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 https://github.com/tmk/tmk_keyboard.git 

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.

Overview

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: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=56494.0

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

Legends

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.

Overview

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.

Giveaway

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.

Update

Here is a direct link to the giveaway:

https://s.heyo.com/474c3d

Note:
I would just like to make it clear and reiterate that this is in fact a joint venture between [CTRL]ALT and JTKeycaps. [CTRL]ALT is not manufacturing the keycaps by themselves.

Quite excitingly it seems that a new keycap producer is entering the game, and this time from a familiar face. Just announced on geekhack. [CTRL]ALT is collaborating with JTKeycaps to produce keycaps to rival the current offering. There is little information at the moment but the current offering is doubleshot ABS keycaps. At the moment the offering is just for MX keycaps. But it seems like Topre keycaps are not an extreme suggestion. Quoting BunnyLake “just mx….for now”.

ctrl keycapBunnyLake’s photo

With only a few photos released at the moment it is of course hard to tell exactly how the keycaps will turn out. But since they are coming from [CTRL]ALT they get the benefit of the doubt. From the limited preliminary photos, they look great. But BunnyLake says they are “looking to match both the quality and flexibility of others in the marketplace”. With only the announcement of doubleshot ABS, GMK is the first company that comes to mind. And they are known for the best quality doubleshot ABS on the market. This of course may be a great indicator of their quality. But they certainly hold quite a tough level to meet. It is also nice to see someone else producing keycaps. Hopefully these keycaps will rival others quality and create a bit of friendly competition.

Two new pictures have been released and the caps are looking good. doubleshot back One thing to note is that this looks like quite a refined doubleshot technique it looks quite unlike other doubleshot keycaps. Usually they appear a little more messy but these look very crisp. The thickness is also looking good. The future is certainly looking bright.

This post will be updated as more information is available