Wireless keyboards for RISC OS
Aaron makes a cheap and simple modification to his RiscPC
If like me you use your RiscPC a lot, and it's a few years old, the chances are that your keyboard is nearing the end of it's life. Well yours might not be but mine certainly is. It has been stripped and cleaned on several occasions and to be honest with the current low price of keyboards it's not worth bothering with. So I want a new keyboard, and since my office looks like spaghetti junction a wireless device looks attractive. Hold on though, aren't they expensive? Well I thought they were, a quick trip to PC World showed a number of models available from £30 up. Since a wired keyboard is only a couple of quid there was no way I was going to pay that much. So the next step was to surf over to my favourite cheap bits and bobs supplier ebuyer. The cheapest wireless keyboard on offer was £7.63, the carriage is a bit steep on one item so I also ordered some other bits and bobs. As is usual with ebuyer the stuff turned up next day. So what is the best way of fitting a wireless keyboard to a RiscPC?
A large wireless keyboard box (the monitor behind it is 21"!)
In the Box
Inside the box is a keyboard (which shouldn't come as a big surprise) a receiver unit that plugs into a normal keyboard socket, an extending wrist rest for the front of the keyboard (which also doubles as a short life chewable dog toy), a CD of windows drivers (coaster) and an English (Engrish) manual. The keyboard is surprisingly well made for the money with a firm key action and is far better than some other cheap keyboards I have tried in the past. The receiver is a round blob with a light on and a "connect" button which is used to establish a radio link when the pair are first started.
The first job was to site the receiver and then I had a small brain wave. Instead of mounting the receiver outside the Risc PCs case, why couldn't I mount it inside. The usual reason that you can't is that a lot of PCs are shielded against RF these days and the operating range would be dramatically reduced, perhaps reduced to zero. However a Risc PC case is an older design. Would it work? Well there was only one way to find out.
The receiver mounted inside the Risc PC
As you can see there is an obvious mounting place inside my two slice machine (in the the upper 3 1/2" inch drive bay). I held the receiver in place with a couple of sticky fixers and ran the cable out the back through an unused podule slot. To make a really neat job you could drill the correct sized hole in the back of the Risc PC case or in a podule blanking plate. The cable hanging out the back of the machine was then plugged into the keyboard port as per normal. The keyboard certainly worked with the lid of the case off. However disaster struck when I re-attached the lid, the keyboard would now only work within a few inches of the machine. A quick consult of the manual revealed the keyboard had 2 channels. To change channels you flip a tiny almost hidden switch on the keyboard and then press the button on the receiver. Now the keyboard had a range of several feet with the lid on the computer. Yes!
Yes it's working!
Well what can I say, it's cheap, it works and it's a fun little modification to make to your computer and of course you can always put things back again afterwards. So far I have been using the new keyboard for a few days and although the typing action is fine I do have a couple of niggles. Firstly it has no Caps lock light. I can understand why as having a light would flatten the batteries a lot, but I do miss it. Also so far I have not been able to get all the "special" keys working on RISC OS. So maybe I will write a keydriver module when (or if) I get a chance. The other minor problem (which seems to be going away on it's own) is the keyboards colour. A beige keyboard might have been better, but they don't seem to make one. Still I am happy with the performance and very happy with the price. Perhaps in true Dave Walker style I should spray paint my Risc PC black to match the keyboard then again perhaps not. Instead I could see if I can find any cordless mice that work...hmm...