OSHW Framework Laptop Expansion Hides Dongles

If you’ve got a wireless keyboard or mouse, you’ve probably got a receiver dongle of some sort tucked away in one of your machine’s USB ports. While modern technology has allowed manufacturers to shrink them down to the point that they’re barely larger than the USB connector itself, they still stick out enough to occasionally get caught on things. Plus, let’s be honest, they’re kind of ugly.

For owners of the Framework laptop, there’s now a solution: the DongleHider+ by [LeoDJ]. This clever open source hardware project is designed to bring these little receivers, such as the Logitech Unifying Dongle, into one of the¬†Framework’s Expansion bays. The custom PCB is designed with a large notch taken out to fit the dongle’s PCB, all you need to do is solder it in with four pieces of stiff wire.

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Retro-Styled Rasti Laptop Packs Framework Mobo

Today, every laptop pretty much looks like every other laptop. Sure you might run into a few different colors and screen sizes out there, but on the whole, all the manufacturers have pretty much agreed on the basic shape and nobody is looking to rock the boat with something different.

Ah, but it wasn’t always so. Before the form factor we all recognize today took over, there were all sorts of interesting variations on the basic portable computer concept. For the Rasti, creator [Penk Chen] definitely took some inspiration from the iconic (and largely unobtanium) GRiD Compass of NASA and Aliens fame. But while its 3D printed case might look like a product of the early 1980s, on the inside, it features a Framework Laptop 13 mainboard using an 11th gen Intel CPU.

In addition to the widescreen 10.4 inch (1600 x 720) QLED display from Waveshare, the Rasti also includes a custom mechanical keyboard that’s actually been spun off into its own project. So even if you can’t swing building the whole Rasti, you could still find yourself tapping away on its vintage-styled input device.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen somebody 3D print a computer inspired by the GRiD Compass. The GRIZ Sextant we covered back in 2021 was another triumph that would be the envy of any hacker meetup.

Open Source Spacecraft Avionics With NASA’s Core Flight System

One thing about developing satellites, spacecraft, rovers and kin is that they have a big overlap in terms of functionality. From communication, to handling sensors, propulsion, managing data storage, task scheduling and so on, the teams over at NASA have found over the years that with each project there was a lot of repetition.

Block diagram of a simplified avionics system. (Credit: NASA)
Block diagram of a simplified avionics system. (Credit: NASA)

Either they were either copy-pasting code from old projects, or multiple teams were essentially writing the same code.

To resolve this inefficiency NASA developed the Core Flight System (cFS), a common software framework for spacecraft, based on code and lessons from various space missions. The framework, which the space agency has released under the Apache license, consists of an operating system abstraction layer (OSAL), the underlying OS (VxWorks, FreeRTOS, RTEMS, POSIX, etc.), and the applications that run on top of the OSAL alongside the Core Flight Executive (cFE) component. Here cFS apps can be loaded and unloaded dynamically, along with cFS libraries, as cFS supports both static and dynamic linking.

There are a few sample applications to get started with, and documentation is available, should you wish to use cFS for your own projects. Admittedly, it’s a more complex framework than you’d need for a backyard rover. But who knows? As access to space gets cheaper and cheaper, you might actually get the chance to put together a DIY CubeSat someday — might as well start practicing now.

How Framework Laptop Broke The Hacker Ceiling

We’ve been keeping an eye on the Framework laptop over the past two years – back in 2021, they announced a vision for a repairable and hacker-friendly laptop based on the x86 architecture. They’re not claiming to be either open-source or libre hardware, but despite that, they have very much delivered on repairability and fostered a hacker community around the laptop, while sticking to pretty ambitious standards for building upgradable hardware that lasts.

I’ve long had a passion for laptop hardware, and when Hackaday covered Framework announcing the motherboards-for-makers program, I submitted my application, then dove into the ecosystem and started poking at the hardware internals every now and then. A year has passed since then, and I’ve been using a Framework as a daily driver, reading the forums on the regular, hanging out in the Discord server, and even developed a few Framework accessories along the way. I’d like to talk about what I’ve seen unfold in this ecosystem, both from Framework and the hackers that joined their effort, because I feel like we have something to learn from it.

If you have a hacker mindset, you might be wondering – just how much is there to hack on? And, if you have a business mindset, you might be wondering – how much can a consumer-oriented tech company achieve by creating a hacker-friendly environment? Today, I’d like to give you some insights and show cool things I’ve seen happen as an involved observer, as well as highlight the path that Framework is embarking upon with its new Framework 16.

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An ESP32 Dev Board As A Framework Laptop Module

The Framework laptop will no doubt already have caught the eye of more than one Hackaday reader, as a machine designed for upgrade and expansion by its users. One of its key features is a system of expansion modules. The modules are USB-C devices in a form factor that slides into the expansion bays on the Framework Laptop. Framework encourages the development of new modules, which is something [Spacehuhn] has taken on with an ESP32-S3 development board.

The board itself is what you’d expect, the ESP is joined by a multicolor LED and one of those Stemma/Quiik connectors for expansion. The case is handily provided by Framework themselves, and all the files for the ESP32 module can be found in a GitHub repository. We’re guessing it will find application in experimenting with WiFi networks rather than as a standalone microcontroller. Either way, it shows the route for any Framework owners into making their own add-ons. Take a look, we’ve placed the video below the break.

As you might expect we’ve given a lot of coverage to the Framework laptop since its launch, in particular, our colleague [Arya Voronova] is a fan and has shown us many alternative uses for the parts.

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Building An All-in-One Desktop Out Of Framework Parts

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.

A grey keyboard with orange and dark grey accents is angled away from the camera. The keys nearby are clearly distinguishable in the foreground but blurry toward the back/right. The keyboard is quite thick as it also contains a computer motherboard.

Mechanical Keyboard With A Framework Inside

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?

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