Top Clack

by Quakemz

Farewell to a King - by Quakemz

As many of you might know, Top Clack started as a duo, myself (Quakemz/Brian), and Apolotary/Bektur. After our first episode, featuring Manofinterests/Huey, we immediately turned into a trio. We all had so much fun and played off each other very well. After one year into our venture, Apolotary left Top Clack to seek out success in the form of his doctorate. That left Top Clack as a duo of Manofinterests and myself. We worked hard and pushed Top Clack to where it is today, a very successful liveshow and powerful entity on our humble niche community.


On our most recent episode (10/18/18), we announced that Manofinterests will be parting ways with Top Clack, to pursue his own avenue in keyboard content creation. I won’t lie, this was never going to be a joyful parting for me. Huey has always been a role model for me. He is an incredibly knowledgeable veteran of the keyboard community, with so much experience and an ability to truly tell it like it is. There are few people like him in this community. Top Clack is where it is today because of his dedication, influence, and everything he has done to better me as a content creator and a friend. Suffice to say, I respect him a great deal.


While it is with sadness I see him off, Top Clack is far from over; quite the opposite, in fact. It will continue strongly with myself at the helm. I have many ideas to better both myself as a creator, and Top Clack as an entity, mark my words. Huey will always be a brother to me, but Top Clack is first and foremost, my passion. I want to educate people, I want to bring easy and accurate information to the masses, I want to entertain. This is the foundation of what Top Clack is about, and that will not change. It may be the end of an era, but it is also a new beginning.


While I’ve been asked many times already who will replace Huey as my Top Clack co-host, I do not have a proper answer, at this moment. Right now, it’s not even close to the first thing on my mind. My immediate priority is to keep the brand as alive and stable as possible, to better myself as a content creator, to learn as much as possible, and to help as many people as possible. So, in the short-term, I will be running Top Clack by myself, with minimal help from others. In the long-term, I’m not 100% sure yet. I do think the flagship livestream performs better with two hosts, that can play off of each other and have contrasting opinions. As a show, that’s just more interesting for most viewers, and I do understand that. I am not at all opposed to bringing on a partner/new co-host, and I even have a small handful of people in mind, but it’s not something I am rushing at all. When and if  I am ready to make that change, I will.


I greatly appreciate all of you that stay with Top Clack during this time. I know there are people that are loyal specifically to Huey, loyal specifically to me, or just loyal to Top Clack as an entity, and any of you that stand by Top Clack are winners, in my book. This is certainly a strange transition after over two years of steady expectation. This will not be an easy transition for me alone, but I promise I will make it work, and there are very awesome things on the horizon. Thank you all so much for everything you do and the support you have shown Top Clack thus far. This is more than just a hobby to me, it’s honestly my life.


The Switch Lab: A living switch modification guide - by Quakemz

Disclaimer: Like any guide containing personal knowledge and technique, this is what I, Quakemz, have learned in my experience. There are many ways to lube and to view lubing. What I will be discussing here is my experience and thoughts. This may work amazingly for you. Or, it might not. There is no substitute for first-hand experience. So, while I would recommend you use this as a starting point, I also recommend you try as many things as you can, whether it be lube type, application method, switch type, etc. You never know what you personally like best until you try it yourself.



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Part I: Lubing Theory



If you’ve been active in the community at all in the last several years, you’re probably aware that some enthusiasts opt to lube switches for some of their keyboards. This is slowly becoming more and more common these days. The reasoning behind this is relatively simple: smoothness and, to a lesser extent, sound. More on that later.


As we progress deeper in this community, more and more people are realizing that smoother switches are often a generally better typing experience. Years ago, only the most hardened enthusiasts were lubing their switches, but nowadays, lubing has gotten to the point where even the average keyboard enthusiast has considered it, or even attempted it, themselves.


There are many, MANY theories and thoughts that can and, frankly should, go into lubing. It’s not quite as easy as just having lubed switches or not. There are several things to consider: the switch or type of switch you’re lubing, the lube you’re using, the applicator you’re using, where you apply the lube, and how much lube you’re applying. These are just some of the more important things you need to consider when lubing switches, but the list goes on even more. Seems a little extreme, you say? You’re damn right it is. Lubing isn’t a joke and it can definitely improve your typing experience in many ways, and of course, make you feel like a badass. Plus, let’s be honest, flexing your sick keyboard collection and skills is truly a part of this hobby.


This guide will aim to broaden your knowledge of lubricants to use on switches, why you might want to lube, and how you go about the process of lubing. Here, we’re going to start with the basics of lubing theory, starting with why you might consider it.


As I stated before, the primary reason you might want to lube is for smoothness. Let’s face it, a lot of switches on the market right now are just not that smooth. Do we honestly need smoother switches? Of course not. We could all functionally get by just fine on the scratchiest and sandiest of keyboard switches. Nobody really needs super smooth switches. Just like you probably don’t even need the fancy mechanical keyboard you’re using right now. But, it’s nice, I get it. It’s a luxury, and luxuries can be beneficial. Thankfully here, this luxury can be had for a fairly minimal price and just a bit of time and patience.


Can all switches be lubed? Generally speaking, yes, though for the sake of this, I’m going to assume you’re interested in the primary MX switch design found in Cherry MX switches and the majority of their clones: Gateron, Outemu, Kailh, etc. We’ll get into non-MX switches at a later date.


Let’s get into the common types of lube you’ll see around the community, and what pros and cons they might have. The three most common styles you’ll see are oils, greases, and blends (or mixes), each with multiple options in their genre, and all providing slightly different feels from the last.


Oils are thinner, fluid lubricants, while greases tend to be semi-fluid and much more viscous; think olive oil vs room-tempurature bacon grease, or vegetable shortening, respectively. A blend is exactly what you think it is: a combination of two or more lubes to result in a different product. No matter what realm of the community you go to, you’ll find people that prefer oils, prefer greases, or prefer blends. None of these are necessarily right or wrong choices. It all boils down to personal preference, just like most things in this hobby.


The exact lube you choose can, and ultimately will affect how the finished switches feel. Here are some things I’ve found to be absolute:



  1. The thinner (or less viscous) the lube, the fewer imperfections in the switch will be covered up, though the result will be a slicker and more natural-feeling switch. As in, you feel the lube less, and the natural switch more.

  2. The thicker (or more viscous) the lube, the more imperfections will be covered up, though the result will be a more sluggish, and less natural-feeling switch. As in, you run the risk of feeling the lube more than feeling the naturalness of the switch.

  3. The more lube you use, regardless of type, the more you will feel the lube during use. Of course, the opposite is also true: using less will mean you will feel the lube less.

  4. The attributes of the lube and the methods you use will ultimately affect the sound of your switches and, by extension, your finished keyboard.

  5. Consistency is key, both in lube, technique, and the switches themselves.

  6. The better switches you start with, the better the finished product will be. Lube makes good switch great. It does not make bad switches good. For this reason, I often like to “break in” my switches, before lubing, which just means I like to use them for a couple weeks, if possible.



I know these all sound like really elementary discoveries, and they really are, but they’re still something you must keep in mind when lubing, as something as small and intricate as an MX switch can be somewhat overwhelming and tedious to lube, if you’re not used to it. Even the slightest mistakes or missteps can cause inconsistency or a feeling you might not want at all. Having the proper knowledge and mindset before going in will dramatically increase the odds of you producing a nicer and more consistent finished switch. When it comes to lubing, I subscribe to the theory that less is more. I like when the finished switch is much smoother, but still feels like itself, and not just like lube. It’s very easy to go overboard with lube and use too much, which can result in a sluggish or mushy switch with very little character.

