Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a wave of impressive rugged mobile computing devices based on the ubiquitous Raspberry Pi. Sometimes they involve repurposing an existing heavy duty enclosure, and in others the Pi takes up residence in a 3D printed case which may or may not be as strong as it appears. In either event, they usually don’t lend themselves to duplication because of the time and expense involved in tracking down or printing all the parts required.
But the Raspberry Pi Quick Kit by [Jay Doscher] may change that. It represents what must surely be the simplest and fastest route to a building a rugged mobile ARM computer for your hacking adventures. Beyond the Pelican 1150 case that serves as the outer enclosure, you only need three printed parts and a handful of fasteners to complete the build. Of course you’ll need a Raspberry Pi and the official touch screen as well, but that’s sort of a given.
All of the electronics mount onto the three piece 3D printed frame, which is then press-fit into the opening of the Pelican case. Since you don’t need to pop any holes through the case itself, the assembled unit remains water and air tight. While [Jay] has recently shown off a very impressive 3D printed Pi enclosure, there’s really no beating a legitimate heavy duty storage case if you’re trying to protect the hardware.
When you want to use the Pi, just open the case and plug your power and accessories into the panel mount connectors under the display. There’s no integrated battery or keyboard on this build, but considering how small it is, that shouldn’t really come as a surprise.
[Jay] is targeting the Pi 4 for the Quick Kit, so that means WiFi and Bluetooth will come standard without the need for any external hardware. It looks like there might just be enough room to include an RTL-SDR receiver inside the case as well, but you’ll need to do a little redesigning of the 3D printed parts. If you do modify this design to pack in a few new tricks, we’d love to hear about it.
The Raspberry Pi holds incredible promise for those looking to build a small mobile terminal that they can take with them on the go, something you can throw into your bag and pull out whenever there’s some hacking to be done. But getting the diminutive Linux board to that point can take quite a bit of work. You need to find a suitably small keyboard, design a custom case, and wire it all up without letting any of that pesky Magic Smoke escape.
But a recent project from [remag293] might make things a bit easier for those looking to get their feet wet in the world of custom mobile computers. The boxy handheld device has everything you need, and nothing you don’t. A basic case, a short parts list, and an absolute minimum of wiring. What’s not to love? Even if you don’t make an exact clone of this device, it’s an excellent reference to quickly bootstrap your own bespoke terminal.
So what’s inside the 3D printed case? Not a whole lot, really. Obviously there’s a Raspberry Pi, a 3.5 inch TFT touch screen display, and a miniature keyboard. The keyboard is of the Bluetooth variety, and other than being freed from its enclosure and wired into the header on the display module for power, it’s otherwise stock.
As for the parts you can’t see from the outside, there’s a 3.7 V 4400 mAh battery pack and an Adafruit PowerBoost 1000 module to handle charging and power distribution. Beyond the big lighted button on the side (which you could certainly replace with something more low-key should you chose), that’s about it. When it’s all together, you’ve got a battery powered computer that’s ready for the road with a minimum amount of fuss.
If you’re looking for something that’s a bit larger, and more than a little unconventional, you could start by printing out a full cyberdeck. After all, if you’re going to build your own non-traditional portable computer, you might as well go all out.
Let’s imagine that you’ve spent most of your life indoors tinkering with electronic gadgets and that you don’t have a lot of practical survival experience. Since you’re currently reading Hackaday, it shouldn’t be much of a stretch for you. Let’s further imagine that our entire civilization gets upended by an ecological disaster, nuclear war, invaders from Zeta Reticuli, that sort of thing. What do you do?
He deleted the more esoteric components such as the mil-spec connectors on the front panel, and improved the ability to switch between different power sources with a capacitor bank big enough to smooth out any momentary interruptions. There’s also added circuitry so the device can be run on a wider range of voltages, allowing the use of whatever batteries or power sources can be scrounged up. [Evan] even thought to use automotive style fuses that could be pilfered from abandoned vehicles if necessary.
