have one of Jörns BT4 boards in my old model-m (IBM, grey label of 1990) and therefore like to give a short feedback.

Until now I used my model-m occasionally with a PS2/USB adapter. Not for productivity, but because the model-m is a nice piece of computer art (!) of a long lost time ;-) — nowadays no manufacturer is capable of building a peripheral component which lasts for 25 years or longer. So… WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS and a model-m is some kind of relaxing to work with.

In May I had Jörns BT2 module. But it hadn’t worked well with my Mac computers — a MacMini 2012 and MBP 2015. So sadly I returned the board to him.

Now he finished his new BT4 module and let me test it. And it worked very well. Of course it has no problems with an actual Windows computer. But now it works with my Mac computers and my iPadPro.

The only drawback for Apple users is the lack of the COMMAND (WINDOWS) key. Macs heavily depend on using the LGUI or RGUI key — as windows doesn’t work without the CONTROL key for simplest things like copy and paste. After some keyboard remapping and productivity tests I finally came to the conclusion that the RCONTROL/EXECUTE key is the only useful place for a remapped COMMAND key. So for a copy and paste one needs both hands… but the model-m’s rollover-problem won’t affect the more complicated keyboard shortcuts.

As someone mentioned above that the module is expensive. Well… it is. But I would say it is worth the money. If you put into consideration that a really simple Apple Magic Keyboard has a price tag of USD 150 or more… then this module is a real bargain.

mind_prepared

14 Nov 2017, 16:11

Anyone of you SSK owners wanna give it a shot?

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depletedvespene

14 Nov 2017, 16:24

mind_prepared wrote: Anyone of you SSK owners wanna give it a shot?
Oh, I will, once the controller reaches my hands. :-)

mind_prepared

14 Nov 2017, 16:27

depletedvespene wrote:
mind_prepared wrote: Anyone of you SSK owners wanna give it a shot?
Oh, I will, once the controller reaches my hands. :-)
Great to hear from you. I hope your friend has received the shipment by now?

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depletedvespene

14 Nov 2017, 16:28

mind_prepared wrote:
depletedvespene wrote:
mind_prepared wrote: Anyone of you SSK owners wanna give it a shot?
Oh, I will, once the controller reaches my hands. :-)
Great to hear from you. I hope your friend has received the shipment by now?
Yes. She got it yesterday (and had quite positive comments about the packaging of the goods).

mind_prepared

27 Nov 2017, 17:10

To anyone interested, I would like to inform you that I'm now also offering a BT-USB dongle that's capable of acting as a 'BT-USB bridge'/'USB cable replacer' along with my controller. The dongle can be used as a regular BT adapter that's controlled by the OS BT stack, but it can also function as stand-alone BT host that supplies its own BT stack. The modes of operation can be switched by software, too, if necessary. In the latter mode of operation, the dongle will present itself as a regular USB HID keyboard to the host system while pairing and bonding to the BT client device, in this case my controller, will be taken care of automatically. That way you can connect the keyboard to any USB-compatible system without any additional hassle. That might come in handy especially on legacy systems without any BT support.

mind_prepared

05 Jan 2018, 20:10

Update: PWM dimming for status LEDs added

hmst

20 Jan 2018, 15:33

Hey Guys, this is my first post, as I ordered a Controller from Jörn and wanted to let you know, how happy I am with it.

