Sunday, April 17, 2011

If Engineering were easy, anyone could do it!

No Engineering endeavor goes smoothly every step of the way, and this one seems no different.  After surprising success with the main keypad a couple weeks ago, it quickly became clear that the easy part was over.

It turns out that the main keypad and the individual page turn keys on the device edges use signals which are routed through two different connectors on the motherboard.  The 20-pin FFC (Flat Flex Cable) connector handles the main keypad signals, while the individual page turn keys on the edges are routed through two VERY small connectors, one 6-pin and the other merely 4. 

Pictures will follow in a later post.  For now though, the moral of the story is that tiny connectors are incredibly difficult to deal with.  The creation of a breakout board similar to that of the 20-pin main ribbon cable proved to be a spectacular failure.

So what alternatives do we have?  With the existing physical hack, we're only able to advance between chapters, not individual pages.  It seems clear that the physical keyboard alone won't be sufficient to complete this project.

Fast forward a few hours.  Some quality alone time with Google and more than a few newbie questions posted on and a possible solution is found.  Jailbreak the Kindle and install another software hack called Launchpad.  (Here is the page I used for the jailbreak operation, which pulls together information from a few different forum posts and presents it in a nice step-by-step instruction guide)  This should allow the keys to be mapped to just about any function we wish.  The idea will be to map the left and right keys on the 5-way to force them to turn pages, not chapters. 

So far the Kindle has been jailbroken and it's not (yet) a smoking ruin.  The road got a lot longer this week, but we're making good progress.

Stay tuned for pictures and detailed information about the software hacks. 

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