Author Topic: Maltron vs EgDx  (Read 6467 times)

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Offline Pacifist

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Maltron vs EgDx
« on: Sat, 26 April 2014, 21:53:19 »
Which one is better for ergonomics? Maltron has that 3D shape, but EgDx is split. Ultimately, which one is bettter?

Offline eth0s

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #1 on: Sat, 26 April 2014, 22:27:59 »
Which one is better for ergonomics? Maltron has that 3D shape, but EgDx is split. Ultimately, which one is bettter?

Well, I don't own either one, but I tried them both at Keycon last year.  IMO, the Maltron is better for ergonomics due to the 3d molded shape.  Whereas the ergo dox is flat.  However, the Maltron is surprisingly flimsy feeling.  It's made from a thin hollow plastic shell that is kind of chintzy feeling.  The ergo dox feels really sturdy.   I guess you really need to try them both.  But both are expensive.  Maybe you can attend a meetup and try them both in person?  I dunno.  Maybe somebody else can give better feedback.
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Offline Melvang

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #2 on: Sat, 26 April 2014, 22:47:02 »
My only experience is at KeyCon2013 as well.  I would have to say the ergo dox just due to the fact of the much higher degree of adjustability with some ingenuity/redneck engineering.
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Offline nuclearsandwich

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #3 on: Sat, 26 April 2014, 22:50:21 »
We opened up one of obra's Maltrons at KiiBohd today it feels nice but like it'll take hella to get used to.

Offline davkol

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #4 on: Sun, 27 April 2014, 05:12:56 »
I've used only the ErgoDox and a Kinesis Advantage, which appears to be essentially just a mass-produced Maltron clone with slightly different angles, fewer mechanical keys and a feature-rich firmware. Both are more or less in the same price range.

At first, it may seem that the design with curved keywells is superior. It indeed is... as long as you don't do anything but type (English) prose at your desk. In actuality, you'd have to mod the keyboard heavily to get
  • two separate, tentable halves (still not portable though);
  • more palm-/thumb-friendly modifiers;
  • layers, dual-role modifiers, NKRO etc.
Doing all these mods probably voids warranty and potential security certifications, the only other advantage of those proprietary keyboards.

ErgoDox FTW!

Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #5 on: Sun, 27 April 2014, 21:10:58 »
Hey all, I am the guy that had the Maltron and Ergodox at Keycon 2013 because I am an ergonomics freak.  I currently use the Maltron at work, but I used the Egrodox for quite awhile, and I like to switch between the two when I get the chance.  I also owned the Kinesis Advantage for awhile, but the Ergodox and Maltron pushed that one onto the selling block.

From an ergonomics standpoint, I believe the Maltron to be superior.  The curved key wells, the sunken thumb keys, those big vertical shift keys, the numpad/navigation in the middle.  With navigation keys on the thumb cluster, I can do all my computing WITHOUT moving my hands.  And if you are lucky enough to have a Maltron with an integrated trackball, you will be in ergonomics bliss.

In my view, the ergonomics of the Ergodox falls short of the Maltron.  The flat shape requires my fingers to move farther to reach each key, and the thumb cluster is not in the ideal place, which AcidFire has been attempting to resolve with his custom design.  The adjustable and tentable halves are nice, but the Maltron is so ergonomic in design that adjustability is not necessary.  I can type for long periods on the Maltron pain free.  And the trackball mouse with easy access to the navigation keys on the numpad only improves the convenience of the keyboard.

Of course, the Ergodox has the advantage of the programmability and layers.  Those things are awesome.  But you can get the Maltron with two layers programmed into the keyboard (mine has QWERTY and MALTRON).  I have found the default layout on my Maltron so satisfactory, that I have no need to modify the layout.  I actually modeled my Ergodox layout after the Maltron layout.

The Ergodox does have a more solid feel to it, while the hollowness and flimsiness of the Maltron can produce an unsatisfactory feel.  I attempted to improve the feel of my Maltron by swapping out the stock MX blacks for ergo clears.  It did give the keys some tactility, but it still does not feel very solid.  The Ergodox certainly has a better feel.

Questions about durability and longetivity can be answered by Proword Joe, who has owned Maltron boards for at least a couple decades with plenty of use.  My own Maltron probably is over a dozen years old, but I cannot know for sure as I bought it used.  In addition, it is very easy to modify with the hand-wired switches and all.  Both the keyboards seem made to last, but we will not know for sure with the Ergodox for a few more years.  It is nice to know that the quality of your products can be measured in years, with the disposability of consumer goods these days!)

