Author Topic: Why QMK?  (Read 1386 times)

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Offline jamster

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Why QMK?
« on: Thu, 02 July 2020, 00:39:00 »
I keep seeing requests for QMK support when it comes to small-batch keyboards in the Group Buy section.

I've not had to do remaps beyond the most simple of changes, such as LeftControl<->CapsLock, or setting the Fn row away from the default of media control. This might be done in the computer BIOS, the keyboard BIOS, a keyboard-specific program, or OS-level registry remapping.

So I have no experience with QMK or it's alternatives, and am wondering, why is QMK versus some closed source or less common program a big deal? I was thinking that once you get your layout set up, you typically don't change it again, unless you're in some tiny niche user category who likes to constantly experiment with layout optimisation.

Is it that people have lots of other boards that already use QMK, are the alternatives generally just plain terrible to use, or is it some other reason?

An upcoming project of mine will involve QMK, but never having had to dedicate much time to elaborate remapping, I have no preference on the matter.

Offline Applet

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Re: Why QMK?
« Reply #1 on: Thu, 02 July 2020, 04:07:52 »
I'd not rely on a closed source stuff in my projects/keebs, who knows if it will still work a few years from now. I will go out of my way to not get something using closed source or obscure firmware (even closed source PCB is usually a no for me if there is no other alternative).

In some cases I can understand that you may not need to reprogram your keyboard (like a full size or TKL), but for me I find new tweaks to the behavior now and then. If my SO borrows my keyboard, she will reprogram it. If my colleague borrows it, he will reprogram it.

There is also a lot of benefit to be able to reuse configs and knowledge learnt from previous keyboard to the new ones, this is pretty easy if all run QMK.

QMK may not be the end of the line in firmware forever, but it is most definitely the best one right now in my opinion, so why not use it?
« Last Edit: Thu, 02 July 2020, 04:20:59 by Applet »

Offline Findecanor

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Re: Why QMK?
« Reply #2 on: Thu, 02 July 2020, 05:07:11 »
The most important is that the firmware is open source and easy to configure.

QMK is the open source firmware with the most features, the most tools and the most supported keyboards, so it is the one with the most momentum right now. It is a fork of TMK, which used to be the most popular firmware before it.
But it has a quite big and complicated source tree, with a lot of different code for different keyboards and different complete USB stacks for different microcontrollers. It has a lot of duplicated code, so doing any major changes that would affect all supported keyboards might not be feasible in practice
It requires a recompile to change the key mappings but there are web services with nice user interfaces for that.

I can see demand for new firmware for wireless keyboards that address a few issues with QMK:
QMK is not made for preserving battery (it runs an idle loop with no sleep, for example), and the keymap can not be changed wirelessly in a standard way. (Many BLE chips don't support USB and QMK requires reflashing)
The most popular Bluetooth chips (Nordic nrf52 series) also comes with a BLE stack with a license that supposedly is incompatible with the GNU Public License that QMK is under. (Although that is Nordic Semi's fault, really and is something that they should work out)

I think Kiibohd had showed a lot of promise when it came, with its Keyboard Layout Language that didn't require a recompile to change the keymap. But I suppose KLL was too complicated for people to pick up and use.
« Last Edit: Thu, 02 July 2020, 05:16:05 by Findecanor »
Man must shape his tools lest they shape him
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Offline powwu

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Re: Why QMK?
« Reply #3 on: Fri, 03 July 2020, 16:42:16 »
I like QMK because it is open source and easy to understand and use.

Offline rxc92

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Re: Why QMK?
« Reply #4 on: Fri, 03 July 2020, 17:02:06 »
On the opposite side, why would you pay hundreds for a custom keyboard that lacks this incredibly simple and universal feature? Youíve fallen into the fallacy that assumes that because you donít use something, nobody does.

Offline Sup

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Re: Why QMK?
« Reply #5 on: Fri, 03 July 2020, 17:55:11 »
QMK is opensource very powerful tool, great community behind it, support to new boards added every day and stored on the keyboard it self. And now we have VIA QMK is imo better then any other keyboard configuring software.
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Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: Why QMK?
« Reply #6 on: Fri, 03 July 2020, 18:37:21 »
It's a bit chicken and egg - someone vocal likes something so everyone thinks it's the best and uses/improves it so it grows until it is.

Personally I don't like editing csv lists while looking up key names and working out where the unassigned key gaps are for the layout choice for the layout I need (ISO with split backspace, strange combo of mod sizes) or relying on a website to do it for me, so I use EasyAVR which has a standalone GUI.  Soarer's ancient firmware is also better (to me) as you can edit the layout in excel and copy/paste to a text editor, though you still need to look up the keycodes.  Crucially though they all run on the same ATMega chips used on at least 90% of customs so if it's advertised for one it's easy enough to port it to another.

I do agree with the OP though - once I have a keymap I rarely change it.  Which is all the more reason to have an easy and reliable way to do so when I do want to.

Personally I am not scared that someone bugged my keyboard - even if there is data in there is a foreign spy really going to come and steal my keyboard to retrieve it?  Somehow this doesn't seem likely.
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