An Almost Invisible Desktop

When you’re putting together a computer workstation, what would you say is the cleanest setup? Wireless mouse and keyboard? Super-discrete cable management? How about no visible keeb, no visible mouse, and no obvious display?

That’s what [Basically Homeless] was going for. Utilizing a Flexispot E7 electronically raisable standing desk, an ASUS laptop, and some other off-the-shelf parts, this project is taking the idea of decluttering to the extreme, with no visible peripherals and no visible wires.

There was clearly a lot of learning and much painful experimentation involved, and the guy kind of glazed over how a keyboard was embedded in the desk surface. By forming a thin layer of resin in-plane with the desk surface, and mounting the keyboard just below, followed by lots of careful fettling of the openings meant the keys could be depressed. By not standing proud of the surface, the keys were practically invisible when painted. After all, you need that tactile feedback, and a projection keeb just isn’t right.

ChatGPT-inspired machine learning mouse emulator

Moving on, never mind an ultralight gaming mouse, how about a zero-gram mouse? Well, this is a bit of a cheat, as they mounted a depth-sensing camera inside a light fitting above the desk, and built a ChatGPT-designed machine-learning model to act as a hand-tracking HID device. Nice idea, but we don’t see the code.

The laptop chassis had its display removed and was embedded into the bottom of the desk, along with the supporting power supplies, a couple of fans, and a projector. To create a ‘floating’ display, a piece of transparent plastic was treated to a coating of Lux labs “ClearBright” transparent display film, which allows the image from the projector to be scattered and observed with sufficient clarity to be usable as a PC display. We have to admit, it looks a bit gimmicky, but playing Minecraft on this setup looks a whole lotta fun.

Many of the floating displays we’ve covered tend to be for clocks (after all timepieces are important) like this sweet HUD hack.

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Getting The Most From Fading ThinkPads

The ThinkPad line of laptops has been widely prized not only by businesses but also by those who appreciate a high standard of hardware quality and repairability. But some think the cracks are starting to form in their reputation, as it seems that new ThinkPads are sacrificing quality for aesthetics and cost. As a result a huge modding scene has popped up around models that are a few years old like [Cal] found out when working on this X230.

At first he only made some cosmetic improvements to the laptop like replacing the worn palm rest, but quickly found himself in a rabbit hole with other upgrades like swapping out the keyboard and battery. The new keyboard is a 7-row X220 keyboard, which required modification of the connector and flashing the embedded controller with a hacked image to change the keyboard map without needing to make changes at the OS level. From there, he decided to replace the lackluster screen with a 1920×1080 matte IPS panel using an adapter board from Nitrocaster, and finished off his upgrades with a customized Coreboot BIOS for improved performance and security.

While Coreboot doesn’t remove all of the binary blobs that a bootloader like libreboot does, the latter is not compatible with more modern machines like this X230. Still, you’ll get many benefits from using Coreboot instead of the stock bootloader. For running Linux on a daily driver laptop, we appreciate all of these updates and expect that [Cal] will get plenty of years of use out of his machine. We’ve definitely seen an active modding scene for ThinkPads that were (at the time) seven years old and still going strong, so we’d expect nothing less for this one.

A Miniature MNT For Every Pocket

Last time Hackaday went hands on with a product from German company MNT, it was the Reform laptop; a full size computer with a full feature set and fully open source design. Now they’re back with the same value proposition and feature set crammed into a much more adorable (and colorful!) package with the MNT Pocket Reform. If you want the big Reform’s open source philosophy in a body fit for a coat pocket, this might be the computing device for you.

To refresh your memory, MNT is a company that specializes in open source hardware and the software to support it. They are probably best known for the Reform, their first laptop. Its marquis feature is a fully open design, from the mechanical components (designed with OSS tools) to the PCBAs (designed with KiCad) to the software (designed with, uh, software). When originally shipped that product packed a DIMM-style System On Module (SOM) with a default configuration containing a quad core NXP i.MX8M Quad and 4GB of RAM, as well as mini PCIe Card and M key m.2 2280 slots on the motherboard for storage and connectivity. That computer was designed to be easily serviceable and included a plethora of full sized ports along with easy to source cylindrical battery cells. The Pocket Reform takes the same intent and channels it into a much smaller package.

