A Lot Of Effort For A Pi Laptop

Building a Raspberry Pi laptop is not that uncommon. In fact, just a few clicks from any of the major electronics suppliers will have the parts needed for such a project speeding on their way to your house in no time at all. But [joekutz] holds the uncontroversial belief that the value in these parts has somewhat diminishing returns, so he struck out to build his own Pi laptop with a €4 DVD player screen and a whole lot of circuit wizardry to make his parts bin laptop work.

The major hurdle that he needed to overcome was how to power both the display and the Pi with the two small battery banks he had on hand. Getting 5V for the Pi was easy enough, but the display requires 8V so he added one lithium ion battery in series (with its own fuse) in order to reach the required voltage. This does make charging slightly difficult but he also has a unique four-pole break-before-make switch on hand which doesn’t exactly simplify things, but it does make the project function without the risk of short-circuiting any of the batteries he used.

The project also makes use of an interesting custom circuit which provides low voltage protection for that one lonely lithium battery as well. All in all it’s a master course in using some quality circuit-building skills and electrical theory to make do with on-hand parts (and some 3D printing) rather than simply buying one’s way out of a problem. And the end result is something that’s great for anything from watching movies to playing some retro games.

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The Amazing Technicolor Parts Organizer

It wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say that anyone reading these words has struggled at one time or another to keep an ever growing collection of electronic bits and bobs from descending into absolute chaos. Tossing them all into plastic bins is at least a start down the road to long-term organization, but they still needed to be sorted and inventoried if you want to avoid the wasted time and money of buying parts you forgot you already had.

For his latest project, [Zack Freedman] decided to finally tackle the personal parts collection that he’s ended up lugging around for the last several years. The first half of the battle was just figuring out what he actually had, what he was likely to need down the line, and getting it all sorted out so he didn’t have to keep rummaging through a big pile to find what he needed. But it’s not enough to get organized, you also need to stay organized.

Which is why he then turned his attention to how all these newly sorted components would actually be stored going forward. He already had a trio of Harbor Freight bin organizers, but as one expects from that fine retailer, they were only marginally suitable for the task at hand. So [Zack] designed a 3D printed faceplate that could snap onto the original plastic bin. The new fronts made them easier to grab and featured an opening to accept a laser-etched plastic label.

To give them a little visual flair, he decided to print the faceplates using rainbow gradient filament. To prevent them from being random colors, he used the relatively obscure sequential slicing option so his Prusa i3 would print each faceplate in its entirety before moving over to the next one on the bed. This took far longer than doing them in parallel (especially since he had access to multiple printers), but makes for a much nicer aesthetic as the color smoothly transitions between each bin on the wall. It also has a practical benefit, as you can tell at a glance if any of the bins have found themselves in the wrong spot.

If you really want to go off the deep end, we’ve seen hackers light individual bins with RGB LEDs tied into a searchable inventory system. But for most hobbyists, simply learning when to purge would be more practical.

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New Contest: Making Tech At Home

Put that parts bin to good use and build something! That’s the gist of the Making Tech at Home contest where your inner pack rat can shine by building from the parts you have on hand.

So what are you supposed to build? We’re not particular, we just want it to be cool. Grab everyone’s attention with an awesome project, and then win our hearts with the story of where you found the components.

Daniel Domínguez’s Parts Bin Self Portrait is an excellent example

An excellent example is the Parts Bin Self Portrait seen here that was a runner-up in the Circuit Sculpture contest. [Daniel Domínguez] talks about cutting out his silhouette from a scrap of prototyping board, pulling dev boards out of the parts box, and finding a ceiling fan on the side of the road which ended up donating the wire from the windings of its motor.

Your story is what’s important here. You can build a sleek and beautiful bit of gear that doesn’t look hacky at all — tell us about what the finished project does, but we also need to hear what parts you had on hand, where they came from, and what led you to use them. There is an element of satisfaction when that broken thermostat that you’ve been squirreling way for ten years, or the accidentally ordered reel of 0402 resistors, ends up getting used. Dust off that electronics hoard and get building!

Prizes Sent Out Throughout the Contest

This contest runs until July 28th, but you won’t have to wait that long to score some loot. Thirty entries will win a grab bag of stuff from Digi-Key and we’ll pick a few projects every week as we work toward that number. Help us decide what to send in those grab bags by voting for the gear you like the most.

Once the contest wraps up, three top winners will receive a mega grab bag stuffed with $500 worth of components. You know… to add to your parts bin for all those future builds.

If you’re anything like us, people deliver their broken stuff to you because they’ve heard you build things out of broken electronics. You feel torn about keeping old hardware around, but feel guilty about sending it to the landfill. When you order parts you get multiples just so you have them on hand for the next project. You were made for this competition, and no matter who the prizes go to, we want a look inside your parts bin.