/dev/tty even more prototypes!

/dev/tty even more prototypes!

I just received a new batch of prototypes. These hopefully are the very last prototypes I’ll see before the pre-production samples.

We had some issues selecting the –hell too many– colors present in the /dev/tty set and that took more time than I anticipated. Also finding the right legend thickness took some trial and error but the manufacturer has been very helpful and I’m glad to let you know that everything is sorted out.

I’m possibly biased but these are the best keycaps ever produced on planet Earth.

All colors are finalized. Shape and surface texture are perfect. Legends are nice and crisp. Dye-sublimation job as sharp as it could be. Unfortunately I don’t have yet a full set to dress a keyboard, but what I see so far is enough to wet my pants.

And don’t think even for a second that “LUV” is an accident.

The bad news –but you already knew about it– is that we are at least 4 weeks behind. The good news is that the end of the tunnel is right there! Hold tight, Device Terminal is coming and there’s no dragonglass capable of stopping it!

PS: the “super” key in the picture above is the light blue, not the triumph teal.

/dev/tty prototypes take 1

/dev/tty prototypes take 1

It has been a quiet couple of months but the work on MT3 profile and /dev/tty keycaps is proceeding at a steady pace.

The first step was to 3D print a full set of keys to check the ergonomics of our new design. We made very few updates to make sure that everything was spot on and then we proceeded to production. What you see pictured here is the very first batch of PBT injected prototypes. They are not final by any means, the color is not finalized yet and we still have to work on the surface texture, but we are getting closer to the real deal and I wanted to share with you the progress.

Regarding the upgrades we did after the initial beta test, it’s mostly about row 1 and row 2. They now follow a more natural curve, but as you can see from the picture below the difference between before/after is minimal.

The white keycap is the previous 3D printed prototype. I’m really maniacal when it comes to my creations and I don’t settle for anything less than perfection (well, at least I’m striving to it).

The surface finish is still to be determined. Below a textured vs a smooth test.

The glossy one is actually really nice, it is very close to vintage keycaps and the nostalgia factor is strong. The final version will be satin on the sides and a little rougher on top. If you are familiar with the HHKB, that is more or less what we are aiming to in terms of surface finish.

Two rather difficult keys to sculpt were ISO Enter and stepped caps lock. The former came out simply delicious, if it weren’t PBT I would be probably eating it. ISO Enter is a bad beast, we could have done it in a dozen of different ways, but all in all it’s a fine looking key and I can call it final.

What next?

In the coming days I should receive a second batch of pre-production prototypes. This time we will be checking texture, legend printing and colors. If all goes smooth there shouldn’t be any delay. Stay tuned!

WhiteFox ♥ Kickstarter

WhiteFox ♥ Kickstarter

By now you should know that we were working hard to find new ways to release the WhiteFox.

Massdrop is a great platform with a huge user base but of course you have to compromise when dealing with big companies. BUT. The WhiteFox is our baby, Input Club and I felt that we couldn’t keep compromising and we needed a way to finally release our keyboard the way it was always meant to be.

So the time has finally come. We are releasing the WhiteFox our own, under our terms and with our very strict quality control. With Massdrop we lost control over the production process and we ultimately had to agree with certain company policies. This time the sky is the limit and hopefully with your help we’ll make the WhiteFox better than already is.

So. In less than an hour the project should be available on Kickstarter. While you wait let me illustrate the main difference with the previous releases.

First off the name of this new version is WhiteFox [Vera]. “Vera” means true, authentic in Italian, which seems appropriate.

Unfortunately only the True Fox layout will be available, as this is our first keyboard we are doing ourselves. We need to lower complexity and possible points of error especially in logistics. Bear in mind that we don’t have a huge company backing us now, so customer care and logistics is on us.

The recommended switches are the Halo True and Halo Clear. These are the most beautiful Cherry MX compatible switched ever created, designed by the overly talented and personal super hero Jacob Alexander himself. So with Vera you can not only benefit of the best custom keyboard layout, but also of the best custom switch. A standard clicky blue switch is also available and if you want something more exotic (green, gray, zealio, …) you can grab the “switch-less” option, but of course you’ll have to source and solder the switches yourself.

Stabilizers are now Cherry, mostly because they are easier to assemble. We had a lot of issues with Costar stabilizers in both production and assembly. I personally prefer the fragrance of Costar stabs, but we are playing it safe here, and have made sure that these Cherry stabilizers fit the keycap set perfectly.

The PCB has been updated to improve the design and solve small issues, particularly with static discharge. Together with an updated firmware we should be able to deliver a flawless experience.

The following is the NOT final list of keys that will ship with all WhiteFox Vera.

What about perks and stretch goals? Glad you asked. We have many ideas and at the top of the list there are special, new color options for the WhiteFox, but —and it’s a big “but”— we need to see how the Kickstarter campaign performs. If there’s a solid interest and we quickly reach our goal, there will be surely some pleasant surprise!

Nothing left to do other than wait a few minutes until the kickstarter page goes live. I even humiliated myself to the point of making a short video about this event. An edited version will be on the Kickstarter page, but this is the full shit, I hope you can appreciate the bravery :)

Video poster image

The WhiteFox shall run!

This is the post you didn’t want to read and the one they didn’t want me to write, but I owe you an update on the WhiteFox next drop, so here it comes. I won’t be able to tell you 100% what is going on, but please try to read between the lines.

