Bathroom Epiphanies

I bought my first mechanical keyboard in December 2013, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. I had no idea mechanical keyboards would turn into a hobby, and I certainly didn’t know what was possible with them. Like anyone else new to something, I didn’t know what I wanted.

It was a Filco Majestouch 2 with front-printed “ninja” keycaps on the recommendation of friends. Tim had a Filco of his own and vouched for the build quality and heavy chassis, and Bob was my guide to the type of switches I wanted.

It’s still my daily driver, despite having other boards now, because of its layout and the keycaps I eventually ended up replacing the ninja keyset with. I can’t seem to drag myself away from a full sized layout with number pad, function row, arrow blocks, and Home, End and friends. It’s not my ideal hypothetical layout, but it’s the closest I have today.

It’s not programmable though, unlike my other boards. I can’t remap the basic keys in hardware, program macros, or access multiple programmable layers like I can in most other modern boards today. That flexibility, to mould a keyboard to your particular tastes, is a big part of the reason to invest in one.

Thankfully, an enterprising soul called Fredrik Atmer manufactures programmable replacement controllers for a range of keyboards, including the Majestouch 2. The one for my board is called the Kitten Paw, and like all of those Fredrik makes based on ATmega32u2 microcontrollers, it supports the missing features that I’d like and doesn’t cost a fortune.

Less than £30 including shipping, arriving from Sweden in only a couple of days, the Kitten Paw was straightforward to install:

  1. Disconnect the Majestouch and turn it over
  2. Remove the three screws holding the top cover to the bottom plate, including the screw under the warranty sticker
  3. Gently pull the top edge of the top cover away from the bottom plate, where the function row is, exposing the OEM controller near the LEDs at the top right of the board
  4. Remove the original controller, pulling it free from the sockets gently
  5. Push the Kitten Paw into place, lettering the right way up
  6. Push the top case back down and turn the board over and replace the screws
  7. Plug it back in and start typing!

That’s it. It should have the same layout as a stock Majestouch by default, and then you can get to work programming it by creating a new firmware and flashing it to the board in DFU mode. That’s all covered on Fredrik’s GitHub page for his controller firmwares.

I’d been using my Filco for 3 years before realising someone made replacement controllers for it, so I wanted to write about Fredrik’s just in case someone stumbled on my blog with the same keyboard, and then same wishes for features that could be fulfilled with a Kitten Paw or similar.