dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

This is a quick post to record the changes I needed to make to the Bluetooth driver for an Edimax EW-7611ULB wifi & bluetooth usb dongle to get the bluetooth working on the (currently) new Raspberry Pi 4.9.11 kernel. Hopefully it can help anyone else using this adapter when they upgrade their Raspberry Pi.

The original instructions and source for installing the drivers for this adapter are published by Edimax themselves at: https://edimax.freshdesk.com/support/solutions/articles/14000047172-how-to-install-ew-7611ulb-adapter-on-raspberry-pi - but they currently cover installing the drivers for a Raspberry Pi running kernel 4.4. The wifi driver installation documented by Edimax works fine. There is one minor modification to the bluetooth driver source code required so that it will compile properly due to kernel api changes in kernel version 4.9 for the HCI driver interface.

In Section "(II.) Bluetooth Driver Installation", before running "sudo make install -s", you need to edit the file bluetooth_usb_driver/rtk_coex.c. At line 448, change

	bt_cb(skb)->req.start = true;
	bt_cb(skb)->hci.req_start = true;
	bt_cb(skb)->req.start = true;
	bt_cb(skb)->hci.req_flags |= HCI_REQ_START;
	bt_cb(skb)->hci.req_start = true;
Save the change, and then continue with the instructions by running the "sudo make install -s" command.

Otherwise, follow the instructions on the Edimax link to get both wifi and bluetooth working properly with this adapter on the Raspberry Pi.

dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

The new Rheumatologist was utterly unhelpful - ignored previous test results confirming Small Fibre Neuropathy, asked questions then wouldn't let me answer them, abused me for taking too many medications for the pain SFN was causing, then having ignored the abnormal SFN test results said that there was no evidence at all that there was anything actually wrong with me and therefore I should stop the treatment I was already on as she doubted it was doing anything for me anyway. She left me feeling like I had been treated as though she thought I was making everything up to get access to pain medication.

My existing Rheumy was appalled.

That leaves me with no treatment to slow/stabilise the rate of nerve damage...and my understanding is that any nerve damage that is more than about 2 months old is permanent. The wait for that appointment with its completely unhelpful outcome used up my 2 months grace that might have saved my ability to walk without needing crutches. So now I find myself having to accept that the state I am in now will be the best I can hope for going forward.

Read more... )
dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

I don't know if there is anyone following this other than my best friends, but if anyone else stumbles across these posts please know that you are welcome - and I hope you don't end up with the amount of trouble I'm experiencing.

I've been using crutches since early August, because the pain in my feet by the end of the day had reached severe migraine levels. It had reached the point that I couldn't really walk without aid anymore. I got a snazzy set of "SmartCrutch" crutches, which were adjustable in the angle of the arm section, so I could rotate them up to horizontal and put my weight through my forearm/elbow instead of through my hand. I also added a loop to both crutches so that I could lift the crutch with my arm instead of having to do it with my hands. The crutches have helped significantly - but they are a total nuisance when it comes to anything like shopping, carrying a drink, etc. In order to get my morning chai, I've had to get up a lot earlier for work in the morning, so that I could sit at the chai place to drink it...no more drinking it while walking to work. It's often a little too hot to drink right away, so I had to factor that time in too. But it was working ok for me.

It's also been useful on public transport. People can see that I need a seat, and have been very kind about helping me with things like lifts, doors, etc. Heavy doors that you need to open towards yourself are bloody difficult. The door at work is one of those...opening it to get out is no problem because I just have to lean against it. Opening it to enter is harder - it's almost knocked me off my feet a few times. I've learned to use the foot of my crutches to jam it in place so I can get in.

My Rheumatologist has referred me to another Rheumatologist at one of the major teaching hospitals here. His hope is that I can get access to the biological medication "Rituximab". It isn't approved for use with Sjogren's here, so he couldn't give it to me himself (too expensive without approval). The first appointment with the new Rheumatologist is on the 12th Sept. It will have been less than two months between when I saw my current Rheumy and when I finally get to see the new one - which is a remarkably short time. I was still walking without the crutches when I saw my current Rheumy...and I'm scared that by the time any immune-suppressant treatment is started it will be too little, too late.

I've been worrying that I'll be in a wheelchair by Christmas if nothing is done to stop it before then. My pain specialist has added an oral form of lidocaine ("Mexilitin") to everything else I've been using to try to get the foot pain under control. I'm still on a very low dose of that (titrating it up slowly), and have noticed no benefit or side effects from it at all yet. I'm finding it hard to wait for that September appointment.

Yesterday, I really needed a wheelchair.

