Suicidal or…

the German pilot.  When Hasan shot up the base full of DISarmed soliders, I called dirka dirka jihad before I heard his name.  I’ve heard this German’s name, and it sounds like a good German name.  Still, I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say it was dirka dirka jihad.

Otherwise, one would assume with the terrible condition of the worldwide press corps, we’d have heard of his religion by now.   PROTESTANT GERMAN TOTALLY NOT TERRORIST PEACEFUL MUSLIM CRASHES AIRPLANE, PROBABLY A TEA PARTIER type headlines.  But we’ve got radio silence on a willful murder of a hundred forty-nine people and no comment on the guy’s race or religion.  In this age, it makes one go “hmm”.

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Ted Cruz

I’m 90% For him, and the Against is decidedly NOT related to “shutting down” the government.

I’m praying for the country to be run well and wisely, and for good, godly Christian men to be elected to high offices.  He seems to be a good fit.  I’d go for Cruz over Perry any day of the week and twice on Sunday.  I REALLY hope Perry can get past his ego and support Cruz instead of siphoning off some of Cruz’s votes.

Virtual Progress

I have been looking around the Internet to see what I could see.  I found this post.  0roo0roo at AnandTech Forums posted pictures of the bottom of the top plate of an MS 4000 ergonomic keyboard that failed and was dissected.  It appears the “curve” of the keyboard is mostly exterior plastics.  The keys are arranged around several FLAT plates inside the board.  This makes my life *considerably* easier, as the aim is to duplicate the “curve” on my keyboard.

…which has acquired a nomenclature, by the way.  This is going to be called the DK1 for what should be fairly obvious reasons.

Doing several hours of homework during insomnia-time today has taught me some things:

  1. There are PCB mount and plate mount versions of Cherry MX switches.  Plate mount switches have a couple of plastic locating pins missing, which would put undue stress on the electrical contacts if they were used as PCB mount switches.
  2. The Chyron Infinit! keyboards I acquired have plate-mounted switches.  Genuine Metal plates.  Also (thick!) circuit boards instead of membranes for the circuitry.
  3. I MAY be able to either modify the Chyron plates or cut the Microsoft plates in order to properly plate-mount my switches.  I may also be able to make new plates out of flat plastic or FRP, but I would like to avoid this if practicable.
  4. Depending how odd the layout is for the MS 4000 keys, I may be able to use some of the PCB from the Chyron keyboards.  This is excellent, as the less PCB manufacturing I have to do, the better.

Also, yesterday, I learned that this is going to be a LOT of work.  It took me two hours of wiping with moistened towelettes to get the key caps cleaned.  Soldering a 104-key layout plus diodes means 416 solder joints, and if I wire it with flying leads for the matrix, many hundreds of wires or several custom-trimmed leads.

I need to find myself a not-terrible looking candidate for the chassis donor keyboard, take some high quality photos (which are surprisingly not common online) and then get some good photos of the keyboard all disassembled.  I need to measure the key openings in the MS plates and see if they can be opened up to the right size squares to mount the Cherry switches.  I may try to make a metal punch to get uniform holes in the plastic.  I may also try to see about cutting the Chyron plates up to get them laid out properly.  This may involve some favors from some dudes I know who can weld.

I need to compare key cap shapes and profiles.  It will likely be necessary to modify some of the caps to fit, but I can do plastic stuff thanks God.

Figuring out that Microsoft used flat plates inside their keyboard has taken the ambitiousness of this whole affair from “good luck with that, self” to “maybe not so impossible after all”.  To be continued.  Seven hours of R&D so far, at least.  No wonder good keyboards cost money!

Not So Bad, After All

New readers are encouraged to go read this old post first:

Go ahead.

I’ll wait right here.

It’s worth a few minutes.

All done?

Now we’ve fast-forwarded almost five years. The trees are gone from the culvert behind the house, except near the fences. The grass and weeds have taken root. It’s been raining on-and-off for a few days, and the creek is flowing again. This afternoon, it was muddy but not raining. Perfect for a traipse through the former-woods.

anotherromp

The former trees and a random smattering of the “forest” floor were covered in poison ivy. That’s all gone, replaced by clean grass and wildflowers. A few (already-failing) attempts at erosion control in the stream bed make for interesting play areas. So, today we went on a play walk. It’s less of an “explore” and more of a “play in the crik” but it was good.

Different, but good.

