2022 Cyberdeck Contest: The Black Beast Will Help You Survive A Robot Apocalypse

A portable computer built inside a rugged carrying case

With AI systems getting smarter every day, one might wonder if they might someday evolve into a sentient Skynet-like system and try to take over the world. We’re not sure how close we are to such a situation, but we do know that if the robot apocalypse were to happen, we would want to stay close to [LordOfAllThings], who would likely be carrying the Black Beast. This scary-sounding machine is in essence a Raspberry Pi-based portable computer built inside an outdoor carrying case, with a wide range of unusual peripherals that make it the digital equivalent of a Swiss army knife. In other words, it’s a cyberdeck built for end times — and whatever comes after.

For example, an array of ESP32-based modules plus an SDR module allow you to intercept and analyze hostile robots’ communications, whether they’re using Bluetooth, WiFi, LoRaWAN, or anything in the 433 or 868 MHz ranges. An FM transmitter comes in handy for reaching out to fellow citizens who are trapped with nothing more than an analog radio receiver, while a suite of environmental sensors (including a Geiger counter) should help determine if Skynet has released any harmful substances to flush out those last few pesky humans. (Ed. note: No marigolds in the promised land and all that.)

If you manage to find a wired Ethernet connection somewhere, a built-in five-port gigabit router lets you set up a local network, obviously with a custom network analyzer to detect any unwanted intrusions. A storage compartment contains every kind of cable you could need, as well as useful gadgets like flashlights and, indeed, an actual Swiss army knife.

Naturally, the Black Beast can be run from any power source you might encounter, ranging from various AC mains voltages to the 12~48 V DC found in car batteries and solar panels. A built-in 12 Ah lead-acid battery gives it quite a bit of autonomy as well: a wide range of voltage and current monitors, as well as a clever power distribution system help you to manage power flows throughout the Black Beast.

The main user interfaces connected to the Pi are a 10.1″ full-HD monitor and a Logitech K400 keyboard/touch pad unit. All of the components are built into 3D-printed plug-in modules that neatly fit inside custom slots in the carrying case.

STL files and an extensive component list are available in case you’d like to build your own; apart from apocalyptic scenarios, such a machine would definitely be useful for things like maintenance and debugging of machinery out in the field.

There will be others out there with rugged Raspberry Pi portables: the Militarish Pi for instance, or this waterproof SDR machine. If it’s mainly wireless gremlins that you’re worried about, then the Pwnton Pack might also be useful.

19 thoughts on “2022 Cyberdeck Contest: The Black Beast Will Help You Survive A Robot Apocalypse

  1. That is a really neat look, and seems to pack just about everything you might need in this vein – I’d have put in a leatherman instead/as well – by far the best multi tool pliers and wire strippers I’ve ever had the opportunity to use, and having a plier and a screwdriver at the same time etc can be really helpful.

    Also having put a full on ATX PC in a flight case once long ago I applaud the sense in having the detachable barrel pin and usb bridging top and bottom – way back when I built mine it couldn’t have been done that way as the monitors lvds cable (manually extended) ran over the hinge too, no way to make that easily removable available to me at the time and surprise surprise those cables between base and lid where what failed, and did occasionally pull themselves off the monitors PCB…

    Did however last several years longer than I expected – this whole project was to make it possible to use my old desktop while large portions of the house were building site – good performance laptops barely existed and were not at all cheap yet, and I had yet to learn enough to get away from the bloat that Windoze was becoming so low performance hardware is actually useful.

    Do wonder if it is really suitable for sustained use though – that is alot of off the shelf units encased in an extra plastic shell together without a great deal of cooling.

    1. sorry for a late response, but I am curious if you knew the story of Timothy S. Leatherman, and how he fought for years to get his multi-tool manufactured and sold, finally getting it out in ’83 and selling 30,000 tools that first year. It seems hard to believe in hindsight, although it’s at least as unlikely-seeming that the creator’s name was Leatherman, and the name has nothign to do with any functionality!

      1. Nope, didn’t have a clue – If I recall correctly I only found out about the company from the nice grumpy old guy in the local hardware store when I was young and needing a good multitool with pliers, don’t know how much later it was I could actually afford to get one. Going though many cheaper ones, that fail in short order and end up costing more most likely…

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