Finally, let’s talk about the sound of lubed switches. Sound has, for better or worse, been an increasing fascination in the community over the last couple of years. For me, this is awesome, because it’s something I’ve long been into. With regards to lube, it will almost always alter the sound of your keyboard. The viscosity and amount you use will directly affect the sound. In general, proper lubing will make the switches sound more precise, and often noticeably quieter. The thicker the lube or the more lube you use, the quieter the switches will be, generally. If you use too much, however, you run the risk of hearing a mushy sound instead, like when you step in slush. For people that prioritize silence, lube is definitely a good “less official” form of silencing.





Part II: Lubing Technique



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So now that you have some more knowledge about lube theory, let’s get into the actual act of it. Similar to professional chefs, it’s very helpful to have your mise en place. Basically, have everything you need prepared for use in your immediate area and be aware of it all, so you can utilize everything properly and efficiently, as needed. Here is generally what you will need for a session of lubing switches:



  1. Your desired switches

  2. Your desired lube(s)

  3. Your desired lube applicator (my weapon of choice is a 5/0 Spotter’s point brush)

  4. Your desired method of holding switches (optional - switchmod station, etc)

  5. A clean and open space to work - it’s important to not get dust, dirt, etc into finished switches

  6. More time than you think you’ll need

  7. Tweezers, or something else to hold small switch parts with

  8. Assuming your switches aren’t opened, something to open them with (I like fine-tipped tweezers or this fancy aluminum KiiBOSS tool. If your switches are already in a plate or keyboard that supports switchtop removal, this is a good tool to have.)


To start, open up your switches, if you haven’t already. We’ll start with the bottom housing of the switch, and work our way up, one part at a time, until it’s completed and closed.

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This is what my brush looks like after being dipped into lube and wiped off on the side of my bowl, which contains my lube. Unless I’m after a very specifically different feeling, this will be enough to lube everywhere I want on a single switch.

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The two inside rails of the bottom housing where the stem/slider move up and down on, will be our first targets. A light coat on each rail is all you need.

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Next on our list in the leaf, where the legs of the stem/slider will make contact and actually actuate the switch during use. As you can see, I’m lubing the face of the right side, where it has some curve in it. Apply a light coat to this face on the right, as well as the left. A lot of “scratchiness” comes from this point, during actuation. Note: non-linear switches can suffer a reduction of tactility by lubing this area, so if you’re not using linear switches, you might consider going extra light on the lube here, or not lube this part at all. Experiment until you find what works best for you.

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Now that the bottom housing is lubed, let’s move on to the spring. Using tweezers, I hold one end while l lube the spring. I generally just lube the tips of each end, but you might opt to lube the entirety of it. I’ve even seen some enthusiasts that completely dip a spring into knife oil and just let the excess drip off. For me, the ends are good enough.

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Place the lubed end into the bottom housing. With that in, it’s easy to lube the other end of the spring.

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Finally, we’ll move on to the stem. There are multiple targets for lube here, but my method involves both sides that slide up and down on the rail in the bottom housing, the one we already lubed earlier. Along with those sides, the two “legs” that protrude outward (that touch the leaf during use) are the next major target. Apply a light coat to both of the aforementioned sides, as well as the legs.

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At this point, my stems look like this. Note: I have not re-dipped my brush in lube at all during any of this single switch.

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Continuing the use of tweezers, place the stem onto the spring and then apply the top housing to complete your lubed switch.

It’s as simple as that! Now that you have hopefully tried my method, please don’t hesitate to try to make it your own. One of the best parts of lubing is there are seemingly infinite styles and theories on what is and is not the best. You’ll only find out what is best if you put in the effort in to try new things.

Thank you so much for reading! This guide will be updated with other switch modifications and types of lubing as time goes on, so don’t hesitate to check back every so often!

Uniqey C70 Review by Quakemz

 

GMK has been loved in our community for years. They’ve graced us with incredible double-shot ABS keycaps the community has no qualms paying north of $100 USD for a set. They’ve become a household name among enthusiasts and that shows no signs of changing. Amidst their popularity, they have decided to break into the world of keyboards themselves, as opposed to just keycaps and the like.

They call this new sub-division Uniqey, and it focuses on fully assembled premium keyboards. Not long ago, they launched this brand with the Q100 keyboard, a very elegant and modern full-sized keyboard sporting an aluminum case, Cherry MX switches, and of course, GMK keycaps. While a very unique board in its own right, it didn’t really appeal much to the more enthusiast members of the community, who tend to prefer more options and exotic layouts. That’s where the C70 comes in.

Designed by a handful of some of our community’s most prominent members calling themselves Think Tank, in partnership with GMK, the C70 appeals to more enthusiasts by offering a more compact design, similar to what we’d call a “65%” layout, but with an extra column of buttons on the far right. This layout was designed to pack in tons of function, while maintaining a size that I’d describe as “fairly portable”. If you’ve been in the community for a while, you’ve probably noticed the movement towards smaller keyboards. “40%” keyboards like the Planck, Vortex Core, and Minivan are all the rage these days, as you can easily see by browsing r/mechanicalkeyboard for a few minutes. Small is in high-demand, lately, and the C70 aims to take advantage of that, without losing all of the feeling of functionality or unfamiliarity of a larger keyboard.

The first thing you’ll notice when looking at this board are the keycaps; where your fingers will spend the majority of their time. As you’d expect from GMK, you get the full GMK keycap experience. Thick, Cherry-profile double-shot ABS caps like this are my absolute favorite keycaps to use, and a dream to type on. They look classic and elegant, and have none of that “gamer” flair I’m so opposed to.

Next up is the aluminum housing itself. To my happiness, the case is high-profile, meaning the case comes up to the base of the caps, fully covering the switches. This look is favored among most experienced enthusiasts and definitely adds to the premium look and feel. The overall design is simple, but effective. Minimal lines and angles keep it professional and not too “in your face”. On the right side, there are embedded LEDs for all of your indicators, such as caps lock and the like. These have been accomplished here very well, and are incredibly attractive. The plate is also a color-matched aluminum.  
 

Under these sexy keycaps lies the organs of any keyboard, the PCB, plate, and keyswitches. “Made in Germany” was a theme in this keyboard, and that theme carried over to the switches, as well. Cherry switches will be the only option for this, spanning their most popular five options: MX Blue, MX Brown, MX Red, MX Black, and MX Clear. While I appreciate the pride and consistency, I’m a little disappointed [as a lover of switches] to see the options limited to Cherry. Once upon a time, Cherry had a patent on the MX design and thus, had the legacy and a hammerlock on the market. Over the last couple of years since the patent expiration, subjectively better and more cost-effective options have arisen, particularly more recently with Kaihua’s newest offerings, which are incredible value and undoubtedly more diverse. Any fans of Top Clack will know I don’t really care for the feel of most Cherry switches. I believe there to be significantly better options on the market, especially for the money. With that said, Cherry is still a popular option and this review isn’t exactly about which switches I prefer, now is it?

My review sample also came with GMK’s QMX silencing clips. This is my first time trying them, and they definitely decrease the overall bottom-out noise while typing, at the cost of a little less travel distance. To be fair, I’d need to compare these on two of the same board, side-by-side to really get a good opinion of them, but at least they are on option on this board, when purchasing.