One thing that should be noted about price:  The Maltrons are significantly higher in price, unless you can score them used.  And they are such weird items with a seemingly low demand, that they can be had for a low price used (relatively).  But the two-handed models rarely seem to pop up on Ebay.

Please ask if you have any more questions.
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Offline SonOfSonOfSpock

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #6 on: Sun, 27 April 2014, 23:42:17 »
I have no experience with the Maltron, but I have an Ergodox. My personally preference goes to adjustability when things seem similar. Sometimes things are great except for one thing. If you can adjust / change that, then it might be perfect. But, I might be wrong, people who have Maltrons love them a lot.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #7 on: Sun, 27 April 2014, 23:50:40 »
Personally, I think the Maltron has a great shape. It’s not exactly perfect for my hands, but it’s very very good compared to anything else out there. [But note I’ve only used one for 5-10 minutes; no long-term expertise speaking here]

The Ergodox does have two big advantages though: (1) its two sides can be positioned arbitrarily relative to each-other, (2) it’s very easy to load any arbitrary firmware you want onto it, and change the layout to whatever you like, or add any special features you can think of.

Also, the Maltron is pretty light and hollow, which makes it slightly flimsy feeling (I’m sure someone could get used to this), and it doesn’t have my favorite switches on it.

I think overall the Maltron comes out ahead, especially if you put your own controller logic somewhere between it and the keyboard to allow for some programmability, but if I could make a dream keyboard, it would be constructed of some solid but not too heavy material, maybe wood, have switches something like the Model F but with the actuation point a bit higher in the stroke, be shaped somewhat like the Maltron (but with a few keys removed and some others rearranged to fit my hands perfectly), with the two sides tented, the center a bit higher than the edges, and would have some integrated pointing devices, I think one nice trackball in the middle plus a trackpoint near each index finger would work.

* * *

I think the Maltron has a better shape than the Kinesis Advantage, and I figured out that the difference is mainly that the Maltron can arbitrarily position and orient its switches, because they’re stuck in a piece of molded plastic and hand wired, while the Advantage is hampered by needing to attach them to just a few curved PCBs. The Advantage tries to mitigate this with some keycaps of various profiles, but it doesn’t really make up the difference.

Also, at least for my hands, the Kinesis thumb keys are just in the wrong place and orientation, while the Maltron’s thumb keys are pretty good. Not perfect, but much better.

The Ergodox of course is worse then either one in shape for each hand (but with the advantage of independently movable halves). I think the Ergodox could be greatly improved even while sticking to two completely flat halves; it much too slavishly copies the general layout concept of the Kinesis, without adequately considering how to make keys easy to press on a flat design.
« Last Edit: Sun, 27 April 2014, 23:58:53 by jacobolus »

Offline Pacifist

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #8 on: Sun, 27 April 2014, 23:58:09 »
we need a 3D shaped split ergo keyboard with programmable matrix  :))

Looks like although maltron feels flimsy and doesn't have the benifits that the ergodox has, its shape is ultimately better. Time to save up :p

Offline Proword

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #9 on: Mon, 28 April 2014, 04:38:15 »

Questions about durability and longetivity can be answered by Proword Joe, who has owned Maltron boards for at least a couple decades with plenty of use.  My own Maltron probably is over a dozen years old, but I cannot know for sure as I bought it used.  In addition, it is very easy to modify with the hand-wired switches and all.  Both the keyboards seem made to last, but we will not know for sure with the Ergodox for a few more years.  It is nice to know that the quality of your products can be measured in years, with the disposability of consumer goods these days!)



Yes, despite their seeming flimsiness, the Maltron is pretty tough.  It's designed for people with disabilities who don't always have accurate motor control.  I bought my first dual hander in 1986 for my Apple II, changed to Basis Medfly, then sent the keyboard back to the UK to have it upgraded to run on IBM/Clones.  It came back with a DIN plug, which lasted me until my computers used PS/2 plugs, and I was able to plug an adapter on the end of the DIN, but when I tried to put a USB adapter on THAT it wasn't reliable.  However, I can still use it on an old computer with PS/2, and it still works.

As far as the type of work I do, I'm a court reporter (though semi-retired) and I have to use the keyboard at the speed of speech (160/200 wpm) for hours at a stretch.  I've worn the lettering off some of the keys, but it is possible to have the characters engraved into the keycaps, so they should never wear away  (the engraved keycaps used to come with a small stick of black wax so the lettering could be restored by rubbing it into the engraving.)