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An expansion board with two 8-bit ISA slots plugged into a Sharp laptop

New Expansion Module Brings Standard Slots To Ancient Laptop

Upgrading and repairing vintage laptops is often a challenge — even if their basic hardware is compatible with ordinary PCs, they often use nonstandard components and connectors due to space constraints. The Sharp PC-4600 series from the late 1980s is a case in point: although it comes with standard serial and parallel ports, the only other external interface is a mysterious connector labelled EXPBUS on the back of the case. [Steven George] has been diving into the details of this port and managed to design a module to turn it into a pair of standard ISA ports.

Apparently, no peripherals were ever released for the EXPBUS port, so reverse-engineering an existing module was out of the question. [Steven] did stumble upon a service manual for the PC-4600 however, and as it turned out, the connector carried all the signals present in an 8-bit ISA bus. Turning it into something useful was simply a matter of designing an adapter board with the EXPBUS connector on one side and regular ISA slots on the other.

An expansion board plugged into a laptop, carrying two ISA cardsThe board also has an external power connector, to avoid overloading the laptop’s internal power supply, as well as a couple of buffer capacitors to smooth out the power rails. [Steven] tested the expansion board with a network adapter and a sound card, and it appears to be functioning well. It should be noted that only the +5 V power rail is available by default, so if any cards need +12 V or any negative rail, those should be provided externally.

Gerber files for this project are available on [Steven]’s website, so if you’ve got one of these machines lying around, now might be the time to upgrade it. This isn’t the first expansion for the PC-4600 series that [Steven] developed, either: he also designed an external floppy drive adapter that should ease data transfer with other PCs.

It’s great to see how the hacker community keeps classic portables like this one alive: one day it might also need a broken screen replaced or a dodgy power supply repaired.

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.

Two people lounge over a wooden tabletop to lean on a large black laptop. It has a green leaf on its 43" LCD desktop and RGB lighting around its edge is glowing a slightly deeper shade of green.

Supersized Laptop Laughs In The Face Of Portability

Sometimes a project needs to go big, and [Evan and Katelyn] threw portability to the wind to build the “world’s biggest” laptop.

Stretching the believability of “bigger is better,” this laptop features a 43″ screen, an enormous un-ergonomic keyboard, and a trackpad that might be bigger than your hand. Not to be outdone by other gaming laptops, it also features RGB lighting and a logo that really pops with neon resin.

The pair started the build with an aluminum extrusion frame joined by hinges. Plywood forms the top lid and bottom of the device, and the interior was covered with a mix of vinyl and ABS to keep everything tidy. A nice detail is the windows cut in the area above the keyboard to keep an eye on the charge of the two battery packs powering the laptop. Weighing more than 100 pounds, we suspect that this won’t be the next revolution in computing.

If you need more supersized gadgets, maybe try out the world’s biggest working keyboard or this giant Xbox Series X?

Antenna Mount Designed For On-The-Go SDR

Software-defined radio is all the rage these days, and for good reason. It eliminates or drastically reduces the amount of otherwise pricey equipment needed to transmit or even just receive, and can pack many more features than most affordable radio setups otherwise would have. It also makes it possible to go mobile much more easily. [Rostislav Persion] uses a laptop for on-the-go SDR activities, and designed this 3D printed antenna mount to make his radio adventures much easier.

The antenna mount is a small 3D printed enclosure for his NESDR Smart Dongle with a wide base to attach to the back of his laptop lid with Velcro so it can easily be removed or attached. This allows him to run a single USB cable to the dongle and have it oriented properly for maximum antenna effectiveness without something cumbersome like a dedicated antenna stand. [Rostislav] even modeled the entire assembly so that he could run a stress analysis on it, and from that data ended up filling it with epoxy to ensure maximum lifespan with minimal wear on the components.

We definitely appreciate the simple and clean build which allows easy access to HF and higher frequencies while mobile, especially since the 3D modeling takes it a step beyond simply printing a 3D accessory and hoping for the best. There’s even an improved version on his site here. To go even one step further, though, we’ve seen the antennas themselves get designed and then 3D printed directly.