2019 Jul 10

Module prototypes galore

By |2019-07-10T20:00:30+00:002019-07-10 20:00|design, modules, news, prototype|4 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update!

We've been making quite a bit of progress with the modules, and have mechanically prototyped the key cluster, trackball, and trackpoint modules.

The overall mechanical design, the shape of the PCBs, and the way the PCBs are interconnected inside the modules are pretty much finalized at this point.

All of these prototypes are 3D-printed, and even though we use state-of-the-art SLS (selective laser sintering) 3D-printing technology, their quality, finish, and accuracy is a far cry compared to the final injection molded plastic parts. To give you a reference point, this is how the final key cluster module is expected to look.

Right now, the key cluster prototype features a PCB without traces, only meant to be used for mechanical prototyping. But we've designed a functional PCB in the meantime, sent its design to the fab, and the manufactured PCB should arrive in a couple of days. This will allow us to make a fully-functional key cluster prototype.

Similarly to the key cluster module prototype, the above trackball module is only a mechanical prototype, but the functional PCB has been designed in the meantime, was sent to the fab, and should be manufactured soon.

The design of the the trackpoint module PCB is in progress, and we'll submit it to the fab as soon as we can. Afterwards, the touchpad will follow.

Let's see some UHK pictures with the modules mounted.

We're super excited to see the modules coming to fruition after such a long time. I'll make demo videos as soon as we're ready with the functional module prototypes. We still don't have a solid ETA on them, but we'll be keeping you updated.

Your feedback

You guys keep sending your awesome tweets, and we're always eager to read and feature them! If you got your UHK and haven't tweeted yet, you're welcome to share!

We'll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and are looking forward to talking to you on 2019-08-13.

2019 Jun 16

UHK mounting layout

By |2019-06-16T22:52:18+00:002019-06-16 22:47|features, howto|0 Comments

Some of you asked how to mount your UHK to your armchair, so let us provide a drawing of the back of the UHK. The drawing displays the 8 bronze inserts that allow for mounting.

Click on the image for its higher resolution version, or download the drawing in PDF or DXF format.

2019 Jun 13

Key cluster and trackpoint module progress

By |2019-06-14T00:20:19+00:002019-06-13 23:23|demo, design, electronics, firmware, modules, news, prototype, tech talk|2 Comments

TL;DR: We've been making progress with the key cluster and trackpoint modules. New orders ship in a week, except non-black UHK cases.

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update! Let's get right to it!

Production status

If you want your UHK shipped in a week, you should pick the black UHK case option. Otherwise your order will take longer due to temporary parts shortages. This shortage was mentioned in our previous monthly update, and we've been working on resolving it, but it's taking more time than anticipated.

If you have any questions about the ETA of your order, please do read the delivery status page. We keep this page up-to-date, and we're unable to provide more accurate information, not even if you email us.

Module progress

In our previous monthly update, I included a picture of the development board for the key cluster module. In the meantime, I've also written firmware to drive it, so here comes its obligatory demonstration:

From a technical standpoint, the BlackBerry trackball is an interesting little beast. The ball itself is not even electrically connected to the PCB. Instead, its four spindles rotate when pushed in the four directions. The spindles contain magnets which alter their magnetic fields about 9 times during a 360 degree rotation, and the alternating magnetic field is detected by the hall-effect sensors on the PCB.

Given its limited resolution, the BlackBerry trackball is hardly an ideal device for controlling the mouse pointer (right-sided modules will perform far better in that department), but it's very well suited for scrolling in every direction. I'm actually surprised how well it's already working, even though it's the first working prototype. Over time, we'll make the acceleration and speed of the mini trackball configurable, which will make it even more useful.

As far as the firmware goes, firstly, I slightly extended the UHK module protocol responsible for the keyboard halves and modules to communicate with each other. This allowed for the transmission of not only key states, but also pointer movement information. Then I wrote a driver for the BlackBerry trackball purely using interrupt handlers, which is the most efficient approach there is. Finally, I made the key cluster transmit the pointer movement information of the BlackBerry trackball to the right keyboard half which is the brain of the UHK.

