Thursday, August 20, 2009
I've finally managed to resolve some timing problems with the RF link; I now have my heavily customized wireless alphagrip mostly working. Up till now I was having issues with jerky trackball movement when using the alphagrip wirelessly, now I've managed to sort that out, cursor movement is smooth, keystrokes are not getting duplicated anymore either. Here's the features I've added so far:
- Wireless and wired operation- I retrofitted the alphagrip with a lithium ion battery and USB charger IC, and ultra-low quiescent current regulator in such a way that when you plug it in the battery recharges but the alphagrip is still fully functional. When you disconnect, the alphagrip begins to work wirelessly by talking to the special USB dongle I'm using (NOT bluetooth).
- Scroll wheel emulation using the trackball- enabling numlock will lock out the trackball x-axis and all buttons except the mouse buttons. In other words when you enable numlock, the trackball no longer moves the cursor, it just acts as a scroll wheel.
- Firmware upgrade-ability on the fly- a special key sequence kicks the alphagrip into its bootloader at which point new firmware can be loaded without having to physically hit a reset button tied to the microcontroller.
- Real modifier keys- when you push Ctrl, Shift, etc. they are actually transmitted to the host. This allows things like Ctrl/Shift click multiple selection which aren't possible with the original alphagrip.
At this point the remaining tasks before I can deem this keyboard fully functional are mostly mechanical issues. Solder joints at the Ctrl key are bad, need to be retouched, but this is easy. The hard problem that I've yet to resolve is cramming all the new hardware components into the very limited amount of space inside the alphagrip. There is just barely enough room for the new microcontroller board, RF transceiver, battery+regulator, tons of wires. I may just try to dremel out any plastic that isn't absolutely critical in order to free up some space. Once things are more finalized I'll post some pics.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
I have no connection to askergoworks.com other than purchases I made there: both my kinesis keyboards+footpedal, and both my cirque touchpads.
Imagine half of a touchstream, without the typing capability, and this is what you get. Just like the touchstream, the USB cord is not detachable and poses a potential point of failure. The picture above shows an improvised strain relief on the cord using hot glue.
Amazing, but has a very high learning curve and an even higher price ( if you can even find one). I generally use mine when I'm doing work that involves more complicated mouse actions than actual typing or when browsing the web (since I have all the browser actions mapped to gestures).
Combined typing and mousing. Being able to seamlessly transition from typing to mousing or gesturing without moving your hands is great.
Highly programmable- literally hundreds of user configurable gestures and settings. Imagine bettertouchtool on steroids x 2.
Lack of tactile feedback makes typos a constant issue. Even after owning several touchstream keyboards for many years, I still type much more slowly on these than on a mechanical keyboard and make far more typos.
Availability- the only way you might be able to get ahold of one now is ebay.
Price- absurdly high due to the lack of supply.
The key feel (at least on the several ultranavs I own) is not good- the keys snap in such a way as to recoil painfully on the fingers.
I tend to work on multiple computers using different operating systems. In this context, the keyboard's support for key-remapping in hardware is quite useful since you'd otherwise have to restore your customizations at every computer you use.
In short I like a lot of things about this keyboard- but since I have issues with excess forearm pronation+elevation, I'd have to say it's simply too tall and narrow for frequent use.
I'm currently addressing both these issues by building a custom keyboard which I'll post up here soon.