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 ————-


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.

alt controller
One of the first things I wanted to do when I got my HHKB was to customize the layout. This was mostly because I use colemak and to change the layout I had to do this software side on my computer. This was annoying as it meant having multiple configurations for all of my layouts. I also ran into problems with my window manager not working properly. Another problem this caused was that I already had a programmable keyboard (my ergodox) that was programmed to use colemak. This meant the computer had to be set to qwerty so the scancodes were interpreted as colemak. Since all my keyboards aren’t programmable, this caused problems. So instead of taking the easy decision and just having everything qwerty apart from my X configuration, I chose to get as many programmable keyboards as possible.

Hasu provides a great solution to this problem. It really is the only solution, as no one else makes these. You could of course have different keybinds set on your computer but this is not portable or at all ideal. The Hasu’s controller is a simple replacement controller that allows you to non destructively change the keymap of your HHKB. This is good if in the future you want to sell the keyboard as stock or if you (understandably) don’t want to do any irreversible modification to your $235 keyboard. As you are just able to remove the controller and replace it with the original.

The way I see it only enhances your experience with the keyboard. And having a fully programmable keyboard is something I wish more came with.
At this time you are able to get two versions. One with bluetooth and one without. I choose to get the one without as I did not really need the bluetooth function. It is also limited by its battery life of around 12 hours. Although I may consider this in the future, it is not something I currently need.

How to Install

The installation process is very simple. As I stated earlier, you don’t damage the keyboard during the installation process.

  • You must first unscrew the back side of your case. There are three screws.

  • Then open the keyboard until you have access to the existing controller. You need to unscrew the controller before you can remove the cable.

  • Then unscrew your existing controller. This is only a single screw.

  • Then grasp the cable by its width so you are applying even pressure when you pull it out.

  • Then simply connect Hasu’s controller. Remember, do push it in evenly so you don’t bend any pins.

  • Reassembling the keyboard can be a little tricky as you have to screw the controller in before you put the top part on.

  • Then carefully put the top of the case on. It is easy to not engage the front of the case. So ensure that the latches are engaged.

  • The last step is to screw back up the case. You are almost done except you now have to program your keyboard.

Compiling Firmware

The controller can easily use Hasu’s own firmware ‘TMK’. Compiling the firmware is a little easier than compiling the firmware for the ErgoDox. First install dfu-programmer. This is what is going allow you to program the controller once you have built the firmware. You will also need git to clone the repository. Or you can just download it as a zip.

The first step is to clone the repository.

git clone 

Then you need to change into the HHKB keyboard directory.

cd tmk_keyboad/keyboard/hhkb

The process from here is very simple. However, this is where you really want to customise your own layout and adapt it to your needs. But for the purposes of the tutorial, I will demonstrate building the stock HHKB layout with tmk.

sudo make Makefile KEYMAP=hhkb dfu

This builds the firmware for the default keymap. It sources the keymap from keymap_hhkb.c.

So when creating your own name, use it in the same pattern e.g. keymap_example.c.

Then if you want to build your keymap use:

sudo make Makefile KEYMAP=example dfu

Appending dfu to the end of the command instantly tries to program your controller. To be able to do this you must have pressed the reset button on your controller.

Refer to my introduction to the tmk firmware when you want to use some more interesting functions of the firmware. Or look at the official documentation here.


Hasu has provided some of the best firmware that is most commonly used with keyboard projects. But also provides the alternative controller for the HHKB. It is a great project that works extremely well. It is constantly going through revisions and improving. However, it is still a stable board that I have had no trouble with. I highly recommend purchasing one and improving your HHKB just a bit more. It makes a brilliant keyboard even better and really provides the only thing that the HHKB is missing. Thank you Hasu for making it.

You can purchase one of these controllers from this thread:

The usb controller is $48
The bluetooth is $79-89 depending on part availability

HHKB Glamour out of focus shot

PMK have asked me to create an overview of the set and this article was created for promotion. Whilst this is true these are my own thoughts and what I think of ShiningWing’s design. Please note that I have been offered the keyset if it were to tip in payment for this post.

