One of the many little hobbies I’ve picked up over the years is mechanical keyboard building and programming. I was originally interested in programming Arduino microcontrollers, and was excited to see that people were using small arduinos to make keyboards that have all sorts of secret programmable features (and really nice buttons). Over the years I’ve put together a small but nice collection of mechanical keyboards in different shapes and sizes. I’m using an especially weird one to write this post today.
The Planck Light was listed on Massdrop almost a year ago as an ortholinear backlight portable ultralight fully programmable mechanical keyboard. The drop had some major issues. The boards came functional but lacking bootloaders. That meant that, while they could be used, they could not be customized. The stabilizer on the spacebar was also not perfect, and I found myself wanting to reprogram the board to move the spacebar over to one of the function key spots. Today, I received a programmer from Massdrop that let me flash a new bootloader onto the board, fixing this problem. I’m also going to solder two regular size switches in place of the current defunct spacebar. These issues taken care of, I think that the board will actually be a very pleasant daily driver. The ortholinear layout takes some getting used to, but it’s nothing I won’t be able to adjust to over time.
Programming this little board can be challenging, so I figure I’ll post a very quick outline of how it’s done.
- Clone the QMK repository from Github. QMK firmware is the best available for mechanical keyboards these days.
- Navigate to the keyboard subfolder of choice and dive into a layout subfolder, usually the default one
- Make a copy of the original layout files for safekeeping, then make tweaks to the layout as necessary. QMK documentation is great for figuring out tricky commands such as backlight control or audio. Below is a screenshot of a piece of my current layout.
- In terminal, navigate to the QMK folder and type
make keyboard/subkeyboard:layout. If you have all the necessary dependencies installed (a process expedited by the QMK toolbox program, if I recall) the firmware should be built up leaving a .hex file in the base QMK directory.
- Use QMK Toolbox to flash the firmware. This will usually require resetting the keyboard into DFU mode either by pushing a hardware button or a certain combination of keys. Be sure to select the proper microcontroller. My Planck Light uses the 1286 microcontroller shown selected in the image below.
And there you have it! Programming the Planck Light. I can write a quick post about flashing the bootloader with Massdrop’s programmer if it would be helpful to anyone else out there, but to be honest it’s really a one shot deal so I don’t think it’s worth my time to make a record of it for my own future use. For now keep an eye out for more keyboard posts in the future, you two people who Google tells me found my site so far.comments powered by Disqus