I didn't have one, of course. But even with the crutches, getting up to go to the toilet was triggering migraine-level (7-8/10) pain in my feet. I caught a taxi to the station in the morning, because pain was already increasing significantly. When I got to the city, the two major blocks walk seemed endless - particularly the uphill part at the end. I couldn't detour to get chai - if I did, I would have been stuck there unable to walk any further. All day, people at work kindly made me cups of tea, refilled my water-bottle when it got empty, got me lunch from the local SpudBar, and did pretty much anything they could to help. I was ok when sitting quietly for a while, with my feet hooked back under the seat so that the lip of my sheepskin boots was caught on the ground and the weight of my feet/legs was hanging on the front of my feet instead of my soles/heels. Mind you, "ok" was still a 4/10 pain level. At the end of the day, I was leaving at the same time as someone else from work, and they hailed a taxi for me from the taxi rank around the corner from work so I could catch a taxi for those 2 blocks back to the station. Walking them was simply unthinkable.

It's all so variable. The day before, I almost didn't need the crutches at all. The day before that, pain was bad but not at migraine levels. I can only hope that yesterday was a flare that will settle back in a few days...but past history shows that this is a slim hope.

It leaves me wondering whether those few months I thought I had before needing a wheelchair will turn out to be only a few days? Will I have deteriorated far enough that I'll be in a wheelchair before I get to see the new Rheumatologist in September?

dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

A pox on this stuff!

For the last 1.5-2 months, I've been using the Lidocaine patches on my feet at night, because it would stop the broken-bone type ache in my heels caused by my heels touching the top of the mattress. But during the day, the pain in my feet had been getting so bad I was struggling to walk at all by the end of the work day. So last night/today I switched them over to using the patches on my feet during the day. I reasoned that I could go back to using my cushion under my calves at night, so losing the ability to walk was the more pressing problem to solve.

And it worked! I did get the beginning of a late-afternoon pain escalation, but it settled back down again. I was able to walk freely to the station, and still able to walk freely to the car at the other end. Yay!

Everything went well...until I went to bed. I will admit that it took an hour or so to build (mostly because I felt the bed was cold to begin with I think), but the cushion under my calves set my calves off (giving me a new description of burning to add to my list - being boiled in oil - it's hotter and "stickier/thicker" than just boiling water). Getting warm triggered off some scalding pain on chin, forehead, back of neck & back of the shoulders - pains I'd been trying not to "notice" or acknowledge for the last few weeks in the hope that they would go away or that I was imagining them. The pain is enough to make me headachy and nauseas.

So I've taken additional 50mg of Tramadol, in the hope that it can get things to settle down enough so that I can get some sleep tonight.

I have a phrase from the soundtrack of "Return to the Forbidden Planet" stuck revolving in my head right now - "I can't win either way!". lol


I woke up this morning with a potential solution to the problem. I usually cut the patches for my feet into 6 sections (3 per foot) - one each for under the ball of my foot, under the heel of my foot, and one wrapping around the back of the heel. What I really need during the day is the 2 pieces that go under the foot. What I need at night is the strip around the back of the heel. So instead of using all 3 pieces at once, I'll split my usage so that I use the strip around the heel at night and the other 2 pieces during the day. That way I should be able to avoid using the cushion that sent my calves nuts last night.

dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

Well...it's been an increasingly challenging few months since my last post. I'll apologize in advance for this post rambling around somewhat. I tend to use these to help work out how I feel about things that are complex issues in my life, and I feel like I'm facing another of those "oh crap, now what" chronic pain/disability issues - this time with mobility.

Assorted ramblings about mobility and pain... )
dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

Last time I posted it was immediately after the attempt at a Ketamine infusion. I did at least have lower pain for the 2 weeks following it - but not enough to drop out any medications. I saw my Pain Management specialist about 3 weeks later, and he decided to increase the Duloxetine to the normal theraputic dose of 60mg/day. He also suggested that some Lidocaine patches might be able to help, and gave me a prescription to get some to test.

Since then, pain has been mostly stable. I've been able to drive with the steering wheel merely causing discomfort - and not escalating over time as I drove. I've been able to do most normal activities without too many issues (apart from the "stand-up get-dizzies"). But I still haven't been able to use a computer mouse (I tried - it only took about 2 minutes for my palm to catch fire), and carrying things when shopping (like a couple of spools of thread!) also sets my palms burning and fingertips feeling mashed/bruised. I have to be careful holding my husband's hand when we're out - the outside of my index finger starts getting chilli-burned within a few seconds, so I've learned to pull my index finger out on top of his hand instead of clasping it around/in his hand. That finger seems to be ultra-sensitive to touch.

I did go and see a Neurologist. He was intrigued by the puzzle of what had been happening (and the huge bundle of documentation my Rheumy had sent him) and decided it was worthwhile to do a few new tests. In his opinion, the most common cause of neuropathy in women my age is due to MS, and as my cousin actually has MS he wanted to rule that out. He was also not sure that the neuropathy is being caused by Sjogren's - because (in his words) "the people with Sjogren's that I've seen previously had both large and small fibre nerve damage". Apparently there is one test available in Australia for testing for small fibre neuropathy - the Qualitative Sensory Test (QST), so he wanted me to go for that too.