For me the Model M is "the keyboard" - Brian Benchoff from Hackaday called it "God's own keyboard", and I fully agree.
I got my first Model M, when I was in Grade 2. I was just three years older than this awesome piece of hardware and since then I really love it. My flatmate turned crazy when I wrote my thesis on it, my colleagues later forced me to switch to a more silent keyboard in office and after I took it back home my wife made me use it during "non sleeping times" only. Never the less, it has since been in use.
After switching to an "all cupertino ecosystem" for my day to day office work (I use windows and linux machines for coding and testing) I kept the keyboard and continued using it with a ps2/usb converter. Times went on and the mice got wireless and I got fed up with the mess on my desk. So I looked out for solutions to lifting my beloved keyboard into the wireless age. The article from Brian mentioned above (see: https://hackaday.com/2011/08/09/gods-ow ... bluetooth/ ) was my first trace, but I never managed to get hands on one of their controllers. So time went on, other projects became more important and a new search a few years later led me to this article from Adafruit: https://learn.adafruit.com/convert-your ... d/overview. As it seemed to be little effort - maybe an afternoon + evening (+night) work, I started with it and stumbled badly. The software was pretty crappy and wouldn't want to run at all. I spent some nights bug fixing and getting it to work. But it was quite a pain to work with it. Luckily I found another guy - Roger from Google - who had the same issues and did another, way cleaner implementation than the one presented at Adafruit. You can find it here: https://github.com/rogerta/ModelM-BT. I was pretty happy with it in the beginning. But when typing at high speeds, some heavy lag occurred. What made things worse: Combining high speed with multi-key-presses made the Adafruit bt-controller freeze and re-send the same key infinitely. I even checked the serial connection between the Arduino and the BT-Controller with a logic analyser - the Arduino was fine. Sadly the BT-controller is closed source, so I wasn't able to fix anything there. After deleting some dozen mails from my inbox the converted keyboard went onto the shelve and another (cable bound) Model-M appeared on my desk. Until a few days ago, when I received Jörn's Controller. I ripped out my home-brew setup and replaced it with Jörn's hardware, recycling the battery from my failed project and adding some new LEDs and TRC, for which Jörn thankfully send me the links. Now I am finally typing on my very first keyboard again - wirelessly. I mapped the missing CMD-key to the left alt-key with karabiner under MacOS (see: https://pqrs.org/osx/karabiner/), as I did it with the USB-connected PS/2 keyboard.

To sum things up:
- Jörn's solution is a "drop in replacement" for the original controller - no fiddling, no tinkering, just screw up the case, put in the new board and you are ready to go
- I am mainly using it under MacOs, but have successfully tested it under iOS, Android, Ubuntu 17.10 and Win10. Key remapping worked via Carabiner, as Jörn's CLI is made for Windows (understandably...)
- All questions I had were answered very quickly and exhaustively from Jörn - I was really surprised about the speed and depth
- This board rocks! It's worth all the money you spend, as it is just hassle-free and perfectly supported

PS: Even though it might seem this way, I was not payed for this review. I am just really happy with this board and believe that one should support people like Jörn who share this with the community.

Following you can find two pictures - the first try with the Adafruit components, and Jörn's controller.
original.jpg
First try - only working at low speed
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updated.jpg
Jörn's version - working under all conditions
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gianni

26 Jan 2018, 00:57

This is a fantastic project and I wish you a great success. I'm waiting to receive a model m, so after a little testing, I'll look into purchasing your unit.

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darkcruix

27 Jan 2018, 22:29

Hi guys,

I wanted to share my experience with Jörn's controller and actually my somewhat special use case.

Why I wanted a IBM Model M:
The IBM Model M has for my use case the best functional layout I can imagine. Combine this with the optimal haptic and sound - what better can you ask for.

My Use-Case:
I am working primarily on a Mac Pro using various other Operating Systems, either virtualized or remotely connected.

What I used before, Why I didn't use an IBM Model M as day-to-day keyboard:
I used a mechanical keyboard with Cherry Blue switches as these where easy to get and configure to my needs. Once you have ever used a Model M (or worse Model F), you will never be completely happy without it :D. Sadly I couldn't go for a Model M as I was missing some important features a simple PS/2 to USB converter couldn't accomplish.
On a Mac you have to have the Command key next to the space bar - I am just too used to it. Yes, you could change that in the OS etc. but with my frequent boot from external devices, this is not the same.

Then I saw Jörn's solution ...

What I got from Jörn and why:
I bought a complete IBM Model M (blue label) from Jörn that was already modified, including screw mod and floss mod. Exactly what I wanted to have. He listened to my needs and he said everything will be possible with his solution.
Sure, I could go for getting a Model M on ebay, modify it with his controller, make the modifications etc. I could save a few bucks, but I want to use this keyboard as my daily device for years to come. I was sure it will be well spent.

