Mediacenter/HTPC keyboard anyone?

I am toying with the idea of designing a wireless mechanical htpc keyboard.

Of course the layout would be compact (65-75%), with the addition maybe of some media keys and a mini-trackball or a thumbstick for the mouse. Maybe also a scrollwheel could be added that with FN could also act as volume knob.

I would like to base the keyboard on the new low profile cherry switches

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I know they are linear only right now but I'm pretty sure they are working on a tactile and clicky versions too.

Ideas? Suggestions? Thoughts?
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Unread post14 Jun 2018, 09:02

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I was considering doing something similar using SMK gen 2s. They are not as low-profile but the sure click nicely:) They come kinda cheap too.
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Unread post14 Jun 2018, 12:17

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Mouse navigation via an FN layer like on the Ducky Mini would be good. If it's implemented well (no idea if this is easy or not) it works really well and is more intuitive than a trackball or a trackpoint IMO.

Also if you're going to go low profile switches, commit fully and go khail low profile PG1350. Otherwise, I'd honestly stick to MX compatible switches. The new cherry low profile switches could be interesting, but there just isn't enough support as i see it. Obviously if your priority is to use the new switches i don't blame you and won't argue, but this is just what I think.
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Unread post15 Jun 2018, 04:50

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Norman_ wrote:Also if you're going to go low profile switches, commit fully and go khail low profile PG1350.

simply put, we have very few keycaps for that and those we have are in weird layouts (go figure).
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Unread post15 Jun 2018, 09:23

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I feel like the ultimate HTPC keyboard would be a Plank with a nub in the middle, and wireless as you said. IMO
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Unread post15 Jun 2018, 11:52

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I think that a full 75% is going to be kind of overkill. Do people heavily use F-keys for HTPC uses?

I would go larger than a planck though. I find 40%s unusably small, even for HTPC use-cases. Would be a pain in the ass trying to figure out how to type Symbol X that you need for entering a local smb share URL, IP and port combo, etc etc.
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Unread post15 Jun 2018, 13:29

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a few observations. a htpc keyboard is usually (or anyway, it can be) used on the couch holding it with one hand. A middle nub is rather unpractical in that setup. Not to mention that you need mouse buttons and you should be able to drag-n-drop, scroll, and so on all holding the keyboard in your hands.

I think the trackball or thumbsticks are the best options. Mouse on FN layer is also an option if you don't need to keep the FN key pressed (on/off, not momentary), but again not the best option imho for a couch keyboard.
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Unread post15 Jun 2018, 14:08

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I recently played around with a cheap joystick as a pointing device and it was really comfortable! If we could find a low-profile one (like the kind found on a Nintendo 3DS or Switch), it would be ideal.
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Unread post15 Jun 2018, 14:16

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Unread post15 Jun 2018, 14:51

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matt3o wrote:a few observations. a htpc keyboard is usually (or anyway, it can be) used on the couch holding it with one hand. A middle nub is rather unpractical in that setup. Not to mention that you need mouse buttons and you should be able to drag-n-drop, scroll, and so on all holding the keyboard in your hands.

I think the trackball or thumbsticks are the best options. Mouse on FN layer is also an option if you don't need to keep the FN key pressed (on/off, not momentary), but again not the best option imho for a couch keyboard.

True, I was thinking if it was layed out with the nub in the middle it could second as a travel keyboard.

Where would you put the thumb stick? Assuming something plank sized and shaped
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I think a mini trackball would be the best option from a usability standpoint, but there's a problem. When you put the PC to sleep and throw the keyboard on the couch the trackball moves and could wake up the computer. It's an easy fix as you can exclude USB devices from the wake up events, but still it's a bit of a hassle.

A mini thumbstick (PSP like) could be a good solution but needs to be implemented well. Micro-movements are always problematic, so if you need to point a small button and you miss it by few pixels you'll find yourself moving up/down/left/right for 5 minutes before actually hovering the button. That would be really frustrating.

