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(Updated with Wireless!) I made a Captain's Control Panel to change the view screen. Here are pics/instructions.

posted Feb 26, 2013 10:05:19 by AlexVanPatten
(Update at the bottom of this first post)

I made a Captain's Control Panel that allows the captain to control the main view screen by him/herself without the need to bother helm/weapons in the middle of combat. Star Trek captains often had minor controls in the arms of their chairs so I didn't feel as if I was taking away from the realism of the environment and role.

Here's how I did it and you can do it too!

First, I purchased a USB number pad intended for laptop use. It was $4 at Microcenter. At home, I unscrewed the back and found that a very simple PCB was hiding underneith with several pads connected to a ribbon cable going to the keypad matrix.

What happens is, when you press a key, two of the pads are connected and the computer registers the button press. When another key is pressed, two more pads are connected and one of those pads could already be used in the formula for another key press. With this mechanism, You can have a small number of pads tha can be used to actuate many key presses. This also means that the pads are not labeled :(

The pads were covered with some black coating so I went ahead and used a hobby knife and gently scraped some of it away to reveal the copper pad. I then soldered wires to the pads. You'll note that I didn't solder anything to the end ones that they weren't actually connected to the PCB with any tracings. Also, the one I left out in the middle wasn't necessary as I found enough key combinations before I got to that one. For this size project, I used cat5 cable to solder with. Sadly, this specific cable was stranded copper and not solid. Oh well... Plus it's all color coded :)



Slather the thing in hot glue. This keeps all the wires on and the weight/pressure off the solder connections.



I went to http://www.keyboardtester.com/ and used their online tool to see which wire/pad combos were assigned to which keys. I then kept a list of what all I found. When finding key combos, I had to make sure they weren't already in use by one of the Artemis stations. The arrow keys were easy to find but are already in use so I had to find ones that weren't. This left me with using the Weapons station to piggyback this control panel off of meaning this box MUST be plugged in to a USB port on the Weapons station and the controls.ini file on that station must be modified to add the button presses we mapped out to change the view screen. These can be added along side the original ones as you can have several different buttons assigned to the same task.



Using one of these bad boys from Radio Shack, I soldered all the wires from the PBC pads to the Radio Shack PCB. This was done because some of the wires are used in multiple combinations to make the key presses happen. Some were and some were not but it was just easier to solder them all. Plus I enjoy soldering. :)



Next, I took a project box from Radio Shack along with some momentary push buttons I got there and arranged then on the box cover the way I wanted it. I then used the list of key combos I gathered earlier and soldered from the Radio Shack PCB to the buttons on the box. Each solder point was tested on the above mentioned website to make sure I didn't bung it up.







When it was all done, I shoved it all in the box, drilled a little notch on the side near the lid, and fed the USB cable through that came off the PCB.



There was one issue.. I mapped a button on the PCB to PageUp and found that PageUp was not yet supported by Artemis. As a result, I decided to omit the Engineering Status screen as an options until the game is updated.

This box was used at a 250 person LAN Party my group hosted and Artemis was a HUGE hit. As was this box!



Wow I sure have some terrible solder joints here! Whoops!

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UPDATE!

I picked up a wireless keyboard/mouse combo from Microcenter for $15. Here is the link to the product:

http://www.microcenter.com/product/305823/Pro_Wireless_24GHz_Optical_Mouse_Keyboard_Combo_Set

The PCB inside this is PERFECT for soldering. No scraping of black goo required. Nice big pads. Here is a picture and I even took the time to map out all of the F keys (F1-F12) so you can integrate it with the existing Weapons console controls.ini without mucking with any of it.


Click the pic for a larger version.

Note that both pads for F5 are on the right (green) side of the board.

Please double check these before soldering. Your mileage may vary. Connection to this PCB is done with a single AA battery. I plan on rigging an on/off switch to the box to help extend that battery life.

Auto_Pilot mapped out the entire keyboard!
[Last edited Apr 11, 2013 09:47:07]
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27 replies
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Auto_Pilot said Mar 28, 2013 03:06:51
Thanks Alex for all the information and a very inspirational post! That pick of the F Keys was a great time saver. I had no idea that wireless Keyboards had so few electronics inside them. As soon as I saw this I purchased one of the same Keyboards, ripped it apart, and started figuring out how I wanted to do my own captains arm chair remote.

