Laci

About László Monda

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far László Monda has created 130 blog entries.
2020 Jun 20

Key cluster molds and PCBs are almost ready

By |2020-06-20T21:31:54+00:002020-06-20 21:31|manufacturing, modules, news, tech talk|5 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to the monthly UHK status update!

TL;DR: The molds of the key cluster module are almost ready. The PCBs are finalized and being panelized. Module parts are pouring in from our suppliers.

Our contractor is almost ready with the key cluster molds. This is how they look:

The testing of these molds is slated for the end of June, meaning that we’ll soon have key cluster plastic pieces to show you.

As for the right-side modules, András approved the design of the latest 3D-printed parts, and injection molding simulations have been made:

Even more importantly, our contractor started fabricating the right-side module molds:

As for the module PCBs, I’ve been making some small improvements to them. Their shape and layout have been finalized, and I don’t expect any more changes, so we’re in the process of panelizing them.

I’m very pleased with the overall design of the modules, as they do their job well, they are as simple as possible, and they’re highly optimized for production. In my book, this is good design.

Parts have been pouring in from our suppliers, and most have arrived – including the mini trackballs of the key cluster, the balls, optical sensors, and lenses of the trackball module, FPC cables, and FFCs (flexible printed circuits).

We’ll be keeping you updated about the modules. Feel free to change your shipping address any time.

Your tweets

You guys keep sending your awesome tweets, and we're always eager to read and feature them! If you got your UHK, please share your love!

We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and are looking forward to talking to you on 2020-07-14.

2020 May 23

Module schematic and BOM finalized

By |2020-05-23T17:58:20+00:002020-05-23 15:06|electronics, manufacturing, modules, news, prototype, tech talk|20 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to the monthly UHK status update!

TL;DR: The schematics and BOMs of the module PCBs and FPCs (Flexible Printed Circuits) have been finalized. Every part has been ordered for the modules.

Our contractor keeps making progress with the key cluster mold. This is how it looks:

As for the right-side modules, András has been refining their mechanical design, and I’ve been tweaking their PCBs accordingly. These are some of the boards I’ve redesigned recently:

I consider the schematics and BOMs of each PCB and FPC to be fully finalized. András and I will meet over the next week and check how well the new 3D printed module cases fit with the new PCBs. Chances are high that everything will fit well, at which point the machining of the right-side module molds will begin.

I recently visited our EMC tester, TÜV, and we put the modules into the test chamber. The modules did not affect the measurements, which is exactly what I expected based on their small power consumption and small size. Given these results, the modules should pass the EMC tests with flying colors.

We’ve ordered every part of the modules from our suppliers. No parts shortages or delays are expected.

These days are unusually eventful due to the modules, hence this fabulously late monthly update. I’ll do my best to keep you up to date in a timely manner going forward, but I’ll keep prioritizing module development and production over the monthly updates for everyone’s sake.

Your tweets

You guys keep sending your awesome tweets, and we're always eager to read and feature them! If you got your UHK, please share your love!

We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and are looking forward to talking to you on 2020-06-16.

2020 Apr 18

The key cluster molds are being made

By |2020-04-18T23:44:46+00:002020-04-18 23:44|manufacturing, modules, news|4 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to the monthly UHK status update!

TL;DR: Key cluster mold manufacturing is well underway. We’re getting close to the final design of the right side module molds, too.

Since our last monthly update, the design of the key cluster molds has been finalized, and now they’re under production. It’s always quite an experience to witness hunks of steel taking shape.

In the meantime, András and our contractor have been working hard to finalize the design of the right-side modules. As soon as this design gets finalized, our contractor will start to get these molds machined.

We’ve also ordered various parts, such as the optical sensor of the trackball, the mini trackball of the key cluster, and the FFC cables. This is quite an intense process for everyone involved, and we’re doing our best to hit our July ETA.

Feel free to change your shipping address any time.

Your tweets

You guys keep sending your awesome tweets, and we're always eager to read and feature them! If you got your UHK, please share your love!

We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and are looking forward to talking to you on 2020-05-11.

