[Tinkerphones] [Arm-netbook] Future case idea: subnotebook/PDA with QWERTY keyboard

H. Nikolaus Schaller hns at goldelico.com
Sun Sep 4 20:03:09 CEST 2016

> Am 04.09.2016 um 18:16 schrieb Sam Pablo Kuper <sampablokuper at posteo.net>:
> N.B. I have cross-posted this email to the TinkerPhones mailing list,
> because it appeared to be relevant to both the TinkerPhones list and the
> arm-netbook list. I hope that this is considered acceptable by users of
> both lists. If not, please reply to let me know, and accept my apologies
> in advance. Thanks.

No problem, you are welcome!


> On 26/08/16 18:37, Sam Pablo Kuper wrote to arm-netbook at lists.phcomp.co.uk:
>> It would be great to have a housing for the EOMA68 that is of a similar
>> form factor to one of these devices:
>> - DragonBox Pyra [1]
>> - Openbox Pandora [2]
>> - HTC Universal [3]
>> or even:
>> - HTC Dream [4]
>> That is, an enclosure that can fit in a pocket, and has:
>> - Hardware QWERTY keyboard
> It might be naive of me, but my impression is that the hardest part of
> making a housing like this is probably getting the keyboard right. So
> many moving parts; such critical layout, tactility, and reliability
> requirements.
> I figure there are two broad satisfactory options:
> (1) Design and build keyboards using commonly available push-switches,
> combined with PCBs and housings made from designs released as Free
> Cultural Works.[0]

We did experiments some years ago with a PCB with Panasonic EVQPQ
click buttons soldered to it and a 3D printed keyboard...


Interest back then was not high enough... 2012 everyone wanted
to get rid of mechanical keyboards :)

And the key problem is the key (aka button).

Typically (OpenPandora, Pyra) one uses a silicon mat with specially designed
moulds and this needs someone to inject the plastics into the mould. This
is nothing for home-brewing (well, there had been 2 or 3 tinkerers over the
world who built their own hand operated injection machine before 3D printing
became dominant).

> (2) Use off-the-shelf standalone miniature keyboards, at least for
> prototyping.

A compromise could be to use the keymat and design your own (open source)

> Of these, (1) is preferable, but it appears to be the most work. The
> Pyra and Pandora projects presumably invested much effort into creating
> their keyboards. Sadly, they have not made the designs available as free
> cultural works, AFAIK. (Besides, if I were making my own, I'd probably
> want it to have NKRO, and to be able to be swapped out a bit like an
> EOMA-68 computing card, so that the user could easily slide out their
> QWERTY keyboard and replace it with a miniature version of the
> Stenoboard[1] or suchlike.)
> Therefore, in pursuit of (2), I made a spreadsheet with all the
> standalone miniature keyboards I could find, in the hope that one or
> more of them might be viable for cannibalising into an EOMA-68
> subnotebook/PDA case, at least for an early prototype.
> I don't currently know a good way to collaboratively edit spreadsheets
> using only free software. (Maybe use something like PySpread and put it
> in a Git repo? Or sign up to MyKolab? Anyhow, that's getting off
> topic...) So, I used Google Docs. Blech. Anyhow, you can access the
> sheet as a CSV file without having to run any JavaScript, let alone
> proprietary JavaScript:
> https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1PD_tAIW7cuiXEe97BrcIRBfF9Sbo07limynxEBhdp84/pub?gid=1098274215&single=true&output=csv
> If you want to view the sheet in your browser, then you can do that
> here, but this requires running proprietary JavaScript which, obviously,
> I don't recommend:
> https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1PD_tAIW7cuiXEe97BrcIRBfF9Sbo07limynxEBhdp84/pubhtml
> One striking thing about the current market for *miniature* standalone
> keyboards is that there's only *one* USB device I could find for sale:
> the CarTFT MiniKey. The others use Bluetooth or proprietary 2.4GHz radio
> for communicating with the host computer, and use USB only for charging
> a battery.
> 2.4GHz is often implemented with very poor security (see Samy Kamkar et
> al), and some Bluetooth keyboards have, at least in the past, also been
> prone to keysniffing and keystroke injection. Maybe that has improved
> since people like Mike Ossmann started alerting people to Bluetooth
> vulnerabilities, but suffice it to say that I have no interest in using
> a wireless keyboard.
> Sadly, the USB keyboard (the CarTFT MiniKey) doesn't look very
> user-friendly. It appears to have squishy keys, which in my experience
> give poor tactile feedback; and it lacks Esc, Ctrl, Alt and Tab keys,
> making it useless for Vim, Emacs, Bash, etc.
> I don't know how viable it is to convert one of the more fully-featured
> keyboards from wireless to USB (cabled) operation.
> ***Questions for the list:***
> - Are you aware of anyone having successfully converted a miniature
> wireless keyboard into a wired USB keyboard?
> - Do you know of any existing designs for miniature USB keyboards that
> are partly or completely Free Cultural Works (e.g. that provide KiCAD
> and/or OpenSCAD files under a GPL license)?

We never finished the above mentioned design so there was no publication
of results (publishing half baked things is usually not worth doing it and is better
copied to /dev/null).

> Please post links/info if so.
> ***
> Thanks!
> [0] http://freedomdefined.org/
> [1] http://stenoboard.com/
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