The above pictures feature our most recent mechanical key cluster prototype. The creation of a working PCB is underway.

We've also made a mechanical prototype of the inside of the trackpoint module:

We may change the trackpoint component depending on various design constraints, but the overall mechanical design is expected to be close to final.

We've actually made progress with every one of the modules, but haven't yet prototyped the others. We'll be sharing all their juicy details in our upcoming newsletters.

Your feedback

You keep sending your nice tweets which we're grateful for! Please keep them coming!

We'll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and we're looking forward to talking to you on 2019-07-10.

2019 Jun 06

Mapping a virtual numpad on the UHK

By |2019-06-06T21:29:45+00:002019-06-06 21:26|agent, features, howto|0 Comments

People ask from time to time whether we provide a numeric keypad. The answer is no, but one can create a virtual numpad very easily in Agent, the configurator application of the UHK.

See the following screenshot. The numpad is mapped to the Fn layer, and its keys are laid out in a familiar fashion.

The big advantage of a virtual numpad is that one doesn't have to reach out all the way to the other side of the keyboard. This results in increased productivity, and the mouse is much closer, too. That is, if you even use a mouse after mastering the UHK mouse layer.

2019 May 16

New orders ship in a week

By |2019-05-16T21:20:32+00:002019-05-16 20:25|design, electronics, firmware, modules, news, prototype, tech talk|5 Comments

TL;DR: We caught up with pre-orders, and new orders ship in a week! Our customers made some awesome carrying cases for their UHKs. The UHK mouse mode is surprisingly useful, and viable for creating digital art. We're making progress with the key cluster module.

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update! Ready for warp? Let's punch it!

Production status

We're thrilled to say that we've finally caught up with pre-orders, and incoming orders now ship in a week!

There are two exceptions regarding order parameters, though. If you want your UHK shipped in a week, you should pick the black UHK case option and a non-blank keycap printing option. Otherwise your order will take a bit longer due to temporary parts shortages. Feel free to check out the delivery status page for more information.

Please note that the order numbers have been removed from the delivery page. If your order hasn't shipped yet, it's because of the above exceptions. According to the delivery status page, you can shoot us a mail to change your order parameters to expedite delivery.

DIY UHK carrying cases

Some of you shared your DIY UHK cases, and they're so awesome that I ended up writing a dedicated blog post about DIY UHK cases. I'm very impressed by these cases, and I'm sure they're of interest of many UHK owners.

Creating digital art with the UHK

There are few keyboards with a dedicated mouse mode, and the UHK might just have the best implementation of all. Brandon Yu's drawing is a testament to this.

I'm super impressed by Brandon's work, and wouldn't have ever thought that anyone would create such a beautiful drawing purely with the UHK.

The UHK mouse mode will never be as good as a dedicated mouse, but it's surprisingly capable in the right hands. This is due to the implementation of the mouse pointer acceleration and its number of configuration options.

Key cluster module progress

We've been making progress with the key cluster module. András got the latest CAD model 3D printed, and we're glad to say it's more robust than ever.

In the meantime, I've been doing some electronics prototyping.

On the right side, you can see a breakout board designed by SparkFun, featuring a BlackBerry trackball – the kind of mini trackball that will be put into the key cluster. It's wired to an old hand-soldered UHK left half. The left half of the UHK is just like a module from an electrical, firmware, and protocol standpoint, so it's a great development board for modules. The design of the key cluster PCBs is in progress, and this is the whole Frankenstein keyboard on my desk:

(Yes, my UHK is backlit. We'll release a backlight upgrade kit eventually.)

I also started to extend the firmware, and created a dedicated project for the key cluster module based on the firmware of the left keyboard half. The two projects contain a lot of duplicate code right now, so I'll be gradually extracting the shared code to a module API which will be consumed by all the modules.

Your feedback

You've been sharing more than your fair share of tweets over the last month. Thanks so much, and as always, please keep them coming!

We'll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and we're looking forward to talking to you on 2019-06-13.