2020 Mar 18

Module ETA announcement

By |2020-03-18T11:42:46+00:002020-03-18 11:42|manufacturing, modules, news|5 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to the monthly UHK status update!

TL;DR: We expect to start shipping the modules in July, and we’re making rapid progress.

As mentioned in our previous monthly update, there are a number of tasks to be done to mass produce the modules, but the most time consuming of all is the creation of their molds. The good news is that our mold making supplier just provided us an ETA: June 2020. This means that we should be able to begin shipping orders in July, likely completing all orders in August.

Our supplier is almost ready with the design of the key cluster module mold:

András has been working a lot on the 3D models of the modules recently, and all the modules should be finalized soon.

In the meantime, I’ve been busy optimizing the PCBs of the modules for manufacturing. It’s not rocket science, but there are a ton of details involved, and small tweaks can go a long way.

We’ve also started the procurement of the parts for the modules. Most of them are not very urgent, but there are exceptions like the optical sensor of the trackball module which can take up to 14 weeks to arrive. Luckily, we’re just in time to hit our ETA.

We’re knee deep into getting the modules manufactured, everything is going well, and we’ll be keeping you updated on a monthly basis as usual. You can change your shipping address any time.

UHK ninja belt

Special shootout goes to Hubert Łępicki who amused us with his UHK ninja belt (for the lack of a better term).

Hubert wouldn’t be a true ninja without demonstrating his belt in action. Check out the following video.

3rd party keycap sets

Some of you are on a never ending journey of pimping up your UHKs, and we’re excited to see your creations!

Further tweets

You guys keep sending your awesome tweets, and we're always eager to read and feature them! If you got your UHK, please share your love!

We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and are looking forward to talking to you on 2020-04-10.

2020 Feb 19

Every module prototype is functional

By |2020-02-19T18:14:42+00:002020-02-19 18:14|agent, demo, features, firmware, modules, news, prototype, tech talk|6 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to the monthly UHK status update!

TL;DR: The trackpoint and touchpad modules are functional, and we’ve got demo videos. The mouse mode of the UHK is usable to create digital art. Agent had a Linux security bug, so it’s worth upgrading.

Module demos

This update is quite late, but I think it’s the coolest one so far. I’ve been knee-deep in the firmware of the modules recently which bore some delicious fruits… I mean functional modules.

The trackpoint turned out great, and it’s very precise. Thanks to the dexterity of the thumb, I find the usability of the trackpoint module to be excellent despite the unusual trackpoint nib position compared to other trackpoint implementations.

The touchpad is also finally usable now. It’s excellent for swift, long distance movements, but it has to be optimized a bit more for precision movements. The touchpad IC has numerous parameters, so my hopes are high that precision control can be sufficiently improved purely on the firmware side.

For the sake of completeness and comparison, see the trackball module demo, too. This demo was featured in our previous update.

As you can see, all of the four module prototypes are functional. This is a huge milestone as far as the modules are concerned. Now that we have functional prototypes, it’s time to mass produce them.

Mass production will take a number of steps such as creating tooling, procuring parts, doing EMC tests, and minor manufacturing optimizations – just to name a few. Luckily, many of these steps can be done in parallel, but they’ll still take months. We’ll announce an ETA in our next monthly update.

Creating digital art with the UHK

Speaking of mouse control, although not as capable as the modules, let’s not forget about the venerable mouse layer of the UHK, as it’s very powerful for what it is. So much so that apparently it’s possible to create digital art with it. Give it up for Brandon Yu, who’s about to demonstrate the seemingly impossible.

I don’t know about you, but I’m officially blown away by Brandon’s skills and talent. Brandon also happens to be a game developer, so feel free to get in touch with him on Twitter.

New Agent features and security fix

Bill Gates used to say that 640K ought to be enough for everybody. I’m here to say that 32K is enough for every UHK user. Well, as far as the on-board memory of the UHK goes.

Now that Agent shows the allocation of the on-board EEPROM memory of the UHK, it’s easy to see that about 4K is used by the default configuration of the total 32K. Even if you have dozens of keymaps and macros, it should still be enough.

