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§ Hand-made adaptor

Time for another of my all-too-frequent off-topic posts.

PC controllers, frankly, suck; for some reason, most of them are designed to have the contact pads on the diagonals of the D-pad, so it's impossible to get clean hits to the four cardinal directions. In a Final Fantasy-style RPG this is death because instead of selecting Magic you end up selecting Row and moving your white mage to the front. I decided to build an Xbox-to-PC adapter after my friend Alec told me that it's just a straight wire-up. I knew that the Xbox controller was based on USB, but I was under the impression that it drew too much power to be connected to a normal PC port, which is not the case.

My experiences in building the adapter:

It's nice to have a well-functioning D-pad and smoooooth, non-noisy analog sticks on a PC. (Anyone who has wrestled with pot-reading code in DOS knows what I mean by the latter.) I figure that with enough creative mappings of the inputs I can play Diablo II with the Xbox controller, but I haven't quite found a good stick-to-mouse translation yet.

While I'm on the subject of Microsoft peripherals: their keyboards used to rock -- especially the Natural Keyboard Pro, with the USB ports in the back -- but the current keyboards suck, with the constant changes to the arrow keys and insert/delete block area. I consider arrow keys in plus form to be slightly better than the C64 layout. The worst invention by far is F-Lock. This evil key switches the top row of keys between traditional function keys (on) and new application keys like Help, Undo, and Close (off). By default, F-Lock is off, meaning that function keys are disabled, and since it is handled totally by the keyboard circuitry, it cannot be programmatically read or toggled. Even worse, if F-Lock is on, it changes the Pause/Break key to on! I don't have to tell you how infuriating this is in Visual Studio, where I have to have F-Lock on so F7 works to build, and off for Ctrl-Break to stop it! One of the MVPs came up with a way to hack the scancode translation tables in the Registry to map the keys to their equivalents, but I haven't applied it yet.

Comments

Comments posted:


I too liked my MS keyboard (which was the non-Natural version with USB ports ... non-Natural, does that make it Artificial?) When it was last time to upgrade, I went with the Logitech Cordless Duo, giving me a MX700 mouse and a keyboard that are both cordless. The keyboard also has the F-lock functionality, but it defaults to "function key" mode on power-up, which is where I leave it. And Pause/Break doesn't seem to be affected by this mode.

One feature that I lost by migrating to Logitech is the ability of the mouse driver to maintain separate button mappings for different applications. Although the extra buttons are nice, I'd like to have the default behavior in most applications, and remap them for a few specialty programs. Maybe their next drivers will fix this...

Snard (link) - 26 09 04 - 09:15


i found that -at least with the logitech keyboards that have an F-lock on them- you can simply change the 'non-F-locked' commands of all buttons to the corresponding F-key commands. so whether F-lock is on or off, F1 will always be F1 :)

[c]oma - 27 09 04 - 08:42


I too long for the good old ms hardware. I'm currently using a natural kb pro and the intellimouse explorer 3.0, but they're approaching their ends. I dont' want to replace the keyboard because f-lock sucks, the built-in usb is awesome, and the new numpad / arrow key layouts suck too. The new intellimice suck because the wheel scrolling is smooth (no more changing weapons with it) and the logitechs don't have the per-app custom mapping (in winamp/wmp i have back/forward as prev/next with middle as play/pause, and in games that don't support the buttons i have to map things manually) so i have no good options :'(

mark - 27 09 04 - 21:17


oh and MS discontinued the sidewinders too. I love my precision pro (first one). dammit MS your stuff owned.

mark - 27 09 04 - 21:18


You're so right about the MS keyboards. I've given up on the latest Natural keyboard after 2 previous ones ended up with sticky or faulty shift keys. I now use a Mac keyboard - it's USB, works straight away with Windows XP and is so much better made it's not funny. Oh, and it looks sexy too :-)

Andy - 29 09 04 - 07:00


Old MS hardware is wonderful. I too miss the Sidewinders... well I guess I can't say I miss them because they're in my closet!

mako - 29 09 04 - 18:12

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