Stickers belong on laptops. That’s not just because all developers are issued a 2015 MacBook Pro at birth to zealously hold and cherish for the rest of their careers, and the vast uniformity of laptop models in the workplace makes each individual’s laptop indistinguishable from anyone else’s. No, stickers belong on laptops because that ‘RUN GCC’ sticker is just so good. But how do you keep a laptop stickered up while not hurting the resale value or worrying about sticky residue left behind? That’s the question [Graham] answered, and the answer may surprise you.
The problem is such: there mus be a way to apply stickers to a MacBook that is invisible, removable, and leaves no trace after being removed, even after years of enjoying a bestickerd’ laptop. The first thought turned to old-style screen protectors for a phone, but this had problems: they’re glossy, and sourcing a large sheet of screen protectors proved difficult.
After some research, it turned out there was a market with similar requirements: car wraps. Yes, you can wrap your car in vinyl that’s any color you want, including whatever Apple is calling their plain aluminum finish these days. As far as a protector for an aluminum MacBook, it looks good: it doesn’t leave any residue behind, it’s strong enough to survive on a car, so it’s probably good enough for a laptop on a desk, and it’s easy to apply.
With some stickers applied to this larger sticker, everything looked good and lived up to a few months of abuse. Then came the real test: could this MacBook wrap be removed with all the other stickers intact? Yes, and you can frame the result. While this is only a test of the aluminum-colored MacBook, vehicle wraps come in nearly every color imaginable. There is apparently a vinyl that looks like Space Gray, and if you want Thinkpad Black, you can get that wrap, too.
Some may argue, but your choice of computing hardware says exactly zero about you, at least when you buy off the shelf. Your laptop or PC is only one of millions, and the chances of seeing someone with the exact same machine are pretty good. If you want to be different, you really need to build something yourself.
This homebrew steampunk laptop does a great job at standing out from the crowd. [Starhawk]’s build is an homage to the Steampunk genre, in a wooden case with brass bits and bobs adorning. The guts are based on an Intel motherboard, a bit dated but serviceable enough for the job. There’s a touch-capable LCD in the lid, and we absolutely love the look of the keyboard with its retro-style chrome and phenolic keycaps. Exposed USB cables run to and fro, and the braided jackets contribute to the old-timey look. The copier roller as a lid hinge is a nice touch too.
[Starhawk]’s build log is long and detailed, and covers the entire build. We’ve seen interesting builds from him before, like this junk-bin PC build for a friend in need. Looks like this one is for personal use, though, and we can’t blame him.
Decent laptop computers have been available for decades now. Despite this, there’s still something charming and enigmatic about a computer hidden within a briefcase. [MakeFailRepeat] wanted just such a rig, so did the maker thing and built one.
The project began when [MakeFailRepeat] was donated a 15″ monitor that ran on 12V. Naturally, it needed to be used in an awesome project, and the build began. MDF panels were cut to mount the screen inside an aluminium briefcase, and covered in black felt for a pleasing look and feel. A Logitech wireless keyboard and touchpad combo is used for input. The brains of the operation is a Raspberry Pi, equipped with a UPS HAT to handle battery and mains power, and an Adafruit Speaker Bonnet for sound.
The project was inspired by the classic video game Captive, released on Amiga, Atari, and MS-DOS platforms way back in 1990. While we’re pretty sure [MakeFailRepeat] isn’t trapped on a space station, his briefcase computer should nonetheless prove useful. A computer isn’t the only thing you can build into a briefcase, though. Video after the break.
Continue reading “A Briefcase Computer For Your Hacking Needs”
Sometimes we find projects that border on the absurd but are too cool to pass up. The Comprinter is exactly that. [Mason Stooksbury] had a dream. An all-in-one scanner printer that was also a computer. What would turn heads more than walking into a hackerspace with a printer, plugging your headphones in, then opening up the top to reveal a monitor?
[Mason’s] dream became possible when friends gave him some old laptops and a dead Kodak printer. After going through the laptops, he picked a Dell Inspiron 1440 to be the donor machine. The printer and laptop were both carefully stripped down. [Mason’s] goal for the project was to build a “beautiful” printer/computer. No bodges allowed. He spent most of his time planning out how to mount the motherboard and display inside the scanner section of the chassis.
