Build This Cyberdeck In A Cave With A Box Of Scraps

Desktop 3D printing has been a big enabler for the cyberdeck community, as it’s allowed individuals to create unique frames and enclosures which would have been far more difficult and time consuming to produce using traditional methods. But what if you don’t have access to a well-stocked workspace, and need to do your building with the bare minimum of equipment? In that case, [ALX] recently put together a minimalistic design that can be assembled with off-the-shelf components and basic tools.

It’s the ideal cyberdeck for the neophyte, as all the parts are widely available and relatively inexpensive. While it might not be a customized as something with a fully 3D printed frame, we think it nails the look and utility that are the hallmarks of a proper deck.

The key to this build is the SmartiPi Touch case, which puts the Raspberry Pi and touch screen on a hinged panel. These hinges happen to be compatible with GoPro-style mounts, so with a few extension pieces, the panel can be lifted up high enough that it can be folded over the keyboard. The base of the SmartPi Touch case is then attached to the bottom of the keyboard with nothing more exotic than double-sided tape. Here [ALX] is using a Happy Hacking KeyBoard Lite 2, but you could substitute it with whatever you have handy.

On the other hand, if 3D printing out the frame isn’t a problem for you, this miniature cyberdeck we covered recently could be a great alternative if you’re looking to get started in the burgeoning world of bespoke mobile computers.

17 thoughts on “Build This Cyberdeck In A Cave With A Box Of Scraps

    1. The main idea is to build yourself something more personal with more choice to fit your needs : Be able to repair and evolve it yourself, using a real keyboard, add some electronics for special usage …
      This minimalist cyberdeck is only a base, you are free to add more around : all the GPIO of the Raspberry Pi are available (you can host more electronic on that case : using the VESA mount or case extension), you can choose different way to power it, use the keyboard you like …
      Your imagination is the only limit :)

    2. From Elliot Williams recent HaD blog “Burning Chrome”

      “Coming to you from the fertile world that William Gibson created in “Neuromancer”, “Count Zero”, and “Mona Lisa Overdrive”, cyberdecks were the portable computers that the heroes and anti-heroes roaming the Sprawl would use to connect to what was essentially the Internet. ”

      Okay, so decades ago a man named William Gibson wrote future dystopian stories about hackers.

      Neuromancer, like The Cuckoo’s Egg, are two fundamental books that fueled the minds of pre-WWW nerds.
      There are other books as well, as well as certain video games which laid the groundwork for future generations.

      So, a cyberdeck is more of a salute to William Gibson for his contribution to the present (and future), a small laptop or netbook will surely get the same job done, but without “the street creds”.

      1. One thing a build you own does that no laptop or netbook does is GPIO. Heck the nearest thing to IO any new one has tends to be a USB devils snare of cables and adapters all hanging off the one port they bothered to put in!

        Where build you own can have PCI, GPIO => I2C and spi, heck even nice old school serial for those folks working with second hand old lab equipment. All hopefully neatly built in, with the added bonus of the Street Cred and ergonomics of a decent keyboard!

    3. I haven’t read the books yet but I am thinking about building one. They fit well with a project I have already had in mind for years.

      It started with wanting a laptop that I can repair and upgrade indefinitely the same as I always have my desktop. Industry is never going to give us a truly upgradeable laptop so it has to be DIY.

      DIY means I’m not going to be able to make it all thin and “sexy” like something out of Apple. It’s going to be chunkier and blockier than anything in a store. My original plan was to build it into a briefcase. If it has to be blocky though, might as well go for some sort of cyber-punk style rather than just a plain old box.

      If I end up building mine I might as well make it more than just a laptop. I would like an integrated RTL-SDR dongle (or maybe some better SDR). I would like an integrated Bus Pirate and maybe a compartment with a breadboard. If I build it myself it might as well have everything I would want built in right? My laptop bag has always been stuffed full of peripherals, cords and adapters. It would be nice to be rid of that.

      Some other ideas,

      I have a lot of power tools that all use the same batteries.Why not keep standardizing and use them for this too?

      It would be nice if it could double as a Dex dock for my phone. To save electricity the Pi could remain off in that configuration.

      I’ve been studying various languages on Duolingo. A custom keyboard layout that makes typing international keys easier would be great.

      Bigger case could mean better acoustics. How about sound that doesn’t suck?

      1. If there are any computer repair shops close by that do computer recycling you could politely ask them if they have any thick/bulky laptops slated for disposal that might have a good casing for such a project. Who knows, ya might find one of those old toughbook style military laptops ready to be repurposed.

        About a year back I picked up a Compaq Presario R4000 laptop for $5, would’ve been $10 but the seller didn’t have a power supply for it and didn’t even know if it worked or not. That aside the casing is pretty thick which could make it ideal for a cyberdeck design, the display casing might already have some space for use (maybe) for something (like a NFC system, a pi-zero with some creative cutting or maybe just some steel bits/strong magnets for attaching stuff without having to make a mounting hole). Sadly that’ll have to wait until I can clear some space for it.

        1. Yeah I got a mashed up CF-19 toughbook cheap for spare parts for the good ones I use. But the case is solid alloy and perfectly working condition despite the trashing it took – even the screen is fine. Just the rubber port waterproofing missing (as that was what I needed to make my daily driver good as new) and plastic covers that go over the wifi WWAN antenna smashed up… Been thinking I Should do the same to that.

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