If you take another look at the above picture, you can notice the newly added configuration history section. Every time you save your configuration, a new entry gets created here, and you can restore any previous configuration with a click of a button.

Last, but not least, we’ve fixed a major security bug which affected the Linux versions of Agent. We suggest installing the latest Agent version which will fix the affected udev file upon starting it. Mad props go to Joel Eriksson of ClevCode for spotting this one!

Your tweets

You guys keep sending your awesome tweets, and we’re always eager to read and feature them! If you got your UHK, please share your love!

We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and are looking forward to talking to you on 2020-03-10.

2020 Feb 18

Controling the mouse with keyboard keys

By |2020-05-02T15:35:36+00:002020-02-18 15:27|demo, features|0 Comments

Although we never advertised the UHK mouse layer as a perfect substitute for a mouse, it's surprisingly powerful in the right hands. So much so that apparently it’s possible to create digital art with it. Give it up for Brandon Yu, who’s about to demonstrate the seemingly impossible.

We don’t know about you, but we're officially blown away by Brandon’s skills and talent. Brandon also happens to be a game developer, so feel free to get in touch with him on Twitter.

Want to bring it up a notch? See the module demos.

2020 Jan 10

The trackball module is fully functional

By |2020-01-10T21:58:03+00:002020-01-10 21:49|demo, firmware, modules, news, prototype, tech talk|19 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to the monthly UHK status update!

TL;DR: The trackball module is now fully functional. Modules will be more portable than expected. Some great UHK reviews have been published.

Trackball module demo

I really wanted to show up the trackball module in the previous UHK newsletter, but couldn’t because the pointer moved in a very erratic fashion. I’m happy to report that I’ve managed to fix the problem, so here comes the obligatory demo.

We’re very pleased with the usability of both the trackball and key cluster modules. They allow for fine-grained mouse control without leaving the home row, and work just as envisioned. The mini trackball of the key cluster is very handy for scrolling, and the trackball module is a great tool for moving the pointer.

Although the schematic of the trackball prototype contained minor errors, the fix mostly involved changing a couple of lines of the trackball module firmware. This was followed by the refactoring of the trackball module firmware, specifically, and then a massive refactoring of the module firmware codebase in general. As a result, the source code of the modules shrunk to merely 100-200 lines per module, allowing me to develop the firmwares of the remaining modules with minimum effort.

I’ve already started to develop the firmware of the trackpoint module, and the new touchpad PCB has just arrived, ready to be assembled. I’m looking forward to making these modules work, too. We’ll be keeping you updated.

Module portability

The modules make the UHK less portable in the sense that one can’t just merge the halves and pick them up with one hand, but as it turns out, even with the modules, portability is exceptionally good for a modular keyboard.

It spontaneously occurred to us when playing with the modules that the left and right modules merge, just as the keyboard halves. This isn’t surprising given that the keyboard halves merge, and the shape of the modules is the inverse of the keyboard halves.

Then it also occurred to us that, given that the back of the modules feature magnets and magnet counterparts just as the UHK does, the modules and the UHK can be stuck together.

This allows for great portability despite the modular nature of the UHK, and as a bonus, it’s quite a conversation piece.

UHK reviews

LearnCode.academy has made an outstanding video review of the UHK, which we were quite flattered by. Will has praised many facets of the UHK, including its build quality, feature set, and ease of configurability.

Another spectacular review has been made by TechPowerUp. This one is extremely in-depth, contains tons of high quality pictures, and doesn’t only explore the outside of the UHK but its inside, too.

Your tweets

You guys keep sending your awesome tweets, and we’re always eager to read and feature them! If you got your UHK, please share your love!

We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and are looking forward to talking to you on 2020-02-10.

2019 Dec 11

Trackball and touchpad module progress

By |2019-12-11T21:06:21+00:002019-12-11 21:06|demo, electronics, firmware, modules, news, prototype, tech talk|0 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to the monthly UHK status update!

TL;DR: We’ve made progress with the trackball and touchpad modules. Some outstanding UHK reviews have been published.