We know what you’re probably thinking; a better way to hone your survival skills and prepare for a disaster would be to just go camping a few times a year. Fair enough. But if you’re a city dweller who might not have the option, it’s hard to argue that you wouldn’t be better off having a mobile repository of survival information to consult should you need it. Doubly so if it looks this cool.
Have you ever been stuck in a hotel room wishing you brought your VR-capable gaming PC along with you? Well [thegarbz] certainly has, which was the inspiration for this absolutely gorgeous mobile rig affectionately known as “The Nuclear Football” that brings console-level portability to those who count themselves among the PC Master Race.
OK, fine. We’ll admit that the existence of gaming laptops means you don’t actually need to carry around such an elaborate contraption just to play Steam games on the go. But if you’re going to do it, shouldn’t you do it in style? More practically speaking, [thegarbz] says the cost of this project was less than what a gaming laptop of similar specs would have cost.
The Nuclear Football features a Ryzen 5 2600 processor, a NVIDIA 2070 Super graphics card, and 16 GB of DDR4 RAM. The water cooling gear is from Alphacool, and includes a custom controller that links to the computer and allows [thegarbz] to monitor temperatures and fan speeds via a widget on the desktop.
A smartphone in 2019 is an essential piece of everyday equipment. Many of you are probably reading this page on one, and it will pack a very significant quantity of computing power into your hand. Pocket computing has a long history stretching back decades before the mass adoption of smartphones though, and Paleotronic has an interesting retrospective of that earlier history.
The piece starts with the Radio Shack PC-1, a rebadged Sharp with a calculator-style keyboard and a one-line alphanumeric LCD display, then continues through the legendary TRS-80 Model 100 to the era of the palmtop. It’s a difficult subject to cover in its entirety as there are so many milestones on the pocket computing path, but it’s an interesting read nevertheless as it successfully evokes the era when a 300 Baud connection via an acoustic coupler was a big deal. We might for example have mentioned the Atari Portfolio if only for its use by a young John Connor to scam an ATM in Terminator 2, and as any grizzled old sysadmin will tell you, there was a time when owning a Nokia Communicator might just save your bacon.
Of the classic pocket computing devices mentioned, only one has received significant coverage here. The TRS-80 model 100 still has a huge following, and among quite a few hacks featuring it we’ve seen one brought into the smartphone age by getting the ability to make a cellular connection.
TRS-80 Model 100 image: Jeff Keyzer from Austin, TX, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Over the years we’ve seen the Raspberry Pi crammed into almost any piece of hardware you can think of. Frankly, seeing what kind of unusual consumer gadget you can shoehorn a Pi into has become something of a meme in our circles. But the thing we see considerably less of are custom designed practical enclosures which actually play to the Pi’s strengths. Which is a shame, because as the MutantC created by [rahmanshaber] shows, there’s some incredible untapped potential there.
The MutantC features a QWERTY keyboard and sliding display, and seems more than a little inspired by early smartphone designs. You know, how they were before Apple came in and managed to convince every other manufacturer that there was no future for mobile devices with hardware keyboards. Unfortunately, hacking sessions will need to remain tethered as there’s currently no battery in the device. Though this is something [rahmanshaber] says he’s actively working on.
The custom PCB in the MutantC will work with either the Pi Zero or the full size variant, but [rahmanshaber] warns that the latest and greatest Pi 4 isn’t supported due to concerns about overheating. Beyond the Pi the parts list is pretty short, and mainly boils down to the 3D printed enclosure and the components required for the QWERTY board: 43 tactile switches and a SparkFun Pro Micro. Everything is open source, so you can have your own boards run off, print your case, and you’ll be well on the way to reliving those two-way pager glory days.
We’re excited to see where such a well documented open source project like MutantC goes from here. While the lack of an internal battery might be a show stopper for some applications, we think the overall form factor here is fantastic. Combined with the knowledge [Brian Benchoff] collected in his quest to perfect the small-scale keyboard, you’d have something very close to the mythical mobile Linux device that hackers have been dreaming of.