Invitation to Play Along

Lukasz Erecinski Jul 29. 2020 47

We are currently in talks with a number of hardware vendors regarding a Nokia N900-style, slide-out-design keyboard for the PinePhone. They’ll have to produce mock-ups or prototypes for us to consider in the next few weeks. The requirements specify that the new device needs to:

  1. Interface with the PinePhone’s rear pogo pin expansion connector
  2. Fit the PinePhone’s form factor
  3. Seamlessly replace the current back cover and snap onto the phone
  4. Be similar, mechanically and functionally, to the Nokia N900 keyboard

We are simultaneously also exploring a gamepad for the PinePhone. The criteria we’re seeking in a gamepad are much vaguer than those of the keyboard:

  1. The gamepad must use the PinePhone’s pogo pins (at least for power)
  2. It must attach mechanically to the phone. Preferably in an elegant way — velcro or adhesive are not an option.

This add-on project is at an earlier exploratory stage than the keyboard, and therefore there is also some leeway regarding the general direction and shape it can take. 

Now, we’d like to invite you to play along. While we’re waiting to see what the commissioned vendors will come up with, we’d also like to give you a chance to go at it. For the keyboard, we have settled on a 5-row key-arrangement design – a STP of the layout can be downloaded here. If you’ll have a go at creating a keyboard then do keep in mind the general guiding points outlined above, but at the same time do not take them as commandments carved in stone. I guess what I am trying to say is – don’t let the criteria restrict your creative vision.

Suggested keyboard layout (filled in by hand)

Regarding the game controller; since we’re at a very early exploratory stage, you’re welcome to explore a variety of approaches to creating such an add-on for the PinePhone. In other words, ‘anything goes’ as far as the controller’s design is concerned. Functionality wise, the controller will have to be powered via the pogo pins but I think it’s just fair to investigate the feasibility of alternative interfaces (BT/ USB) for the actual input.

In terms of other restrictions – keep in mind that this is something we’d potentially want to manufacture, so it has to have a sensible mechanical and electrical design, which cannot be a plagiarized copy of an existing device. 

If you decide to have a go at it then be aware of the following: there is a very cool reward for the project – or projects – which will be chosen, but there is no financial compensation for the design(s). If you submit your design to us then you automatically acknowledge that we may choose to proceed and manufacture it. You will be fully credited on the Wiki and elsewhere (where appropriate) for your design and we will – as we always do with our community – work with you to deliver the end product. 

We are most keen on functional prototypes, so that it will be possible to evaluate the feasibility of the design. Something may look cool but be unergonomic or simply dysfunctional when applied to reality, not to mention that certain designs may cost too much to mold and manufacture.  

I’ve been thinking about the best way for submissions and after some asking around I’ve been advised to just use the forum for this purpose. This way people can also discuss and offer feedback to others. 

Forum Thread

If you have any further questions then do not hesitate to ask in the comments section or on the forum. Lastly, while there is a cool reward involved in this challenge to entice you to give this a go, please consider this a fun community hacking activity.

47 responses to “Invitation to Play Along”

Your email address will not be published.

I accept the Privacy Policy

    What happened to the Psion Series 5 type of keyboard that you were talking about a while back? Is that still being planned, or did you change your mind to more of the Nokia style?

    Matthew Petry says:

    The Psion-type keyboard is still planned, but it’s heavily delayed. It would be a 100% custom design, which is difficult to design and get into production with current world travel restrictions. The N900-type can be put into production much easier.

    Is it worth going for that sort of layout though? I’d be curious what a survey would say, but I’d personally use a Psion-type keyboard but that N900-style one looks like I’d rather stick with my external clumsy-giant bluetooth one and otherwise just on-screen. That might be just me though, but I’m curious if I’m not alone with this thought.

    Swordfish II says:

    I used to think like that way back when until i got an n900. Loved that keyboard.

    Honestly I would buy both. And probably another pinephone to go with it

    I agree with Maciąg. Very interesting indeed.

    I like that the spacebar is sperated by the two keys and how the CAPS key is replaced with END. IMO CAPS is utterly useless in this day and age.