This piccy hopefully shows how deep the engraving is (this is my 1986 Maltron)



There was a question about the weight on this bulletin board some time ago I think, and it was suggested that perhaps to give it a bit more "beef" the bottom plate could be removed and resin cored solder could be taped inside.  Or alternatively, if you buy one from the factory, I'm pretty sure they could address that problem for you in some way.


Joe

PS  Having dragged the '86er into the light of day and seen how well time has treated the keycaps I might just swap them over to my newer keyboard, which only has surface lettering.
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Offline davkol

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #10 on: Mon, 28 April 2014, 04:51:34 »
we need a 3D shaped split ergo keyboard with programmable matrix  :))

Feel free to design it.

I don't think there's that much of a difference in terms of "absolute" finger movement between a flat and curved design, if you use an optimized layout. See my recording of typing on a Kinesis Advantage w/ Colemak:


However, notice the awkward side movement around 0:52. That's what reaching for modifiers looks like (AltGr in this case, stuff like Ctrl-Esc is even weirder), if you don't have long fingers.

Like I wrote earlier, it all boils down to your expected use case and modifications.

Offline Oobly

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #11 on: Mon, 28 April 2014, 05:26:17 »
ErgoDox wins:
1. Adjustable distance between units
2. Adjustable splay angle
3. Adjustable pronation angle (with some kind of rests / mounts)
4. Custom layout
5. Programmable firmware (if you have the skills you can tweak it)

Maltron wins:
1. Curved keywells
2. Angled thumb clusters with better positioning

Personally I think customisability is more valuable than curved keywells.

An ErgoDox-like minimal board (so you don't have to move your fingers more than one key distance and correctly staggered columns to make this comfortable) with well designed angled thumb clusters and good layer design (and programmable layouts) would be best for finger travel and good enough for comfort (I speak from experience ;) ) without requiring complicated curved keywells and would be able to be produced relatively affordably... with backlighting... and the MX switches of your choice. Watch this space.... SoonTM (maybe)

Curved keywells require either handwiring or curved PCB's and are not easy to make. Kudos to Kinesis for doing so at a decent price point without sacrificing too much on the curve.
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Offline vvp

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #12 on: Mon, 28 April 2014, 06:15:05 »
we need a 3D shaped split ergo keyboard with programmable matrix  :))
Maybe there will be at least one: http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=43362.msg1299124#msg1299124
I guess other people are trying too.

Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #13 on: Mon, 28 April 2014, 06:39:59 »
One thing that should not be discounted in the Ergodox vs. Maltron battle is the integrated trackball that you can get with the Maltron.  This little feature has huge ergonomic benefits, in my view.  You can use the trackball with your hand in a very comfortable position and the buttons are a very intuitive place for your fingers.  In addition, the navigation keys on the numpad are within easy reach when you using the trackball, so navigating around documents is more convenient than with any other device.

I have used the Egrodox with regular mice, trackballs, and the Rollermouse, but the ergonomics are hard to beat on the Maltron.  The problems I had with a mouse in the middle of my Ergodox was the large gap between the two halves and the lower height of the mouse with a tented keyboard.  Perhaps it would be nice to have a little stand in middle to raise the mouse off the desk, but I still doubt that would make things better than the Maltron.
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Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #14 on: Mon, 28 April 2014, 06:42:36 »
we need a 3D shaped split ergo keyboard with programmable matrix  :))
Maybe there will be at least one: http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=43362.msg1299124#msg1299124
I guess other people are trying too.


That looks like a curved PCB or hand wiring would have to be done for that to work.  Doable, but it will raise the price or make it too much work for many people.
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Offline plainbriny

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #15 on: Mon, 28 April 2014, 07:04:45 »
I am not sure about the curved design, since I don't have experience with maltron or kinesis.

However, I am pretty satisfied with my "FrankenDox", it has all the advantages of ErgoDox with some more:
1. angled thumb cluster
2. integrated pointing device (trackpoint)

I think a detachable thumb cluster can improve the usability and ergonomics of the ErgoDox dramatically.

62831-0

Offline hoggy

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #16 on: Mon, 28 April 2014, 07:16:33 »
prdlm2009, if you email maltron with your keyboard's serial number, I'm sure they would be able to tell you when it was built.  Saying that, if you open it up, you should see the date and the signature of the person who built it.
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Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #17 on: Mon, 28 April 2014, 08:10:27 »
prdlm2009, if you email maltron with your keyboard's serial number, I'm sure they would be able to tell you when it was built.  Saying that, if you open it up, you should see the date and the signature of the person who built it.