The actual assembly was quite fiddly. Working with only an inch or so of clearance, [Mason] installed standoffs for the motherboard and display. He to do all this without breaking the wires for the display and WiFi antennas.
Once the main parts of the laptop were assembled, [Mason] completed the build with a nine-port USB hub, some internally mounted speakers and a USB keyboard mounted in the paper tray. The twelve-hour operation was a complete success. What looks to be a cheap inkjet actually hides a complete laptop running Xubuntu. The only downside is that the printer doesn’t actually print, but [Mason] is quick to note that if the printer hadn’t been broken in the first place, it would work fine — all the modifications are in the scanner section.
We’ve seen some wild casemods over the years, including a Nintendo in a toaster, a modern PC stuffed into an original Xbox, and Raspberry Pi’s stuffed into just about everything.
In the seven years since the Raspberry Pi was first launched to an expectant audience we have seen many laptops featuring the fruit-themed single board computers. Some of them have been pretty jaw-dropping in their quality, so for a new one to make us stop and gape it needs to be something really special. On cue, here comes [Igor Brkić] with one of the neatest efforts we’ve seen, a high quality Pi laptop that’s smaller in frontal area than many smartphones.
At its heart is a Pimoroni Hyperpixel touchscreen HAT, and a Pi sitting behind it that has been stripped of all bulky connectors to reduce its height. The keyboard is a mini Bluetooth affair, and power comes courtesy of a deconstructed USB power bank with a lithium-ion pouch cell. The whole is contained within a neatly designed 3D-printed clamshell enclosure, making for a tiny and very neat laptop. We want one, and now you probably do too. (We wouldn’t say “no” to some level shifters and a GPIO port…)
If we had to pick another high-quality Pi laptop to compare this one with, it would have to be this one with a Psion-inspired hinge.
The lack of HDMI inputs on almost all laptops is a huge drawback for anyone who wants to easily play a video game on the road, for example. As to why no manufacturers offer this piece of convenience when we all have easy access to a working screen of this size, perhaps no one can say. On the other hand, if you want to ditch the rest of the computer, you can make use of the laptop screen for whatever you want.
This project from [Avner] comes to us in a few parts. In the first section, the teardown of the laptop begins and a datasheet for the screen is discovered, which allows [Avner] to prepare an FPGA to drive the screen. The second part involves building an HDMI sink, which is a device which decodes the signal from an HDMI source into its constituent parts so it can be sent to the FPGA. The final section of the project involves actually sending a video to this impressive collection of hardware in order to get a video to appear on the old laptop screen.
This build is worth checking out if you’ve ever dealt with anything involving digital video. It goes into great depth on a lot of the technical details involving HDMI, video devices, and hardware timing issues. This is a great build and, even though we’ve seen similar projects, definitely worth diving into if you have some time on your hands and a spare laptop screen.
An essential tool of many sysadmins is a portable terminal ready to plug into an ailing rack-mounted server to administer first aid. At their simplest, they are simply a monitor and keyboard on a trolley, but more often they will be a laptop pre-loaded with tools for the purpose. Sysadmins will hang on tenaciously to now-ancient laptops for this application because they possess a hardware serial port.
[Frank Adams] has taken a different route with his emergency server crash cart, because while he’s used an old laptop he hasn’t hung onto it for its original hardware. Instead, he’s used a Teensy and an LVDS driver board to replace the motherboards of two old Dell Latitude laptops, one of which is a simple KVM device and the other of which is a laptop in its own right featuring a Raspberry Pi 3. He’s produced a video as well, which we’ve placed below the break.
There was a time when laptop display panels were seen as unhackable, but the advent of cheap driver boards has meant that conversions such as this one have become a relatively well-worn path. The job he’s done here is a particularly well-executed one though, making good use of the generous amount of space to be found in an older business-class laptop. There isn’t a battery because this application doesn’t demand one, however, with the battery compartment intact it does not seem impossible that a suitable charger/monitor board could be included along with a boost converter to provide his 12V supply.
This isn’t the first Pi laptop in a re-used commercial machine’s case we’ve seen, there was also this Sony Vaio.
Continue reading “From A Dead Laptop To A Portable KVM And PiTop”