features

2020 Oct 01

Right-side module mold progress, part two

By |2020-10-01T17:43:17+00:002020-10-01 05:13|features, firmware, manufacturing, modules, news, tech talk|5 Comments

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

TL; DR: Machining of the right-side module molds is still underway, and it's taking longer than expected; hence, we’re now estimating that modules will begin shipping closer to the end of November In the meantime, we keep testing the modules, making small refinements, and improving their firmware.

Our contractor has been making further progress with the right-side module molds.

I spoke to our contractor yesterday. Unfortunately, the production of the molds is taking more time than originally anticipated, so we now expect to begin shipping the modules towards the end of November.

Understandably, production delays are always unwelcome. However, I know that the molds take so long because our contractor is doing his best in terms of quality. If you have been following us for a while, you know that the UHK was also delayed, and the reception was overwhelmingly positive. I’m firmly convinced that the modules will receive the same reception as the UHK with the care we give them.

We use the extra time available to us wisely and spend these days obsessing over the details of the modules. For example, we noticed that the mini trackball PCB of the key cluster module interfered a bit with the lower right keycap when pressed at certain angles, so we slightly modified the PCB. We also saw that the FPCs are very sensitive to sharp bends, so we redesigned the affected parts mechanically to minimize the bending.

The extra time allows me to polish the firmware and add more features. Recently, I implemented two-finger tapping and scrolling for the touchpad, and zooming is now also recognized. As for the trackball, I've just noticed that it's possible to double the resolution of the trackball sensor IC, which allows a higher sensitivity. These developments will improve the overall experience of the modules.

Speaking of the trackball, some of you have asked whether it's possible to clean the ball quickly. I'm happy to say that it only takes seconds to rotate the outer ring around the ball, which releases the ball.

As for the modules, some of you asked if the modules will remain firmly attached to the keyboard when it’s tented. The answer is a resounding “yes” because the precision-milled steel guides of the UHK keep very stable under all circumstances.

We’ll keep you informed about the development of the modules every month. They may take a while, but we work very hard to make them worth the wait.

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 around the end of October.

2020 Aug 20

Right-side module mold progress

By |2020-08-20T08:59:00+00:002020-08-20 08:55|agent, features, firmware, manufacturing, modules, news|12 Comments

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

TL;DR: Machining of the right-side module molds is well underway, and we should have plastic parts by the end of August. We keep developing the UHK firmware and Agent, and it’s worth updating – not just because of module support.

Our contractor has been making solid progress with the right-side module molds.

If everything goes as planned, we’ll have injection-molded right-side module plastic pieces by the end of August, and we’ll start shipping the modules in September.

We’ll be keeping you updated on a monthly basis, and feel free to change your shipping address any time.

Agent and firmware progress

We’ve been publishing about one Agent and one firmware release per month over the past couple years. These releases contain numerous improvements, so feel free to check out recent Agent releases and recent firmware releases to see them along with their changelog. Also make sure to star these projects to get notifications about their activity on GitHub.

Regarding the firmware, it’s worth mentioning a recent fix which made the UHK play nicely with Ryzen PCs. Previously, in some cases, the UHK only worked via USB hubs when connected to Ryzen PCs. Strictly speaking, the UHK firmware was actually bug-free in this respect. The Ryzen platform just happens to be unreasonably picky regarding USB descriptors.

Speaking of Agent, a new feature makes key swapping extremely easy. You just have to drag a key to another key to swap them.

Now we’re working on making Agent handle the modules. Agent will display the actual state of the UHK just as previously demonstrated, but with the modules included. This will result in a very seamless and intuitive experience.

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 2020-09-15.

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.

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.

2019 Aug 13

Module PCBs are ready

By |2019-08-13T20:40:32+00:002019-08-13 20:40|design, electronics, features, modules, news, prototype, tech talk|4 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update!

István, our PCB designer, has been on steroids, and he finished the PCBs for every module! The boards are being fabricated right now, and are expected to arrive in a week – at which point I’ll assemble them.

We already showed an inside look of the key cluster module in an earlier post, so this time, I’d like to showcase the right-side modules. I’ll feature three images per module: the assembled version, the half-assembled version, and the latest PCB which is being fabricated.

Please note that the following modules are only prototypes. Their color is not representative, and neither is their surface quality, which will be way smoother once the modules get injection-molded. The color of the PCBs will also differ, as we’ll use black soldermask for the final boards.

Trackball

The trackball only has a single PCB. It utilizes the ADNS-3530 optical sensor, which happens to be the most compact optical sensor according to my knowledge. The retaining ring can be removed by rotating it counter-clockwise, so one can easily clean the ball.

Trackpoint

The trackpoint is composed of two boards. The top board is provided by our supplier and contains the actual trackpoint module. The bottom board is designed by us, and its purpose is to do protocol translation between the PS/2 protocol of the trackball PCB and the I2C module protocol of the UHK.

Touchpad

The touchpad module is composed of two boards. The bottom board is a trivial one which simply routes the pogo pin header to an FFC connector, supplying power and data to the top board. The top board does the actual sensing using the Azoteq IQS572 touchpad sensor IC. The top side of the touchpad will be covered by black film.

When I said that that the boards are ready, what I really meant is that these boards should be fully functional. Their design is not set in stone yet, but we expect only very minor changes going forward. Even our mechanical design is fairly advanced and should contain the mechanical features needed for injection-molding.

As I previously mentioned, we don’t have a solid ETA on the modules yet. As you can see, we’re making rapid progress, and we’ll get there, but we surely won’t rush them, as we want to get them right.