On your stabilized keys, you have Cherry’s PCB-mount screw in stabilizers. I’m really happy to see these here, because plate-mount stabilizers are the devil, if you ask me. Also, screw-in stabs are incredibly good. As you probably expect, the ones on this board are completely stock. The spacebar in particular is fairly loud (read: rattley), so I’d advise treating it to some lube, if you’re able to. Ideally, you’ll desolder the board, disassemble the stabilizers, lube them properly, and consider “clipping” them, for a much more pleasurable and quieter typing experience. Clipping is a technique where you remove the two legs that protrude vertically out on the bottom of the stabilizer inserts, typically with a pair of flush cutters. This modification gives the bottom-out feel on those gives a bit more natural of a feeling, as opposed to feeling a bit spongy. This is totally optional, of course, but most enthusiasts will argue the feel is just flat-out better.

Programmability is in full effect here, with a proprietary Graphical User Interface (GUI), which will allow you to program keys and such. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to check out a completed version of the GUI, as it’s still being developed and projected to be completed by the time the board ships to customers. From what I have seen, it’s quite usable, simple, and convenient. Another nice addition is the USB configuration. USB-C is the default, but you can manually change it to USB mini, if you desire. No soldering required!

This board is currently available on Massdrop at the final drop-price of $300, with free shipping to the US. If I’m being a little honest, I would have liked to see this completed board closer to the $250 range, but as usual, I like to be a greedy customer. Having all of the parts sourced and made in Germany adds to the cost, and hopefully the payoff is worth it, because personally I’d like to see how much this would cost via Chinese manufacturers. I might be in the minority, but I’m often okay with trading some potential quality for a significant decrease in price. Regardless, I don’t think $300 is a bad price, per say, for what you get. Beautifully milled aluminum housing and plate and practically arousing GMK keycaps add a lot of value to this board.

If you’d like to check out a lot more information on this keyboard, head over here for a fantastic write-up by keyboard expert, Livingspeedbump, one of the designers and influencers of the C70 project.  



 

ALF X2 Review by Quakemz

Disclaimer: This product was sent to Top Clack by one of our partners, zFrontier. We liked the way the keyboard looked and asked for a sample. They happily obliged. We did not get paid for this review. As usual, these thoughts are my own. These reviews are good for the community, so honesty is key for me. Please keep that in mind.

 

If you’re well into your adult life, this is probably what you think of when you think of Alf. However, if you’re well into your mechanical keyboard career, you might think of this keyboard, instead; a hefty and sizable 60% keyboard kit with a lot to offer for your dollar. Typically, building a premium 60% board with a nice thick high-profile housing, top-mounted switch-plate, brass inserts, and enough weight to compete against some of the heaviest keyboards in its class, takes money...and a lot of it. The Alf X2 looks to change that, offering all of that for only $280, and that includes a QMK-powered PCB, even!

So, let’s break down the board a bit and see what you get for that price, shall we? We’ll start right off with the main housing, since that’s probably why you’d be buying this product. The housing is NOT short on design, that’s for sure. It’s not exactly what I’d call minimal, but it has some unique character that I’ve never seen in another keyboard before. With all the intricacies, I think this housing is a “love it or hate it” affair, and I love it. I’ve been around for a while now, and I’ve seen a lot of keyboards. A lot of them look very similar, and while I tend to lean towards the more simple and elegant designs, this feels more like a hybrid of exotic and simple.

One of the more interesting design choices that I like a lot here is the way the weights/accents sit in the case. Most weighted customs on the market these days will have a weight that screws in from either the inside or the outside of the case. But here, the weighted letters just slide into the cutouts for them, then a fully transparent strip of acrylic screws in over the top of them, to hold them in, so you’re able to enjoy the look of them, while they’re protected. The weighted namesake letters are made of brass, so they add an extra heft to the case, but unfortunately, they’re not sealed, so they patina easily and take very poorly to fingerprints. Some people like that used, browning look, but I prefer a mirror finish and seal on my brass, like the M65-A’s brass components from Keyclack X Rama.

My review unit came in the Micro-arc oxidation finish, which is a technique to provide a white finish for the aluminum, since anodization (a cheaper and more common method) can’t offer a truly white finish. Unfortunately, this oxidation method wasn’t able to provide the true white that I’ve been craving for a while now. It came out more of a beige cream kind of color, which looks nice, but if you’re looking for a bright white, this is NOT it. To me, it’s not worth the $55 premium ($335) over the more basic anodization options ($280), which is a much more attractive price point for the kit.

Regardless of which version you choose, steel is the only option for your switch-plate. Surprisingly, this might be my favorite part of the kit. I’ve been using steel plates for a long time. I like them for their stability, rigidity, and the sound they provide while I type. Something is a little different here, though. When I put this build together, the plate really took me by surprise. All of the steel plates I’ve used in the past were all the same, when it came to look. A very simple brushed finish that didn’t interfere with the raw steel look. That is not the case here. Instead of a more common finish, they opted for an electropolished finish. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this in a keyboard, and it’s incredible. It looks like very well [grey] anodized aluminum, with the added benefit of feeling like steel. It played tricks on my brain at first, because it looks so smooth and clean, and so….not like steel. This was a REALLY nice touch that I would really love to see more of in the community. Seriously, guys, I would use these plates always. They’re awesome.

Speaking of plates, you have two options. A more standard universal 60% option (which I imagine most of you would be using) and a plate that supports 2u left shift and arrow keys. My review unit is the latter, which is my first extended experience with 2u shift, arrow keys (on a 60%), and a differently-staggered row 4.1 (what I’m now calling the row with shift keys). In short, I don’t like it, but because a more normal plate is available, I definitely can’t mark this against them. While we’re on the subject of options, you have some. You can choose the colors of the top case housing, bottom case housing, nameplate insert, and microswitch inserts. Furthermore, you get to choose your plate style and layout style (HHKB or full 60%).

Microswitches? So, I have your attention now? Good, let’s talk a little about the PCB. For starters, it’s QMK-based, so it should make happy all of the experts in this community that love to work with complicated stuff that plebs like me dislike using. As much as I hate actually using QMK to program boards, I understand its power and immense worth in the community, and am glad it’s here. Anyways, this PCB is a tad unique. It sports two Cherry microswitches that are programmable through QMK and usable via the outside of the case via the microswitch covers that are included. This is a really nice touch. They’re volume buttons by default, which I liked. One thing I dislike is how easily the covers fall out. They don’t attach to anything at all, they just sit in the cutouts for them in the housing. This is totally fine while it’s on your desk and in use, but as soon as you pick up your keyboard and tilt it even remotely upside-down, they fall out, guaranteed. It’s happened to me more times that I’d like to admit…

One downside to the PCB is the mini-USB port is soldered onto the face of the PCB, instead of the bottom, which is more common. The placement of the USB port slightly interferes with the plate, which doesn’t have a cutout to accomadate the port. I was able to build the board just fine, but this is definitely not ideal, as I had to really smash the plate and PCB together, and some of the switches closer to the USB port weren’t in the PCB as far as I’d normally like. With that said, it did come out fully functional and looking great, once fully assembled.

I built up my review unit with the unreleased Hako Clear switches, from our partners at Input Club. If you’re curious to know my opinions on the switch, check out my review for them here. Long story short; they’re awesome, and they’re especially awesome in this board, with its top-mounted steel plate and dense aluminum housing. They feel great and sound great. Nuff’ said.