Trackball and touchpad module progress

I recently thought I’d finished the firmware for the trackball module and it would be ready to demonstrate for all of you. I can give you a demonstration, but it’s not what I was hoping for.

As you can see, the pointer moves in highly erratic fashion, and it heavily drifts toward the top right corner. I can affect the pointer by moving the trackball toward the bottom left corner, but the erratic movement usually overpowers my movements. I believe that this is a side-effect of insufficient filtering on the PCB, but it’s really just a wild guess on my part, and I’ve contacted PixArt, the manufacturer of the optical sensor who will help.

As for the touchpad, we’ve increased its resolution and sensing area.

The big footprint is for an optionally solderable 2×20 pin 0.1" connector that directly mates with the Azoteq CT210A-S dongle for configuration and diagnostics purposes.

The new design is a clear improvement over the old one, but we still have some work to do based Azoteq’s new feedback. The ground must be routed in a very specific way to maximize sensor performance. It’s not rocket science, just finicky. István is working on the next PCB version.

Next up, I’ll be working on the firmware for the trackpoint module, and will implement the suggestions of PixArt to make the trackball module work flawlessly. I hope that I’ll be able to showcase at least one, but hopefully both of these modules in our next monthly update. The key cluster module prototype is already fully functional, and the touchpad module will come last.

UHK reviews

Quite a few UHK reviews have been made recently. Let’s take a look at them!

ShopzadaPH has made an extremely thorough review featuring an unboxing, the keycaps, layout, switches, and configuration of the UHK. He really left no stone unturned, and the production quality is great. This one is highly recommended if you’re considering purchasing a UHK.

Thomas Ran is the king of the hill when it comes to mechanical keyboard reviews on YouTube, and he’s just reviewed the UHK. In his review, he emphasizes that he’s not an ergo guy, and yet, he’s done a great job of explaining the fundamentals of ergo boards and reviewing the UHK.

I met Christian Bäuerlein in 2018, as he's the organizer of Mechanicon, the meetup for mechanical keyboard enthusiasts in Germany. He recently offered to review the UHK, and given his formidable experience with mechanical keyboards, I gladly said yes. I think he’s done a great job of capturing the essence of the UHK in his review, including unboxing, assembly, layout, configuration, switches and keycaps.

Hardware.Info may well be the largest testing lab for computer hardware, peripherals and consumer electronics in the Benelux, which shows in their UHK review, as it’s so detailed, it’s almost like a mad science experiment. Thanks to the magic of Google Translate, English readers can read the translated English review, or read the original Dutch review.

Your tweets

You guys keep sending your awesome tweets, and we’re always eager to read and feature them! If you got your UHK, please share your love!

We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and are looking forward to talking to you on 2020-01-10.

2019 Nov 11

Key cluster and trackball module progress

By |2019-11-11T21:30:08+00:002019-11-11 20:11|demo, modules, news, prototype, tech talk|6 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to the monthly UHK status update!

TL;DR: The key cluster module is now fully functional, and the trackball module is partially functional. Some awesome UHK reviews have been released.

Key cluster and trackball module progress

In our previous update, we shared a video about the latest key cluster module prototype. It worked reasonably well, but the responsiveness of its mini trackball left a lot to be desired. I’m happy to report that we’ve fixed this issue as you can see in the following video.

(UHKs are not backlit yet. We'll release a backlight upgrade kit at some point, and future UHK hardware versions will be backlit.)

As it turned out, the mini trackball only works well with bipolar hall-effect sensors, and now that we’re using the right kind of sensor, it picks up every tiny movement just as expected. I’m very pleased with the usability and responsivity of the mini trackball, and it feels like a great tool for scrolling in all directions.

As for the trackball module, I assembled the new PCB and gave it a try. As seen in the above video, the buttons work as expected. I haven’t yet implemented the most important part, which is the communication with the optical sensor IC – this will be my next task.