IBM Model M and using it on a Mac:
I made some modifications to the keyboard, once I received it. To be clear, it worked out of the box on all of my Macs (MacBook pro 2017 / Mac Pro 2013 / Mac mini 2011 / MacBook Air 2015 / MacBook Early 2016) by plugging it into USB.
The Mac modifications:
1. Modifier Keys
IMG_6862.jpg
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As I mentioned before, I need my modifier keys like I am used to. The Command Key needs to be at the place where you normally find the Alt Key. The Alt Key moves to the place of Control and Control replaces Caps Lock. (I'll explain how I still get Caps Lock a little later).
With Jörn's way to programatically change the position on controller level, I can plug this keyboard now into any device (also Windows) and have this setup for the modifier keys. On Windows the Command becomes a Windows Key.
Obviously I made the same change for the right Command and Alt (swapping places) and getting rid of the right Control key altogether.

2. Function Key and the F-Keys
IMG_6864.jpg
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Normally I won't need the good old DOS keys PrintScreen, ScreenLock and Pause, that's why I replaced them in their primary function as F13, F14, F15. Again, the controller can be used to adjust things to all needs I can ever imagine.
As I sometimes still need those "DOS-Keys", I have actually done the next change. I have added a Function-Key, where you normally have the Insert Key (I rarely need it and can be emulated easily). This Function key is basically the second layer of the keyboard (you can have 7 of them). Specifically, Function+F13 becomes PrintScreen again and so forth. Additionally I use the Function-Modifier Key to make CapsLock available again. In my case Function+Control acts like CapsLock. Obviously I have also made "Insert" available as well, by pushing Function+Home.
The picture will make it much clearer as I have adjusted the keycaps accordingly (Unicomp).
The picture does also show the Volume / Mute buttons on F10/F11/F12. Those keys act normally when pushed without modifier. When they are used with Function, they act as those audio keys. And yes, they work in every newer OS without adjustments as it is part of the USB Keyboard standard and all comes from the controller.
I have made even more modifications... but that would make this post explode even more.

Programming the Controller:
I had to use a Windows machine to run the command line interface, but Jörn gave me perfect and super quick responses to my questions I had (and I had a ton and exchanged many emails with him). Once I understood how everything works, it was easy to make the modifications. I basically used a spreadsheet to create my layers and how I want to have the keys act. Then I lay over the keycodes and export it into a text file that can be used to program the controller. Everything worked instantly as I created it in the spreadsheet.
I can share it and the code-text-file, if there is interest.

Mac - only thing to note:
The only thing to note on a Mac is that the keyboard has issues at the NVRAM phase. When you want to have the keyboard active before the Operating System is booted, my modifier keys didn't work. This is not uncommon and I have had this even with brand new, of the shelf windows keyboards. On laptops, you can use for those rare cases the built-in keyboard and for my Mac Pro, I used the Bluetooth dongle, Jörn also sent in the package and switched to Bluetooth (and to be honest, you actually shouldn't need this frequently :) )

Bluetooth:
This is something I don't want to leave out ... it does perfectly work with my iPhone as you can see here. Out of the box ... with all modifier keys I added ... wow
IMG_0090.jpg
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Conclusion:
I found my ultimate keyboard I use daily. I have no regrets to spend some money on it - in contrary, I see it as a bargain, thinking about the money I spent with Cherry Switch keyboards, Apple keyboards and other mechanical ones.
I now can change my keyboard to match my needs ... what more can you ask for. And this together with a perfect service from Jörn. Once he has the Graphical User Interface available to adjust keys, there is nothing more I can ask for.
Last edited by darkcruix on 27 Jan 2018, 22:51, edited 1 time in total.

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darkcruix

27 Jan 2018, 22:45

Hi Michael (mtemmerm),

I have seen your F-Key paper printout (?). Mine is super ugly and I wanted to ask, if yo have a file available that you could share?

Thx,

Roland

Ellipse

27 Jan 2018, 22:46

Just wondering if anyone knows of anything out there that can take a regular HID USB keyboard and make it bluetooth by plugging in to the USB cable of the keyboard? Then it would be possible to adapt xwhatsit-controlled F's to bluetooth?