Problem (partially) Solved

At work we had a trio of busted-up old Chyron Infinit! video character generators come through. Big-big keyboard looking appliances with floppy drives and oddball connectors on them. Heavy, for a keyboard. VERY high-zoot, cutting-edge professional studio production technology, for putting characters into a video feed – decades ago, that is. They landed in the low-value scrap pile. One (the first I looked at) had some horrible (foam and foil?) key switches under a few busted-off key caps, so I kept walking. I looked again the next day and found the other two were fully populated (excepting broken/missing keys) with ancient Cherry MX-looking switches. Whites or Clears. NOT the same feeling as NP’s keyboard with MX Blues, but Cherry for sure. And – hence the title of this post – they have cross-stabilized space bars as well as the longer keys. That answers what kind of stabilizers to use, but I thought I would have to give some money for the keyboards. The whole shebang, in good condition, sells for $20-40 plus shipping on eBay these days, so if you want some Cherry MX switches on the cheap, there are more than a full board-worth on SOME of the Infinit! charachter generators out there. There are also some much-different NON-Cherry key switches under identical-looking caps.  Sellers possibly don’t know what kind of switch they have, so be prepared to be disappointed when the device arrives!

I broke out the screwdriver and peeled off the chassis and circuit boardS in the character generators, and caught CO1 in a good moment. I showed him these

and said I wanted them. He laughed. This is not the first odd request for electronics he’s granted this way: Free for the cause, but with the condition that I have to show him the finished result. I also got a Microsoft Ergo 4000 keyboard to hack up, also free. Also rescued from the recycle, also free. Thanks Jesus! (and Boss!)

So these keys are old. The switches are somewhat inconsistent in the way their actuation feels as keys are pressed. I blew one out with compressed air and the feel improved. I’m guessing this becomes an exercise in disassembling and cleaning some switches. Fortunately, these were mnufactured in such a way as to make cleaning a possibility. The switches look to all have diodes in them, where LEDs would go on illuminated switches – except the Caps Lock keys, which are illuminated. Clear stems for most of the keys, Tactile Gray for the space bars.

And they’re plate-mounted. This is not a problem, but it makes disassembly a little more complicated.

DW helped me pull the caps off. They’re all doubleshot, which is nice, but they don’t have standard US keyboard legends on them. They were not part of a regular keyboard, so it makes sense. They have huge, silly European style large Enter keys, which I don’t prefer.  They are also opaque, which answers the question of backlighting rather completely for now.

Speaking of “now” . . . this is where they are, currently.

Car Jokes

The devil drives . . . a minivan?
DSC_5799

This one has a bonus joke for those who are in the printing industry: The plate and colors match perfectly!DSC_6417
hint for the uninitiated: (Cyan in the roundel, Magenta in the lights (okay but…) and blacK everywhere else.  No Yellow.

The End of Cash?

The economy in Europe is currently in process of collapse, due to overtaxation, stupid monetary policies, welfare states, work rules, and lots of fascism and socialism spread all around.  The people are not keen on supporting what they recognize is a failing system, even as the governments continue to say it’s all improving.  In order to avoid paying confiscatory tax rates, people, businesses, even $1000+ hotels are asking to be paid in

cash.

In response, limits are being placed on the size of transactions which can be conducted in cash.  The latest is France, going from a limit of 3000 to 1000 Euro.

I never really thought about it, but I had a vague feeling that there would be some sinister plot to get people off cash.  Some great deception on the part of world governments.  Maybe scare you into believing it was for your own good.  But I just thought: they’ll cram it down your throat because shut up.  “Less” is never an option for the Statist.  If they see everyone avoiding taxation by using cash, they’ll just ban it eventually.  Because they need the money more than you and are smarter than you when it comes time to spend the money.

You can’t cheat taxes when a computer processes the transaction – so the worldwide fascists in government will mistrust the people they purport to serve so much, eventually cash will be banned in favor of electronic transactions.  And by that time the people may even have become convinced this is necessary, right, and proper.  The minority of elites currently believe that “only criminals use cash” and are fools.

By the time of the Great Tribulation, criminals won’t use cash.  They’ll chop off your right hand, or your head, for the marks embedded in them.  It won’t be more secure, but it will be much more gory.

Let It Begin! The Perfect Keyboard Shall Be Mine.

Okay, I am going to do it.  I am going to have a good solid costs-me-money go at making a mechanical keyboard with my preferred Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000-esque* layout using Cherry MX Blue switches.

Primary Goal: have (almost) the same keyboard layout as the MS Ergo 4000 with Cherry keys.  The vertical swell in the middle, as well as the horizontal spread, are to be mimicked as closely as possible.

Secondary goals:
-Serviceability.  I am an electronics tech. by training, and products that can’t be fixed strike me as dumb.  I could simplify this by potting the whole affair, but it’s hard to service that way!
-Spill tolerance.  I have spilled one drink on one keyboard, ever.  Apparently this is more of a problem for some people.  I witnessed a Logitech keyboard survive a full-on drenching (by a co-worker) due to the excellent drainage designed into the board.  This.