2019 May 01

DIY UHK carrying cases

By |2019-05-19T16:01:51+00:002019-05-01 15:20|howto|0 Comments

We get requests from time to time to provide a carrying case for the UHK, and we'd like to offer a case, but there's way too much on our plates nowadays, and we're not sure when we'll be able to offer one.

Fortunately, this didn't stop our awesome customers from making their own cases, and boy, these cases are amazing! I'll feature three cases below.

UHK case

If you have a UHK without a UHK palm rest, then look no further than @contracode's case, and make sure to check out his tweet for instructions.

UHK + Palm Rest soft case

If you have a UHK with a palm rest, then Stephen Walsh's case is probably the best choice for you. See his tweet.

Since writing this article, @z0nelevel let us know that the UHK and the palm rest fits into many 13 inch notebook cases like this one:

UHK + Palm Rest hard case

If you have a UHK with a palm rest and you're willing to spend more on a robust case, then Cole Chamberlain's case should be a great option which he made from a Pelican 1085 hard shell case. Check out the relevant Twitter conversation.

We're never ceased to be amazed by the ingenuity of our customers. We're still not sure when we'll be able to provide an official UHK case, but the above should be more than adequate in the meantime.

2019 Apr 18

Catching up with pre-orders

By |2019-04-18T23:49:46+00:002019-04-18 21:01|manufacturing, modules, news|0 Comments

TL;DR: We've been making rapid progress with manufacturing. We've shipped six mini batches since our last monthly update, two additional mini batches are assembled and we will ship them next week. Afterwards, only three mini batches remain to be shipped, and we'll be caught up.

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update! Ready for warp? Let's punch it!

Manufacturing progress

Since our last monthly update, we've shipped mini batches 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, and 64, which is decent, but not as many as we had expected.

Mini batches 65 and 66 (the latter is not displayed on the delivery status page yet) are already assembled, but we're waiting for palm rests. Our palm rest supplier is behind schedule, and is expected to ship enough palm rests next week to complete these mini batches. (We ship individual packages as quickly as we can, so no need to email about this, folks.)

Afterwards, we'll only have to assemble about three mini batches. Should the Keyboard Gods show their support, we'll catch up then.

That is, excluding orders which contain non-black cases. Those may take a bit more time. Which brings us to the…

Non-black case shortage

Due to a temporary shortage of non-black cases including non-black UHKs and non-black extra UHK cases, orders including such items are delayed until non-black cases roll into our factory. We emailed the affected customers, and offered them the option to switch to black cases to expedite shipping. So the opportunity is there. If you want to switch to black cases, just let us know along with your order id.

This shortage is expected to be resolved in about a month, and we don't expect that a similar shortage will happen again. We ordered literally tons of colored plastic pellets, so we may not run out for years.

Module progress

András has refined the mechanical design of the key cluster module and ordered a 3D printed version of it which has yet to arrive. Then we'll evaluate the robustness of the new design. Based on the CAD models, the design looks good. We shall see soon.

The mechanical design of the right-sided modules is being finalized, too. Some details are still unclear, but András made major progress recently, and we'll get them 3D printed, too. The bottom part of these modules look very similar, and we want to have a shared bottom part for them in order to minimize tooling costs and increase reliability.

The design of the modules is rapidly shaping up, and I'll have to develop the key cluster firmware soon.

Your feedback

Twitter was noisy, which has become usual when we ship a decent number of orders. Thanks everyone for sharing your nice tweets, and please keep them coming!

We'll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and we're looking forward to talking to you on 2019-05-16.

2019 Mar 14

Coming up to on-demand manufacturing

By |2019-03-14T21:10:18+00:002019-03-14 21:00|manufacturing, news|7 Comments

TL;DR: We've been making steady progress with manufacturing, and we're about to switch into high gear. We expect to deliver every non-module pre-order by the end of March or the beginning of April. Afterwards, we'll transition to on-demand manufacturing.

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update! Let's get right to it!

Manufacturing progress

On February 27, we finally received the product boxes which were necessary to resume production, and we've shipped mini batches 55, 56, 57, and 58 since then.