    While that layout may be good for some it isn’t very intuitive and has a learning curve. Alternatively, I think the Nokia N900 layout is a lot more universal and users will make fewer mistakes because it’s what they’re familiar with

    A psion-style keyboard is pleasant when sitting with your phone on a table / in your lap like a laptop. However, it is very cumbersome (bordering on unusable) to use on the go, i.e., while standing or walking, two-thumb typing, which i presume will be the most common use case for a phone keyboard. Thus I believe that an N900-style keyboard will be actually more useful than a psion-style keyboard, although both will definitely find their uses.

    For me the N900 (or Pro1) keyboard layout is fantastic. I’m using it mainly for local emacs & some local cli, plus remote server work via ssh.

    I’m still mostly using MessagEase for Chats and smaller text. It’s just so damn convenient, even more keys than on the physical keyboard directly accesible. Just more errors, there the phsical keyboard is a real help.

    Planet Computers is producing Psion-style keyboards for their phones. Couldn’t you talk to them about making a PinePhone variant?

    DerMitDemRolfTanzt says:

    I’m curious what icon the super key will have 😀
    Will it be the pine64 logo? Will there be community-project keyboards with the corresponding logos, like UBT, mobian, Fedora, pmos, etc.?
    I know, there are bigger problems in the world, I’m just curious 😛

    dr_snophalhoffagus says:

    i hope it’ll be a pine. It brings me joy every time I reach for the win key on my laptop and find a pine key
    this is glif using in apple keyboards

    Moim zdaniem to jest najlepszy znak, prosty, używany od jakiegoś czasu na klawiaturach apple i wygodny.
    Podobał mi się też symbol robota.

    Pytanie jest inne, czy da się … wymienić keycaps (nakładkę), wtedy kazdy by robił jakie chce. Ale do tego potrzebna jest klawiatura o której wszyscy mówią == Psion 5

    dr_snophalhoffagus says:

    recently started using a n-900. some ideas concerning the layout:

    – Have a Control_R key. One of the most annoying things on the n900 kb is when i need to press 2 keys close to each other at the same time (eg. ctr + w) because of how big the stretch is, that would be a lot worse with the bigger form factor of the PP.

    – is a dedicated row for numbers necessary? I’m fine with fn+[Q-P] for numbers, esp. with fn lock. And im worried it would get a little top-heavy. the n900 has the most weight in the bottom part, below the kb, the pinehone though will be significantly heavier than its keyboard. That would probably be worse if the keyboard is bigge. Also I want to grip the bottom of the phone itself, not the keyboard. A taller keyboard means more stretching to get to the bottom row.

    – Since the the the phone is wider (or higher, in landscape) than the keyboard it’ll either be weirdly shaped on the backside, or have some “unused” space, right? would it be feasible to pop a auxiliary battery in there?

    I’d prefer a PISON style keyboard for typing and using it as a ultralight laptop sorta thing, but I prefer the slider style overall because a) it’s easier to use on the go (i.e. not on a desk) and b) i’d be concerned about the hinges in a clamp shell format. again, the phone will be a lot heavier than the keyboard.
    thank you for asking community input and all the stuff you do!

    Three things:
    1) As James (above) asked: “What happened to the Psion Series 5 type of keyboard that you were talking about…”? [and talking about quite extensively]
    There was a LOT of verbiage written about this, and then…nothing. Not cool, PineFolks. The least you can do is explain why it’s NOT being considered any more.
    2) “…we have settled on a 5-row key-arrangement design – a STP of the layout can be downloaded *here*…”.
    …”HERE” is not only not working, but it “high-jacks” the computer, and doesn’t let you return. Had to re-load my browser and start over. Not cool, PineFolks.
    3) Personal Opinion Alert!!!
    I couldn’t care less about a ‘gamepad’, or ‘game controller keyboard’–I want this phone to be a PHONE, which trumps all other phones by unleashing the power of its processor to also BE A LINUX COMPUTER.
    I am so tired of peoples’ first reactions, to what is supposed to be a phone, being, “…but does it have a REALLY GOOD camera?…”; “…but does it have a good app store so can I load it up with [stupid, meaningless, memory-hogging] “apps”…”; “…but can it play *Crysis*?…”…

