Friday, August 10, 2012

Using a keyboard and mouse with the Kindle Fire

After installing CM9, with the 3.x kernel, on my Kindle Fire, I read about people connecting keyboards, mice and other USB devices to the Kindle Fire. In order to do this a USB cable referred to as a OTG cable is needed. I happened to order this one, but there were many options. After I got the cable, I plugged a USB 2.0 powered hub into the OTG cable which was then plugged into the Kindle Fire. A powered hub is essential as the Fire does not put out enough voltage to power most external devices. Also, on the Kindle Fire, you will want to install the applications "StickMount" and "File Expert" from the Google Play store.

Now for the big test. The first thing I did was plug in a USB mouse into the powered USB 2.0 hub.  Much to my surprise a mouse cursor appeared on the screen and I was able to move the mouse around and click a few things. I was wondering if the mouse cursor would appear as the Kindle Fire is a touch screen device. Both the touch screen and the mouse worked at the same time, so nothing was lost. So far so good. I then plugged in my USB keyboard and then I opened a browser window and was able to type in the url on the physical keyboard. So now things are looking pretty promising. The next step was to plug in a USB flash drive. Within a second StickMount popped up a prompt asking me to allow it SuperUser access and then informing me that the USB device had been mounted in /sdcard/usbStorage/sda1. I then used File Expert to navigate to that directory and view the files on the flash drive. Everything seemed to be there and I was able to open and interact with files just like files found on the Kindle internal storage. Perhaps with the right USB flash drive, very low power requirements, the USB hub would not be needed and then you would have a solution to the limited space on the Fire. One of my sticks, a 4GB one, almost worked, but the 32GB one definitely would not.

Now for the things that didn't work. I tried to plug in my 1TB External USB harddrive and while the OS knew something was there, I do not believe the file system drivers were present. I also did not have much luck with my USB Bluetooth adapter. Also while these devices where plugged in I could not charge the Kindle Fire, so I was limited on how long the device would run. This adapter from Amazon may allow you to work around that issue.

So all in all the Fire with the OTG cable, a powered USB 2.0 hub, a USB keyboard and mouse can actually function as a basic computer. Now I would not recommend this setup for full time usage, but if you want something for some basic work that requires a lot of typing on the cheap, this would be one option. I also see no reason why this setup would not work with other Android devices. So if you decide to try this, I would appreciate some feedback.

18 comments:

Godfather said...

Dear Kevin
My 8GB kindle fire installed Jelly Bean CM9
When I plug the 16 GB it is shown but empty
I tried another 8GB
Also same problem
Could u help me please
Thank you

lilmikz rosz said...

Thank you for the tips I am going to try this. When I get my keyboard in the mail.

Pmack628 said...

Kevin, I appreciate all your efforts at reworking the Kindle Fire. I have a couple questions:

1) Is updating the OS to CM9 a manditory requirement?

2) Were you able to overcome the issue of not being able to charge the Kindle while the hub is plugged in?

Thank you again.

~ Pat

marcelapulga said...

Hello friends!! i am buying a KINDLE FIRE HD but before i want to know if i can use an external keyboard.. do you have a good suggestion? either by bluetooth or USB.. i just NEED An external KEYBOARD

Kevin DeKorte said...

Pmack628: I've actually moved on to Jelly Bean since I have written this. I'm using this ROM: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1778010

And no, I have not been able to work around the charging issue, but I did not buy that one adapter either.

marcelapulga: I would not expect an external keyboard to work on the Kindle Fire HD yet.

Kevin DeKorte said...

Godfather, I think the reason you are not seeing the media might be due to the file system it is formatted with. Otherwise, I cannot guess what the problem would be.

susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
susan said...

Did you do this work on the original Kindle Fire, or on the later version (not HD, just the later version of KF)?

Thanks for your work, and for your clear explanation of how you did it.

Kevin DeKorte said...

Susan,

I'm not sure which version of the Fire I have, but I believe it is the original one. I bought mine in Mar of 2012.

susan said...

Thanks much.

Susan

Raving And Random Art Major said...

I was wondering if this type of adapter would work instead of an OTG cable. It essentially does the same thing, but is shorter so things move faster back and forth.

http://www.amazon.com/SANOXY-Micro-Male-Female-Adapter/dp/B0027YYMU6/ref=pd_sim_e_2

And you have to change the CM9 to Jellybean? How do you do that?

Much appreciated.

Kevin DeKorte said...

Raving,

It is unlikely that that adapter would work as it is not properly wired. It needs to be an OTG cable. And usually the length of the cable has nothing to do with the speed of the cable unless you are getting really long cables and in that case it is more due to signal loss over the length of the cable than the speed of electron movement.

As for how to install CM9 or later read my other post:
http://kdekorte.blogspot.com/2012/07/upgrading-os-for-android-404-on-kindle.html

And there are newer ROMs now that work even better than CM9

Christopher Didonato said...

I am using ICS, neither keyboard or mouse are working, can you help? I am running Hellfire ICS... Thanks!

Andrea said...

I bought a generic Bluetooth keyboard made for ipads. It uses 2 AAA batteries and worked beautifully with my Kindle Fire HD when I needed to take lecture notes in class.

Elder Eduardo Cavazos said...

I just got a Kindle Fire 1st generation. I wanted to connect a keyboard to it, but found that impossible until I fount this post. I was wondering if I had to install CM9 to use the keyboard setup that you explained, or is it possible to do that with a Kindle straight out of the box?

Kevin DeKorte said...

I think you have to use CM9 or greater. My Kindle is currently running CM 10.2 (nightlys).

Discwby70 said...

I'm disabled an unable to use my hands. I use a chin-control for a mouse on my pc with a special on-screen keyboard.
I just wonder if I could upload my on-screen keyboard from my pc computer to the new Kindle HDX?
The on-screen keyboard is from SofType.

Jeff said...

I'm just wondering if it's possible to hardwire the necessary power source directly to the USB power pins on the keyboard to avoid using the USB hub. In other words, run the power source to the necessary pins and disconnect the USB pins that plug in to the Kindle. (I hope that makes sense)

Thanks for your blog.