version 1.0 I have said before that I like programmable keyboards. So there is a project that I am really looking forward to. That is the Universal Model M controller. Started by phosphorglow, the Universal Model M controller does what it sounds like. The goal it to create a universal controller which will fit in any Model M and allow you to run custom firmware. At the moment it is being designed so it is able to run TMK. I think this is fine as this is currently the best firmware available. This is also a very exciting project as it allows the Model M to get just a little bit better. Already it is known to be a highly robust and mod friendly keyboard with support for different configurations. But never before have you been able to have complete control. This is the way I think all keyboards should be.

Similar projects have been attempted they have never really run their course. Why I think this project is more special and deserving of more exposure is because of who is running it. phosphorglow is well known for repairing and rejuvenating Model M’s to an incredibly high standard. They also have driven the modding a little bit further and almost pioneered or at least perfected a backlighting method for the Model M. They also have one of the best videos demonstrating their process that can be very useful if you want to do your own.

The current state of the project is ongoing. It might not be as easier as expected but I believe it is going to happen. Version 1.0 seems to be like a success and this project will only improve as it goes on. Another benefit is that bluetooth is also going to be supported, or it is currently. This may come later but it does seem like it will be achievable. Like Hasu’s HHKB controller it may not be perfect but I expect a solution will be found. It’s interesting to note that Hasu has also be providing his support. This only gives me more confidence in the project. Hasu has certainly proven himself capable and I can’t think of anyone better to help with the project. Good luck with the project.

If you have anything to offer head over to this thread.

There have also been some preliminary pricing:

  • $38 for the assembled PCB (USB)
  • $6 for a bare PCB

Prices are likely to change, but these seem like quite accurate prices. Remember that these will be made in limited batches and availability is limited. So if you are interested I suggest just sending phosphorglow a PM.

I think this is a very valuable project that just deserves a little more attention. This could give a whole new lease of life to an older keyboard.

pastel brobots A new Brocaps sale has been announced for possibly the 13th or 14th. Brocaps said the sale will last “about 24 hours”1. This is for the previously teased easter keycaps.

Featuring:

  • Brobots V2
  • Bronads
  • Topre Gamer Set’s

Speculation from images shown in thread

All of these are in slightly eastery pastel colours. I have to say that I really am enjoying these current Brocaps and they look flawless. The colour choices are great and there are no visible imperfections. Brocaps really has become an incredible creator. I’m really looking forward to the sale. Keep an eye out and I will post a link when it’s up. It will most likely be on ctrlalt.io.

Link to Sale

Link to Thread

box Another thing that I have learnt through my exploration of keyboards is appreciating older technology or peripherals. I have grown to appreciate and often favour the older design of keyboards. I particularly like the pearl and pebble colours scheme of the Model M. This is also something that I like in the HHKB. Even though it isn’t quite the pearl and pebble combination I really like that simple scheme over other brighter keycaps.

profile But what I have recently acquired is a trackball. This was something that I had considered getting in my earlier mechanical keyboard days, but never got round to. Although I said I appreciated older technology this is not the greatest example as it really isn’t that old. I believe it is from around 1999.

I found this MICROSPEED PC-TRAC Deluxe for $10 on ebay. Originally I was looking for a cst trackball as I knew them to be of high quality. However, what I learnt is that MICROSPEED is CST or what they came to be.

It is in essence the CST KidTRAC and what might be the current PC-Trac. But without the RGB colour scheme. So this does mean it does not have an insanely high DPI like the L-Trac but it does have the signature design. I can’t find the exact specifications anywhere but I believe it has around 160 DPI.back

The first problem I encountered that it came with a serial connection. I thought I would be equipped to handle this since it came with a ps/2 converter. I learnt that the ps/2 to usb converter I had was only for keyboards. So I had to order a whole new cable.

buttons The trackball itself has 3 buttons. Two of which I have got to work with a useful function. The left and right button function as the standard mouse buttons. But the main problem that comes with a trackball of this design is that it does not have a scroll wheel, since I use the scroll function I thought it might be necessary to come up with some kind of solution. Although I had trouble setting a solution up it is rather simple. The Arch wiki is of course ever helpful.

That is my mouse configuration on Arch for windows I haven’t found a solution yet. What this does it emulate the wheel button. To activate the wheel I hold the right mouse button then the trackball functions as a scroll wheel.

I have yet to configure the middle button to what I want it. But being without it has not effected me at all so for this reason it is not a pressing issue.

internal Another interesting point is that it might be possible to add additional buttons. If it is the same model as the KidTRAC then it might have the same pcb, which means it might be possible to add 3 additional buttons. I’m not quite sure on this at the moment but it is something I am looking into.
The switches used are d2f-01. This is really my first time paying attention to the actual switches used in mice, so I can’t really draw any comparisons to others. So to gain some perspective I took apart the mouse I was using previous to the PC-TRAC, the Logitich M310. But I cannot identify the switches used. They do not appear to be omron switches. However, they do seem to have a lower actuation point and require less force to activate. This results in a less clicky switch a little more subdued, when I went back to compare the two it was very apparent which my favourite was. The switches in the PC-TRAC are just much more clicky. They feel satisfying and the sound accompanies this. But the ‘logitech’ switches just fall a little short. unknown green logitech switches ————-

Overview

The switches are great and they are undeniably clicky. They are undoubtedly the best mouse switches I have used. There are a few problems I have encountered with the trackball. Sometimes it seems to get stuck on a single axis, so I will only be able to move left and right or up and down. This of course is an infuriating problem, especially if it happens a lot. And sometimes it does. I have yet to really pin down what causes it.
It is also possible to unseat the ball and it rocks up. It is impossible for the ball to actually come out of the socket but it can rock. This doesn’t affect the action but it can be a nuisance.
It is very comfortable to use for prolonged periods of time. I now much prefer this over an optical mouse. It just feels much nicer to have my hand stationary.
Overall I have to commend the build quality it has already lasted around 16 years and still functions perfectly. The buttons are thick and the trackball is just the right size. It is also very easy to open and clean. There are only three screws on the bottom that allow you to get easy access if you wish to clean inside.

To conclude, I really like this trackball. It is the best mouse experience I have had. Though I prefer to use the keyboard, I sometimes find it advantageous to be able to use a mouse. The colours scheme is my favourite, grey and a different grey. If this is an indicator of CST build quality I am very impressed. The next trackball I buy will be a CST and hopefully the L-Trac.