A Parts Bin Cyberdeck Built For Satellite Hacking

While there’s little in the way of hard rules dictating what constitutes a cyberdeck, one popular opinion is that it should be a piecemeal affair — a custom rig built up of whatever high-tech detritus the intrepid hacker can get their hands on, whether it be through trades or the time-honored tradition of dumpster diving. It should also be functional, and ideally, capable of some feats which would be difficult to accomplish with a garden variety laptop.

If you’re looking for an example that embraces these concepts to the fullest, look no further than the Spacedeck built by¬†[saveitforparts]. Combining a touch screen all-in-one computer pulled from a police cruiser in the early 2000s, an RTL-SDR, and the contents of several parts bins, the rig is designed to work in conjunction with his growing collection of motorized satellite dishes to sniff out signals from space.

As you can see in the build video below, the design for this mobile satellite hacking station was originally very different, featuring considerably more modern hardware with all the buzzword interfaces and protocols you’d expect. But [saveitforparts] couldn’t get all the parts talking satisfactorily, so he went in the closet and dug out one of the surplus police terminals he’d picked up a while back.

He didn’t have the appropriate connector to power the machine up, but by cracking open the case and tracing out the wires, he figured out where he needed to inject the 12 V to get it spun up. From there he installed a new Mini PCI WiFi adapter, loaded up an era-appropriate build of Linux, and got the standard software-defined radio tools up and running.

What really sets this build apart are the two custom panels. The top one offers access to the various ports on the computer, as well as provides a sort of switchboard that connects the RTL-SDR to various onboard filters. The lower panel includes the hardware and controls necessary to aim different styles of motorized satellite dishes, as well as a USB hub and connector that leads into a commercial satellite meter tucked into the case.

At the end of the video [saveitforparts] demonstrates the various capabilities of the Spacedeck, such as the ability to pull in imagery from weather satellites. Considering the sort of satellite sniffing we’ve seen him pull off in the past, we have no doubt this machine is going to be listening in on some interesting transmissions before too long.

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A yellow computer with a black keyboard and a small monochrome LCD screen

Low Power Challenge: The PotatoP Runs Lisp For Months Without Recharging

A common complaint among laptop users is that while battery technology has vastly improved over the past decades, a simulltaneous shrink in form factors has meant that a typical laptop today doesn’t last much longer on a battery charge than one from the early 2000s. But it doesn’t have to be that way, as [Andreas Eriksen] demonstrates with his entry for the Low Power Challenge. The PotatoP is a portable computer that should be able to run for about two years on a single battery charge, and can be topped up through an integrated solar panel.

Granted, it doesn’t have the processing power of even the cheapest laptop you can buy today, but it’s perfectly fine for [Andreas]’s use case. He’s a Lisp hacker, and a Sparkfun RedBoard Artemis can run uLisp just fine on its 48 MHz Cortex-M4F processor. The operating environment is very basic though, even requiring [Andreas] to write his own text editor, called Typo, to give him editing luxuries like backspace functionality and a movable cursor.

The Artemis board is very power-efficient by itself – typical power consumption is less than 1 mA. [Andreas] added a simple monochrome black-and-white LCD screen capable of displaying 53 columns of text, plus an SD card reader for data storage, and designed a sleek 3D-printed case to hold everything together. When running a typical piece of code, the entire system uses around 2.5 mA, which translates to about 125 days of continuous run-time on the beefy 12000 mAh lithium battery. Add a bit of solar power, plus a more realistic eight-hour working day, and the two year runtime estimated by [Andreas] appears entirely reasonable.

This has to be one of the most power-efficient portables we’ve ever seen, and one running Lisp at that. Despite its age, Lisp keeps popping up in interesting custom computers like the Lisperati1000 cyberdeck and The Lisp Badge.

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TRS-80 Model 100 Inspires Cool Cyberdeck Build, 40 Years Down The Line

The TRS-80 Model 100 was a strange beast. When it debuted in 1983, it resembled nothing that was available at the time, and filled a gap between desktop computers and the mostly-not-invented-yet laptop segment of the market. Collectors covet these machines, but they’re getting harder to find four decades later. So, if you want one, you just might have to roll your own.

Honestly, it doesn’t appear [Roberto Alsina]’s purpose here we to recreate the Model 100 per se, but rather to take inspiration from its oddball form factor and experiment with the latest components. The design elements from the original that [Roberto]’s creation most strongly echo are the screen with the extreme landscape aspect ratio and the somewhat compressed keyboard. The latter is based on the cheapest mechanical 65% keyboard available, while the former is a 1920×480 LCD display intended for automotive applications. The display seems like it put up a fight, between its need for a custom HDMI cable to connect it to the Radxa Zero SBC under the hood as well as the custom kernel needed to support it.

