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More PCBWay Boards

I’ve been working on a number of projects the past few months, and many of them require custom printed circuit boards. A few weeks ago as I was finishing up the design of a new board I got an email from the crew at PCBWay. (You might remember that I had boards made by them a few years ago.)

As luck would have it I was just exporting some Gerber files so the timing was great! I got my boards created by PCBWay and they arrived about two weeks ago. It took me a bit of time to wrap other projects and get things soldered up and programmed, but the boards worked great. Often you don’t get PCBs right the first time, but luckily all my connections were fine (It’s a fairly simple board) but there are a few things I might want to change about the dimensions and the mounting holes.

I’ve been using this as a supplemental USB keyboard. For testing I’ve programmed it to be function keys F13 through F20 (which can then be assigned to key commands for certain applications, like OBS: Open Broadcaster Software.) I’ve also set it up as a MIDI device to trigger sound effects using my SoundProp application. It can also serve as a toggle for your mic and camera in videoconferencing software like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc. It’s pretty robust in its capabilities.

I still need to finish up an enclosure for it, and then do more rigorous testing, but so far the boards and functionality have been great. (If there’s interest in these devices, I’ll probably drop a few into the Etsy Shop.)

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Software Release Button

release-button-01

Launching a ship is exciting! Maybe that ship is a rocket ship, or maybe it’s a traditional ship which floats in the water. When launching a ship there’s often a ceremony involving some champagne and pageantry and a party and it’s quite an event. (I’ve been to at least one boat launch, so I know what I’m talking about!)

When you launch a new version of your software, it’s not quite as exciting. I mean, it is, but in a different way. Sure, twenty years ago there was probably a lot of excitement around master discs and packaging and all that, but in 2019 with most software delivered as a service, it’s not much more than someone typing a few commands, clicking a mouse, and pressing the enter key. Not as exciting.

But! Some software company decided to make it exciting, and they asked me to help. They’ve now got a “Software Release Device” that they can connect to a computer, then turn the key to enable the device (which turns on a lamp letting them know it’s ready) and then they can switch between mouse and keyboard and hit the big read button to launch the latest version of their software to the world. Exciting!

release-button-02

They made it pretty easy for me, as they specified most of the parts for the build. The lamp was meant to run on 24VDC but luckily it was just a matter of cutting open the housing, replacing some resistors, and gluing it all back together to get it to run on 3.3VDC, and it looks really nice.

If you’re interested in some sort of custom USB device, let me know… I’d love to build something for you.

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Button Guard

Button Guard

While plenty of people tend to print baubles and trinkets with 3D printers, I tend to focus on solving problems by designing and printing usable things. A few weeks ago I designed these Lenovo IdeaCentre Power Brick Mounts and this week I created some button guards.

Button Guard

I was working on an audio player at the museum and Kathy mentioned that it was too easy to lean back and hit your head on a button which would either restart your book, or start another book, so I made this simple guard to put on the buttons before screwing them into place. Luckily we had filament that matched the color of the enclosure, so it looks pretty good.

Button Guard

If you’re using any of these buttons and need a guard, check out Thingiverse or Youmagine. The OpenSCAD code is fairly simple, so it should be possible to modify it for other buttons if needed.

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Sparkbooth – Button Renaming

Dropping this here so I remember and so I can point people her if needed…

Sparkboth - View Settings

In Sparkbooth (v3) you can change the text that appears on screen. For instance you can change the word “spacebar” to “button” if you need to.

Sparkbooth Settings

Once you click the settings icon, go under General to On-Screen Messages.

Sparkbooth - Push The Button

Change what you want to change… Done!

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Sunday Soldering


Buttons

Today’s Maker Business involved some early morning soldering. (What else would I do at 7am?) Next up is programming, and then I need to drill out all the enclosures. (I’m hoping to do that later in the day.)

Oh, I also built a spray booth this weekend since I’ll be doing a bunch of spray painting. (We also use spray glue in the basement, and this should make that a little less messy.)