Custom Keyboard and Software Compatibility

I’ve been looking for the core to a build I have in mind. Pretty much a small laptop. And the clockwork pi seems perfect! But before I get started I had a few questions that didn’t have definitive answers anywhere else.

Custom keyboards, so I love custom keyboard building. And for the form factor I want I definitely need a very custom layout. I saw that the QMK firmware for such custom keyboards is working on clockpi os. (Which is debian based right?). But the biggest issue is, where do I plug it in? I read the build guide and watched several videos and I just don’t see how the darn thing connects to the main board. It looks like you just press it down, and with magic I presume, connects to the core. Hopefully it’s just a little cable so I can just plug in any keyboard and it will work.

My next question is software compatibility. So with Debian running on the system (and I’ve seen information on other Linuxs, like arch, working on it) does that mean I can jump in and do any Linux-ey thing I want? Like install window managers and stuff? Install emulators, and steam. Does steam-play work? This is more of a question of what I CAN’T do software wise on the clockwork pi.

And those are my two big questions. My plan is probably to purchase the dev term and gut it for parts. And then build my own keyboard, find a new screen (I am pretty sure the 40pin io it uses is pretty common). And probably 3d print a custom case for it. Also those batteries for the dev term are rechargeable right? I definitely saw someone plug in a charging cable in a video.

But yeah that’s it, thanks in advance for any information y’all give!

I’m assuming you are talking about the Devterm. If you have further devterm questions, try the devterm category instead of Q&A. It’s also where there are long threads on most of the things you’re asking about.

The keyboard is a fully discrete unit with its own cpu, programmed in the arduino environment. It uses pogo-pins to connect to the devterm as a usb hid device, but also includes a micro-usb connector that allows it to connect to any computer to use it as a keyboard and mouse. The keyboard can be flashed directly in devterm, but the sketch can’t be compiled on devterm. I have seen talk about QMK, but no work on it. There is currently a popular alternative keyboard firmware (arduino) written by a user that clockwork themselves promotes. The keyboard is novel, perhaps the smallest you can get and still be functional, but it’s not comfortable, nor smooth in any way.

It’s a full armbian build with all the debian repos. It’s quirky and requires tinkering, but it’s a complete linux system running xfce. Just recently we’ve seen manjaro arm builds with various window managers, and improved armbian builds from users. Yes, there are various emulators (I maintain a TRS-80 Model 100 emulator for devterm), and I guess hacks for running some steam games (I’m not a gamer). Its performance is not stellar - it’s not a gaming system. It’s sluggish, loading the youtube homepage takes several seconds, but it will play vids fullscreen. That’s after turning all cores on and setting max freqs for cpu and gpu - something you need to do manually with helper programs.

There are a couple discussion threads on one or two compatible displays. But you’re on your own if you want other display panels - to the point of needing to customize and rebuild the armbian os yourself. Don’t discount what I just said there – if you use any other display, you will be building your own OS image. Also, don’t assume lcd connectors are compatible either.

You can’t run any binary or deb compiled for x86 or (usually, unless 64bit) raspberry pi. Assume nothing will work unless it’s already in the installed debian repos (thousands and thousands of progs), or you compile it yourself. But a ton of stuff does run on it, and compiling is exactly the same as other linux systems.

It’s a complete waste to buy a devterm ($339), only to buy your own lcd panel, print your own case, and make your own keyboard. Basically you’d be keeping the carrier board ($39) and the A06 core module ($129) - both custom hardware built by clockworkpi and not supported by any other manufacturer, or company, or software. It has no bios or uefi, and does not boot iso’s. Also, devterm doesn’t support suspend or sleep. The batteries are just standard 18650’s.

Seriously, if you want a custom hackerterm or gamebox and are proficient enough to roll your own qmk firmware, print custom cases, and setup your own displays then consider building around a rpi3/4 sbc or module. It would have tons more support in both software and hardware.

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Thanks a million for your reply

Im okay with fiddling with an arduino for a keyboard, infact most custom keyboards have their own micro controller on board.

If it’s running xfce it can definitely handle window managers. So that’s good news. Along with access to the full debian repos. And I wasn’t really planning on using it for gaming.

And for the display, I am fine with building my own armbian.

And I was planning on just buying those few internal parts. I think I said “gut for parts” to be more concise??? I dunno it was confusing. If clockwork pi can sell that specific screen seperately i’d happily buy it because it’s actually pretty much the form factor I want. But you are right, compatibility on the rpi is much better. But I wanted something with a bit more power.

Im gonna continue sitting on the idea before I jump in and spend a bunch of money. But thanks a TON for your response.

P.S, also sorry about putting this in the wrong topic I wasn’ super sure where to put it.