Every marriage has its ups and downs and the WhiteFox is a menage a trois: Massdrop, Input Club, myself.

Massdrop is a huge platform. They are great people willing to release great products. They are probably doing more than any other company in this market and they are putting hard cash on the table, in advance, no question asked. Still, they are bullies.

Input Club is a small reality made by enthusiasts with a great vision. They don’t do it for the money or for the glory, they work on custom keyboards because they love them. They also believe in freedom of information, they release every of their creations under a very permissive open source license and in that we are kindred spirits. There’s something that I can totally relate to: you can’t ask an enthusiast to give up his/her work.

And then there’s Matt3o, your friendly neighbor. At this stage I’m mostly a spectator in this comedy. I created something that totally slipped out of my control and despite I imagined, named, designed the WhiteFox I have absolutely no saying in its future.

But you know what? I don’t care!

As long as we can keep improving it and releasing more of it, I don’t care who owns what. I don’t care if my name is before or after the others. I honestly don’t even care about the money, I just expect to be given what is fair so I can keep doing more things. Because it’s all about making more amazing stuff.

As of now we are in a sort of limbo waiting for people (all parties) to come to their senses and I’m a spectator as much as you all, guys.

So, when are we expected to see more WF?

I’m sure there will be more WhiteFox in our lives, I just don’t know when. The options are as follow: 1) the marriage is salvaged and we can probably have a new drop by the end of June; 2) we can’t keep working with Massdrop and we’ll try to manufacture the WhiteFox by some other means (kickstarter?!) pushing the next drop to the end of the year.

So from your point of view little changes. From my stand point, well, since all I want is to just make things, I will consider alternative ways for releasing new products in the future.

Sneak preview of the Black WhiteFox (aka NightFox)

Thanks for staying with me this far, stay tuned for more updates.

Impromptu MT3 profile hands on video

I just received the first full set of MT3 prototypes and I couldn’t hold myself, I had to show you the beauty of these things :) Bottom line is: they are better than I anticipated, and I’m usually very critical about my work.

Sorry for bad quality audio/video I just rushed it out.

Video poster image
About MT3 profile and /dev/tty set

About MT3 profile and /dev/tty set

By now you should know that I’m a retro-junkie. Signature Plastics SA keycaps are the closest we can ask to a vintage looking set but I’ve always seen it as an “hack”, not to mention that it is mostly an ABS set.

Few years ago Topre released the Hi-Pro keyboard which featured a wonderful set of high profile keycaps in a retrolucious beige colorway. I knew it had to be mine!

The keyboard was indeed sexy but the keycaps seemed still wrong, too high, too sharp and anyway still limited to topre switches. That got my maker-sense tickling and it is basically how the MT3 profile idea was born.

Continue reading…

High Contrast Granite

High Contrast Granite

Did you think Granite had nothing more to say? Well, think again :) With the collaboration of Signature Plastics I’m happy to announce the immediate availability of Granite High Contrast.

All kits from the previous batch of Granite are available in the new dark gray + white color scheme, including the international kit and monologends. Even better you can mix and match the new keycaps with any previous gray Granite you have: they go wonderfully together!

I hope you like them and Happy Holidays!

Go grab HC Granite!

Retro goes GMK!

Retro goes GMK!

Something I thought impossible just few years ago just became reality: Retro finally goes GMK and it’s ready to be purchased on Massdrop.

All started with DSA Retro. It was the first community organized group buy in DSA family. To tell all the truth Koreans had some DSA before us but it was limited to their market. DSA Retro was one of the most successful group buy of the time (we are talking 3-4 years ago). It was so popular in part because DSA was a novelty at the time, in part because we included a hell lot of options. It wasn’t so easy back then to cover less common or custom keyboards and Retro was basically compatible with all of them :)


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First steps in 3D printing with an Original Prusa i3 MK II

First steps in 3D printing with an Original Prusa i3 MK II

I’ve been skeptical about consumer grade 3d printers for long time. They were expensive, slow, required a lot of maintenance and quality was less than optimal. Things are moving rapidly, though and we’ve reached such a nice sweet spot between quality and price that I couldn’t simply resist the temptation.

First of all I had to understand if I wanted an FDM (fused deposition modeling) or SLA (stereolithography) printer. Without going too much into it, SLA generally produces higher definition prints but it is also more expensive to start with and maintain. You can find very cheap FDM instead and while the print quality is not as good, it is exceptional for quick prototyping. So FDM it is.

Only few months ago Prusa released the second generation of what is probably the most famous filament 3d printer in the DIY realm: the not-so-originally named Prusa i3 MK 2. It comes in kit or fully assembled, I was convinced to get an assembled one but it wasn’t available at the time so I went for the kit because “it can’t be that difficult, right?!”

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The cardboard keyboard case

The cardboard keyboard case

How much does a custom keyboard cost?

That is one of the most common questions I’m asked. There’s definitely a lot of interest around DIY keyboards and the main concerns are: 1) the technical/practical aspects, 2) costs.

Sometimes you just want to try an idea you have in your mind but you are not sure it is really going to work. Building a prototype may end up in the $150-200 range, but big part of the budget goes into the case.

Trying to cut prototyping expenses I wanted to test the feasibility of a cardboard case. Is it stiff enough? Do the switches fit nicely? Is the keyboard actually usable? Let’s go find out.

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