When the Neurologist's test results came back, the MRIs absolutely proved that there was no demyelenation occurring - so I definitely do NOT have MS. The QST test came back with sensory anomalies - loss of temperature sense in the foot tested, and loss of vibrational sense in the hand tested. The results were consistent with a length-dependent small fibre neuropathy...and the Neurologist couldn't drop me fast enough after confirming that diagnosis, since there was absolutely nothing he could do to help me. He's passed me back to my Rheumy, with a suggestion for a few additional tests if they hadn't already been done to rule out there being some cause other than the Sjogren's for the SFN. I really do think it unlikely that they will find something else...I've tested as dead-centre of the normal range for glucose tolerance (absolutely not diabetic), I'm not coeliac (though I am severely wheat-intolerant...but rye and barley are fine), I don't drink, I don't have hepatitis, etc. That rules out most of the other potential causes...

When I saw my Pain Management Specialist at the end of Jan, he proposed trying to increase the Duloxetine to 90mg since the 60mg had stabilized things. To do that, I needed to drop my use of Tramadol - but he suspected that with the Duloxetine interfering with the Tramadol, Tramadol wouldn't be doing much anymore anyway. I initially tried to do it straight out...and 36hrs later had severe skin pain that felt like what had happened in the Ketamine infusion, just not quite as intense. I figured it was a withdrawal reaction, and went back to the previously stable doses. Then I talked with my GP about how to properly taper off the Tramadol so that I could try increasing the Duloxetine safely. As I tapered it off, I noticed a definite increase in pain, in a dose-related pattern. The final week while I stabilised on the lower dose before increasing the Duloxetine (so that I knew any bad reactions were due to Duloxetine and not to the lower doses of Tramadol), the pain was very noticeable...so I decided it was a good time to test the Lidocaine patches. They managed to make my hands feel like "normal" hands at the end of the day, so they most definitely DID help! They also cost $160 for 30 patches, and a single patch could only be used for 2-3 days. Still, it made it possible to get through the last couple of work days for that week.

Then I tried increasing the Duloxetine. With the initial increase (and much less strongly, the original dose) there was a noticeable effect within the first couple of days, and it increased in effectiveness over the first week. With the increase from 60mg to 90mg...there was no noticeable improvement, and in fact the pain in my hands deteriorated daily. When the touch-sensitivity of my hands reached the point that tying my hair back first thing in the morning caused 6/10 level pain - with mornings being normally the best time of the day for me! - I called the increase a failure and reverted back to the Tramadol + 60mg Duloxetine that had been working and holding stable (as had been discussed with my Pain Management specialist prior to making the trial).

I'm still holding relatively stable with the Lyrica + Tramadol + 60mg of Duloxetine, but there has been a minor increase in overall "reactivity" of my hands to random touch. I've had a few more days where I needed additional Tramadol to deal with break-through pain, and have used another lidocaine patch when things were getting nasty. I'm still stable...but not as good as I was prior to testing increasing the Duloxetine. My fear is that the severity is still slowly ticking up underneath the current medications, and that sometime soon they'll fail to be enough to keep it under control. I try not to dwell on that though...and focus on enjoying what I have while I still have it.

dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

Yesterday, I was preparing to go for an 8h Ketamine infusion to try to reduce the pain I'd been getting from Small Fibre Neuropathy.

Today, I learned that I'm one of very few people on the planet that don't tolerate Ketamine. It doesn't bring pain relief - it brings agony.

The day started out ok. Got in on time, nurses were chatty and humourous, they managed to get the drip into a vein easily the first time, etc. Everything was looking ok.

When the drip started, I could feel the dizziness and double vision as it first hit. I was expecting those though, so didn't worry about it. What I didn't expect was the heat flowing up my arm, and the headache that felt just a shade off from the start of a migraine. I told them about the headache, and they gave me some panadol for it, and slowed down the increase in ketamine until it settled.

As they started increasing it again, they were talking about how I should be feeling less pain now. I was confused because I wasn't - my skin all over felt hot and stinging, and my pain had increased compared to when I'd arrived. I could feel the anaesthetic part of the ketamine, but the burning floated on the top, almost as if by numbing other parts, the skin nerves were left firing on their own. Everywhere was hot and stinging - scalp, face, neck, shoulders, back, chest, etc. Even the roof of my mouth was hot and stinging. It also hadn't helped my hands - the burning in those felt intensified instead of numbed. Still, it wasn't unmanageable, so when they asked I told them that my pain levels had increased to about a 6 (was a 3 when we started), and that the nerve endings all over felt hot.