Material Metaphor is one of the upcoming groupbuys hosted by PMK. First to introduce the set, You must understand the inspiration behind the set. It spawned from Google’s new design guidelines that were introduced in Android 5 lollipop. So the main inspiration is the Google keyboard. As It is based on the Google keyboard it translates quite well to a physical keyboard (a real keyboard). The basic principle is colour must be used sparingly and to great effect.

The Design

Complete 104 What Shining Wing has done with this set is quite impressive. The translation of material design to this set is done very well. One of the main aspects of material design is to use colour as accents to point out information and naturally guide and give the user information. This translates very well to keyboards as it is very common to have different coloured modifiers. So with this set you can choose from different accent sets. This is in-line with material design principles because it makes use of colour sparingly, the accent sets comprise of 4 keys. This is all that is needed to break up the colour and create a visually appealing keyboard. But this is all in conjunction with the other colours used.
The accent colours work in a similar vein to how RGB and CMYK modifiers are used, sparingly and brilliantly. This simple aesthetic of having brighter contrasting colours is incredibly appealing. This is apparent by how many coloured modifier sets that you see in the wild. If you picture this set without the accent colours it isn’t really that exciting. So I consider them to be a core part of this set. It is also interesting if you look at Shining Wing’s previous set that didn’t make it past IC. It was very similar to the current set (being the precursor to it) however it used the accents more heavily. natural robots

The reason accents work is they stand out because of how there are used for certain keys. And when you see the colour isolated you become drawn to it. As you can see in the “Natural Robots” set it seems more generic. It just looks like the regular alphas one colour and modifiers another. There is no real colour scheme and none of the colours are particularly complimentary. This is what makes the Material Metaphor set different. The colours have been used in correct proportions to the correct effect. It adds to the set but isn’t all the set is. Another difference is the amount of colours on one set. Of course you can buy as many accent sets as you want but the accent sets come in 4 colours. So you will have only one accent colour per set. This is again more in line with the material design guidelines set by Google. The colours are:

  • Teal teal accent
  • Light Blue Light Blue
  • Pink Pink
  • Yellow Yellow

The bottom row is another example of how simple colour changes can be used to create a beautiful understated aesthetic. In the material design guidelines it suggests to use different shades to separate and denote difference between text. This translates well to this keyset as it separates the bottom row (which comprises of modifiers and function keys) from the alphas and breaks up the colour with just a different gradient of grey. standard bottom This makes it pleasing to the eyes because of how simple the changes are. But even though they are simple changes. They somehow appear blatant and it is hard to miss the change in colour


Another key part of the set is the font. The Roboto font is a perfect fit for this set as it fits in with the non threatening simple aesthetic of the rest of the set. This is just another part that makes the set what it is. I like that it is a deviation from the standard font which you may find on a keyset. With this set, it is about simple aesthetics and how they are combined. So there are also packs of blanks available. Like with the accent sets you get some choice with how you prefer the set to look. Using blanks in your design is another way you can make the set your own.
The symbols used are also chosen with great care. They are simple and bold, but they are also a little different from the generic symbols. Although they are different you are still able to clearly tell what each one does. This is indicative of how well put together the set is.


The use of material design works well in this keyset because of how simple colours can look together. It shows how colour can be used sparingly to create a nice aesthetic that is different from many other vibrant contrasting keysets you see. It is a nice change to see something that is not as lurid. The nice thing I like about this design is that it is made upon some simple design elements but when they are put together they create something rather nice. But it is all about the composition. You can put simple design elements together and still get something terrible. But in this design, the elements work. When they are put together it seems right. There is colour, but not too much. It is grey but not dark.

Not only is this set pleasant to look at, it also is true to the reference material and this is another reason the keyset stands out from many others. This is also a great second attempt by Shining Wing and I can’t wait to see what else they come up with.


With the launch of this new set, PMK is hosting a giveaway in the first week of the groupbuy. All you have to do is like Pimp My Keyboard’s Facebook page and share the groupbuy on Facebook.


Here is a direct link to the giveaway: