Mar 27 2010

The [finished] controller box

Well, I managed it!

After ordering some 6mm push to make buttons from ebay, I set about trying to find possible boxes from my housemate’s stash of IT crap that he’s been storing in anticipation of some steampunk projects. I narrowed it down to 2 possible boxes, a pico photo printer and an old Speedtouch modem. Sadly, it ended up having to be the modem thanks to the size of the controller board. It just wouldn’t have fit in the printer no matter how much I trimmed it.

A bit of measuring up, marking out, playing about with some tools and I had mounted the switches; as you can see below, they fit quite well.

With the buttons mounted and the knowledge of where the wiring should be, I broke out my old soldering iron and set to work. Doing the Esc key was easy as it was just 2 direct pins, pin 1 on the left panel and pin 4 on the right panel. The others didn’t turn out to be as easy; pin 15 on the left panel needed to go to both the Up and Left keys and then on the right panel, pin 8 had to connect to Left, Down and Right.

At this point I decided to daisy chain them to save a bit of fiddling, thought it would be smarter to solder them on at the switches rather than trying to cram bunched wires into small holes with just my fingers and hope they stayed in with friction alone. Here’s the mess of wires anyway before I put the 2 parts together.

I neglected to get a shot of the pins as they where all in place but I will get one when I next open it up as there is a minor problem so far. It went together reasonably well after a short problem that any of you with a sharp eye will spot. One of the wires is actually far too short to fit where it needs too. I needed to get the one connected to the Up button right the way down into pin 15 which is very near the bottom. After cutting that out and soldering a longer wire in place, it all went together quite well.

As you can see from the finished item, I had to use some electrical tape around the seam just to hold it all together as the screw hole and the clips are already mashed from Matt’s efforts and removing the guts. Didn’t turn out too badly though.

The only problem I have found so far is that something seems to have guffed along the way as the left and the down keys don’t actually do anything. I’m not sure if that was an error on my part with soldering or if I have managed to put the pin in the wrong place. The good news is that for the moment, having Esc, Up and Right will actually do most of what I want it to do anyway. I will shift forward and backward in a PDF document and also bring me out of full screen mode which is everything I was after.

Mar 25 2010

The controller box

As they say, being a complete geeky loon is the mother of invention…or something like that anyway; I have decided to fix a minor annoyance with a new crazy project. I’ve been trying to do a lot more reading and learning recently and with the majority of my material being PDF or other vertical ‘print style’ documents that all have to be read on a computer screen, I needed a solution that made more sense. Now, I have a HP TX2520ea laptop with the rotating touch screen (swish I know) but the problem with that is with the weight and the heat. Hold the laptop in your hand, it’s heavy and gets hot. Put it on your lap and you have the same problem, not to mention the ergonomics are not marvelous then either.

To solve this yesterday I built a little wooden easel type construction out of some 2×1 I had lay around my room. This works really well as it’s the perfect height to use on my desk, it’s at my right hand ready to use and fits in nicely with my main dual screen PC. Such superb solution to reading any documents while doing the practical work on the main computer (incidentally, the computer with the blank keyboard).

There is however a downside in that because the keyboard is now covered with the screen, things can be a little tricky. If I go into full screen on Adobe Reader while reading through a PDF, I have to try and rely on gentures with the pen or my finger to change pages, this isn’t always perfect. The other down side is that I can’t exit the full screen mode without either the Esc key or Ctrl+L…neither of which I can do with just a finger!

For this solution, I decided to stick with the age old Mortis2000 philosophy.

“Why do something the easy way when you can make a really geeky, convoluted, insane solution and learn something in the process”

Thankfully with the donation of a half broken USB keyboard from my housemate Matt, I was able to follow that path. Strictly speaking, I need Esc, Up & Down but why stop there? I have decided to make an interface box with Esc and the 4 direction arrows. This began by having to trace some circuits. As you can see from the image below, there is a lot of work to do. This is a standard UK 102 key layout with some media keys too. There are 2 banks of contacts as always so I had to trace the keys I wanted and record them down on my pad. Seen below

Tracing the keyboard contacts

Once I had found and tested the keys I was trying to find. I made sure the where all noted down properly ready for the next step, stripping out the controller board in the top left of the keyboard and bringing the cable with it. For the moment, everything it all completely exposed and clipped together as I don’t yet have a box or enough buttons to make the all work. For the moment however, I have connected the Esc key to the only push to make button I had lay around and I have ordered 4 more buttons from the interwebs.

Below you can see the button as it resides now on my laptop which at least provides me with an escape route once I’m in my reading mode. The next post shall be the finished product…or at least very close to it!

At least now I can get out of full screen mode