I know it’s not a major point to buying a keyboard, but let’s talk about the packaging here, because it’s really something special, and almost made me tear up a little bit. The box is thick, with nice Alf logo branding on the top, and a simple and profound quote on that bottom that reads “There is only one success; to be able to spend your life in your own way.” I know to a lot of you, that may sound cheesy, but that resonates with me more than most of you will ever know, and it made me very happy to see. Furthermore, the packaging includes a lot of soft-cell foam with proper cut-outs for just about everything, and enough conveniently-sized foam pads to dampen [read: deepen] the sound of your Alf x2 and several other 60% boards in your collection. Not that it’s expensive to buy foam, but I like easy value, and this is that.

Speaking of simple things that made me happy - the rubber feet for this board are amazing. In most boards they’re an afterthought, but here they really feel like a part of the build. The included feet are long and thick (yeah yeah, save your jokes). The bottom housing has deep cutouts for them, so instead of them just resting on the surface, they actually go into the housing and just barely protrude out the bottom, just enough to stop slippage. Because of this design, they will not fall out or come off when moving your keyboard. For some, this won’t matter much, but I change my keyboards position a lot. For gaming, I tilt the keyboard clockwise for a more ergonomic feel for my left hand, so moving it back and forth from that position to a normal typing position puts a ton of strain on normal bumpons, which causes them to come off easily after a short amount of time. That doesn’t happen here with the Alf x2, thankfully. I love the extra thought that was put in here. It will go unnoticed to some, but for people like me, it’s a godsend.  

Overall, I really like this keyboard. It’s not perfect, but the amount of value it puts out for the price is undeniable. I’m used to paying more than $280 for just a nice 60% housing, so to be able to get a premium board like this for that price and include a PCB and other great features is great to me. It’s still not “cheap”, but it’s more accessible to people that are otherwise unable to spend $500+ on a complete keyboard. This is a great value for your first nice custom, and I’m glad I got to check it out.

If you’d like to check out the group buy, which ends on December 12th, head over to the group buy page on zFrontier!  

Fjell x Hako True Review Script by Manofinterests

Precursory Note: The video review won't be done on time, but I wanted my thoughts on the Hako True switches to be public before the GB ends (probably hours away from when this is posted). I'm still working on the video review and will be finished by the end of the week.

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Up here in the mountains, you can look down and see it all. The hustle and bustle down below. Those coming up to escape the struggle down below, and those going back down to face their demons. The cold air stings your warm lungs as you inhale, but the air is so fresh.

The word Fjell in Norwegian translates to Mountain, and for many people, this keyboard can be considered a ‘peak’. ‘End Game, Last Keyboard, Keyboard of the Year…’ all names that I’ve heard about this case which is a testament to how highly many people revere this keyboard.

 

Standing on top of a metaphorical mountain you can see the Coolermasters, Corsairs, and Keycools it took you to get here. You learned how to solder, you learned how to assemble a keyboard. You learned about keycaps, switches, stabilizers, and much more. Now you stand upon this fjell and look at the keyboards of the past. Is there another mountain to climb or do you take your rest here?

 

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If you take a rest here before climbing the next mountain, here’s what you find:

The Fjell’s iconic look has spawned cases inspired by the thick bezels and sharp corners. Leandren once said he didn’t own bezels, but when you look at the Fjell, you can’t deny he is masterful at using them. There are boards that know how to use bezels, and boards that don’t.

This mountain wasn’t open for everyone all season though It was for the lucky few who were selected from a raffle. For this first round of Fjells, only 50 were minted from the cold lands of Norway, all with numbered weights. The steep chamfered edges direct your focus upwards to the keycaps. The steep edges also hide the deceptively steep 8 degrees of angle the keyboard has. It’s not uncomfortable to type on by any stretch, but it’s more than you might expect if you’re unprepared. The anodized aluminum case with the brass weight clocks in at 2kg, or 4.4 lbs. Many say that tray mount cases are simple and even inferior to top mounted cases, but this is by far the most exquisite tray mounted case available.

 

I want to talk about this weight for a moment because it’s breathtaking. When you see other normal weights, you look at it and think, “oh, that’s simple geometry”. But when you look at the weight on the fjell, it’s more than just that. It fits in nicely, like a cat that’s found the perfect box. Whether you love it or hate it, the text on the weight of the fjell is on the inside, meaning you won’t ever see it unless you open up your keyboard and take out your plate and PCB. I was lucky enough to recieve number 42, but unfortunately I think Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is overrated.

P1030696.JPG

 

Traversing Norwegian mountains can be beautiful like these Fjells, but both can be fraught with issues. My fjell for instance, has some marks on the front. A few other people had small scuffs and marks on the inside of the case, and at least one person received quite a scratched up and destroyed case.

So how much did round one of the Fjell cost? It was $250 for the case, screws, rubber bump ons and weight. Adding the brass plate was an additional $38, and international shipping was $25. On top of everything there was an additional 5% handling fee. Not too bad for a case of this beauty and heft. The case was heavy, but it moved fast. The group buy was shipped out approximately 10 weeks after the payment deadline. And arrived in awesome protective boxes.

P1030652.JPG

So what do I think about this keyboard? It’s badass. This rich purple. The brass plate that supports switch top removal. Inside I have a zeal PCB with all of those groovy ARRs GEEs, and BEEs. The PCB is programmmed with QMK which I don’t really know at all, so I’m stuck using Zeal’s stock keycap which at least has HHKB arrow keys. There is no navigation keys which is a pain. This small complaint is all user idiocy though since I haven’t been bothered to go through the documentation and work on the file yet.

 

The Hako True switch is quite the switch to talk about, but I can’t talk about it without talking about the controversial Halo switches so we’ll start there. Haata, the designer of the Halo and Hako switches, has called the Halo switches, “A free round of R&D” for the Hako switches. As someone who’s tried both, I can see what he means. The Halo switch, and eventually the Hako switch, were developed by Haata based of his typing preference.

What does this mean? On Input Club’s website, they have a section dedicated to force curve graphs, more of which you can find on Haata’s plotly site. Haata has a force measurement machine to measure force curves of switches. After charting his favorite switches, he started to find out what they had in common with each other, and used that data to design a force curve he believed he would like. Afterwards, he and Over^Kill at Input Club would work with Kailh to design a slider that would best mimic that force curve. After some time, the first Halo switches were made. Of course this is a very simplified tale of what happened, but it’s the general picture.

There unfortunately was a falling out between Input Club and Massdrop. The ownership of the tooling versus the rights of the intellectual property. Without one you can’t really have the other. Due to the failure to reach an agreed upon conclusion, their relationship is at a very cold period.

I can touch on more about that in the future, but let’s shift our focus back on the switches. Once Input Club couldn’t release Halo switches anymore, they got to work with new switches. Hako switches are the result and goddam they’re beautiful.

These Hako true switches are the true dom of typing. These switches will punish you like the naughty boy you are if you’re constantly bottoming out. She’ll make you sore, but beg for more. These switches prefer those who are ‘properly typing’, meaning those who don’t needlessly bottom out. The Hako True’s spring is very unique with a very light preload to the press and like her Hako Clear sister, discourages bottoming out by rapidly increasing in force needed as you approach the bottom.

Unlike the old Halo switches, you may have quickly noticed that these are in fact box switches with all the wondrous advantages that box switches have. Hakos are rated for 80 million keypresses, have angled drain vents to help keep out moisture and dust, and doesn't wobble too much.

