The Secret Life of Components: Connectors

This week on The Secret Life of Components Tim Hunkin treats us to connections he makes with wires. This is probably the most practical video for me because I struggle sometimes to make good connections from one wire to another but I never look up any help about it and just keep making mistakes. So, if you’re like me and in need of some practical advice, or just enjoy listening to Tim Hunkin explain the components he uses to make the machines at his arcades, tune in above and then check out Hunkin’s The Secret Life of Components website afterwards.

One great new feature of the TSLoC website is that Hunkin has been writing a bit of behind-the-scenes errata or addendum in response to the comments on each video a little while after they go up. For example, Hunkin says in regard to the wonderful giant micro switch from the switches episode:

I’m delighted that many people commented on the giant microswitch because Rex made it 30 years ago for our Secret Life of the Lift film. Far too good to throw out its been waiting in my stores for this moment of glory. Its made of layers of MDF, cut to shape on a bandsaw.

We’ve already seen Hunkin talk and demonstrate about Chain, LEDs, Hinges, Switches, and Springs in this series. There are just two more episodes left, Glue coming up next week and Bearings the week after that.

Nephlock’s GMK Metropolis R2 Available

NUMTOTS rejoice

GMK Metropolis by Nephlock is one of the most visually arresting keycap sets I’ve seen, with bold colors on a dark blue base and symbology for transit enthusiasts. Unfortunately, Metropolis has been one of the most expensive keycap sets to get on the second-hand market, because it is so popular. Finally, in about a year, new copies of GMK Metropolis will be shipping again after people who purchase it before April 30th, 2021, receive their sets. GMK, the company that makes these keycaps, really needs the pandemic to be over.

If you find the colors to be a bit much, but enjoy the mass-transit symbology, there is a more subdued base kit with teal highlights called Midnight:


The regular Metropolis base kit is $120 USD, Midnight is slightly cheaper at $110 presumably because the kit is a little smaller and uses fewer colors. As with all of these Group Buys there’s a risk of delays if the 

GMK Metropolis is available with more options, matching deskmats, and more, until the 30th of April at Novelkeys for North America, Desk Hero for Canada, proto[Typist] in the UK, Oblotzky Industries for the EU, Daily Clack in Australia, zFrontier in Asia, and monokei in South East Asia. You can read a bit more about the set in this thread from Nephlock on Geekhack.

A Keyboard Fit for A Fool

That’s no moon

The Clueboard keyboard company has sadly somewhat shut down, but one of the silliest things they built every year was a keyboard for April Fools’ Day. The layout in the past few years has been a variation on the theme of too many keys in what the Clueboard folks call a 2×1800 layout, which has two sets of numpad keys, two arrow keys, and more F-keys than you will ever be able to sort out without advance notice. There are 129 keys on this board. In the past it has added rotary knobs and an etch-a-sketch mode where you could shake the keyboard in order to reset a drawing made with the knobs. This year’s version is the Clueboard 2×1800 LED Sign Edition (2021) and it has, as the name suggests, a programmable LED array. This is the most keyboard you could buy and it would probably take someone a few hours to solder in the 256 LEDs on their own. Oh, and of course this keyboard also has the rotary encoders, a speaker, a built-in breadboard for future expansion, 6 GPIO pins, and all of the 129 keys from the previous years models.

At $150 including almost everything you need to build the world’s silliest mechanical keyboard, this Clueboard 2×1800 LED Sign Edition (2021) seems like it is certainly one thing to do with your money and time but you’ll also need to get stabilizers and switches and keycaps, which is gonna be difficult with two sets of arrow keys and number pads to cover. The product page mentions that a 3D-printed case is on the way but it might just be files for you to print your own and that’s probably gonna be tough with a keyboard this size. It is also important to note that the final PCB will have a black solder mask and a white silkscreen with some other aesthetic differences to the prototype photo.

You’ll also need to decide quickly, as the sale ends on April 6th. Unlike most mechanical keyboard group buys this one is expected to ship relatively quickly in mid-May.

Solitaire is Now an E-Sport

One of the games added to Apple Arcade yesterday was MobilityWare’s Solitaire by MobilityWare+, and it has online multiplayer. Playing klondike solitaire alone is relaxing so long as you don’t abide by the timer. Adding in a second player who is trying to win first turns this relaxing game we have all been playing for the past 30+ years into all of the joy and frustration of playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds into a tiny bite sized dose of card-based mayhem.

In about an hour of games I’ve had moments of victory but the majority of the time I am getting destroyed. No foe has been greater than that of Liam. In one of our matches the game gave me the autocomplete option to let me quickly finish the match and I accepted the choice. As the animation of the cards returning to their decks started playing, somehow Liam rocketed ahead and won. They must have just hit the final card a moment before me and now I hate Liam with the fury of a thousand suns for besting me at Solitaire by MobilityWare+.

Sadly, Solitaire by MobilityWare+ is not available on the Mac, but it is on iOS and iPadOS with that Apple Arcade subscription. On the Mac I recommend playing Full Deck Solitaire, which has better card designs but no multiplayer. However, Full Deck has a ton of other card games built-in and even AI competitors for Texas Hold ‘Em.

New Games on Apple Arcade

Apple added a heap of games to their video game subscription service today, new games like Taiko no Tatsujin Pop Tap Beat and old games like Mini Metro that have been updated for the service.

Having just checked out Namco’s Taiko no Tatsujin Pop Tap Beat, it’s a decent version of the drumming series but it does feel a little bit like an odd one-and-done thing for a music game to be on Apple Arcade.

Part of the deal with Apple’s subscription service is that games on don’t have ads and won’t sell in-app-purchases. This means that you won’t ever be able to buy more songs for a music game like Taiko no Tatsujin Pop Tap Beat. In terms of other ways for the game to work with the platform there is exactly one achievement and it is for completing the tutorial. It is fun to tap to the beat on an iPad, the drum controllers for the console versions are hard to come by here, but it’s clear that Namco got paid and probably won’t ever look at this version again which is a blessing for most games on mobile platforms that are riddled with ads and in-app-purchases.

Apple Arcade games are usually required to be on the Mac, and Taiko gives you a keyboard option there which is a great way to play it. However some of the games added to Apple Arcade today don’t seem to be in the Mac App Store. More might be available for users with M1 Macs.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the service because I don’t like ads and in-app-purchases in general but it still makes it clear that the Apple TV box desperately needs an update to run these games better. Many of them won’t run well on that device because it hasn’t been updated in 4 years.