    Here’s an observation, PineFolks–you’re starting to spread yourselves dangerously ‘thin’, to the extent that your original charter, your original philosophy is in jeapordy. Forget about a developing yet one more half-finished device (which the ‘community’ will surely finish) –a ‘gamepad’–until you’ve gotten all your other half-finished problems FINISHED. You are at risk of becoming thought of as strictly an organization OF hackers and a community FOR ‘hackers’; this is NOT a good position to be in–one can see this general mind-set starting to appear in the trade press amongst the very people who could be, and should be championing your cause.
    As I said, this is strictly a personal opinion…but one borne out of being a Pine watcher for many years…and ALMOST a PineProduct buyer many times over, except for the unfinished nature—which became obvious, just in time–of all the PineProducts which I almost bought.

    All the best, and most sincerely…

    How is the PinePhone unfinished? (Especially the pmOS edition with fixed USB?) How is it not a perfectly working Linux computer? I think your post is starting to turn to dangerously ‘ranty’, if you allow me the parallel 🙂

    William Ethridge says:

    Last I checked, Pine64 is a non-profit company that makes hardware, and that’s it. Their entire philosophy is to provide good hardware for cheap so the community can do crazy cool things with it. They sell their products basically at cost and don’t make the profit required to hire devs to “finish their products” like you’re demanding. That’s not their role. If you don’t like this method of operation, you can check out the Librem 5 for more than 5 times the cost.

    If you’ve never purchased a product from the Pine store then you have zero hands on experience with one of their original devices.

    Therefore you have no justification other than posts and comments you read on the blog. Purchase a flagship device like the PBP or Pinetab then give your feedback or opinion.

    I’m not trying to be toxic or anything I just don’t see how you could come up with that if you don’t have any real experience with one of there products.

    Additionally, just to let you know but the products on the Pine store aren’t designed to be used by the everyday consumer. They are for ARM devs and Linux enthusiast’s. It’s mainly up to the community to provide feedback to Pine64 as well as each other.

    Might I suggest an iPhone or Pixel if you want something that just works OoTB with out putting in the work to troubleshoot and educate yourself.

    I think it would be nice to have a ribbon cable extension for this N900 and the psion 5 keyboard design. That way the user doesn’t have to constantly remove the keyboard to boot new distros, and it would reduce wear on the device that would otherwise be caused by snapping on/off the keyboard.

    Cool keyboard, I can’t wait to see, what will be available for the pinephone in the future, as I am currently waiting for the delivery of my unit.
    I hope on ditching android for good.🙂

    Swordfish II says:

    Sick keyboard.

    I’m buying one of each type regardless but I like your layout and the curved keys

    I would be very interested in such a keyboard layout for the PinePhone, looks really sick like mentioned before. Especially the placement of two control keys for ease of use and the placement of the return key seems like a sensible design. Regards

    I currently use a Blackberry Key2, and am interested in getting a Linux phone in the future. The real issue is getting a good hardware keyboard, and more importantly not getting a “phone” the size of a small tablet.

    Looking at that page, that keyboard looks fantastic. I would be extremely interested. Although I am very partial to the portrait style keyboard like on the key2 and other Blackberry devices — that keyboard is still very enticing.

    Quick follow up: we also obviously have all of the PCB designs ready and open-sourced IIRC so I guess Mr. van Leersum will be glad to assist with these things too if necessary.

    DesperateToAvoidAndroid says:

    As a die hard Blackberry fan, if/when I have to give up my beloved Blackberry Classic. I had been looking into Linux phone options. I came across this page specifically and shared with my wife who is also interested and a fan of Blackberry. Along with hearing from a lot of devs and Linux enthusiasts I would think this would be a very successful project.

    I would like a PHONE not the size of a small laptop. I think a keyboard that slid into a case on the phone would be much more ideal. Something more solid than magnets would be preferable. I’m not sure the dimensions of the pinephone as I have only just now seen this page. But I myself, and many others would love 6″ options, the Blackberry Passport for instance is greatly loved by many for it’s keyboard width/size and is smaller than that.

    William Ethridge says:

    I did not expect the idea of a gamepad extension to be in the contemplative stages already, but this has me very excited! One of the side projects I want to do with the pinephone is basically make it an emulation station that can play all my old games on the go with a controller, then when I’m home I can plug it into a dock for video output and maybe an external controller.