Infusion continued for a while longer. Heat built, until I felt that I was lying in a bathtub of boiling water - I was trying not to writhe in the agony. I called them over, and we stopped the infusion entirely and called the Pain Management doc. With the infusion stopped, the pain dropped back to more normal levels over about a 45 minute period.

When the pain doc arrived, he conferred with the nurses about what had happened. They usually do the ketamine infusion with a magnesium infusion at the same time (because ketamine can apparently deplete magnesium). He'd never heard of the kind of reaction I'd had before from ketamine, but he did know that magnesium can make someone feel hot. His suspicion was that the magnesium was the problem, I'd also had past history with issues with magnesium supplements, so we made the decision to try again with just ketamine this time.

This time, it didn't create a line of fire heading up my arm, nor the hot poker headache. I thought that a much better start. Nausea if I moved my head was back, but if I just kept it upright and still would fade to nothing. Again, I could feel the numbing on tongue, and if I touched my phone I couldn't feel the phone - but I could still feel the stinging burn in my palms as if I'd tripped on gravel, and some heat-rash pain in the legs/feet - stuff I'd arrived with in the morning and that had been intensified a little with the first attempt. It was odd to feel numb but still hurting, but it did feel slightly better, so I thought it'd probably respond as the dose got up.

I got to about the same level/dose of ketamine as I had in the morning. Nurse was looking my way when the pain hit. Over the course of a few seconds, I went from a 2-3 in pain to a 9. I felt like I'd just been dropped in a tub of boiling water again, everything burned, and she came over to check what had just happened. When I gasped out what was going on, she stopped the infusion again, and we called both the Pain specialist to let him know that the morning's problem had reoccurred, and my husband to come and bring me home.

It was worth trying it, and I'm not sorry to have done so, but it's not something that my screwed up body can tolerate. I can still feel a little of the echoing burn across the back of my neck/shoulders (places where I hadn't felt burning prior to today). I'm disappointed in the outcome - it would have been nice to have an improvement for over Christmas.

dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

This year (after almost 23 years of health issues), I was diagnosed with the auto-immune condition "Sjogren's Syndrome". Usual symptoms include dry eyes & mouth, fatigue and muscle pain. In addition, about 20% of people with Sjogren's end up developing (or even starting with) some form of peripheral neuropathy.

In my case, I am one of the 20%. I've got Small Fibre Neuropathy, affecting my feet and legs (up to the groin), and hands and forearms (up to the elbow). There's also been some odd sensations on the face at times (dentist-injection-like numbness/tingling), and having had years of the "stand-up-get-faint-dizzies" and gut trouble I've got some suspicions that there is also some autonomic neuropathy there too. While I've had nerve conduction tests, I haven't actually seen a neurologist yet...but I do have an appointment for mid-January so I'll finally be seeing someone soon.

I've read descriptions online of "burning pain"...and just calling it "burning" doesn't really touch the surface of it. In the last 12 months, I've learned that there are a huge multiple of different types of burning. With Small Fibre Neuropathy, you get to experience it in a multitude of ways. From my experience so far, there's been:

  • Standing in a bathtub of water that was too hot
  • Scalded/steam-burned
  • Heat rash
  • Branded by a hot oven pan
  • Sunburn
  • Ropeburn
  • Carpetburn
  • Chilli-on-the-lips burn
  • Held-ice-for-too-long cold-burn
  • Touch of an open flame on the skin
  • The feel that your skin is melting and dripping like wax down your legs
  • Fell over and skidded on asphalt abrasion/stinging/burn
  • Bruised/mashed
  • Scrubbed with a scrubbing brush to remove engine grease
  • Abraded
  • Sanded (as in someone used sandpaper on your hands to rub the skin off)
  • Tingling
  • Prickling
  • Crawling
  • Stinging
  • Slapped

It's very common to be experiencing several of those in different parts all at the same time, for example at the moment the edges of my palms are skidded on asphalt, the backs of my hands are sanded, my hands overall are stinging, several fingertips are bruised/mashed, my feet are prickling/crawling/scalded, my lower legs are stinging/scalded, my knees are sanded/scalded. To say it's uncomfortable to deal with is to grossly understate the issue!

There's some things I'm grateful for. The soles of my feet are currently still ok. They're tingling, but I can stand and walk without triggering nerve pain in my feet. I know that's not always the case. My GP/Rheumatologist/Pain Management specialists all believe me - it helps that my bloodwork screams Sjogren's, and that the progression for the nerve pain has followed one of the typical Sjogren's neuropathy patterns. I understand what is happening and why - it'd be worse if I was getting this pain and had no idea what was causing it. And I have a superbly compassionate husband who is doing the best he can to help (despite having Fibromyalgia himself), and a job in a workplace that is willing to help make sure I can still work. I've been able to tolerate the medications attempted so far with few side-effects (mainly mid-afternoon sleepies, and constipation).

