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RedScarf II Build Log

A 60% board with integrated numpad

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I'm Blue Da Ba Dee Da Ba Die...

Blue Alps Build (Video Log)

Back in December I wrote about my search for a blue alps donor board
Blue Alps64 for another 60% alps-mount board I was planning on building. This will be my third board based on Hasu’s Alps64 PCB, and second built from Bluenalgene’s Alps Party group buy on Geekhack.

The other two builds were exercises in learning about the custom-keyboard world, and in sourcing parts. This build was far more ambitious. I wasn’t simply accumulating and assembling parts - I got far more involved than that. This was definitely my most rewarding build yet. Six or seven months of preparations and acquiring parts culminated in a marathon 12 hour build session.

I’ve never before built a board in a single day, much less a sitting. I’ve always broken the build up into a couple sessions over a few days. This was an exhausting marathon, but I’m incredibly pleased with how it turned out.

The Parts

The Plate


I had originally bought a Infinity layout plate for this buy, but later changed my mind and decided a HHKB layout plate would be better for this build. After much searching I was able to source a plate from another user on Geekhack. This being a blue themed build, the only sensible option was to paint the bare steel blue.

I’ve never dealt in painting anything before, much less something I want to look beautiful, but I made my best effort anyway.

First was primer (sanded).


Followed by three or four coats of color, with intermittent sanding in between coats.



Finished with a clear coat enamel.



Getting the plate powder coated would have been a better option than spray paint perhaps, but out here in the middle-of-nowhere Iowa finding a good business to do so would prove difficult. There were certain difficulties with painting the plate, as I live in an apartment. With no garage or workshop to paint in, I was relegated to painting in a cardboard box outside, and praying the elements or dust didn’t muck up the paint. In my opinion the plate looks great.

The Lube

This build was also my first time endeavoring to lubricate my switches. Blue alps are known for being the smoothest and best feeling of alps-mount switches, and the ones from my donor board were very nice. Still, given their age and apparent dirtiness (what can one expect after 20+ years) I felt lubing them would only improve the feel.


I initially tried a thin linear krytox lube. Krytox is very popular in the community, and is regarded by many as the best option for lubing switches. I chose the thin lube to try to provide only a small amount of lubrication. I was disappointed to discover that krytox, applied even very sparingly removed the lovely click from the blue switches and completely modified the feel.

I ended up opting for DuPont Silicone Teflon lubricant - per this guide. Each donor switch was disassembled and had a light amount of lube applied to the slider(on the sides), the top housing (where it meets with the slider sides), and spring. The difference between the unmodified and lubricated switch is subtle, but very pleasant. The tactile feel remains, but actuation is smoother. The click is perhaps a bit subdued and lowered, and spring ping is almost entirely eliminated. I quite like it.

I also chose (per Ripster’s recommendation & lube guide) Finish Line Teflon grease for lubricating the stabilizers. I haven’t felt a need to lubricate my cherry boards nor my White Alps board
White Alps64 (which uses entirely vintage stab clips and wires), but I did notice the mishmash of modern and vintage clips and wires in my Orange Alps
Orange Alps64 build weren’t smooth. This is the downside of adapting old boards and layouts into different layouts - one is forced to mix vintage and modern stab components. The Finish Line lube does a fantastic job of keeping the stabilizers smooth and feeling great.

The Keycaps

Alpine Winter [Source]

Keycaps for this board are from njabair’s Alpine Winter group buy. They are doubleshot thick ABS alps-mount DCS profile caps from Signature Plastics. As far as I’m aware they are the only community designed alps keycap set to have been made. Alpine Winter supports most 60% layouts all in a single set. It’s gorgeous, and it was brilliantly timed to accompany Alps Party 3 and Monarch. The initial run wasn’t without its problems - due to a manufacturing error by Signature Plastics many caps have mismatched heights. SP is opting to rerun the entire set at no extra charge to rectify the error. Also, the flashing on the stems has been found to be slightly too large (what can be expected from 20+ year old tooling), but this is easily remedied with an Xacto knife.

I’ve never used DCS profile before, but it is fast becoming my new favorite profile. Unlike OEM, Cherry, and AEK, rows 3 and 4 are sculpted and arch back up. The sculpt is gorgeous and feels great. I’m incredibly pleased with this keycap set.

DCS Profile

After the first fitting:


The Code

Code for this board is mighty similar to my other builds. It uses the basic ANSI layout I have for my Orange build
Orange Alps64, with changes for the bottom row, the function toggle, and backspace/delete positioning.

#include "keymap_common.h"

const uint8_t PROGMEM keymaps[][MATRIX_ROWS][MATRIX_COLS] = {
 * ,-----------------------------------------------------------.
 * |Esc|  1|  2|  3|  4|  5|  6|  7|  8|  9|  0|  -| =|BSLS|DEL|
 * |-----------------------------------------------------------|
 * |Tab  |  Q|  W|  E|  R|  T|  Y|  U|  I|  O|  P|  [|  ]|DEL  |
 * |-----------------------------------------------------------|
 * |Ctrl  |  A|  S|  D|  F|  G|  H|  J|  K|  L|  ;|  '|Enter   |
 * |-----------------------------------------------------------|
 * |Shft|  \|  Z|  X|  C|  V|  B|  N|  M|  ,|  .|  /|Shift |FN2|
 * |-----------------------------------------------------------'
 * |    |GUI |ALT |      Space/FN1    |ALT  |GUI |    |        |
 * `-----------------------------------------------------------'
[0] =KEYMAP( \
    ESC, 1,   2,   3,   4,   5,   6,   7,   8,   9,   0,   MINS,EQL, BSLS, DEL, \
    TAB, Q,   W,   E,   R,   T,   Y,   U,   I,   O,   P,   LBRC,RBRC,BSPC, \
    LCTL,A,   S,   D,   F,   G,   H,   J,   K,   L,   SCLN,QUOT,ENT,  \
    LSFT,NUBS,Z,   X,   C,   V,   B,   N,   M,   COMM,DOT, SLSH,RSFT,FN2, \
    NO,LGUI,LALT,          FN1,                     LALT, LGUI,NO,NO),