I wanted to challenge myself when i saw the size of the electronics to try and make it small, so I got one of the smaller buid boxes from RadioShack and tried my best to squeeze it all in.


Larger Pic
It just barely fits after some revisions to the thoughts and lots of monkeying around with the wires.



I don't have it labeled yet, not sure if I will. I kind of like the look of the buttons like how Kirk just had a bunch of buttons on his arm chair that were unmarked. IN order from top down they are positioned as:

F2 Front F5 Rear
F3 Left F4 Right
F6 Tactical F7 Long Range
F8 Statistics On/Off

The on/off button is push on/ push off, the rest are momentary switches. I was going to include a "The device is on" light but with so little room i decided the look of the on button when depressed is obvious enough. I can't wait to work this thing into an arm chair or something for our next game.
[Last edited Mar 28, 2013 03:07:27]
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Auto_Pilot said Apr 03, 2013 21:07:53
And for anyone interested, I mapped out this particular wireless Keyboard following the numbers on the board from 1-26 left to right.

[Last edited Apr 03, 2013 21:08:28]
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AlexVanPatten said Apr 03, 2013 22:04:55
Auto_Pilot amazing job!! I'm so glad I helped inspire you to make such a wonderful piece.
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AlexVanPatten said Apr 03, 2013 22:06:23
When i get home I'll update my first post in this thread with your pinouts and credit!
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Auto_Pilot said Apr 03, 2013 22:13:40
Thanks! It was a lot of fun and leads to so many more ideas to use the keyboard for.

FYI some of the blank spaces, especially the ones in the 14-16 range are some sort of hot button keys. I couldn't figure out exactly what they did. Some called up a program, or the calculator, some turned off the PC into some sort of sleep mode, so play with the blank squares at your own risk =]
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LairdNickPark said Apr 04, 2013 18:34:02
I've done the same experience with a different keyboard (dell) and found the same matrix! this might be a general rule for most keyboards.
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EricMallory said Apr 07, 2013 00:00:40
Liked it so much I had to make one for myself. Power button on top with a USB connector to hold the receiver when it's not plugged into a computer. Next time I'll add an LED to indicate when it's on/off. There are LED pins right on the board. They blink a coupla times when it's powered on.


[Last edited Apr 07, 2013 00:01:23]
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AlexVanPatten said Apr 11, 2013 09:48:09
I -really- like the USB port idea as I was trying to find a way to not lose that tiny adapter.
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EricMallory said Apr 11, 2013 15:07:54
Thanks. I broke apart a cheap USB hub from MicroCenter and superglued the tiny adapter to the screw post on the inside of the box. Also used a little glue around the edge. So far, it's holding. Scratched up the surface of my project box with my Dremel while I was making the rectangular hole :(
[Last edited Apr 11, 2013 15:08:18]
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LairdNickPark said Apr 28, 2013 17:28:28
Thankyou all very much for the ideas :)
I'll show your mine...

As soon as I find an old usb hub, I'll do like you. The Idea is brilliant as I'm afraid the little dongle will surely get lost.
For finding the bindings I used http://www.keyboardtester.com/tester.html
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EricMallory said Apr 28, 2013 18:55:52
I like your smaller buttons. If I do it again, I'll use smaller buttons.
What's the Big Red Kill switch for? Is that power?
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LairdNickPark said Apr 28, 2013 19:16:47
yeah, Eric. it's the on/off. I got the red bit for a couple of euros the box too! :)

But... Here's just an idea... The captain could have the nuke select button on his console. Thus the decision is his to use them or not :)
otherwise, a seperate console wired to the weapons (by wireless) with just the nuke select and a key to use it. This could be put in a special place for that special occasion!
Weapons "permission to load nukes, Sir!"
Captain "nukes ready for deployment!" (the captain turns the key)
Weapons "charged and ready, Sir!" (weapons loads)
Captain "fire!"
etc
[Last edited May 05, 2013 17:29:50]
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