Over-the-Top Cyberdeck Is Really A Geiger-Deck

If you like it when a hack has a little backstory, then you’re going to love this cyberdeck build log, the first half of which reads like a [Tom Clancy] novel. And the build itself looks the part, like something that fell off a military helicopter as the Special Forces operators were fast-roping into a hot LZ. Or something like that.

The yarn that [Paul Hoets] spins around his cyberdeck, dubbed RATIS for Remote Assault and Tactical Intelligence System, is pretty good reading and pretty imaginative. The cyberdeck itself looks very much the part, built into a Pelican-style air travel case as such things usually are. Based on a Raspberry Pi 4, the lid of the case serves as a housing for keyboard and controls, while the body houses the computer, an LCD display, and an unusual peripheral: a Geiger counter, which is very much in keeping with the device’s “mission profile”. The handheld pancake probe and stout coiled cord with its MILSPEC connectors really sell the look, too.

Imaginative backstory aside, the construction method here is what really shines. Lacking access to a 3D-printer to produce the necessary greebling, [Paul] instead used a laser cutter to make acrylic panels with cutouts. The contrast between the black panels and the yellow backgrounds makes it all look official, and it’s a technique to keep in mind for builds of a more serious nature, too.

Feel free to look through our fine collection of cyberdeck builds. Some have a fanciful backstory like [Paul]’s, others are intended for more practical purposes. Build whatever you want, just make sure to tip us off when you’re done.

26 thoughts on “Over-the-Top Cyberdeck Is Really A Geiger-Deck

    1. On the original article, it could have an internal SDR (SMA ports on top left and right, and plenty of extra space inside), but in the end, the little RTL-SDR was comfortably held on the main panel, on the outside.

      Did you see the big flat, antenna? It’s one part of the build.

    1. Yes it´s bad in the sense that wireless connections arent necessarily as good as wired connections, but their size and ease of use in combination with raspis and other SingleBoard Computers are the main reasons for most Cyberdecks/RuggedLaptops/Whatchamacallit using them.
      Also if you were to connect your Computer to a bigger Screen or Beamer, you might want to take the Keyboard out and use it like a remote.
      Although depending on the material used in the case the connections might break off when the case is close or the Reciever is blocked, but those are just problems you have with wireless keyboards.
      I myself rather like the Cyberdecks, that are built around a keyboard in the style of the C64, just with a fold up Screen and built in Hamradio.

    2. Some of them put a neat charging dock into theirs – so at least it its well integrated. On the whole I don’t like the little wireless keyboards.. but they are what they are, small, cheap and functional enough.

      Fitting a decent sized keyboard with proper key travel for that decent typing experience into it fixed does mean you end up stuck with the laptop conundrum – either the keyboard is really horribly placed or your looking down awkwardly, which is bad too. Trying to add enough cable to fix it means finding space to put that wire in the case and a convenient way to get it in and out – no fun if you have to so spend 30 mins winding or coiling it it back up to move the damn thing.. Doable but fiddly

        1. Not had good luck with those myself, they work well for a while but do seem to fatigue to failure rather quickly… Not had many of them, or one for a while now as haven’t had the need for travel style gear often enough in recent years to warrant it so maybe the engineering has been perfected and they all work for hundreds of cycles..

          A good idea to try, though I think you may want to print/machine your own – so you can make it fit in the space you have neatly, and fix/replace the failures. Probably 20% odd larger than the off the shelf, but I’d rather it was shaped to fit the project AND certain to be repairable – you go build around the one you buy now there is no certainty it will be available next month/year and I’d hope the expected service life of these cyberdecks is in the multiple years maybe even decades (as while hardware will keep improving, none of them are aiming for high performance computing, but in the field computing, which even in 30 years time isn’t likely to need more horsepower (heck machines from the 90’s would be potent enough really – at least for most things – video and more high drain websites are likely too much for something quite that old. Though of course nobody is going to take something that pathetically slow and power hogging into one of these builds, that’s what the pi zero (or better) is for…)

        1. tactical
          relating to or constituting actions carefully planned to gain a specific military end.
          “as a tactical officer in the field he had no equal”
          showing adroit planning; aiming at an end beyond the immediate action.
          “in a tactical retreat, she moved into a hotel with her daughters”

          Sound grenades are also considered tactical equipment when needed:)

    3. Easy … solves the wiring headache. No cords. Just velcro (or however you want to attach) small keyboard in lid and remove if used. I also thought about using Blue Tooth which I have two folding keyboards here to try. It was just easier to use a USB dongle for now and this nice very small keyboard/mouse pad that you can work with your thumbs. My box (a multipad/site rocket launch system is the goal) is plastic (Pelican case) and face plate is plywood (designed with freeCad and cut with my son’s Laser cutter), so not a problem.

  1. I love the backstory. I can corroborate some details: I worked near Pelindaba for a while during the events described in the early eighties. My “office” was a worksite on the top of the mountain ridge across Hartbeespoort dam lake, and I had a fine view of the Pelindaba facilities every day. It was a decidedly weird-looking site, very out of place compared to the surroundings. Though I had (literally) tons of radio gear there (I was installing it) and listened every minute I was present (though mostly Radio 5 FM), I never heard a peep from them. They were obviously up to something clandestine :-) A fine excuse to build a rad-hard Cyberdeck info-exfiltration device.

      1. I had not heard of the book, but my family liked “The Hundred Year Old Man…”, so it’s on my reading list now.

        Re Mossad(-ish): One guy I worked with at the time in Joburg (our head office) was an active Israeli tank commander. He would suddenly disappear for a week or two and return looking a little more battle-worn but happy, like he’d just won a game… badass. Definitely a guy you don’t want on the other team. He must have been good — Getting between SA and Israel (or anywhere else) at the time was nontrivial: we weren’t allowed to fly over Africa, so that trip had to go the long way around.

        Back to the Cyberdeck topic, my roadwarrior toolkit at the time included this glorious beast: a Motorola R2001 (not my video):
        (cost 3x my annual salary at the time: They were nuts to let me throw it in the back of the truck every day.)

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