USB Easy Button   By John Reiter


That makes it easy

 

So you got a Staples Easy button. Why not make it a USB button!

I recently picked up one of the $5 Easy buttons at staples. The only problem with it? It's completely useless.


I decided to put a keyboard controller in it so that I could map a keyboard key to it and use the Easy Button as a macro key.

 

 

 

 






WARNING!!!

  • I am not responsible for anything you are, have or will ever do.
  • If you toast your motherboard for any reason in this tutorial I will laugh at you.

Tools you will need:

  • Small screw drivers
  • Soldering iron
  • Electrical tape
  • Project wire
  • Box cutter
  • Dremel tool(Very Helpful but not crucial)
  • Multi Meter

Equipment:

  • USB keyboard

Some keyboard controllers are too big to fit inside the Easy Button. So far I have made two. Both of them use the Browser Back button as the Easy Button. One controller board fit perfectly, the other I had to chip sections of the board off that were no longer important. Mainly the extra leads that run to other keys.


Yes, There is a Spanish one also

Note on revisions

Not even something as simple as the Easy Button is safe from revisions!

So far I have seen two different revisions. The gift box (R1) and the hanger package (R2). If available, get the gift box. The button leads are very clear. R2 is a better designed board with smaller traces making it a little harder to solder to for the inexperienced. If you do get a R2, one of the connectors goes directly to the IC. What I have found to work well is using a flat head jeweler screw driver to scrape off the top coat of the board near the marking C2. The other connector has an easy solder spot like the ones on R1.

Now it's time to take it all apart.


Lets start with the Easy Button.

Turn the Easy Button over, and remove the rubber feet.

You will find 4 screws to remove.

Remove the battery cover and batteries.



The top will pop off easily once the screws are out.

At first glance you will notice the IC (black circle), a few resistors and a capacitor. I have seen on other tutorials that people have completely built a new board just to get a button in the center where the top can hit it.

Why go through all that trouble when there is a perfectly good button mounted right where it's needed?


Now comes the fun part!

Remove the circuit board. There are two screws on the right and left. Once you have the board removed take the plastic shelf, metal clicker plate, and speaker out. The speaker is not needed anymore and needs to be taken out. You can remove all wires from the circuit board and battery connectors. The battery connectors come out easy with a needle nose after you take the wires off.

On to the keyboard

Take the keyboard apart. There are many screws, plastic button caps and miscellaneous things that will fall out. We don't need any of them.


On this keyboard the keyboard controller is in the upper left corner. You will also notice the layered mat that connects different leads to produce keystrokes. We need to figure out which ones goto the key we are using. In this tutorial I use the Browser Back button because it's a key that I don't need on my keyboard. I have mouse buttons for that. But you could use any key that you choose.



Find where the button is on the layered mat using the top of the keyboard. Once you have located it, circle it on ALL layers of the mat. Using a multi meter, trace the two leads back to where they connect to the board. HINT: The top layer is printed on the bottom and the bottom layer is printed on the top.


Once you have figured out where the button leads are, mark the leads on the circuit board with a sharpie. Solder two wires to the leads on the board. Keep in mind the length you need and pre-strip both ends of the wire. Note that your not going to get a strong connection on the leads so try not to move the wires too much.

Not Shown

If your board will not fit in the Easy Button, and you think you will need to make the board smaller there are sections of the board that are usually blank or are just there to support the end of the connector. If the key you're using has leads close to the IC, there is a chance you can cut upwards of 50% of the board off. You don't want to get rid of anything that looks crucial. You can cut the LEDs off. Some LEDs have resistors connected to them. You can cut them off also. Sometimes you will see erroneous diodes and caps that connect to the IC at both points. Anything like this you probably should not remove. Other then that, as long as you don't cut through the leads you need (USB cable, two for your button) You should be OK. The PERFECT tool for this is a pair of toe nail clippers. Cut small sections at a time cutting the sections off in small triangles. This will minimize the chance that the board will break in a spot you don't want it to.



Tape the board completely with electrical tape to prevent it from bumping any metal and shorting out. Also this will give your weak solders a little more rigidity.

Here a wire has been cut and soldered back together. The button at the top of the Easy Button got stuck in the on position. After taking the button apart (three or four metal prongs that go through the board) I found some dust on the button connectors that where shorting it out. I hooked a meter up between the leads to test before I found the dust.

Once your board is taped it's time to pull the Easy Button back out. Notice all the room under the button, where the battries and speaker where? The only thing in the way is the battery compartment. Pull out your Dremel again and cut away at it so you can get the board to seat through where the batteries and the speaker went. Most likely you will have to spend some time at this. The plastic is hard and you may have to go back and make adjustments to your board. (IE cutting corners off) Make sure you have enough room so the wires are not crimped too much.

Find the two leads that goto the button. There are exposed solder points for both leads(R1). You can see in this photo where they are. I have also scraped the etching going from these leads to the IC. I don't know if this is necessary, but decided that it was better off to cut them now. To do this, use a box cutter to cut through the copper line. It doesn't take much pressure to cut through it and the blade will prevent small slivers from reconnecting it. This is a common problem using other methods. Now it's time to put some things back together. Wrapping the button wires over the second plastic plate, place the board and plastic plate back in the base.


Once you have the board seated in the bottom and the wires soldered to the button we need to start thinking about where the USB cable is going to come out. There are two ways it can go together at this point. The button will only fit in the sleeve two ways. There are little breaks in the button that are used to stabilize it during a press. After putting the button back in the sleeve turn the button over. Notice that the button will only fit on the base one way. Make sure you cut the hole where you really want it to come out.

Now you're almost done. Put everything back together and plug it in! Your computer should recognize it as a keyboard. If not I would recommend unplugging it right away.



What the heck do I do with a big back button?

In Linux you could do some crazy things with this. Eventually I'm sure I'll move it to a Linux box but currently My main workstation is running XP. The purpose of my Easy Button is to activate the screen saver and play music at the same time.

This is where the software comes in. I didn't want to spend money on a program that would monitor the browser back button and carry out whatever task I wanted. After searching a little, I found a program called AutoHotKey. AutoHotKey is a scripting language that "Create[s] hotkeys for keyboard, joystick, and mouse. Virtually any key, button, or combination can become a hotkey." The programing language seems very basic-esk to me. AHK also allows you to compile your script to an EXE file so you don't even have to have the whole program on your computer. Here is my script.