Production has been mostly uninterrupted, except for a small shortage of foam parts that reside in the product boxes and protect your UHKs extremely well from any damage on the way. Luckily, we received plenty of foam parts today.

With the above issues out of the way, we expect to deliver every non-module pre-order by the end of March or the beginning of April, at which point we'll transition to on-demand manufacturing.

On-demand manufacturing means that we'll assemble orders as they come in. This translates to about a 0 to 5 working day delay from order to shipping depending on the actual demand.

Our current focus

Right now, our primary focus is to deliver every non-module pre-order, and streamline our operation. András is busy with the former, and I'm busy with the latter.

Improving our backend systems will allow us to devote the smallest amount of time possible to operational issues, and focus on R&D in general, and specifically the modules. So even though it's not directly related to development, it will accelerate development, which is a prospect I'm really excited about.

Your feedback

Jez Cope, an awesome backer of ours has written a short review about his UHK, and so has Melinda Wyers on her blog. Thanks so much, Jez and Melinda!

The Twitterverse was eventful as usual featuring the following tweets:

We'll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and we're looking forward to talking to you on 2019-04-18.

2019 Feb 14

Shipping is about to resume

By |2019-06-29T13:33:49+00:002019-02-14 21:14|agent, manufacturing, news, tech talk|0 Comments

TL;DR: Delivery temporarily stopped due to the shortage of packaging material which should resume around February 20. We expect to ship every non-module preorder by the end of March. Regarding the ETA of your order, please check out the delivery status page, including its FAQ section.

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update! Let's get right to it!

Manufacturing progress

Since our previous monthly update, we've built plenty of UHKs, but we couldn't ship most of them due to a temporary shortage of packaging boxes.

It's taken more time for the printing factory to get up to speed after new year, and they expect to deliver the packaging boxes to us on February 20. We'll make quick progress once the boxes arrive, and expect to deliver every non-module preorder by the end of March.

We didn't simply ask for another batch of packaging material to be honest. We redesigned the boxes because they weren't sufficiently robust. The new boxes are not only fancy, but more robust (and more expensive).

I added a news section to the top of the delivery status page which you're welcome to check any time. This way, you can keep informed about delivery status the easiest way possible.

DeveloperWeek cancelled

In our previous monthly update, we told you that the we'll exhibit at DeveloperWeek in the Bay Area on February 21-22. Unfortunately, we won't be able to make it.

The reason is that I fired Nikolai Lebedovsky of Crowdtoolz, our marketing contractor because I found his work ethics to be extremely poor. Without him, we can't staff our booth, so I ended up cancelling the event. Admittedly, this timing is unfortunate, but I only regret having him so long.

With the event cancelled, we won't be able to give away the free passes offered in our previous monthly update. That, I regret. I'm sorry about this, but now that we have cancelled the event, we can't do anything. I'll email all of you who asked for free passes shortly after publishing this update.

As far as the project is considered, I think not attending to DeveloperWeek is actually a good thing. We should fully focus on the delivery of preorders at this point. We'll have plenty of time to do expos later.

Module progress

Robi has implemented the kboot bootloader protocol natively in Agent. Previously, Agent used the external blhost command line utility which was unreliable. This will make firmware updates more reliable which is very important because the modules will require a new firmware version flashed to your UHKs. We have yet to release a new Agent version that contains this improvement.

In the meantime, András advanced the mechanical design of the key cluster module, so it's closer to the final design to be mass produced.

As stated in earlier updates, we can't fully focus on the modules yet. Only after shipping every non-module preorder and transitioning to on-demand manufacturing will be able to make heavier progress regarding the modules.

Your feedback

Mikko Ahlroth wrote a very nice UHK review on his blog. I love reviews like his which go into details and capture many facets of the UHK.

In the meantime, Brett Terpstra has been exploring the wonderful world of custom keycap sets. He pimped up his UHK, and wrote a blog post titled The addictive hobby of customizing mechanical keyboards.

We'll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and we're looking forward to talking to you on 2019-03-14.

2019 Jan 17

Churning out UHK webshop preorders

By |2019-06-29T19:53:34+00:002019-01-17 19:55|manufacturing, modules, news|7 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update! Let's get right to it!

