The Framework laptop prides itself on having reusable parts, and hackers all around routinely challenge the claims by building projects reusing them. Yet again, [whatthefilament] puts the Framework hardware to the test, by taking all the laptop internals and building an AiO (All-in-One) desktop computer with it. Hot on the heels of his Framework tablet project we covered a few months ago, this desktop reuses as much as possible – the mainboard, the display and the expansion cards in particular, and even one of the hinges is reused for adjusting the monitor’s angle.
Of course, this build required a custom case – and [whatthefilament]’s design is fully 3D-printed, with STLs and assembly instructions available for anyone interested. Parts of the desktop are held by magnets for ease of assembly and maintenance, with a few parts requiring screws held in by heat-set inserts. Complete with a webcam, speakers and even a WiFi card, all it needs for completeness is an external keyboard&mouse combo, making for a sleek desktop that anyone in possession of a few Framework parts can build.
Laptop-to-desktop builds are nice – take the X-PC project, starting with a pile of school laptops and rebuilding them into colourful and sturdy desktops for classroom use. We’ve seen quite a few fancy Framework projects already, and that’s because they provided motherboards to hackers for specifically project purposes, kickstarting a fair few creations to grace our pages. Other hacker-friendly laptops didn’t lag behind, either – for instance, here’s the hacker favourite, Novena, getting the desktop treatment.
Talking about high-quality USB-C implementations, there’s a product that has multiple selling points designed around USB-C, and is arguably a shining example of how to do USB-C right. It’s the Framework laptop, where the USB-C expansion cards take the center stage.
Full disclosure – this article is being typed on a Framework laptop, and I got it free from Framework. I didn’t get it for Hackaday coverage – I develop Framework-aimed hardware as hobby, specifically, boards that hack upon aspects of this laptop in fun ways. As part of their community developer support effort, they’ve provided me with a laptop that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to get for such a hobby. By now, I’m part of the Framework community, I have my own set of things I like about this laptop, and a set of things I dislike.
This is not an article about how I’m satisfied or dissatisfied with the Framework laptop – there’s plenty of those around, and it would not be fair for me to write one – I haven’t paid for it in anything except having lots of fun designing boards and hanging out with other people designing cool things, which is something I do willingly. I’m an all-things-laptops enthusiast, and the reason I’d like to talk about Framework is that there is no better example of USB-C, and everything you can do with it, in the wild. Continue reading “All About USB-C: Framework Laptop” →
Like the Commodore 64 and other keyboard computers of yore, the [Elevated Systems]’s CJ64 fits all of its processing and I/O into a single keyboard-shaped package.
This iteration of the project takes it to the next level with an enclosure milled out of aluminum instead of the mere 3D printed enclosure of the previous versions. With a Framework mainboard, the ports are configurable via the Framework expansion card system giving you even more options to customize this build. To round it out, this keyboard PC doesn’t scrimp on the keyboard part either with mechanical switches and MT3 profile keycaps.
If you’d like to build one of these for yourself, [Elevated Systems] has uploaded the 3D printed enclosure files to his GitHub repository. The files for machining are available as well, but only to patrons.
For some more Framework-based mods, check out this Framework Tablet, the Framedeck, or this other retro-inspired Framework build. If you want an all-in-keyboard slabtop, then maybe check out Are Slabtops the Future of Computing?
Continue reading “Mechanical Keyboard With A Framework Inside” →
The Framework laptop project is known for quite a few hacker-friendly aspects. For example, they encourage you to reuse its motherboard as a single-board computer – making it into a viable option for your own x86-powered projects. They have published a set of CAD files for that, and people have been working on their own Framework motherboard-based creations ever since; our hacker, [whatthefilament], has already built a few projects around these motherboards. Today, he’s showing us the high-effort design that is the FrameTablet – a 15″ device packing an i5 processor, all in a fully 3D printed chassis. The cool part is – thanks to his instructions, you can build one yourself!
This tablet sports a FullHD touchscreen IPS display and shows some well-thought-out component mounting, using heat-set inserts and screws, increasing such a build’s mechanical longevity. You lose one of the expansion card slots to the USB-C-connected display, but it’s a worthwhile tradeoff, and the touchscreen functionality works wonders in Windows. [whatthefilament] has also published a desk holder and a wall mount to accompany this design – if it’s a bit too large for you to hold in some situations, you can mount it in a more friendly, hands-free way. This is a solid and surprisingly practical tablet, and unlike the Raspberry Pi tablet builds we’ve seen, its x86 heart packs enough power to let you do things like CAD on the go.
With STLs and STEPs available, his build is a decent option for when you’ll want to replace your Framework’s motherboard with a new, upgraded one. You might’ve already noticed a few high-effort projects with these motherboards on our pages – perhaps, this transparent shell handheld with a mech keyboard and trackball, or this personal terminal with a futuristic-looking round display. This project is part of the “send 100 motherboards to hackers” initiative that Framework organized a few months ago, and we can’t say it hasn’t been working out for them!
Recently, I stumbled upon a cool write-up by [DHowett], about reprogramming a Framework laptop’s Embedded Controller (EC). He shows us how to reuse the Caps Lock LED, instead making it indicate the F1-F12 key layer state – also known as “Fn lock”, AKA, “Does your F1 key currently work as F1, or does it regulate volume”. He walks us through adding custom code to your laptop’s EC firmware and integrate it properly into the various routines the EC runs.
The EC that the Framework uses is a MEC1521 chip from Microchip, and earlier this year, they open-sourced the firmware for it. Now, there’s a repository of microcontroller code that you can compile yourself, and flash your Framework laptop’s motherboard with. In a comment section of HackerNews, a Framework representative has speculated that you could add GPIOs to a Framework motherboard through EC firmware hacking.
Wait… Microcontroller code? GPIOs? This brings us to the question – what is the EC, really? To start with, it’s just a microcontroller. You can find an EC in every x86 computer, including laptops, managing your computer’s lower-level functions like power management, keyboard, touchpad, battery and a slew of other things. In Apple land, you might know them as SMC, but their function is the same.
Why have we not been reprogramming our ECs all this time? That’s a warranted question, too, and I will tell you all about it.
Continue reading “EC Hacking: Your Laptop Has A Microcontroller” →
When the universe tells you to build a cyberdeck, then build a cyberdeck you must. The lucky [Richard Sutherland] got an email from user-serviceable laptop purveyors Framework about the availability of their main board for use as a single-board computer. They agreed to send him a laptop and some extra modules as long as he promised to build something awesome with it. There was just one fabulous caveat: whatever design he came up with had to be released to the public.
[Richard] took this capable board with four USB ports and built an all-in-one that pays homage to the slab-style computers like the TRS-80 Model 100, which [Richard] really wanted as a kid. It looks lovely in layered acrylic and brass, and even though we pretty much always think that see-through is the best design choice you can make, transparency really works here. Tucked into those layers is a custom 36-key split running on an Elite-C microcontroller with Gazzew Boba U4 Silent-but-tactile switches, and a trackball in between. Be sure to take the build tour and check out all the process pictures.
Acrylic looks great and seems great on paper, but what about actual use? [Richard] put rubbery SKUF feet on the front, and a pair of repositionable feet on the back. Not only will it stay in place on the table, but he’ll be able to see the screen better and type at an angle greater than zero.
As cool as it would be to have Framedeck in the apocalypse, it will be hard to hide and could get looted. You might want to build something a bit more concealed.