I have added extra case holes to the F62 and F77 classic cases that might be useful.

mind_prepared

28 Jan 2018, 00:53

Ellipse wrote: Just wondering if anyone knows of anything out there that can take a regular HID USB keyboard and make it bluetooth by plugging in to the USB cable of the keyboard? Then it would be possible to adapt xwhatsit-controlled F's to bluetooth?.
well, as far as I'm concerned, the same reservations I've stated above in reply to xueyao apply. You could use a BT module s.a. the one I use for the Blusb controller and have it read the USB input and output BT radio signals. But there's a bunch of snags along the way: you will need a battery for BT operation (obviously). So there will be two different power supplies (battery vs. USB) that must be isolated against one another. There is no way (?) you can isolate both power supplies and still supply power to the BT adapter through the onboard USB connector. You would need to add a switch or some switching circuitry to avoid shorting the USB and the battery power rail when a USB cable is plugged in.
Another thing battery related: without the possibility to implement a couple of basic power saving techniques your circuit will probably drain the battery pretty fast, even if it's >1000mAh, which will be especially annoying when there is no integrated battery charger.

I will not put any claim to having done this in the best way conceivable or, for that matter, even in the 'proper' way, but I did try everything I could think of to cut down the average power consumption of the circuit. That is only possible if you can adapt and tweak every part of the design, including the firmware for both the MCU and the BT module, and the PCB layout.

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Iggy

28 Jan 2018, 08:47

I got a IBM Model M122 (PN: 1394343, date: 09-jul-1997) that I have taken apart for proper cleaning. The keyboard uses a RJ45 connector, which isn't helpful, and I was wondering if your controller is compatible with the keyboard (I don't think it is). I have taken several pictures of the keyboard;
Spoiler:
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mind_prepared

28 Jan 2018, 19:24

Iggy wrote: I got a IBM Model M122 (PN: 1394343, date: 09-jul-1997) that I have taken apart for proper cleaning. The keyboard uses a RJ45 connector, which isn't helpful, and I was wondering if your controller is compatible with the keyboard (I don't think it is).
I've created a dedicated IC thread for people with a M122 or 4th generation/Unicomp M, here group-buys-f50/bt-usb-hybrid-controller ... 17525.html

Please cast a vote and leave a message so that I can add you to the list of people interested in a replacement controller for the M122.

I've already come up with an idea how to free four additional MCU pins to accomodate the M122's 20x8 matrix, I'll post my idea on the M122 thread sometime in the near future.

andrewjoy

28 Jan 2018, 21:02

How in hell did i miss this ? I think i want several.

However i need to know. Can i change the LEDs for amber LEDs ?

mind_prepared

28 Jan 2018, 22:09

andrewjoy wrote: Can i change the LEDs for amber LEDs ?
Of course you can. Jfyi, I happen to have suitable amber LEDs already in stock. =p Just PM me when you're ready to go.

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darkcruix

29 Jan 2018, 13:15

Hi,

I wanted to share an idea I had in regards of indicating which layer I am in when toggling through them. It is kind of a feature request, but I know this is very unique to me. I had two different ideas, I wanted to share.
So, I wonder if there is any demand for this, or is it just something I find very appealing?

Idea 1: Indicate the Layer number using the LEDs
First of all: this option would render the LEDs under Num-Lock, Caps-Lock, Scroll-Lock somewhat useless in their intended function. What it would do is to indicate only the layer 1 to 3 using the LEDs as shown in the picture below:
Direct layer indication 1-3.png
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Idea 2: Indicate that your aren't in the base layer using the LEDs
This idea would keep the functionality of the LEDs and just adds a display that you're not in the base layer. The display would happen by slowly making the LEDs softer and brighter (breathing). When switching back to the base layer, the normal functionality would be back
Layer-Indicator.png
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mind_prepared

20 Feb 2018, 17:12

Update: I've revised the PCB layout further and will shortly start making new one-size-fits-all kits supporting the SSK, M101/102 and M122.

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