    Ideally, I’d want something like the gamepad that was available for Moto Z phones a while back (in terms of shape, at least):

    my wishlist for this gamepad extension:
    -I’d like to have the full suite of buttons and joysticks that comes on most controllers today. Going for less or more would make it harder to work with software-side.

    -by design, if this extension were traditional gamepad buttons to the sides of the screen like on the PS Vita, it would cover the USB charging port. If possible I’d like this extension to have USB pass-through support so you can still charge it and/or plug it into a dock via a USB-C port on the controller portion of the device.

    -I would like for it to still be able to support video output to a larger screen.

    -completely extra credit, but having an additional battery inside the controller portion would be a nice lil quality of life boost.

    “But why not just use your Android phone” you may ask? Because I could write an essay on why I *used* to like Android and want to jump ship. I’m excited for a future where I can use Linux for all the things Android can do right now, and that includes playing all my old games.

    William Ethridge says:

    I’m so torn. I really do like that, but I’m not eloquent enough to put to words what’s putting me off from it. Maybe it just looks too gimmicky by copying the original gameboy chassis? Sega Genesis button layout? Either way; once I can use a bluetooth controller on Mobian or UBports, or (preferrably) once this gamepad becomes a real product, I think the pinephone might be the sweet spot that for me can cater to retro gaming, but is also not limited to that because it’s a fully featured smartphone as well.

    Lepiej zrobić porządną klawiaturę zewnętrzną o małych rozmiarach, niz badziewiasta klawiaturę w telefonie, która tylko zwiększy ciężar i niczego nie usprawni.
    OQO miało wiekszą klawiaturę bo to byl tablet. Może klawiatura z klawiszami jak psion trzeba zrobić w tablecie a nie telefonie?


    I have a quick question…

    Is the sales address ( monitored by someone ?

    I sent several email without answers about my pre-order of the 15th July.

    thank you!

    Is there any plans to introduce a metallic back cover? Sturdiness aside, the cover acting as a pseudo-heatsink would possibly let the SoC run at higher clock speeds before having to throttle back.

    Personally this isn’t really my bag since I have sooper phat fingers. I will say that I am a huge Pine64 fan boy and love what the Pine 64 community is doing. I can’t wait for my PineBook Pro, and PinePhone to ship later this month. Let the hater hate, and let the tinkerer’s tinker!! I am really new to Linux and have found it to be something that is really interesting and fun!!
    Keep on keepin’ on Pine64 team!!! You are helping us leave corporate ecosystems that spy and control our data!! For that I thank you!

    Full screen keyboad idea
    Hi, perhaps there is someone who is interested in doing this if it is posted on the forum?
    How about a full-screen, faint, overlayed, inverted colour keyboard, containing generous-sized keys as well many more of them?
    It would normally be hidden, but come up over any screen which needed it.
    It would have a transparent background, and thin, faint keyboard characters drawn in inverted colours, pixel by pixel, so you can still clearly see the underlying page through them, and also see what you are typing in the selected text-box or console there.
    It would allow any scrolling actions to be relayed to the underlying page, so you could still scroll it conveniently, and a long-press would move the cursor to that position on the underlying page.
    A version using simple transparency would work (without inverting the colours), and be much simpler to make, but might not be as clear over some backgrounds.
    This keyboard could solve both the long-standing problems of vastly reduced pages when keyboards are activated, and not enough keys to work efficiently when on a phone screen.
    Regards all!

    PhoenixLandPirate says:

    I’d love an fxtec styled keyboard, you know the qwerty one on the new indiegogo, I understand the reasons for not going with that style on the PinePhone, but would there be a possibility to do an fxtec styled keyboard on the next version of the PinePhone?
    If you have a slide out keyboard by default, or at least have more plans and ideas around what you want and how to acomplish it, you have less issues to work around later.

    The Fxtec has a small yet lovely slideout keyboard, that angles the screen nicely for media consumption when left on the desk, or for productivity when in your hands, it also has a camera button, which has the 2 stage parts of a camera button that you need, and the keyboard is also backlit so its easy to use in the dark.

    That but PinePhone would be amazing

Subscribe to the PINE64 blog