Yes, thank you, I have opened it up before, but I have not examined the handwriting close enough.  I love how the serial number is handwritten, and mine has a Surrey address, while they seem to be located in Stafford these days.  How times have changed!

EDIT:  Mine was manufactured in 2002, and it still seems to be going strong, except the trackball is a little slow for modern DPI.  Perhaps that has been resolved in their more recent models.
« Last Edit: Mon, 28 April 2014, 12:32:42 by prdlm2009 »
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Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #18 on: Mon, 28 April 2014, 08:11:11 »
I am not sure about the curved design, since I don't have experience with maltron or kinesis.

However, I am pretty satisfied with my "FrankenDox", it has all the advantages of ErgoDox with some more:
1. angled thumb cluster
2. integrated pointing device (trackpoint)

I think a detachable thumb cluster can improve the usability and ergonomics of the ErgoDox dramatically.

(Attachment Link)

That is a beauty!  Nice work.  I think a trackpoint in one of my Ergodoxen would serve me well.
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Offline Oobly

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #19 on: Mon, 28 April 2014, 09:20:03 »
I am not sure about the curved design, since I don't have experience with maltron or kinesis.

However, I am pretty satisfied with my "FrankenDox", it has all the advantages of ErgoDox with some more:
1. angled thumb cluster
2. integrated pointing device (trackpoint)

I think a detachable thumb cluster can improve the usability and ergonomics of the ErgoDox dramatically.

(Attachment Link)

That's a nicely modded ErgoDox! I like it a lot. I'd love to add a TrackPoint or similar device to my next board.
Buying more keycaps,
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Offline vvp

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #20 on: Mon, 28 April 2014, 14:55:21 »
Maybe there will be at least one: http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=43362.msg1299124#msg1299124
I guess other people are trying too.
That looks like a curved PCB or hand wiring would have to be done for that to work.  Doable, but it will raise the price or make it too much work for many people.
Hand wiring. I doubt PCB makes sense for wiring switches of a DIY contour keyboard. An ErgoDox for those who want it simple.

Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #21 on: Mon, 28 April 2014, 16:28:04 »
Just used the Maltron all day at work today, and now I am using my Ergodox to type this at home.  Tough call to say which I prefer more.  The Egrodox has a better feel and features, but the Maltron puts less strain on my hands.  I recommend just getting both.  And Acidfire's board, if that comes to fruition.  And keyboard.io.
« Last Edit: Tue, 29 April 2014, 06:11:44 by prdlm2009 »
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Offline hoggy

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #22 on: Tue, 29 April 2014, 02:46:52 »
[snip]...I recommend just getting both.  And Acidfire's board, if that comes to fruition.  And keyboard.io.

With you on that one.
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Offline Proword

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #23 on: Wed, 30 April 2014, 00:28:10 »
One thing that should not be discounted in the Ergodox vs. Maltron battle is the integrated trackball that you can get with the Maltron.  This little feature has huge ergonomic benefits, in my view.  You can use the trackball with your hand in a very comfortable position and the buttons are a very intuitive place for your fingers.  In addition, the navigation keys on the numpad are within easy reach when you using the trackball, so navigating around documents is more convenient than with any other device.



Maltron 3D Dual Hand (x4)
Maltron 3D Single Hand (x2 - L & R)

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Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #24 on: Thu, 01 May 2014, 12:56:40 »
One thing that should not be discounted in the Ergodox vs. Maltron battle is the integrated trackball that you can get with the Maltron.  This little feature has huge ergonomic benefits, in my view.  You can use the trackball with your hand in a very comfortable position and the buttons are a very intuitive place for your fingers.  In addition, the navigation keys on the numpad are within easy reach when you using the trackball, so navigating around documents is more convenient than with any other device.



Show Image


Ergonomically gorgeous.
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Offline ksweber

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #25 on: Sat, 03 May 2014, 00:23:27 »
The pack of hardware and software is making it. Therefore both keyboards are worth a try.