Factors
-Not straightening the visually-staggered rows – my elbows are wide enough the rows ARE straight to my fingers.  Straightening the rows would mean relearning a key layout I have been very happy with for years.  Also the letters would be at visually funky(er) angles, so no.
-The space bar is a challenge.  I don’t know that it has to retain the same shape but it would be aesthetically pleasing to me.  Getting the spring right may prove difficult.  Cross or bar seem to be the most common types of stabilizers.  I see that Unicomp does sell replacement space keys (bar stabilized) so that might be one way to go.  I also see a big shiny spot on my space bar, so i am not entirely sure I need a full-sized space BAR anyway.
-The zoom control between the banks of keys I can delete, having never once used it.  Installing a trackpoint-like device there would be an option, but my trackball is 0% a problem for me to use, even hanging out past the end of the ten-key.
-The back/forward keys below the space bar I will happily eliminate, having only ever cursed them as they fouled up my using the computer, until I pulled them off the keyboard and stuffed some foam in their holes
-I would like to retain use of the multimedia keys
-The My Favorites key might have to be deleted just because of its location, which works with me because I don’t recall ever having used this even once.
-Lose the F Lock key.  I hate this, and pull it off every keyboard.  Possibly run it out to a hidden microswitch somewhere on the off chance it gets toggled somehow and needs to be reset to normal F key mode.
-Lose the Insert key.  I hate this, and pull it off every keyboard.  Possibly use a double-wide (flipped tall) key for a larger Delete key, which gets a workout on my keyboards.
-Lose the top-right backspace key.  Also the equals and parintheses keys (over the tenkey area)  I never use these, and hate the top-right backspace key, and pull it off every keyboard.
-Run F1 without a keycap.  I almost never use F1, but when you need it you can’t go without!  When there is a keycap on my F1 key, I find this key being frequently struck by accident – I use F2 a lot in my work.
-I’m ambivalent about the caps/num lock LEDs, with regards to size, color and location.
-Backlighting: maybe.  If the donor board is backlit, probably mine will be too.  If it is, it will either be auto-dimming or have an analog (pot or slider) control for infinite variation of lighting intensity.  3 or 4 levels of brightness, and I’ve gone this far?  Not enough levels!
-Adding a USB port or hub would be cute, but it’s pretty far down the list.
-The wrist rests are perfect on the MS 4000 keyboard.  If I could keep these rests, that would count as a win but keeping the MS 4000 chassis may be a bridge too far.
-n-key rollover is not something I care about.  I MAY integrate diodes per switch but don’t hold your breath.  I use 4-key chords at most, and the MS 4000 suits me fine in this regard.
-It would be sweet to mimic the matrix and reuse the ms 4000 controller but we’ll see if that proves practicable.
-Ten key is a feature for me.  I could possibly make a TKL version if someone wanted to front me the cash for the service
-Possibly provide this as a service.  You give me keys and a keyboard, and I charge you a hundred-fifty bucks (or more?) for the conversion. Alternatively, I buy them where I can, and charge you whatever it costs.  This would probably run into the $250-300+ range.
-Maybe consider using different keys for the space bar.  E.g., reds or blacks on a brown keyboard, or greens/clears on a blue keyboard, etc.

I considered hacking an IBM M or Unicomp, for the ultimate keystroke feel.  But these look an awful lot like the steel plates are integral to the switches’ locations.  Good for durability, BAD for quick layout changes.  Also they are FLAT across their width and I prefer the central swell on the MS 4000 board.

The current leading candidate for hacking-up is the Rosewill RK-9100xR.  I like the laser-etched caps.  Backlighting is nice but not necessary for me, but red is miles better than frikken BLUE (srsly blue? WTH do they not use their keyboards in the dark ever?)   The RK-9000 is a close second, and this may come down to price.  I like that Corsair stabilizes more than just the space bar on the K70.

If I had a 3D printer that could print up to 21″ wide this would be waaaaaaay easier to make nicely finished.  I don’t.  Alternatives are making a biggish 3D printer (not bloody likely) or laying up fiberglass or epoxy forms.  Good thing I’m handy with fiberglass then eh?  Carbon fiber would look sweet but it is a raging BITCH to work with besides being more dangerous to the worker (me!) than plain ‘glass.

 *-esque because the layout has some flaws as detailed in the list, above.  Blue, because I keep reading how blues are intended for typists and I am one, as serious gaming on the work computer is . . . somewhat discouraged.

********
If you have a functional keyboard with Cherry MX blue switches, feel free to donate it to the cause!