Software Release Button


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!


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.


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.


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!


Sunday Soldering


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.)


Maker Business – Begin

2XL Networks

You may or may not know that I’ve run a company for the past 8 years or so, and while our primary business has been related to web development and services, we’re looking at branching out a bit, driven by the fact that more and more I seem be getting requests to help build, or just straight out sell, a button.

There’s a page over on the Sparkbooth site about USB Button Keyboard Replacements that has a number of solutions, and mentions a few of my blog posts, so based on this, I’ll be building a bunch of buttons and putting them up for sale.

I don’t have a ton of experience selling physical products (though I did silk screen shirts and sell those years ago) but I’m going to be jumping into this, and we’ll see where it goes.

I’m not ready to become the next Adafruit Industries or Makerbot, but I’ll be writing up my experiences dabbling in the area of being a “Maker Business” and besides those two companies (which I admire) I’ll be looking at others, and hey look, this piece about Ten Rules for Maker Businesses has some advice for me, so I’ll be using it as a bit of a guide.

  1. Make a profit.
  2. It takes lots of cash to stay in stock.
  3. Buy smart.
  4. Basic business rules still apply.
  5. You get no leeway for being a maker.
  6. Be as open as you can.
  7. Create a community to support and enhance your products.
  8. Design for manufacturability.
  9. Marketing is your job.
  10. Your second most important relationship is with your package carrier.

OK, let’s get started! I won’t tackle all of these in this post, but we’ll start with #1: Make a profit.

Yeah! Money… it’s great! But seriously folks, I’m not in this to make a big pile of money, but I’m also not in this to lose money, or just break even. In my original post about the button I outlined all the parts used, and provided the code. My hope was that others who wanted to make one could, and some have, but there are a bunch people who either just want a final product that “just works” or want someone else to do the “hard work” of soldering and programming. I can handle that…

As for the actual pricing of the product, my initial estimate (before I even read the rule of 2.3x) was pretty darn close. Setting prices can be hard, but I’ve become a firm believer that charging too little is an idea that will do more bad than good in the long run. Yes, some people will think it’s overpriced, but they are more than welcome to buy another product or make their own. I’ve even provided all the info needed for people to make their own. (Yeah, you could mention something about open source hardware here if you’d like.)

So in this whole “experiment” I’ll keep in mind that I need to make a profit. I’ve got no plans to get rich from this endeavor, but if I’m lucky, I’ll provide people with something they want at a reasonable price.

This should be interesting…

(See all the posts in this series: Begin, Stock, Buy Smart, Basic Rules, No Leeway, Be Open, Community, Manufacturability, Marketing, Shipping, Lessons Learned, The Real Costs.)