Drop CTRL finally gets VIA support (unofficially)

Drop CTRL VIA Support

I was digging through Github one fine evening because well I don’t remember why and I ended up on QMK, the firmware used in most (decent) mechanical keyboards. I noticed that VIA support was added for the Drop (Massdrop) CTRL, the ALT already had VIA support. Hey, I have a Drop CTRL! So I decided to I wanted to flash the board and get VIA support. Who doesn’t want VIA support? Down the rabbit hole I go, and I tossed in some extras.

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So this is QMK?

This is QMK

Intro

Fucking mechanical keyboards. Damn it, how the hell did I end up down this cash burning rabbit hole? Mid-life crisis I guess? Most guys buy a hotrod and I end up with mechanical keyboards. My first foray into mech keyboards was when I bought the Keychron K8 TKL board which I posted about last year. I kept that board for about six months before I gave it to my son. It was a good board don’t get me wrong, I liked it and there is nothing wrong with it but I also had no idea what I wanted in a mechanical keyboard at the time either. The biggest reason I replaced the Keychron was because it was not programmable with QMK or VIA/VIAL.

After getting into and reading about boards this turns out to be a must have for me. So I got a drop CTRL TKL board. This was pretty pricey I will have to admit. More than it should be considering what it is and what other keyboards out-there offer and go for in the custom keyboard world. From what I can tell the Drop CTRL is looked down upon not necessarily because it is a bad board but because it is a mass produced board and ready to buy at any time – in stock. It also has a RGB ring around the edges and after being in the community for a month or so you find out real quick that RGB is pretty hated in the group. Only newcomers in the group like RGB or gamers. Real mechanical keyboard enthusiasts don’t rock RGB and real high end boards don’t rock RGB either. I will have to admit that after a few months of using Crystal pudding keycaps with RGB on 24/7 I don’t really need it anymore. I got my fill of RGB. I also now know the difference and the reasoning behind north vs south facing RGB lights as well.

Note: For the majority of this post I will be referring to the Drop CTRL keyboard

 

QMK, what is it?

QMK is a keyboard firmware based on the qmk_keyboard firmware with some useful features for Atmel AVR and ARM controllers, and more. Doesn’t say much does it?

QMK is pretty much “The Holy Grail of keyboard customization as someone else said. QMK usually offers tons of features like layers, custom keymaps, and the ability to edit your LEDs RGB patterns. It typically runs on Atmel controllers (Arduinos) which are used to power most custom keyboards it seems. QMK can be a pain to work with cause of editing keymap files and complex RGB patterns. It can be complicated and I think it has a steep learning curve that would drive away most users. This is where VIA/VIAL come in. VIA is¬†a feature in QMK that lets you change your keymap on your keyboard without needing to reflash firmware, on the fly. QMK usually involves editing text and config files while VIA and VIAL are programs that run to allow you to edit the board. The changes you make using VIA/VIAL remain persistent on the keyboard, so even when you unplug and replug your keyboard back in, the keymap settings still remain. Some keyboards even allow you to use VIA/VIAL to edit the RGB color maps and patterns, although this feature seems to be few and far between. All QMK boards allow custom keymaps and multiple layers. The amount of layers you can have depends on the memory available on the board your keyboard is utilizing. From what I understand most QMK boards will ship with the amount of layers they support but sometimes you can add more.

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Wanhao Maker Select v2.1 Firmware Upgrade

Wanhao Maker Select v2.1 Firmware Upgrade

It has been a while since my last post, I have not been fiddling with “blinking lights” for a little while now. I got a dog and life just happens. But I have felt the itch lately and decided to jump into some shit tonight – upgrading the firmware on my Wanhao Maker Select v2.1! There are no actual guides that I have found to be able to follow to flash the firmware (for this particular make/model). All of the information is out there but it seems to be mostly on Reddit and it is scattered across a few posts. Most of what I have found links to two guides; a YouTube video of how to flash the bootloader to the Melzi board, and an Instructables on how to do the same thing. That is basically all you really need but it came off as confusing to me so I am sure it will to someone else as well.

Basically what you need to do is a 2-step process. 1) Flash a bootloader to the Melzi board, and then 2) Flash the actual firmware to the Melzi board. You WILL NEED an Arduino of some sorts, any Arduino should do. I used a Duemilanove and it worked, and that thing is old. You will also need six (6) jumper wires (male to female most likely). You need to connect the wires from the Melzi board to the Arduino so you will also need to take the control box apart. You only need access to the Melzi board to flash the bootloader. Once the bootloader is flashed you can pack it all back up. The firmware is flashed via the Melzi’s USB port. So lets get to it!

Your Arduino IDE should be up to date and you will need the Sanguino board installed as well as the U8glib library (There is a different/older version linked to in the YouTube video, 1.14).

