I’m using the Truly Ergonomic Keyboard (model 209) for most of my typing, because it’s a pretty comfortable keyboard (when it works). One of the greatest features of this keyboard is that the layout can be customised and flashed to the hardware with a firmware upgrade. Unfortunately, the application used to flash the firmware is only available for Microsoft Windows.
As a GNU/Linux user I find this to be very inconvenient. I simply don’t have access to a machine running Microsoft Windows (not even at the office). Luckily, Microsoft provides free virtual machine images of various versions of their operating system for browser evaluation purposes. I occasionally use them to verify that a web page works all right in the proprietary and often quirky Microsoft browsers. Although these images could be used in KVM, converting and tweaking them takes a little too long and is a bit annoying. For the quickest results these images should be imported with Virtual Box instead.
Truly Ergonomic recommends not to use virtualisation software to update the firmware of the keyboard, but as I was out of other options I decided to give it a try anyway. You probably should not be doing this if you don’t feel you would be able to perform a manual reset of the controller in case something goes wrong.
vboxusers; required to access any host USB devices from within a Virtual Box machine. If you have just added your account to this group, remember that you need to log off and on again before the changes come into effect.
If everything is set up properly you should be able to forward USB
devices from the host system to the virtual machine. Try setting
up a USB device filter in the USB settings menu of the virtual
machine. You should be able to create a filter for the Truly
Ergonomic Keyboard right there. If you cannot see a list of USB
devices at all at this point check that your user account is a
member of the group
Inside the Windows machine start the official firmware upgrade tool, load the firmware you want to flash to the keyboard, and click on Upgrade. This will result in an error message, but that’s okay: don’t panic! The reason why this error occurs is that the USB identifier of the keyboard will have changed from something like this:
ID 0e6a:030c Megawin Technology Co., Ltd Truly Ergonomic Computer Keyboard
to something like this:
ID 0e6a:030b Megawin Technology Co., Ltd Truly Ergonomic Computer Keyboard (Device Firmware Update mode)
Since the USB identifier has changed, VirtualBox may no longer forward this device from the host to the virtual machine guest system. All you have to do is add a filter for this new USB device in the guest settings and resume the upgrade by clicking on Upgrade again. This will again lead to another error, but I found that by that time the upgrade has already been performed successfully.
Note that while the USB device is being forwarded to the guest system you cannot use it in the host. To test if the new firmware works as expected in your system, disable the USB filters in the guest settings.
It should also be possible to flash the firmware directly from a GNU/Linux system. I suppose one could sniff the USB communication and build a little tool that performs the upgrade natively on GNU/Linux.