Thursday, August 18, 2005

I bought a USB -> keyboard/mouse adapter off eBay a few days ago. The auction is here.

I went to pay for it with paypal, but because I have an Amex card linked to my account, it was going to charge me USD.

I wasn't sure that the seller would accept USD, so I sent an email and asked. I couple of days later, I got an email from them, which just looked like the invoice for the item again.

I asked again, and waited for a reply, not realising that they had actually replied, and told me they would accept USD.

Anyway, since I didn't think I had an answer, I figured I would just pay with a bank deposit, into their account.

I didn't have their bank details, so I tried to go through the eBay checkout to get them, but eBay was being very unresponsive.

I then decided to reply to the seller again, explaining that I wanted to pay with Amex, paypal was going to pay them in USD, and I couldn't get their bank details, because eBay was mucking around.

As I brought up their email to reply, I noticed that they had replied to my initial question, and said they would accept USD.

I went to paypal, and paid for the adapter.

It turned up at some point in the last few days, I'm not sure when, because I hadn't been outside since Monday. (A watch I bought a few days ago also turned up, bought it from here).

I opened up the box, to find just an adapter. It's not in a packet, it didn't come with anything, just an adapter, USB plug, and 2 PS/2 sockets. No idea what brand it is or anything.

I plugged it into my laptop, checked dmesg, and saw the following:

usb 1-1: new low speed USB device using uhci_hcd and address 2
input: USB HID v1.10 Keyboard [04d9:1400] on usb-0000:00:1d.0-1
input: USB HID v1.10 Mouse [04d9:1400] on usb-0000:00:1d.0-1

I already had a USB mouse plugged in, I wondered what X would do. The USB mouse continued to work fine.

I grabbed my old Model M keyboard, something I've been missing using since I bought the new laptop, and plugged it into the adapter, it immediately started working, sweet!

While typing up the last blog entry, about the dialup speed, the spacebar refused to work on my Model M. Every other key was fine, just the spacebar. I wondered if it was perhaps something dodgy I'd done, because I found this Model M on the side of the road, it didn't have a cable, and I fitted a new one on it.

I went back to using the laptop's keyboard to finish the post. After that, I unplugged the keyboard from the adapter, and a spacebar came out. Weird.

I plugged the keyboard back in again, and it was fine again.

I vaguely recall something about converting Model M keyboards from PS/2 to USB, by fitting a PS/2 -> USB adapter internally, and running a USB lead out of the keyboard. I also recall that page mentioning that some adapters had issues with working with the Model M properly.

Maybe the adapter I bought is not fully compatible with the Model M. If I have to unplug it and replug it everynow and then, I can live with that (I had a desktop PC with that problem, and I put up with it for ages, before I got a new keyboard).

Oh well, I did only pay $1 for the adapter :-) (plus $9 shipping/handling).

Ah, it's nice to be able to type on a real keyboard again, and not have the Dell on my laptop, burning me.

Update: I just did a quick google, for details about USB Model Ms, and I turned up this page.

Well worth a read. A couple of bits I found interesting:

"it's quite common to find units that've seen hard service for longer than some people reading this page have been alive".

Close. Both this Model M (that I found on the side of the road, missing the cable, and the F8 keycap, and doesn't have any LEDs), and my other Model M (I don't remember where it came from, but it came with a curly long cord, and has LEDs) have a label on the bottom.

They both have the standard "Copyright IBM Corp, 1984." on there, but I think that's the original design of the keyboard.

The one without the LEDs, has a date printed (dot matrix!) on it, "29Oct86". The other one, has a datestamp "10-17-91".

So as I said, close, I wasn't even 5 years old when this keyboard was manufactured.

Another thing I found interesting:

"Model Ms aren't quite within the, um, popularly agreed envelope of the PS/2 specification. Most modern PS/2-ported motherboards will work with most old keyboards, but some 'boards need modifications. And some modern computers (coughDellcough) have out-of-spec USB ports that're well known to misbehave with all kinds of peripherals. And some PS/2-to-USB adapters combine the worst qualities of the most half-assed implementations of each interface."

Hmm, maybe that bit about the "most half-assed implementations" explains the issue I saw, since I'm using a $1 USB adapter, and a Dell laptop.

Oh, and the word "modifications" in the above paragraph is a link to this page. It's the page I recalled, detailing issues with some USB -> PS/2 adapters.

There's a picture of the exact adapter I ended up with, here.
Apparently Jaycar sell the adapter for $20, so $10 was an ok deal.

On that page, the guy details adding a couple of 4k7 resistors to the PCB in the keyboard, I might try that, I recall that the PCB matches one of those pictured on that page, from when I added a cord.

(I removed the weird socket, and just hard wired the cable to the board. In the process of removing the socket, it got destroyed, I felt a bit blasphemous).

Oh, and one last bit I liked:

"You could leave one of these things to your children in your will. Or be buried with it, like some kind of nerd Pharaoh."

I think I like the idea of being buried with a Model M. If I end up in hell, sentenced to an eternity of typing, I'd like to have a Model M.

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