Making a cheap keyboard from China better

I picked up this keyboard for about $30, + $10 or so for shipping. This is pretty cheap for a mechanical board. 
After feeling the switches for a bit I can see why. 

They’re inconsistent, some of them just don’t register sometimes, and the only option i had was tactile clicky blue. 

Luckily they’re imitating cherry mx switches, so I can replace them!
This begins the adventure of desoldering 87leds and switches!

After about 45 minutes of desoldering and emptying the solder pump, I had managed to replace 13 switches!

Also worth noting, the controller is discrete from the PCB, and has the rows and columns labeled!

It could easily be removed and replaced for a full custom firmware board!

I plan to do the top row next and work my way down the board from there. 

I’ll update this post or make a new one when I’ve made more progress!

Keyboard protector alarm

It has come to my attention that the biggest risk at a keyboard meetup is having your keyboard stolen. For this I propose a precaution that can be taken to protect your board.  
The case and the ground pin in a mini / micro USB connector are not always shorted together. In cases where they are an open circuit until you connect them,a custom device can be made. 

You create a cable where it uses the ground pin and the plug casing as a switch. When it is plugged into a keyboard, it will close the circuit. When I bugged the circuit will then open. You can use the circuit opening event to trigger a loud audible alarm, along with anything else like flashing lights or whatever you want. 

This way you could make it a requirement to speak to an event staff or enter a pin to remove your keyboard. 

Therefore only the owner of the board is able to disconnect it without drawing everyone’s attention to the act. 

As an added bonus you can feed in +5v on the appropriate pin to power the board for lights and sounds and whatnot. 

This same method can likely be adapted to different connector types providing the ground pin is not already connected to the connector casing. 
And with some trickery that requirement can probably be worked around. 
I might make a prototype soon when I get a mini USB connector. 

Lasers, Robots and Dinosaurs

Yesterday I decided to visit the Robots and Dinisaurs hackerspace in Meadowbank after work. 

I had been meaning to go there for quite some time, and finally got around to going!

I got on the train to Epping from Central and not too long later I was at Meadowbank station. 

Across the road from the station, around the back of the shops, it was easy to find. 

Knocking on the door a man named James was there to greet us, he let us in, we took a quick glance around, and I knew I was happy to be there!

There is heaps of amazing resources available, machinery, tools, parts, everything a young hacker could need!

James showed us some things he had been working on including a laser cut geared arduino powered compass !

It looks pretty damn cool! Haha

Here is some photos of the space:

Ok fine, some photos of the machines I was keen to learn how to use!

The black laser cutter was the objective today, James showed me how to work the CAD software, how to work with objects, to set the machine up and mark its origin, how to properly attach the material to the work area using magnets, adjust settings, all the things!

He used some scrap wood out of the scrap bin to laser cut and engrave a few die that he had prior designed through (Inkscape?)

They’re pretty cute, and it was amazing how fast the machine works, especially when I was used to the slow speed of 3D printers!

On the topic of 3D printers, the space has a bunch of them, from commercial types, to homemade, to an egg boy that can draw designs on eggs or other round objects!

I decided I wanted to try making a keyboard on the laser machine. I picked out a piece of wood from the new materials section, because I wanted a nice thin piece some MX switches could clip into, and I loaded up some DXF files onto a USB of a design I liked. 

Importing the files into the cutter software was super easy, and within seconds we had realigned the material and had the box for the plate free from obstruction and held down steady!

I hit go and the machine jumped to life !

I took two revisions, the first one had 4 mounting holes, which would be fine for a metal plate, but the wood is too soft and weak for that. 

In the second revision, Mark and James added in a bunch more holes for mounting points !

Much sturdier!

The second one also has a 3mm white acrylic base as that was in the off cuts bin for free. 

The machine is pretty damn good at getting the detail, and for the most part switches fit in pretty well!

While I was doing all this, Mark and James were working on making a completely DIY DC Motor!

They were following a guide and using some enamelled copper wire, paper clips, a hard disk magnet and a block of foam!

It was pretty cool watching them spend hours on it and get really excited when it finally worked!