So how does this keyboard feel? How does it feel when you're being tenderly caressed by a loved one? It's a feeling of warmness that runs through you. This keyboard forces me to type without bottoming out for the maximum amount of typing satisfaction.  It's a heft that comforts you and cradles you with an almost motherly affection.

I'll have more to say when the video review releases, but so far I'm loving these Hako Trues on this brass plate on this Fjell. 

Input Club’s Hako Clear switch review - by Quakemz

Cherry MX Clears have always been a unique switch that had little competition until very recent years, with the introduction of Zealio switch. Until then, most experienced enthusiasts just used modified MX Clears to get their truly-tactile fix. A little lube and a more comfortable spring made the MX Clears more palatable for the average typist, as they can tend to be a little heavy for people that bottom out their keys during typing.

Aside from the ever-popular Zealios, manufacturers like Kaihua and Outemu have been releasing switches over the last several months to help fill the need for the medium weighted tactile switches that don’t feel..well...as dull as all of the “Brown” switches on the market, which tend to feel a little lacking in tactility and are also quite light to press. This is where the new Hako switches come in. Manufactured by Kaihua to the specs of Input Club, they’ve been designed and tested by prolific community member HaaTa, one of the mad scientists at Input Club.

The new Hako switch comes in two flavors: Clear and True. Today, I’ll be going over the Hako Clear switch, as I’m effectively the only community member that currently has a full board of them. My Top Clack counterpart, Manofinterests (Huey) has a board of the Hako Trues, and will be putting out a review of those soon, if it’s not out already.

Some of you might remember the recent legal debacle over Halo switches, which were designed by Input Club, but sold via MassDrop in the Input club K-Type keyboard. Without getting into detail, Input Club decided it would be more beneficial to step away from Halo switches and design a newer and better version, thus  the Hako switches were born. Unlike the Halo switches, the Hako switches employ Kaihua’s new “Box” design, which makes the switch “Self-cleaning”. By design, dust and liquid get ejected out the bottom of the switch, and the leaf itself is confined and protected in its own space, as not to get damaged. During the press, the tactile leg brushes up against a small plastic nub that keeps the leg lubed by being coated, itself. This keeps the switch what I would call “pretty darn smooth”. Compared to a stock Cherry MX Clear, these are absolute butter, using a hot knife, on a really hot day, while outside….not in the shade.

The spring used here in the Hako Clear has a bottom-out force of 79g, meaning that’s how much force it takes to fully press the switch. Actuation happens around 55g. Experienced switch experts will notice something interesting about those numbers: they have a wider gap than most switch springs used today. For example, the 67g (Bottom-out force) Zealio switch actuates at 55g, and a Cherry MX Brown switch bottoms out at around 55g, while actuation is closer to 45g. There is a reason that Input Club decided to make the springs this way. The reason is to discourage bottoming out your switches. I know, it only feels natural to slap each key against your fancy plate, but it’s actually not the proper way to type on a mechanical keyboard. I do it, you probably do it, and I’ll continue to do it, because sometimes being wrong can feel so right.

The idea of having a mechanical switch is to actuate it, then release it, because there is no ergonomic reason to go any further. Bottoming out switches is unhealthy for your fingers, and automatically makes you less efficient at typing than if you typed properly. With that idea in mind, Input Club decided to make the Hako switches feel substantially heavier after actuation, to help people type more properly. Of course, my meat-hooks are used to bottoming out heavy switches, so it’s a hard habit for me to break with these Hako Clears, but the Hako True might be a different story, as they boast an even heavier spring than their Clear brethren. Regardless, these springs feel amazing to me. Because of that extra weight after actuation, they give the whole switch a “bouncy” feel, which I just absolutely adore. Feeling the properties of the spring itself is one of my favorite things about trying new switches, and these don’t let me down.

In terms of tactility, these don’t disappoint, either. It’s not the most tactile switch in the world, but it does the job. What’s very interesting to me about these switches, like the Halo switches, the bump is actually noticeably stronger on the way up, which gives it a very unique feel. If you’re a monster like me and bottom out your switches, they won’t feel monumentally tactile, but if you do type properly, they will feel incredibly tactile, because you’ll only be experiencing tactility. Unlike most other tactile MX-designed switches, the bump on these is basically right at the top, which starts a nice, round curve for the first half of the press, until the bump ends.

Something else a lot of people in the community tend to be concerned with is “wobble”. This term is used when switches have lower tolerances between the slider and housing and can feel like the slider/stem has a lot more room to move around, other than just up and down. Not that wobble bothers everyone, but rest assured, these switches are about as stable as it gets, for the design. By default, MX-styled switches have to have a tiny bit of wobble, at least, otherwise there would be too much friction, but these came out very stable, while still remaining smooth.

Honestly, these are amazing, and I’m glad the price isn’t very high. At $54 for 120 switches, these switches fit nicely at $0.45/each, making them quite a bit cheaper than Zealios, and even cheaper than Cherry MX Clears, which they’re an objectively better version of. I will soon be trying the new updated round 8 Zealios, which makes me very excited, because they might be the only switch that can compete with these right now, in terms of feel. If you’re interested in checking out these Hako switches and learning some more information about them, the pre-order is still open right now until the 28th of this month, which you can check out here.

I apologize for this review being so close to the end-date of the pre-order, but I wanted to make sure I had enough time to use and test them. The good news is, they will still be available later on, after they ship the first orders. Thank you all for reading and I hope this helped your decision!

Sweat, Solder, & Savings: A Brief about Custom Mechanical Keyboards

By Manofinterests

 X60 with GMK Iris

X60 with GMK Iris

At the core concept, a keyboard is a tool to interface with a device that is normally a computer. To enthusiasts, we have elevated the tool. We have given it a personality by changing its appearance, shape, and feel to make the tool unique to us. I’m not just talking about simple key set swaps or layout choices. I’m talking about ‘custom’ keyboards. When it comes to custom keyboards, it comes down to that first word: ‘custom’.

Custom (adj.): Made or performed according to personal order.
— Merriam-Webster's Dictionary

Merriam-Webster's dictionary provides us a very important definition that helps us examine the scope of custom keyboards. The key behind every and any custom is that it's something you desire for your use. Whether it's function, or aesthetics, customs come in many different flavors. From the inexpensive hardwired acrylic sandwich boards to the kustoms (yes, a k) with cases over $400 before shipping and PayPal fees, there's a custom out there for you. Customs’ don’t always come easy. They aren’t always problem free, and even when they're cheap, they're might not be. Despite that, this community puts a lot of work into custom keyboards. So what’s all of this crazy custom stuff about? It’s about your sweat, solder, and savings.

 When you see something like this, the next post is bound to make you sweat or wet. Either way it's not pretty.  Spoilers: Sweat.

When you see something like this, the next post is bound to make you sweat or wet. Either way it's not pretty.

Spoilers: Sweat.