  1. Take the control box apart, I left the Melzi board in the can, you don’t need to fully remove it, less you want to. You just need access to the pins and the LCD.
  2. Put the auto-reset jumper on if you have it removed.
  3. Change the board power selector from VREG (AC) to USB, this lets us power the Melzi from the Arduino.
  4. Unplug the LCD (it will mess up the bootloader flashing process I have read, no harm in removing it temporarily. I also had issues until I unplugged the heatbed MOSFET also).
  5. Connect the wires from the Arduino to the Melzi.
  6. Connect the Arduino to the PC/Mac.
  7. Flash the Arduino to be used as an ISP.Open the example: ArduinoISP
    I had to add a line to get the flashing process to work, this may be due to the old Duemilanove I am using.
    I had to add #define USE_OLD_STYLE_WIRINGBoard: Your Arduino type Port: Your correct Arduino port Then click upload
  8. Now flash the bootloader (after you change the board settings).Board: Sanguino Port: Your same Arduino port Programmer: Arduino as ISP Then click Tools > Burn Bootloader
  9. Remove the Arduino from the PC/Mac, and remove the wiring from the Arduino to the Melzi. The Arduino is no longer needed.
  10. Place the jumper back on VREG not USB.
  11. Plug the LCD back in.
  12. Put all your crap back together (or leave it apart to make sure it all works!).
  13. Plug AC power back in.
  14. Plug the Melzi into the PC/Mac (change the board settings again).Board: Sanguino Port: the port of the Melzi board Programmer: AVRISP mkII Flash/upload the new firmware
  15. Print something!

Thats the whole process. The part everyone leaves out is how to flash the firmware, even though it is dead simple as plugging in a USB cord it is never mentioned. Something also never mentioned is how to configure Marlin to work on the Maker Select. The default Marlin is too large to fit, some things must be removed. I have not found a guide on how to configure it and or what to configure. But I did find a pre-set Marlin configured already for the Maker Select. This is what I am using. You have a few choices as far as I know; Marlin, Repetier and TH3Ds Marlin.

Update: Something I feel I didn’t make clear was flashing/updating the firmware. Step 14 above is the flashing part. Flashing the firmware the first time (after your bootloader is installed) is the same as flashing the firmware with future updates to your printer. With the printer in normal running condition, turn on the AC power. Connect your printer with the Arduino IDE open to your printer. Maker sure the board selected is Sanguino and the port is the port of the Melzi board that appears with the programmer: AVRISP mkII. Then with Marlin.ino open (or whatever firmware you’re using) select upload (or verify first to make sure it will compile). The firmware should upload and you should be good.

I chose the Marlin firmware preconfigured for the Maker Select v2. But I ran into an issue with the LCD screen being garbled. I also believe this is just a general Marlin firmware issue with Maker Selects and not just this specific version. But no fear! I found the fix online!

You need to edit a file in Marlin.ino, specifically ultralcd_st7920_u8glib_rrd.h around line 86 add the 2 NOP, this will fix the garbled LCD:
(You only need to do this if you LCD screen is garbled after flashing Marlin!)

This is the Reddit that I kept coming across: https://www.reddit.com/r/3Dprinting/comments/8o3wg8/installing_marlin_on_maker_select_v2/
This is the video on flashing the bootloader that seems to be popular: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejpSniiJejI
This is the Instructable that shows the same thing as the YouTube video: http://www.instructables.com/id/Using-an-Arduino-to-Flash-the-Melzi-Board-Wanhao-I/
This is where I found the LCD fix: https://www.reddit.com/r/3Dprinting/comments/9i0n6z/maker_select_v2_lcd_issues/

Link to Sanguino board
Link to the U8glib library
Link to the preconfigured Marlin 1.1.x for the Maker Select v2.1

Some useful Thomas Sanladerer videos I found after I did my upgrade ūüôĀ
Configuring thermal runaway
How to setup Marlin firmware

This was how I did it on my printer, I take no responsibility for anything that may happen to yours. Try this at your own risk.

I can finally flash again

I finally did it! I was able to flash my¬†ESP8266s again. It only took months and a bunch of scratching my head – then banging it against a wall. I cannot even really remember where I left off with my programs, but I do recall I stopped because I wasn’t able to flash my chips anymore.

USB FTDI
USB FTDI
ProMini
ProMini
WiFi Module ESP8266-01
ESP8266-01

That was a big problem obviously, and I do not know why it started as all was well in the beginning. I originally had ordered a few ESP8266-01s and some Arduino Mini Pros. I figured they would work well together. To go with the Mini Pros and ESPs I nabbed a USB FTDI programmer and it worked fine when I initially got it. I was able to send AT commands to the ESPs and program my Mini Pros no problem. Then I started playing with flashing new firmware on the ESPs to try NodeMCU, and I think thats where everything started to go downhill. The FTDI and ESPs would stop communicating half way through flashing. Eventually I couldn’t flash or upload anything anymore. It just wouldn’t go. Fast forward a months later and I ran into a few posts that mentioned the FTDI chips are unstable with the ESPs and won’t work. Hmmm. They all recommended using a USB TTL adapter instead.

So thats what I finally did, purchased a USB TTL adapter off Amazon for $6. I got the Armorview PL203HX adapter. USB plug on one end and four breadboard connectors on the other for PW, GND, RX and TX. Simple. As soon as I got it I plugged it in and… nothing. A ls /dev/tty.*¬† yielded nothing. WTF. I probably need a driver. Yup, the PL2303¬†driver was needed in my case. Installed that and plugged the adapter back in and now I see it tty.usbserial¬†. Nice and generic. First thing I tried was flashing the AT firmware to an ESP. And it worked!!

I can now flash firmware to the ESPs again, and the Arduinos if I wanted to but the FTDI still works fine with those. For those that want to know; I use a breadboard power supply for powering the ESPs and Arduinos. I only use the USB adapters for communication. You can and I have done it without it, but it is just way more stable to use the extra power supply. The adapters don’t have the juice, especially for the ESPs. Now I can get back to tinkering again.

See this post for how I got the ESP to send MQTT data

See this one for how I got send and receive to work with MQTT