Despite the above statements on missing programmability on Maltrons its easy to solder the matrix of an older Maltron to a Teensy controller and achieve full programmability. Today you can even order a Maltron with Teensy inside, like I did after the ErgoDox project took me too long and I was never disappointed.
63435-0

Maltron offers such a good pack of hard- and software by providing:
  • a tented and v-shaped hardware together with keys adjusted to the different finger length. (I do not miss seperation of left and right keyboard for adjustability.)
  • a keyboard layout optimised for english language called Malt. (I have made some analysis on this here geekhack.org)

My personal cherry picking dream pack is similar:
  • take the compact Maltron without navigation and number block in the middle because that supports a more neutral arms position while typing
  • add the character layout of your choice together with layers for symbols, numbers and navigation and multiuse thumb keys (layer modifier if pressed together with some other key or normal key otherwise i.e Shift/Space)

This is not hypothetical but working! I will attach a picture of the  programmable Maltron KW, a picture of my current layout and a link to the firmware sources I patched.

For me Maltron had won the overall hardware competition already two years ago against ErgoDox when deciding which to try (first).

63420-1

64011-2

Link to the firmware sources: github

When it comes to the layout I favoure the solutions the AdNW keyboard layout optimiser is delivering. That comes out of the box with english and german statistic files but was also used for russian optimisation. It finds Dvorak like layouts with few adjacent key strokes on the pinky/ring and middle/ring finger. Furthermore it offers high hand alternation rates, few same finger movements, an adaptable cost model for keys touch efforts which distributes the characters according to these drivers and the individual hardware.

Finally there are still some digraphs typed one handed and those should be (for me) more inward rolls than outward. These digraphs should not be typed over more than one row distance. Optimally most digraphs should be typed on the home row. The following diagram - created by the AdNW optimiser - shows the digraph movements on this layout. Thicker lines indicate frequent digraphs and inbound rolls are shown by lines curving upwards. This layout has twice as much inbound rolls, as outbound hand roll movements.

Digraphs typed one handed for english language on Z.O,Y-TECK:
63905-3


Digraphs typed one handed for german language on Z.O,Y-TECK:
63903-4


Just to compare whats going on one handed in QWERTY for english language:
63815-5
« Last Edit: Thu, 08 May 2014, 01:12:33 by ksweber »

Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #26 on: Sun, 04 May 2014, 09:22:11 »
Oh yes, I forgot that Maltron can make a custom programmable keyboard if you ask.  That will certainly raise the price even further, but how much are you hands and wrists worth to you?
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Offline ksweber

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #27 on: Sun, 04 May 2014, 14:48:36 »
@prdlm2009: The hardware costs are a lot discussed in the forums. If you calculate the time all of us are investing into this hobby (truly ergonomic keyboards/mice) I think this is a multiple of the costs of buying some hardware. It took me a lot of time to setup my teensy development environment, understand the keyboard controller code I started with and making the changes in firmware behaviour I wanted. If I add the hours it took to get convinced of some keyboard layout it scares me more than the limited costs of some hundred euros.

What do you think on this?

Offline hoggy

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #28 on: Sun, 04 May 2014, 15:09:29 »
I think you've shown real depth.

Most people will put up with the pain or discomfort, not thinking to change either their work patterns or their work environment.  To go further and buy your own equipment for work crosses another boundary that sadly only a small percentage of people will contemplate (it's not too rare on this site, but it certainly is outside of this community).  To go further, getting Maltron to build you a custom keyboard... is the sort of behaviour I aspire to.

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Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #29 on: Sun, 04 May 2014, 15:55:06 »
@prdlm2009: The hardware costs are a lot discussed in the forums. If you calculate the time all of us are investing into this hobby (truly ergonomic keyboards/mice) I think this is a multiple of the costs of buying some hardware. It took me a lot of time to setup my teensy development environment, understand the keyboard controller code I started with and making the changes in firmware behaviour I wanted. If I add the hours it took to get convinced of some keyboard layout it scares me more than the limited costs of some hundred euros.

What do you think on this?

I agree with you.  That's is why I spent quite a bit on these ergonomic keyboards and pointing devices.  Although writing my own firmware seems a bit intimidating.
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Offline ksweber

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Re: Maltron vs EgDx
« Reply #30 on: Sun, 04 May 2014, 23:13:48 »
Thanks for the positive feedback.  :)

I did not wrote my own firmware, but had to change a given one ( forked from frobiac/adnw @ Github). Needed to adapt the row and column access code according to the matrix soldering.
Then I wanted to improve the multiuse of keys as modifier and same time normal keys in order to beeing able to use multiple modifier keys together with a normal key. Then I added the option to have multiple layouts (see line 173ff) with multiple layers each (the selection is stored permanently in the EEPROM). Finally I added a switch between Mac/PC and another one on the location of the operating systems driver (DE/GB/US). So time went by ...