Along with a USB hub for IO and some 18650s for power, everything went into a 3D printed case with considerably sleeker lines than the Model 100. It’s worth pointing out that [Roberto] didn’t have much experience with design or 3D printing when he kicked off this project. We love to see people stretching their skills like that, and we think the results are great in this case. We’ve seen a lot of Model 100 retrofits and brain transplants, but this may be the first time we’ve seen a build quite like this.

A terminal window with a search for "Guineau Pig Olympics" is inset on a photo of an ortholinear keyboard attached by a yellow USB cable to a 70s aluminum and plastic Super 8 film editor/viewer. The device has a large screen on the right hand side, a silver grate on the left, and a tray at the bottom for slotting in film.

Super 8 Film Editor Reborn As A YouTube Terminal

We love hacks that give new life to old gadgets, and [edwardianpug]’s YouTube Terminal certainly fits the bill by putting new hardware inside a Super 8 film editor.

[edwardianpug] could have relegated this classy-looking piece of A/V history to a shelf for display, but instead she decided to refresh its components so it could display any YouTube video instead of just one strip of film at a time. The Boost-Box keeps the retrofuturistic theme going by using the terminal to search for and play videos via Ytfzf.

The original screen has been replaced by an 800×600 LCD, and the yellow USB cord gives a nice splash of color to connect the ortholinear keyboard to the device. Lest you think that this “ruined” a working piece of retro-tech, [edwardianpug] says that 20 minutes would get this device back to watching old movies.

Are you looking for more modern and retro mashups? Check out these Dice Towers Built In Beautiful Retro Cases, a Vacuum Tube and Microcontroller Ham Transmitter, or this Cyberdeck in a Retro Speaker.

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2022 Cyberdeck Contest: Prototype Cyberdeck Is Anything But Questionable

We see many projects here at Hackaday, about which their creators are unreasonably modest. We like a good cyberdeck, and we think [betaraybiff] is one of those creators from their project description for a Prototype Cyberdeck of Questionable Practical Use. It may be a prototype, but we think it could be quite a practical computer.

At its heart is the ubiquitous Raspberry Pi 4 paired with a PiSugar power supply and a minimalist mechanical keyboard. The case is the interesting part, because it’s well-designed to be 3D printed in sections with the HDMI display hinging up from above the keyboard. The Pi is open and visible on top of the deck, but this could easily be covered with another printed piece if desired.

So we disagree on the practicality, given a train journey and this cyberdeck we think we could easily crack out a Hackaday article or two. Never undersell your creations, like this one they’re almost certainly better than you think.

If you’d like to see more of the 2022 Cyberdeck Contest, take a look at the best of the best.

Cyberdeck Contest 2022: Gibson Rev 001 Thinks Outside The Pelican Case

As we’ve gushed previously in these pages, we saw an incredible turnout for our first-ever cyberdeck contest — so many cool ‘decks rolled in that it made judging them all quite the feat, and we would be remiss if we didn’t feature the favorites that, for whatever reason, didn’t make the cut. One of these is the aptly-named Gibson Rev 001 from [Gadjet].

This cyberdeck may be on the pocket-sized side of things, but don’t let that fool you, because it’s loaded with I/O and sensors galore. A Pimoroni Breakout Garden provides particle/smoke and pulse oximetry, temperature/pressure/altitude, an air quality sensor, and a UVA/UVB light sensor — plenty of feelers for judging conditions on the fly. As you might expect, the brains of the operation is a Raspi 4, which is running Twister OS.

We love the dual-display thing going on with the 7″ touchscreen and the color e-ink display — really gives it a cobbled-together-yet-polished, futuristic feel. May the rest of the post-apocalypse gadgetry have such clean lines and cheerful colors (if that’s what you’re into).

A widescreen slate-style cyberdeck with a small keyboard sits in front of a cassette deck stereo. Headphones sit to the left of the deck and an old Casio calculator watch is to the right.

2022 Cyberdeck Contest: QAZ Personal Terminal

The slabtop form factor has had a resurgence in the cyberdeck community, and [Greg Leo] has designed the QAZ Personal Terminal to be about as small as a slabtop could be while still having full-sized keys.

Since the device is using a 35% QAZ keyboard as its primary input device, [Leo] has helpfully given a quick overview of how text is input in the video below. Coupled with that surprisingly popular 4:1 LCD screen we’ve seen elsewhere, this cyberdeck looks like a modern interpretation of a TRS-80 Model 100. The Banana Pi powering the QAZ Personal Terminal is running Debian with spectrwm, a tiling window manager making arranging windows a breeze with either a mouse or keyboard. The integrated mouse layer on the keyboard means you don’t need a separate mouse at all if you don’t want to spoil the 1980s mobile chic.

[Leo] has another video all about doing calculus on this cyberdeck with the math shortcuts integrated into the keyboard. Fractions, exponents, and common Greek letters are demonstrated. We can see this being a really great note-taking device for engineering and math courses if you wanted something more portable than a laptop.

It’s hard to get very far hacking without a little math. For more math-focused input devices, check out the Mathboard or the MCM/70.

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