On the other side...the pain in my hands is a huge problem. Worse far than in my feet & legs was. You have to use your hands for everything. I can't hold a computer mouse anymore (so my custom-built gaming keypad isn't much use for gaming at the moment). Even using a pen can be hard. I'm still able to type...but mainly because I type on my fingernails. The palm rests on the keyboard cause a lot of asphalt-scraped pain. Holding a steering wheel to drive causes the pain levels to climb. Even holding my phone to read a book becomes a problem by the evening. There's no cure and no way to slow/stop my immune system's attack on my own nerves (though there's interesting experiments with IVIG/Benlysta/Rituxan/Interferon Alpha happening in the US). And my body keeps throwing off the benefits of new medication or increased doses of existing medication within about 2 weeks of the addition.

So far, I've tried:

  • Lyrica - I'm currently on the max dose (600mg/day)
  • Tramadol - I'm also currently on 300-400mg/day (max is 400mg/day)
  • Duloxetine - 30mg/day (newly added 2.5 weeks ago...it gave me some peace for 1.5 weeks and then the pain started breaking through again).

That's for the nerve pain itself. On top of that, I'm on Celebrex and Plaquenil for the inflammatory side of Sjogren's, and Norethisterone for hormonal issues. From taking nothing most days 12 months ago, it's expanded to taking a whole lot of stuff every day. Due to the Sjogren's, I can't really take the tricyclic antidepressants that would normally be the first-line medications to try - they're too drying when I'm dry enough already that I often cannot swallow without taking a sip of water or eating something very slimy.

But the pain is still increasing. Steadily. Inexorably. Relentlessly. This year has felt like that image from Alice Through the Looking Glass where the Red Queen was running frantically just to stay in the same spot. I feel like we've been racing with medications to keep just ahead of the point where my hands become unusable. I know that point - I actually did reach it briefly earlier in the year. I don't want to return to it if I can avoid it.

My Pain Management specialist wants to look at whether modifying my car could reduce the pain from holding the steering wheel when driving. I'd personally prefer he just reduced my pain, and left my car alone.

He is trying that too. I'm booked in to go in for an 8hr Ketamine infusion tomorrow. The hope is that it'll reduce the volume on the pain enough to allow reducing my current medications - so that when it increases again, there's actually something that can be done. I've tried searching online to see if people have had any success with that...but there's not all that many personal accounts related to the type of neuropathy that I've got. Which is why I decided that I owed it to the next poor soul that was searching for the same information to write about my experiences.

My fear is that, because the nerve pain is coming from actual damage still occurring as my immune system attacks my nerves, the Ketamine will turn out to be an expensive waste of time. Or possibly worse - it works for ~2 weeks (like everything else so far has), then fails again - I cannot afford to go back for treatment every 2 weeks! But I felt it important to actually try it - because if it does work, it may buy me up to 6 months to find an alternative...or to repeat it, so I can keep functional enough to stay working while waiting for a better long-term solution to be found. Given 5 years, 10 years, my hope is that some of those interesting trials I've been reading about will have been successful enough to become an approved medication for my Sjogren's and will stop the immune attack on the nerves - allowing them to heal and cutting the pain off at the true source. I just need to be able to hold out until such a time arrives.

dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

I'm sitting here tonight trying to come to terms with the progressive loss of ability to use my hands. It doesn't seem like such a big thing...the only real issue is the misreporting of touch sensation, so that instead of feeling touch, I feel fire and abrasion. They work perfectly fine...it just becomes progressively more than I can bear to continue to use them.

General ramblings as I try to put my thoughts in order... )
dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

One UI to rule them all
One UI to bind them
One UI to grind them all
And in it's brightness, blind them.

I don't know what has gotten into the collective consciousness of people directing "modern UI design", but in my opinion they pretty much all need to pull their head out of the clouds and actually think about the effects of their design choices on their customers.

Windows 10, and Android Lollipop are two classic examples of problematic UI designs. They feature lots of stark, bright white all over the screen - windows, notifications, settings pages, etc. As someone who is both prone to migraines, and has an autoimmune disease that makes my eyes light sensitive, those bright-white screens cause me continual, severe, physical pain. I'm not alone either...there's a significant segment of their users that experience these issues. Just look at google, and you'll find numerous complaints matching mine. In both Android and Windows, I as a user have been locked out of changing the system UI theme to one that doesn't cause pain.

