Drop CTRL Endgame Firmware

I very recently put together a Drop CTRL mechanical keyboard, which I find I quite loveā€”but it of course has some drawbacks.

It’s not fully QMK-compliant, which is kind of a bummer, but even if it were, it turns out that configuring LEDs on a keyboard using QMK is a bit of a beast. I usually use a solid-color layout, but just setting that up using QMK turned out to be something of an ordeal.

Let’s just say that I’m not 100% down with configuring my keyboard with a text file.

Thankfully, in my research on this over the past week, I found a rather new firmware for the Drop CTRL that solves a bunch of problems I’d had with it.

Enter endgame.

This is the function layer, which is a complete godsend. Even better, when holding the layer function key, the available modified keys light up differently from the remaining keys on the board.

It’s really, really cool to be able to change LED color on the fly using just a key combination on the board. The stated goals of this firmware branch are really great, and I’m hoping to keep an eye on it for a while and see how much work is done.

You can find this specific firmware in the QMK Github repository here if you are interested in checking it out for yourself.


Entering the Mechanical Rabbit Hole

I’ll have a more detailed post on the assembly of this thing once I have the final parts put together, but I’ve sourced myself the bits necessary for a ten-key-less mechanical keyboard (otherwise known as a TKL keyboard).

The keycaps showed up today:

And along with them, one hundred Cherry MX Blue switches:

I’ve been using mechanical keyboards for a while now, starting with a Model M I scrounged from the campus IT department I then used through college and grad school, then a Unicomp reproduction hard-wired to Dvorak (which was not a great idea), then most recently a Logitech Orion using their Romer-G custom switches, and a Corsair K70 mk.2 that uses MX Browns.

I have liked both the Romer-G and the MX Brown switches, but I’ve been wanted to go to something with a defined click again for a while. The K70 can be ordered with MX Blues, but there was a lot of appeal to finding myself a “standard” keyboard that can take various keycaps and be reconfigured at will.

The plate/board I’ll be using is the Drop CTRL, which I ordered without switches or keys so I could just use my own. I ended up not saving anything more than about $20 doing it this way, but in the end, I’ll have caps I wanted, the switches I wanted, and a keyboard that doesn’t require soldering work to swap out switches down the line if I want to test another brand or line.

The CTRL is the only part that hasn’t yet arrived. I’m hoping it’s here before the end of the week.