Sweat. Why Sweat? I chose that word because sometimes I adore all alliteration. Truthfully many people start sweating before even obtaining a custom keyboard. For many who are new to the scene, the research and planning can be quite daunting. When you start researching into custom keyboards, you’ll start sweating over the keyboard angle. You'll start worrying if you know how to solder or not. You'll bemoan your varied choices when it comes to colors. You'll fret over layouts and you'll lose sleep over potential switch modifications. Never before has there been such a plethora of choices. With so many choices, how's one to choose? It's simple. Go with what you want. If you want a simple handwired board that you can proudly exclaim is yours and unique to you, go for it. While many might not treat it as such, in theory it's as custom as any fancy aluminum custom out there because it's tailored to you. If you want to explore the world of switch modding to find the best feel for you, you might head that direction in the custom scene. Possibly you want a custom keyboard tailored to meet your exact desires. This mentality is how so many custom projects started. A designer simply wanted a layout, or look that wasn't available to them, so they created it. So as you sweat about what you want, start researching. You may eventually go down the rabbit hole of wondering about anodization quality, color options, layouts, switch lubing, matching artisans, and matching key sets. Sweating bullets might not stop there if your GB runner decides to not give constant updates, is constantly sick, or even pulls an Ivan or Team Redline on you.

Finding group buys, interest checks, and information on upcoming products isn't the easiest. Combing through /r/mk, /r/mechmarket, GH's IC and GB forums are the most precise way to look through most of the information. Top Clack does try to help with our weekly shows as well as the Weekly News section of our website.  In recent years the depth of the custom keyboard world has grown and expanded, but making friends is another way to help keep up with what's happening. Try not to sweat it though; just go at your own pace. There will always be key sets, keyboards, or GBs that you have missed because of when you joined, but just think of all the awesome possibilities ahead.

 Switch modding can be tedious work. Whether you're lubing, spring swapping,  housing swapping or all of the above.

Switch modding can be tedious work. Whether you're lubing, spring swapping,  housing swapping or all of the above.

Solder. In my opinion, one of the best ways to truly make a custom keyboard feel like your own is to build it yourself. Fortunately the DIY spirit is very strong in this community with many members, including myself, learning how to solder just for custom keyboards. While this is something else to sweat about, I think that a big part of what makes a custom keyboard unique. It is the love you put into the construction of your keyboard that makes it for you. From choosing the switch, to the layout and the plate materials, and keycaps, you choose the parts that you end up typing on and displaying on your desk. If you're starting out, here are the things you should be concerned about if you're thinking of making your own custom: Switches, layout, keycaps, and case.  Of course there is a lot of fun to be had with making your own board.  If you're starting out and looking for equipment to buy, I highly recommended doing your research and finding what fits best within your budget. Our partner Input:Club has a great resource on recommended soldering equipment.  At Top Clack, we strongly support the DIY spirit and encourage anyone interested in custom keyboards to learn soldering if they don't know the skill and are interested in creating their own custom keyboards. If you're a bit on the shy side when it comes to soldering, there are individuals you can pay to have solder work done for you. Of course this may eat into your savings. Some people decide to handwire their keyboards, and others prefer using a PCB. Regardless of your choice, learning to solder will come in handy. 

 Camp C225; $400 before paypal fees and shipping. Not for the faint of wallet.

Camp C225; $400 before paypal fees and shipping. Not for the faint of wallet.

Savings. This hobby can range from enjoying a $40 OEM with modded switches and a decent keyset to a $1000 custom masterpiece. It can be a one off keyboard you designed for yourself, or it can be from a groupbuy run for many to enjoy.  Regardless of what your goals are, sticking with a budget that is within your means is more valuable than people realize. Even normal customs can go for $300 when building a custom 60% with modded switches, and a $120+ GMK keycap set. Even if you're determined to handwired your own project to save some $, don't forget the equipment you need for soldering if you don't have that yet. Some people like keeping track of every expense, and others cringe at that idea. There are always ways to help cut costs in your build. Often many can source cheaper components on mechmarket or simply asking friends in the community. Sometimes you'll have to bite the bullet and spend multiple dollars per switch if you're going for something extremely exotic. On the other hand, many are happy buying switches stock and using them normally in their builds. In my opinion, it gives good perspective to try out stock switches before really getting into the switch modding game. The truth about savings is a bit similar to basic economic concepts. Many group buys don't have the economies of scale that OEM boards benefit from. There aren't thousands of people ordering custom aluminum keyboards to bring the board down. There may be 100, 50, or even less people involved in the buy. Often you'll be sourcing components from different sources which add in terms of shipping. You may be in an aluminum case group buy, but need to source your switches and stabilizers from somewhere else. At the same time, you might also be involved in a key set groupbuy that you plan on putting on your custom. When you're involved in 1-3 group buys while also sourcing parts for a build, the costs and grow quicker than expected. 

 

 Lubed 55g HHKB with Justsystems HiPro keycaps, Hasu BT controller, and dampening foam inside.

Lubed 55g HHKB with Justsystems HiPro keycaps, Hasu BT controller, and dampening foam inside.

In conclusion, you should definitely do your research if you want to pursue a custom keyboard and I highly suggest you consider jumping down the rabbit hole if possible. This was only a shallow look into different aspects of custom keyboards since there are many facets to consider. Like with building a PC, a keyboard can be everything you want it to be from how it looks to how it feel underneath you fingertips.  It's a custom keyboard. It's for you after all. We'll have more articles in the future going into more depth about the various aspects of enthusiast keyboards.

Top Clack Full Sail Ahead! by Quakemz

Looking back on Top Clack over the last year has been great, and really shows how much we’ve grown as an entity and as individuals. However, we can only reminisce for so long....At the rate we’re growing, looking towards the future of Top Clack is something that must take priority and Huey and I have been working hard on not only how to proceed with things, but also what everything means to us.

At the beginning, Top Clack was just a super casual liveshow with 3 enthusiasts hosting it, but as time progressed and our viewership and support grew, we knew we had something a bit more serious on our hands that was worth pursuing further.

Diet TopClack (original).jpg

More professional designs, partnerships, a full-fledged website, expanded content; there is so much currently happening with Top Clack that will continue into the future and ideally result in a better and more polished version of the show and content as a whole. Don’t worry, we don’t plan to change the soul of Top Clack. Our show has been and will continue to be based upon information, opinions, friendly banter, and overall education, as well as introducing you to some of the most popular and influential people in the hobby. Being ourselves got us to where we are today, and we don’t want that to change.

At the end of the day, the people behind Top Clack are as much community enthusiasts as our viewers are. We want to make people happy in the same way that we’d like to be happy, so we make content that makes us happy, which we hope translates into the content itself. This has never been a chore for us. We love the community and admittedly thrive on the attention and support Top Clack has slowly gained over the past year.

We have so many things in the works, your mind might explode if I told you all of them, but just know as fellow enthusiasts, we know what it means to give back to the community. This is the only hobby I’ve ever had where it feels like I truly have a family. I wake up and talk to awesome keyboard people, during the day I talk to awesome keyboard people, and before I go to bed; you guessed it, I talk to awesome keyboard people. This hobby has transcended simple plastic and metal and has become not only a family, but a lifestyle.

The support we receive doesn’t go unseen or unheard. You can expect a lot of giveaways, tributes, and special content for all supporters of Top Clack, regardless of how you consume our content. Our goal is to be the best at what we do, having all of you along for the ride is a true honor. I know it’s very cliche, but we quite literally would not be where we are now if not for all of you guys. That’s the bottom line, and we’re constantly humbled by it.

Calanques (blurred).jpg

Anyways, Huey and I are working hard at unifying ourselves under the Top Clack brand. Soon, we’ll be synonymous with it as individuals, if we’re not already. This means several things, including the combining of Youtube and Twitch channels, social media, as well as previously personal content, such as reviews, blogs, and any other articles of the sort. Everything will be in the name of Top Clack, YAAARRRRRRRR!