Torture: (from Merriam-Webster)
: the act of causing severe physical pain as a form of punishment or as a way to force someone to do or say something
: something that causes mental or physical suffering : a very painful or unpleasant experience

Now, I don't know the motivations behind why those choices were made. I've heard people (not the designers) say things like "but that's their creative vision, so just get used to it". Here's the thing - I don't care about "creative vision" when that vision inflicts needless pain. It is the height of arrogance - and ego - to say to someone "your real, physical pain is immaterial compared to my creative vision, so put up with it". Torturing a segment of your customers just to satisfy your own ego, is NOT an example of good UI Design or good business practice.

Another argument given is to "just turn your brightness down on your monitor". My monitor is already at the absolute minimum brightness setting. Despite that, simply opening the Windows 10 Settings screen (the Control Panel replacement) still physically feels like I've just been punched in both eyes. I can't turn the screen down any further - there is no lower setting I can use to reduce the physical pain it causes.

Hand in hand with that is the lack of customizability. Given an option, I'd simply alter the system's primary colour themes to dark versions, and everything would be ok then (yes, I know there's a registry hack to switch to a broken dark theme where black titles and buttons appear on almost-black backgrounds, making the dark theme unusable anyway). However, along with the arrogance of believing that their creative vision would be perfect for everyone, was the laziness of not being bothered to provide the ability to modify it if it didn't suit. I've written software myself, and I do understand that it's much easier to just hardcode values rather than provide theming capability...easier, and lazier. It is abysmal that in the chase for "clean and modern UI designs" they have lost view of the fact that it is impossible to create a UI that will be perfect for everyone. Customizability is key to allowing people to adjust the UI to suit themselves. The trend for lack of customization is the modern version of Henry Ford's "you can have any colour you want, so long as it's black" - but with far less excuse for the restriction, and it is just as wrong.

So why don't I just use something else? In the case of Android there is very little else I could use without losing warranty or actual functionality on the phone. I DID used to use a linux phone (with supplier-provided root access!) until it got old and died. I'd still do so now, if the company that produced them hadn't started with this same "one best UI for everyone" nonsense and killed the linux phones entirely. Android is the closest I can get - and for me it's becoming less and less usable as they try to "make it better". The alternatives though are in my opinion even worse. For Windows...I could drop back to Windows 7 - and lose future security updates, and have to come back to Win 10 eventually anyway (only having to pay extra to do so at a later date). My Windows machine is my gaming machine (I use linux for all the others)...and far too many game developers choose to use Windows-only libraries when building their games. This leaves me with the choice of either changing to linux and not being able to play the games I built this computer specifically to be able to play, or having to put up with the physical pain that Microsoft has chosen to inflict as a side effect of their locked, bright-white theme.

Changing to linux isn't a cure-all either...the same kinds of "our creative vision is more important than usability of the interface" has been pretty dominant over the last few years there too. From the introduction of Unity in Ubuntu (no-one ever uses menus so we'll remove them all), to the poor handling of dual screens, or of large screens (I'm using 27"/30" screens at home, and moving window menus to the top bar a LONG way from the window they belong to is silly for a screen of that size). It's been a crap-shoot keeping a functional desktop interface while people designed things that simply interfered with my workflow.

When creative vision inhibits some your customers from using your product, that vision is a failure. When it actually inflicts needless physical pain on your customers, it is worse than just simply being a failure - and if they can't avoid that pain because you've explicitly locked out any ability to customize the interface to remove the source of pain it actually becomes a form of torture. Why any company would want to torture their customers, I don't know...but that seems to be the current consensus outcome of "clean, modern UI design".

There IS and can be NO "one UI to rule them all" - and chasing one is a fools game. Customers all have different preferences/abilities/disabilities, and by locking down any form of customization you're actually reducing the number of people your design will suit.

dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

Finally got off my backside and went clothes shopping today (first time I did some serious shopping for probably 7-8 years!)...I'd been getting very unhappy about not having much choice of nice stuff that fit after having lost weight. Managed to pick up a shirt, a vesty-type-thing, a couple of dresses, a maxi skirt, some t-shirts, another top, a nice knitted jumper and a wrapy-thing to wear over a summer top/dress. I got a second jumper, but noticed when I got home that the seam at the back of the neck isn't stitched together properly, so that one has to go back (but they'd already closed by that time).

I didn't find any polar-fleece jumpers/windcheaters like I've been wearing to work though - the only polar fleece stuff was hoodies, and that pulls on my neck & shoulders. Everything else was already lighter-weight "Spring/Summer" stuff. I'll look online for those I think...someone somewhere has to sell them, surely. At least I know what sizes to look for (depending on how they measure their sizes, of course).

dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

I've not added any buttons yet though. So I can move the mouse cursor around my screen at a reasonable rate using just a fingernail, but I cannot click on anything without my real mouse.