Your feedback

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 2019-09-10.

2019 Jul 17

How to use macros on the UHK?

By |2020-06-22T21:20:13+00:002019-07-17 23:28|agent, features, howto|27 Comments

Once in a while, we get emails asking how to use macros on the UHK, so let's see how.

First up, the macro has to be created. You can see some default macros under the Macro section of the sidebar. You can add new macros with the plus button.

Second, you have to assign the macro. You can assign a macro to any key of any layer of any keymap. Let's say you want to assign the "Go to UHK site in browser" macro to the Q key of the Fn layer of the "QWERTY for PC" keymap. This way, the macro can be triggered via Fn+Q.

To assign the macro, simply go to the target keymap, choose the target layer, and click on the target key. Then the key action popover will appear. Click on the Macro tab, choose the desired macro, click on the "Remap key" button, and finally click on the "Save to keyboard" button that appears in the bottom right corner.

If you're after more complex macros, check out Karel's UHK firmware fork.

You've made it! Happy macroing!

2019 Jun 16

UHK mounting layout

By |2019-10-14T09:38:39+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 features 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 06

Mapping a virtual numpad on the UHK

By |2020-07-10T10:19:19+00:002019-06-06 21:26|agent, features, howto|7 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.

As a last word, make sure you have Num Lock enabled, otherwise your numpad keys will function according to their bottom function, like Home instead of 7 and such. You can map Num Lock to any key of your UHK.

2018 Sep 13

Lunar UHKs, Unicorns, and the Freeze bug

By |2018-10-23T20:00:41+00:002018-09-13 22:37|agent, features, manufacturing, news, tech talk|0 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update!

TL;DR: Please update to the latest UHK firmware for macro support, and to help us fix the freeze bug that plagues recent firmware versions. Agent now visualizes secondary roles. We’ve churned out 6 mini batches since our last update. The development of the modules is going slowly while delivering the pre-orders, but we’ll switch to high-gear afterwards.

Update to the latest firmware!

If you’re reading this and already have your UHK, please flash the latest 8.4.5 firmware by selecting the .tar.bz2 file from the "Choose firmware and flash it" option in Agent > Firmware. This will result in many goodies over the factory-flashed 8.2.5 firmware, including macro support and numerous bug fixes.

The only gotcha is the freeze bug. Recent firmware versions cause occasional freezes on some UHKs. This is a longstanding bug, and the only reason we haven’t yet fixed it is because we can’t reproduce it. That’s why we need your help! The more people who use the most recent firmware, the easier we can fix the freeze bug based on your feedback.

If your UHK freezes, please be sure to report it according to the freeze bug issue. No worries, you can always downgrade to 8.2.5 to regain stability.

Fancy UHKs

If you’re a regular reader of our monthly updates then Max is no stranger to you, as he’s on a never ending quest to pimp his UHK. This time, he used the Godspeed Cockpit keycap set to customize his UHK and in his true style, he shared the gory details on Reddit.

In the same spirit, Richard was also busy, and ended up creating the most unicornish UHK with extra rainbow flavour!

Secondary role visualization in Agent

Dual-role keys are powerful. When tapping them they trigger their primary role. While holding them and pressing other keys, the secondary role kicks in. The UHK has always supported dual-role keys, but Agent hadn’t visualized them. Thankfully, this has just changed with Agent version 1.2.9.

Now Agent can render quite complex scenarios, such as a scancode featuring modifiers and a secondary role. This makes the rendering engine of Agent complete, so you can take a look at any layer and know exactly what each key does based on its visual representation.

As an added bonus, we’ve made modifiers show up according to your OS, so for example, Super is Command on OSX and it’s the Windows key on Windows.

Production progress

The 6 mini batches we have produced over the last month have not constituted our fastest pace, but they’re in line with our recent progress. Manufacturing progress occasionally suffers a bit due to a number of factors. For example, our palm rest supplier was on vacation recently, and had to catch up with production. Such cases only cause temporary hiccups, and they can occasionally affect the sizes of mini batches positively or negatively, but we always manage them quite well.

In the meantime, we’ve already pre-ordered the parts of the second large batch of UHKs. The first large batch contained 2,000 UHKs, and the second large batch contains 1,000 UHKs. We’re not VC-funded and fully rely on your support, so being able to pre-order the parts of a large batch is a big achievement for us. This means that production will be uninterrupted in the future, even after delivering the pre-orders. A sincere thank you to every one of our backers for making this huge milestone possible!

Development progress

As you can see, we keep pushing Agent and the firmware, but it’s quite a challenge to do heavy R&D these days because production and related tasks are so demanding.

Customer support is time consuming, as well as developing and fine-tuning backend systems. These tasks are not visible from the outside, but they’re absolutely necessary to keep things going.

Transitioning to our own webshop did end up heavily affecting our backend systems, including the integration and implementation of the webshop, factory automation, order fulfillment, and invoicing systems. Pre-ordering the parts of the second large batch also called for a procurement system which is up and running, but it has taken quite some time to set up.

Due to the above, we could only make a little progress with the modules. András has further refined their mechanical design, and will hand them off to a mold designer to finalize their mechanical features. I figured out how to optimally panelize their PCBs and factory-flash their firmware the most efficient way. We’re mindful about the modules, and will switch to high-gear once the delivery of the pre-orders is over.

Thank you for reading this update! We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and we’re looking forward to talking with you on 2018-10-12.