I’d like to make every module prototype work by the end of the year. The key cluster module already works well. The electronics of the trackball and trackpoint modules seem fine so far, and I have yet to write firmware for them, so they should be in close reach. The touchpad PCB is expected to be redesigned soon according to Azoteq’s instructions, so it may take a bit more time.

Following the prototyping phase of the modules, mass production will take additional time. We don’t have a solid ETA on the modules yet, and we’ll be keeping you updated.

UHK reviews

Minimalistik is a powerhouse when it comes to keyboard reviews, and he’s just made a UHK review. I believe he’s captured the essence of the UHK very well.

The Techne has also reviewed the UHK in his contagiously enthusiastic style which I particularly enjoy.

As an internationally known strength coach/personal trainer, Bernd Stößlein is not our typical customer, which is exactly what makes his UHK review so interesting.

Your tweets

You guys keep sending your awesome tweets, and we’re always eager to read and feature them! If you got your UHK, please share your love!

We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and are looking forward to talking to you on 2019-12-10.

2019 Oct 11

New Agent release and module progress

By |2019-10-11T19:50:10+00:002019-10-11 19:10|agent, demo, electronics, features, modules, news, prototype, tech talk|6 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update!

TL;DR: We’ve released a new Agent version after a long time without changes. We’ve made a functional key cluster module, and made progress with the trackpoint module.

New Agent release

It’s been a whopping ten months since we released the latest Agent version. We’ve actually been working on Agent since the latest release quite consistently, but weren’t able to publish a release due to the lack of a valid Windows Authenticode certificate. Long story short, we finally have a certificate, and recently released new Agent versions.

Feel free to check out the changelog on the GitHub Agent releases page. We’ve mostly fixed and polished a number of issues. A particularly useful feature is a dedicated Mac pointer speed preset which you should try out if the UHK mouse pointer movement feels slow on your Mac.

We’ve also implemented the fanciest UHK feature to this day: Agent shows whether the UHK is split or merged, and displays whether the left half is connected. Obligatory demo follows:

(UHKs are not backlit yet. We'll release a backlight upgrade kit at some point, and future UHK hardware versions will be backlit.)

Admittedly, this feature is pretty useless in itself, but it’ll actually be useful in the future. The same mechanism will be used to show the modules. Imagine connecting your modules, seeing them show up, and be able to configure them with a click of a button. And talking about modules…

Functional key cluster module

After a fair deal of prototyping, the key cluster module actually works. Again, obligatory demo follows:

You probably noticed the little thingie at the bottom of the key cluster module.

As you can see, it’s an FFC cable. Our current FFC cable manufacturer couldn’t make a cable of merely 13 mm length, so we used a much longer off-the-shelf cable for the time being. I actually doubt whether an FFC cable of such short length can be made, but an FPC (flexible printed circuit) can surely be made. But we’ll probably end up using a rigid-flex board as the best solution.

Apart from the above slight change, there’s another issue. I noticed that the responsiveness of the trackball is lacking compared to the previous prototype. The new, smaller hall-effect sensors are probably not sufficiently sensitive to pick up all the magnetic state changes of the mini trackball.

I wired the old mini trackball breakout board to the key cluster trackball board to be able to test it with the key cluster module, and the change in responsiveness was immediately apparent. The right board is super responsive, and the left one skips the beat very often, especially when moving it quickly.

I think we’ll revert to the previous hall-effect sensor, and try to pack them tighter to be able to fit them on the board.

Trackpoint module

We’ve made progress regarding the interconnection of the top and bottom trackpoint boards. There isn’t enough space for an FFC connector on the top trackpoint board which contains the actual trackball sensor, so the cable needs to be directly soldered to it. I designed an FPC for this purpose, and we plan to use hot bar soldering to affix it to the top board.

I used a soldering iron for prototyping purposes. So far, so good!

This module should work well, and I’m excited to write firmware for it, and for the rest of the modules.

UHK unboxing video

ShopzadaPH has made an awesome unboxing video of the UHK which you’re welcome to watch:

Your tweets

You guys keep sending your awesome tweets, and we’re always eager to read and feature them! If you got your UHK, please share your love!

We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and are looking forward to talking to you on 2019-11-11.