Using the touch screens I already had made it easy - I knew what library to use to read touch co-ordinates from it. The entire sketch so far is only 33 lines long...including comments and blank lines! All the real magic is happening in the UTouch and Teensy libraries...all I have to do is get the read (x,y) values back from the UTouch library, compare them to the previous set of values, then send the difference to the PC using Teensy's Mouse.move(x,y) function. :)

Project thoughts

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015 09:07 pm
dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

I think I've worked out what my next build-it-yourself project will be...a replacement to a mouse that can be used with fingernails instead of having to hold it. I have an auto-immune condition (Sjogren's Syndrome) that is causing the skin of my hands and feet/legs to burn/sting fairly badly (the Sjogren's is causing Small Fibre Neuropathy). My hands were hurting enough by the end of the day today at work that I couldn't really hold my mouse anymore. Pressure on the skin - particularly against ridged objects like the scroll wheel - aggravates the Neuropathy issues...and between the palm holding the mouse to move it and the scroll wheel and buttons on the mouse poking my fingers it becomes very hard to use the mouse when my skin is feeling like I've skidded on my hands across asphalt. My hands are not like that all the time...yet...but I can see a future when they will be, so I've decided to design/build an alternative device for me to use instead. I've found that typing on my fingernails doesn't trigger/aggravate the pain in the skin of my hands, so I'll design a replacement device for a mouse around being able to use my nails as the primary input device instead.

A thumb-ball trackball wouldn't really work either - you still use the fleshy pads of your fingers/thumb to move the ball, press buttons, etc, and to move the scroll wheel if it has one. It likely wouldn't aggravate my palms as much, but that's about all I could say would be positive about it. A palm-ball variant would be even worse.

So I'm thinking I'll build a box with 5 keys in a cross-shape. Left/middle/right click across the horizontal, with scroll-up above the cross and scroll-down below it. Behind those on a 90-120 degree angle I'll mount a resistive touch sensor - resistive so that it reacts to fingernails - to use to replace the "ball"/movement part of a mouse. About the only thing it wouldn't do easily would be click-and-drag...but that would be more a case of learning alternative finger use/positions than anything else. Or I could use another key as a "toggle left-click"...i.e. it stays "clicked" until pressed a second time. I'll have to think a bit about that...it's an easy solution to the issue.

I know where I can get the keys and keycaps easily, and the controller to use to turn those into a device that any PC will recognise as a USB mouse. I think I could probably use an instrument case (the kind with the angled end for a LCD to be mounted in it) as the box. I just need to find the resistive touch sensor to put on the angled back (there's a lot of cheap ones pre-mounted on TFT screens, but I don't need a screen for a mouse).

dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

I'm finding the lack of decent specifications at work at the moment somewhat frustrating. I have thought of a way to describe what's actually happening.

A typical sequence happens something like this:

Sales/demo rep:
We need a piece of string. We have to be able to hang something using it.

Oh, and we need this implemented within 2 weeks for a demo...we've already said you'd be able to do that - it's just a piece of string, after all.
Programming team:
That's not a lot of detail - what exactly do they want to hang on this string? How long do they need it? How are they going to be using it?
Sales/demo rep:
The customer isn't sure - it's just a piece of string. Just work it out yourself - it's not that complex after all. We provide solutions for customers, not problems.
Programming team:
*implements a string for hanging something, tests it by hanging pictures around the office*
Sales/demo rep:
This string is too short, it has to be longer - we've heard that the client has a high roof. And we can't just tie two strings together in the demo, because it's clumsy/awkward and the knot may slip. It will look bad.
Programming team:
*reimplements/extends the current design of the hanging string, so that it accounts for a longer-than-expected string being required. Test it by hanging things from the office window, since the office is a few floors above the ground*
Sales/demo rep:
When we hung up the bag of bowling balls that we're going to be using to demonstrate hanging things with this string, the string broke. It's not strong enough to be usable.
Programming team:
You want to hang a bag of bowling balls from it? We never expected that kind of weight!
Sales/demo rep:
Why not? We said it had to be suitable to hang something with, and a bag of bowling balls is something. Why wouldn't you design it to handle that kind of weight? How can we say it's suitable to hang things with, if it's going to break when someone uses it to hang heavier things?
Programming team:
*reimplements the string using a rope, and tests it by hanging the bag of bowling balls from the office window*
Sales/demo rep:
This string/rope takes up too much space when we store it - it's going to be hard to carry to the demo. It needs to be thin and light, but long and strong - and we'd prefer it to be red instead of tan coloured.
Programming team:
We're pretty much out of time here - why couldn't you have specified any of this upfront! And you're carrying a bag of bowling balls to the demo, but you can't fit a small coil of rope? *scrambles to adjust things for the demo by painting the rope red, and splitting the rope in half lengthwise - which makes it look a bit frayed/frazzled but it's the best they can do in the time left, really wishing they could hang either themselves or the sales rep from the currently implemented rope instead, and verifies that it still holds the bag of bowling balls from the office window*
Demo occurs. Sales/Demo rep's feedback:
The demo was a failure because the string didn't do what the client needed. All that client needed it to do was hang a balloon from a picture rail. It was too complex/heavy/long/expensive for what they needed. We don't understand how the programmers could have screwed up the implementation of a simple piece of string to hang something with so badly...why do programmers always want to make simple things so complex?