There's no easy solution that's why I'm asking for your input.
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Unread post16 Jun 2018, 12:16

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In that Problem Matteo:
How about a layer switch (heck yeah shift could be used) for L1 where the dpi is drastically lower?
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Unread post17 Jun 2018, 17:40

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I wonder what model of analogue joysticks are on the 8BitDo's SF30 Pro gamepad. They look smaller than the sticks on e.g. the Wii controllers but larger than on the portable consoles. Those may be just the right size to match the low-profile Cherry MX (mounted on the same PCB, not recessed as in the gamepad). I think you don't want too small joysticks but to have the stick rise up a little over the keys' height.

BTW, I would like to see emulation of high-precision scrollwheels on Fn+Joystick. 2D of course.
(I really should code that on Fn+cursor on my keyboard...)
matt3o wrote:I think a mini trackball would be the best option from a usability standpoint, but there's a problem. When you put the PC to sleep and throw the keyboard on the couch the trackball moves and could wake up the computer.

I don't know about Bluetooth but I think that on USB the device's controller is able to detect when the host goes to sleep. Then it could choose just not to read the trackball while the host is in sleep mode, or to need a movement vector larger than a threshold to wake up.
Also, if you initiate standby with a key or Fn-combo on the keyboard itself, then that could be a hint to the keyboard to also go into low-power mode.
matt3o wrote:It's an easy fix as you can exclude USB devices from the wake up events, but still it's a bit of a hassle.
Not all motherboards do that, unfortunately.
matt3o wrote:A mini thumbstick (PSP like) could be a good solution but needs to be implemented well. Micro-movements are always problematic, so if you need to point a small button and you miss it by few pixels you'll find yourself moving up/down/left/right for 5 minutes before actually hovering the button. That would be really frustrating.

Indeed. You would need to translate joystick reading to mouse increments using a tuned curve and maybe even have acceleration.
You might also want a deadzone in the middle of the joystick. I think the best would be to have a deadzone enabled only when the joystick has been within the deadzone and not moved much for a certain amount of time. To disable the deadzone and do fine movements the user would have to move the stick out of it and then back in again.
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Unread post17 Jun 2018, 18:37

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Phenix wrote:In that Problem Matteo:
How about a layer switch (heck yeah shift could be used) for L1 where the dpi is drastically lower?

I don't find it ideal, but surely it would work. Still the implementation I've seen so far of a soft-mouse is rather sub-par.
Findecanor wrote:I wonder what model of analogue joysticks are on the 8BitDo's SF30 Pro gamepad.

I'll have a look at it, thanks for the heads up.
Findecanor wrote:Not all motherboards do that, unfortunately.

it's not HW dependent. Every OS has such feature (it is true that sometimes it doesn't work on Windows, but what does work on windows anyway?!)

Findecanor wrote:You might also want a deadzone in the middle of the joystick. I think the best would be to have a deadzone enabled only when the joystick has been within the deadzone and not moved much for a certain amount of time. To disable the deadzone and do fine movements the user would have to move the stick out of it and then back in again.

I need to find the right thumbstick first, then we can experiment. If it's analogue it should be easy to implement small and fast movements but I don't want it to be dependent to a driver.
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Unread post17 Jun 2018, 22:50

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matt3o wrote:I think a mini trackball would be the best option from a usability standpoint, but there's a problem. When you put the PC to sleep and throw the keyboard on the couch the trackball moves and could wake up the computer. It's an easy fix as you can exclude USB devices from the wake up events, but still it's a bit of a hassle.

There's no easy solution that's why I'm asking for your input.

Logitech keyboards have proximity sensors (thinking about it, for example a gyroscope would be nice too).
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Unread post20 Jun 2018, 16:10

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I always really wanted to make a wireless low profile keyboard using Cherry M84's so this would be a worthy compromise if I ever saw one.

One thing I would like to see is a really durable case. If a case made of solid rubber and marshmallow is not possible, something that I can feel free to toss on the couch or the coffee table and not worry about feet breaking off or something cracking. Obviously not planning to abuse it, but any cheap keyboards I have used as HTPC keyboards have certainly taken more wear than anything I have just sitting stationary on my desk.