We really do appreciate you all coming along for the ride. We hope you stay with us and help us make Top Clack a bigger and better version of what it already is.

Top Clack 1 Year in Review by Manofinterests

This is how we were in the beginning. 9/15/2016 with Jchan94

It’s been a year and change since Top Clack started, and we’ve learned quite a bit. It hasn’t been the smoothest or most successful road, but it’s a path that we’ve made and plan to continue. Looking back Brian and I can say that we're happy with how things have went, how things are going, and where we hope things will go.

A year ago Brian and Bektour let me know they were going to start a keyboard talk show and asked me if I was interested. At the time, they had no long-term plans, little ideas, and not even a name for the show. What they did have was drive and passion in this hobby. That alone made me realize these guys were the real deal, and I joined them.

Here I am a year later running Top Clack with Brian. It’s been quite a trip. In the last year, we’ve had a lot of guests. To be honest, when we first started off, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to pull guests in as consistently as we are. For that I thank Brian and Bektour since they were the major players with guest acquisitions this first year.

For quite a while we were rockin' a overlay made by tinyteee! 2/2/17 with Binge

We had so many amazing guests; Jchan, Binge, Haata, and so many others. We’ve learned so much about people, the community, and keyboards this last year hosting Top Clack, and I can’t wait to learn more. In 1 year, what all has happened? We have had 53 Episodes. We've had roughly 7 artisan makers, 16 vendors, 8 keycap designers, and 13 unique community members on our show. We've covered hundreds of news topics ranging from artisans, to keyboards, to key sets. I hope Top Clack was able to be both educational and entertaining for our viewers.

We used to draw roughly 10-20 live viewers an episode. Nowadays we’re pushing 60-70+ per episode which is a massive jump for us. Our VOD numbers have grown steadily as well, from a few dozen to a few hundred. Recently(ish) we also got a PodBean account to host audio-only versions of all our episodes. 

At the early beginning, we were a disorganized mess. Closer to 3 baboons babbling than hosts actually hosting. Slowly but surely, we started organizing and finding more news, organizing our format, and becoming more confident of our growing abilities. We couldn't have been able to grow and prosper without the love and support of the community.

That’s poopy
— Bektour

Bektour will be leaving Top Clack. Brian and I will deeply miss Bektour and we greatly appreciate his contributions that have paved the foundations of Top Clack. If you're wondering, Bektour is now a Japanese Salaryman! He's at a very crucial point in his career and has opportunities to really exceed. Unfortunately that means not as much time and dedication to Top Clack as he once had. Hopefully we can have Bektour on the show again as a guest, or maybe even a host depending on where he is in life. Brian and I wish you the very best Bektour.

What did I learn this past year? I learned to think quicker and speak slower. OBS was a small hurdle at first, but we quickly overcame that (to a degree). We all learned to improvise and work with whatever we had. I learned that Linears can be okay. I learned that artisans are serious business that I don't really have much of a grasp on. How about Brian? He's learned things aren't always as smooth as planned. Brian's really explored his passion for educating and entertaining. We've both learned that this community can be as close as a family. So what's in store for Top Clack?  Brian and I plan on making Top Clack the best keyboard show and platform. It's an ambitious goal that we plan on dedicating what we can to achieve it. Check out Brian's Blog post. We have a lot in store for you all. Buckle in because it'll be one helluva ride.

Ivan & the Failed GBs

Originally Posted on March 15th 2016

-

Hello everyone, I hope you're doin' well.

Some time ago, I wrote an article Community History: Team Redline which documented perhaps one of the most well known failed GBs/scams in MK history (thousands of dollars). Today, there seems to be some hubbub about a few GBs on GH run by IvanIvanovich. Here's a quick summary of what I have so far.

On Tuesday July 14th 2015, Geekhack Moderator IvanIvanovich started a groupbuy for the RS84 v3 keyboard. It’s a wonderful 75% keyboard with a nice RGB underglow and an acrylic case. For the wonderful price of $140, you would receive an acrylic case, a PCB, and an RGB controller. For an additional $22 you could add a plate, and for another additional $22, you you can get feet on the bottom of your case. A total of $194 before shipping & PP fees. Not bad.

Orders closed on August 10th, and for about 2 months there was no updates.

A few users asked for updates citing the last time they were updated was 2 months, and at one point, the last time IvanIvanovich went online was 2 weeks.

A user went to his defense saying that Ivan only updates with hard updates (meaning there were no hard updates in the last 2 months since the GB), and that he is busy running multiple groupbuys. Another user cited that Ivan had broken his arm a little while ago (in respect to this GB) and all of his buys might be slightly delayed because of that. Many users stating that they believe Ivan is quite a trustworthy member.

As of October 17th 2015, Ivan had not been logged into his account for a month (since Sept. 14th). This concerns some as in this time, not only has there been no updates on this RS84v3 GB, but none on his other GBs as well. Some members have moved and haven’t received confirmation that Ivan has recorded their address change for shipping.

Another user depends Ivan by telling people to “just chill, because it is not uncommon to have no update for a month” Today with the advent of MassDrop, this is mostly unheard of in my opinion.

One user said that a week after the RS84v3 was supposedly closed, they noticed the GB form was still open. They submitted an order through that form and received an invoice after a couple of days. The form was closed a few days later when they went to check again. This user did say that Ivan addressed this though.

On October 21st, one user said that at any rate, Ivan is at least checking his email/paypal because this user was instantly refunded their purchase even though they only asked for an address change.

On November 13th, a user asks how long is an appropriate time to wait for this? It’s been a few months without updates or activity. 3 days later, another user posted that they were able to reach out to Ivan who said the order began production a couple of weeks ago and is still in production. He declined to state a timeline, but did mention that there were a few more months for production and transit time.

From December through February there were people both selling their spots in the GB, as well as asking for future updates. No updates or information came through.

Until yesterday (March 14th 2016).

GH User 悬壶济世 (designer of RS keyboards), said that he did not received Ivan’s production numbers or payment. He tried to contact Ivan but did not get a reply.

This isn’t the only run Ivan is running. In the GMK Miami night GB, GMK responded to a user inquiry about the project. GMK stated that they did not receive any payment from the organizer, so the project was cancelled. This information was just found out today.

Another GB that was mentioned was the PBT Dark Second Wave, which people have been waiting 1 year for. While there are some GBs that have gone on longer, they also are suffering from the lack of updates and communication.

There have been no ‘hard’ updates from Ivan. There have been no real updates of any kind. Both 悬壶济世 and GMK have not received payment or production numbers from Ivan when we claimed to users via email that they were in production. So what happened?

Will Ivan be the next DrugER? Is this the next ‘Team Redline’ style scam? I really hope not. The truth is, this will greatly hurt the community. Not financially, but in trust. I want to think that GH runs good groupbuys. I want to think they provide an alternative to Massdrop that actually sticks to the spirit of GBs and to save us money. It’s hard when these things happen, because it creates the fear that it could happen to me. It could happen to you, it could happen to any of us. That fear should always be there though. That’s the nature of group buys. You never know when ‘life’ can happen to a GB organizer and things more important get in their way. You never know if it was malicious or not. You will only know some sadness and anger in a failed groupbuy. One of the worse parts is that this was suppose to be a person we could trust. Ivan is a Moderator on GH and has run successful GBs before.

Please remember the obligatory group buy PSA

PS: If you have any additional information, please feel free to comment with sources to I can add it to this article for accuracy.