Oh, and that shade of red clashed horribly with the customer's teal balloon.
dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

Woohoo! The keyboard is now assembled in the box, and most of the back panel connectors/switches are in place (it's just the foot switch connections that are currently missing). This means I now have a portable, customised-for-me gaming keypad *cheers*.

Pics and discussion behind the cut )
dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

My circuit board arrived today, and on initial inspection looks good. I got lucky and received 3 copies of the board. There are one or two minor blemishes in the flood-fill ground copper, but all of them are in large areas and not in places where there were tracks or anything critical, so those won't matter.

Fits nicely in the box, the keys mount properly (not so tight that you have to force them, but firm enough that it takes a bit of pressure and the posts will lock them in place and prevent rotation), the Teensy fits (plugged in from underneath), and the connectors fit well.

Next thing is to actually get the components soldered onto the board - and find out whether I screwed up the circuit...We did try really hard to check it before sending it off to be made though, so I'm hoping it all just works. :-)

dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (DIY)

So, it's been several months since I first said I was having fun doing the circuit board layout...and after a few iterations/revisions I finally got an order for two copies of the board submitted today.

Read more... )

Having had several more months of playing around with circuit layout now, I'll confirm my initial impressions - it's a fantastic puzzle to solve, which makes it something I found really fun to do!

dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

I spent most of the weekend (when I wasn't blinded by a migraine) laying out a (potential) circuit board for my home-made keyboard. At the moment, it's still wired up via breadboard taking up a ton of space on my desk - I'd like to finally get it inside the keyboard box. :-)

First attempt was a daughter board for the shift-register part to connect to the existing keys...but wasn't going to fit the teensy & 40-pin screen connector in the space at the end as well, which would still leave some of the keyboard parts sitting outside the box.

Second attempt was a complete replacement of the existing key mount for the 24-key section of the keyboard, integrating them onto a single circuit board so that the teensy & screen could go on the other side of the keys, and the keys could be directly wired to their shift registers instead of needing connectors for them - that looks a *lot* better in terms of wiring, and has all laid out nicely so far. I've still got a few adjustments to make - the joystick needs wiring in, and there's a couple of resistors we need to add as short-circuit protections for the footswitch & spare button connectors, but it's looking like it'll work nicely.

I discovered that circuit board layout is a really interesting and fun puzzle to do...and one that will actually be useful at the end, which traditional jigsaws generally are not! *lol*

Keyboard updates

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 11:15 am
dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

I've been spending a lot of time simply using the keyboard over the last few months - enough that the 8-way thumbswitch became quite unreliable (forward was intermittent, and it kept "hesitating" in the middle of jumps causing me to miss the next platform and die in jumping puzzles).

I decided to switch to using an analogue joystick instead (much easier to replace when it gets worn out - there's a lot more of them around), and resolve the X/Y measurements into the 8-way digital locations. After a week or so of use, I'm finding it more accurate than the old digital switch was (though I had to glue the joystick cap on first, otherwise I kept flipping it off the joystick in dungeons/tougher fights).

This pulled the directional keys out of the shift-register key matrix, effectively freeing up 8 button locations. One of those locations has now been reused as a second foot switch (because I had two), leaving me with 7 pins for future expansion. I haven't really established what keypress I'll set the second footswitch to send yet - the first one is used for push-to-talk in mumble (our guild's voice chat).

I've also done some work optimizing the data writes to the LCD using sets of consecutive pins on the C&D or B&D ports, and reordered the wiring to my teensy 3 to match the B&D option. The patches to enable that are available in the Teensy Forum thread where the UTFT library was being discussed here: http://forum.pjrc.com/threads/18002-Teensy-3-0-driving-an-SSD1289-with-utft?p=34719#post34719. I set it up so that there were options to use ports C&D (fastest as it's only 2 write cycles to set all pins in the 16-bit data bus, but interferes with SPI), B&D (uses 3 write cycles, compatible with SPI), and the old "set the pins you want to use" which uses 16 write cycles.

dawnmist: My homebuilt gaming keyboard - version 1 (Default)

I've been doing a lot of work again the last month on my upgrade from using a Teensy 2++ with monochrome screen to a Teensy 3 with Colour TFT + SD Card + Touch, and it's now coming together nicely.

Read more... )

So there's still lots to keep me busy, but in the mean time - the basics are now all there and working together well enough to ditch the Teensy 2++ controller for the keyboard and move across to using the Teensy 3 controller full-time!

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