I am partial to a 65% size or so. I think a 40% plank is just too small to be usable (and please no ortho-linear nonsense) but a 75% might be a bit too large to be comfortable and most of those keys probably aren't entirely necessary in that context. I like the idea of a trackball way more than a joystick, however I do see the logistical issues with that so joystick would be fine. If that is the case I prefer a PSP/Nintendo style joystick with more travel than I do a trackpoint.

Is a touch pad a la Steam Controller out of the question? I am not sure if we have the surface area on a keyboard to make that usable or comfortable, but I really do like the way mouse control feels on the Steam controller.
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Unread post20 Jun 2018, 16:42

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Wouldn't a Steam touch pad just be the same thing as a regular PC trackpad? There are plenty of boards out there that have trackpads.
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Unread post20 Jun 2018, 16:54

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Steam controller is the second most used peripheral for my HTPC so that is kinda what jumped to my mind first, but yeah you're right. I am not sure what kind of touch pad modules are out there that would work in a custom keyboard, but I have a feeling it might be harder/more expensive to implement a decent trackpad than it would be a good joystick mouse, but I figure it would be worth looking into.
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Unread post20 Jun 2018, 17:07

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Blaise170 wrote:Wouldn't a Steam touch pad just be the same thing as a regular PC trackpad?

Not really. I don't have mine at hand, but iirc it has haptic feedback (it's pretty loud too) and doubles as a button/d-pad. The closest thing is the touchpad in Logitech diNovo Mini.
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I want to avoid trackpads in general, they are big and unpractical for htpc. the goal is to use the mouse while holding the keyboard.

I think a good layout could be 65% with a thumbstick on the top right and the mouse buttons to the left. Since you'd have a lot of space remaining on the top I would add some media keys. Basically it would be the size of a 75% but instead of a row of keys to the top we would have the thumbstick (or trackball if I find a good one) and some buttons.

Possibly a 60% would be still good, but I want to limit as much as possible the use function keys (for the same reason: it is unpractical when on the couch)
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Unread post21 Jun 2018, 08:53

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Why not one of these?

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I think thumbstick on the right is the right choice.

I have been geeking out over gamepads these past few days (partially for the Wiki). Most gamepads have the d-pad and/or thumbstick on the left side, which is a holdover from arcade games. However, why arcade games got the stick on the left in the first place was with the intent to make them more difficult for right-handed players to use so that they would spend more coins. Some really old arcade games had the stick on the right and buttons on the left, as does the joystick that came with the Atari 2600 ("VCS") console. I grew up with Atari-compatible joysticks that were ambidextrous, and being right-handed I naturally used the stick with the right hand.
You may find some gamepads and arcade sticks "for lefties" out there with the stick on the right, but it is really the other way around. :lol:

@Blaise170: You beat me to it! That one was made by a company called "ASCII" :P There is also the Logitech NetPlay controller for the PS2 and a clone from GameTech.
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BTW. I have this Fujitsu FKB8738 with a built-in pointing device. I find this to be a good use of space without making compromises with the layout.
fkb8738-nub.jpg

The rest of the keyboard is nothing special though. It has dual PS/2 on a Y-cable. The key feel was mentioned recently....
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the problem is to source them. can you open the keyboard @findecanor and see what's inside? As of now I can easily find PSP like and Xbox like thumbsticks.
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Unread post21 Jun 2018, 16:04

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The Fujitsu's steering knob does not have one discrete component but what looks like conductive rubber and four SMD components that I can't tell what they are, only that the silkscreen says HED0 to HED3. I tested that the joystick is analogue though.
Anyway, it is mounted on top of the rubber dome keyboard's barrel plate so it is not larger than the PSP/Vita joysticks anyway. I had posted it to show the layout.
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that doesn't look half bad!
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matt3o wrote:Image

Wez used it in his Bluetooth keyboard: https://www.facebook.com/notes/wez-furl...367151787/
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matt3o wrote:Not to mention that you need mouse buttons and you should be able to drag-n-drop, scroll, and so on all holding the keyboard in your hands.

It depends on the interface you're using.
I have Kodi with a skin that let me do everything from a keyboard, no mouse required.
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Unread post29 Jun 2018, 21:45

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I'm trying to make it as general purpose as possible @j0d1
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