  * ,-----------------------------------------------------------.
  * |-----------------------------------------------------------|
  * |Tab  |  Q| UP|  E|  R|  T|  Y|  U|  I|  O|  P|  [|  ]|DEL  |
  * |-----------------------------------------------------------|
  * |Caps|LEFT|DOWN|RIGHT|  F|  G|  H|  J|  K|  L|  ;|  '|Enter |
  * |-----------------------------------------------------------|
  * |Shft| \|  Z|  X|  C|  V|  B|  N|  M|  ,|  .|  /|Shift |TRNS|
  * |-----------------------------------------------------------'
  * |    |TRNS |TRNS |         Space         |TRNS |TRNS|  |    |
  * `-----------------------------------------------------------'

 * Fn action definition
const uint16_t PROGMEM fn_actions[] = {
    [0]  = ACTION_LAYER_MOMENTARY(1),                  // Default
    [1]  = ACTION_LAYER_TAP_KEY(1, KC_SPC),            // MORGAN LAYER
    [2]  = ACTION_LAYER_TOGGLE(1),
    [3]  = ACTION_LAYER_MOMENTARY(2),                  // CMD Layer
    [4]  = ACTION_MACRO(COPY_TAB_PASTE),               // Copy tab paste in browser

The Result

The blue theme really came together with this build. It’s blue on blue on blue on blue. The board looks absolutely gorgeous, the switches feel fantastic. With this build I pushed my abilities and built a board I love. This board is fast becoming my favorite, and is a contender to be my new daily driver.

Typed on Blue Alps64

Apple Building Their Own Servers?

At least part of the driver for this is to ensure that the servers are secure. Apple has long suspected that servers it ordered from the traditional supply chain were intercepted during shipping, with additional chips and firmware added to them by unknown third parties in order to make them vulnerable to infiltration, according to a person familiar with the matter. At one point, Apple even assigned people to take photographs of motherboards and annotate the function of each chip, explaining why it was supposed to be there. Building its own servers with motherboards it designed would be the most surefire way for Apple to prevent unauthorized snooping via extra chips.


So Xserve 2.0? They should sell them too. As much as Apple is growing in enterprise there’s bound to be interest in Apple server hardware, especially under Tim Cook’s security focused Apple.

Typed on Octopage

State-Level Actors

You Want The Data? Go Get It!

The FBI on Monday:

On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone. Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook’s iPhone.


Without any doubts, when the government issues a legal warrant (such as the one they had back in December to searh Farook’s car), they should puruse all avenues of investigation, and subpeona all those who have information to give. Apple provided all the information it had, via Farook’s iCloud backup. It didn’t have the information on the phone itself, and had not access to the information. The extraordinary request to backdoor the phone crossed the line.

The FBI is now confirming what many in the industry have been saying - they don’t need Apple to get into this phone.

Jonathan Zdziarski’s take:

NAND mirroring is likely being used to some degree to brute force the pin on the device. This is where the NAND chip is typically desoldered, dumped into a file (likely by a chip reader/programmer, which is like a cd burner for chips), and then copied so that if the device begins to wipe or delay after five or ten tries, they can just re-write the original image back to the chip.


The implications of this method are brilliant - but they would take significant resources (manpower, research, funding) to do. The resources at play here are and would only be accessible to high-level actors like a national law enforcement agency. It was wrong for the FBI to attempt to coop Apple into backdooring their own product, but I have no qualms with a method like this.

Warrants should give law enforcement the power to acquire data off phones, but not at the expense of creating a software backdoor. An effort like recovering data from an encrypted device should take the dedicated efforts from a state-level actor. If the FBI wants the data, they need to go get it themselves, and this method may be how they accomplish that. I’m good with them legally breaking into phones - as long as it’s from the outside looking in, not the other way around.


Israel’s Cellebrite, a provider of mobile forensic software, is helping the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s attempt to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California shooters, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported on Wednesday.

[Reuters via The Loop]

Typed on AEKII & Octopage

When You Say Photocopying Machine...

In 2010, the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office in Ohio changed their policy about copying records. Digital files would no longer be available, and the public would have to make hard copies of documents for $2 per page. This would prove to be prohibitively expensive for Data Trace Information Services and Property Insight, companies that collect hundreds of pages of this public information each week. They sued the Recorder’s Office for access to digital versions of the documents on a CD. In the middle of the case, a lawyer representing them questioned the IT administrator of the Recorder’s Office, which led to a 10-page argument over the semantics of photocopiers.

Wait for the punchline at the end.

[via NYT]

Typed on AEKII


I haven’t cared for many of Apple’s latest ads featuring hands-free Siri. Celebs using Siri doesn’t speak to me - this does.

There’s something powerful about nostalgia. I love it.

[via Loop Insight]

Typed on AEKII