Source: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=73572.0

Source2: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=71507.1000

Reddit: Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/comments/4aiyxr/more_geekhack_gbs_going_down_in_flames_featuring/

Community History: Team Redline, and a Lesson to be Learned

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED NOV15th 2015

Preface: While I did my best to research this topic, I might not be fully correct with my facts and information. I also may be missing some relevant information. With the information I have gathered, this is as full of a story I can present. If you know more about this event, please post relevant information in the comments and I will do my best to incorporate that information into this article as well as correct any misinformation.

Wall of text ahead!

I wanted to type up something different than my usual posts because it’s better than facing reality. Do you guys wonder why Ripster55 always posts the same message on group buy posts? He will almost always post:

“Obligatory Group Buy PSA - BUYER BEWARE!”

He posts this message for good reason. It might seem obvious that there is always an inherent risk in group buys, but many who are newer here don’t really know what could happen in a worse case scenario. This is one of those scenarios.

Team Redline was comprised of 3 key members: DrugER, Lifezone(LifeZ), and girldc. They ran group buys out of the Team Redline name, group buys from their own name, and promised “Korean products with USA distribution.” They were known in the community, got along, and had a positive reputation. They ran BSP group buys, GMK group buys, and a few others. This isn’t a story about their specific group buys and products. This is the story of the failure of Team Redline, and the truth of what can happen to anyone in this hobby.

Team Redline was once a vendor on GeekHack(GH) and had their own subforum. There are certain rules and requirements to be an approved vendor on GH as well as having you own subforum. This story starts a few months after the mysterious absence of DrugER after a few groupbuys.

DrugER had simply vanished. No presence on Geekhack. No customer support on the Team Redline subforum. Hundreds of outstanding orders. Due to these reasons, on May 5th 2014, the moderation team at GH determined that it was time to review Team Redline’s eligibility to keep their vendor subforum and vendor privileges. From this date, all three members of Team Redline had a week to respond to the allegations.

 

girldc was the first to respond on may 10th:

Hello

Is me girldc

First of all, I can not English

This can be created using the translation of Google.

I confirmed the message of skype of Sifo yesterday.

sifo gave me over the link of Eagle me.

I was surprised.

What is going on this!

I in team redline

List is up.

And I with them, I have promoted the work of the individual.

I have not participated in or interfere about them.

They are not involved in the key cap that I created.

I received the help that does not know how to use my gb before.

However, I want to direct proceeds from this period.

I'm seeing the text slowly now.

Problem seems serious.

The English can not, do not know the exact content.

I want to know the exact contents

So,

I am attempting to contact with people and other drugER.

Waiting after sending a message that does not get communication.

I have in progress now

I am busy, marine is, was a bit late

(Even overlap with the other jobs. So, to them, I will include a gift separately)

Send an email to them.

It will be members of the application gb me it is shipping soon (expected in about 10 days) is not worried.

And, panda marine who ask for the individual is also shipped as at that time.

I have to cherish the trust

Please do not misunderstand my

Thank you.

Add

Now, what's happened to him

And attempting to phone

A lot of people, but would be concerned

There is nothing I also us to not know anything about it.

 

The next to respond was LifeZ also on may 10th:

Hello.

My english is not good.

This is translation of appz

I'm the same as the team . very very sorry

We are a team , but the individual activities.

I am currently in progress to lz-fe gb trying to finish .

Individually be processed by the currently .

I contact is difficult him .

There seems to be a personal matter .

GB , but believes it can finish .

It is natural that you are worried .

I have to cherish the trust .

The thing that I think can be resolved soon .

South Korea also has participants .Will not be a serious problem .

Thanks.

add-

He says that

Dsa products arrive in Korea to be distributed .

The delivery soon .

 

At this point, they both realize that there is a problem, and people start asking questions on the Korean keyboard communities kbdlab and kbdmania. From the translations provided, these things happened. DrugER changed his phone number and was unable to be contacted by girldc and LifeZ. A member of KBDlab visited the house of DrugER (His handle is Jackass on KBDlab) and found that DrugER had disappeared. No one could establish contact with DrugER whether it be SMS, Phone, or email. After a few additional days, KBDlab regarded all of his group buys as fraud. Both Lifezone (LifeZ) and girldc said that DrugER acted on his own, and they could not take responsibility for what happened. KBDlab said they would launch a civil case against DrugER for damages.

DrugER was running group buys for DSA Dolch, CMYW, and GMK two-tone beige. I don’t know the exact number, but the scam’s estimate on the high end was valued at ~$100,000. I’ve seen a number around $70,000 as well, but I am not sure on the exact number. What happened to individuals? Many lost $90 here and there, some lost a few hundred from these group buys. It is believed the vendor Feng lost a few thousand dollars from DrugERs scam. Another user said he lost hundreds personally from the groupbuys and over $1000 from a secondary groupbuy he was running to supply keycaps not originally in DrugERs groupbuys. It wasn’t just money that was lost. LifeZ and girldc’s reputation was slightly tarnished due to their partnership with DrugER in Team Redline. Some people even wanted LifeZ and girldc banned from GH because they were on both involved with DrugER in Team Redline. Many believed that this event caused strain between the Korean and English speaking keyboard communities for a short while. Hundreds of individuals from various keyboard communities all over the world lost money and hope.

Due to the revelations found on KBD, the moderation team of GH made their decision on May 9th as follows:

Folks,

Due to recent revelations, we have finished our deliberations and decided that the following actions need to be taken, effective immediately.

DrugER is permanently banned from Geekhack.org,

LifeZ and girldc are no longer allowed to conduct commercial business on Geekhack.org until further notice.

we will archive this vendor subforum in 48 hours. this thread will be moved to announcements. the remainder of the subforum will be archived.

 

Note that this was a day before girldc and LifeZ’s response on GH.

This was the nail in the coffin for Team Redline. For those of you wondering what happened to DrugER, here is what might’ve happened to him although there is no confirmation.

On January 31st 2015, girldc posted on GH that DrugER had turned himself into the police. He posted that he will do so on kbdlab. The message is in korean and was reposted on GH with a poor google translation. The general gist is that he will turn himself in (wrote the post before he supposedly turned himself in), he has been homeless and at one point even tried to commit suicide, and he promises to pay back compensation little by little however possible. The reason he said he would turn himself in was that he visited his sick mother who was near her end and she said to him to never hurt others, and to pay for his wrongdoings. He apologizes for causing anguish to his guiltless friends and peers, and victims.

Whether he actually turned himself into the police is unknown. He probably won’t ever pay back the estimated $100,000. At the end of the day, people lost to one man’s greed. So, as ripster55 reminds us,

“Obligatory Group Buy PSA - BUYER BEWARE!”

Sources and relevant information about the event and individuals involved:

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=57897.0

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=57897.msg1323711#msg1323711

http://www.kbdmania.net/xe/photo/5362770

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=57897.msg1322527#msg1322527

http://www.kbdmania.net/xe/freeboard/8366563#14

http://kbdlab.co.kr/index.php?mid=board_cUlO13&document_srl=275365

http://kbdlab.co.kr/index.php?mid=board_cUlO13&document_srl=275293

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=68286.0

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/162SC_b6ZGb3wT6yO2_UxotwBTcRn6kdP6wRWYrfgdxI/pub?output=html

http://keypuller.com/dsa-dolch-replica/

https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/comments/1fgnu5/team_redline_korean_products_with_usa_distribution/