Manufacturing progress

Since our most recent monthly update, we have shipped mini batch 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, and 55. As stated in our previous update, we had already shipped every Crowd Supply non-module pre-order, so all of the above orders were made in our own webshop which is a huge step forward.

We knew that transitioning from Crowd Supply orders to UHK webshop orders wouldn't be easy, and in reality, it's been way harder than anticipated. Compared to the fulfillment of Crowd Supply orders, the big change is that we don't just ship to the EU anymore (we used to ship to non-EU countries via Crowd Supply), but worldwide ourselves, and we have to generate invoices upon shipping.

We learned a lot. For example, we learned that DHL, UPS, and FedEx are unwilling to ship to Russian individuals, but fortunately EMS is willing to take the job. We learned that the City field is not mandatory for Singapore which makes the DHL API unhappy. We learned that ZIP codes are not mandatory in Vietnam which made our invoicing system not create invoices. We learned that we have to validate order data upon checkout to avoid contacting some customers when trying to create waybills.

The above is a short glimpse of the issues we've been encountering. I've been tweaking our fulfillment system since our previous update, even during holidays, and András has been taking more than his fair share of these issues. We have now dealt with enough international packages that I can finally see the matrix, and I know what needs to be done to streamline our international fulfillment operation. When done properly, and it will be done properly, it'll end up being a highly streamlined, and low overhead operation, but until that point, it kind of feels like we're walking in mud.

Estimated delivery dates

TL;DR: If you order now, your UHK order is expected to be delivered by the end of February (barring modules, of course).

Right now, we're held back by a temporary shortage of various components, including product boxes and plastic cases. We could foresee this shortage, and did our best to mitigate it, but companies were closed during holidays which slowed our progress.

If everything goes according our plans, this shortage will be resolved in two weeks, at which point production will get back to normal. We're doing our best to deliver every one of your orders as soon as possible.

Module progress

We've had a get-together with our injection molding supplier and his mold designer specialist to finalize the mechanical design of the modules and optimize them for mass production.

Each module has its own set of challenges. Some are complicated from an electronics standpoint, others from a mechanical standpoint, and there's also a significant difference in the firmware complexity of the individual modules.

We agreed that we will start with the key cluster module. The main reason is that its shape completely differs from every other module, so no parts of its mold can be reused for other modules. It's also the most complicated module mechanically.

We had a fruitful discussion, and now we have a much better idea how to optimize the design of the key cluster module for mass production. The most challenging aspect of the key cluster module is its tiny trackball, and the compact design of the module in general, but all in all, it's doable.

Please note that the aforementioned mud regarding international fulfillment is clearly not helping us accomplish heavy R&D on the modules, so right now we're primarily focused on streamlining our fulfillment operation and transitioning to on-demand manufacturing. Once that's done, the modules will get our full attention.

DeveloperWeek

We'll exhibit at DeveloperWeek in the Bay Area on February 21-22, and you're welcome to visit us! We happen to have 3 x EXPO PLUS passes ($795 value each) and 25 OPEN passes ($295 value each) to give away. Speakers at the DevWeek include:

  • Cal Henderson, Slack CTO and Co-Founder
  • Renaud Visage, Eventbrite Technical Co-Founder
  • Chet Haase, Google Lead, Android Toolkit

And many more… Check out the full schedule!

Want to get one of these passes? Please retweet this tweet. We will draw the winners on January 29th.

UHK reviews

If you're into keyboards, the name of Xah Lee probably sounds familiar. He's a hardcore keyboard geek who's seen it all, and he recently reviewed the UHK.

According to his verdict:

  • "This is one of the best ergonomic keyboard on the market. I'd say, among top 3."
  • "Among compact keyboards, this one is the best, period."
  • "The programing capabilities of this keyboard is the best out there. The software, is also best on the market, bar none"
  • "The keyboard is highest quality built."

The UHK was also reviewed by Frank Müller of Euronics. According to the article, Frank has a high opinion about the UHK, especially its configurability.

Your feedback

We'll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and we're looking forward to talking to you on 2019-02-14.